Independent film in the United States, 1980-1999.

PRIBRAM, E. Deirdre. (1999). Independent film in the United States, 1980-1999. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University (United Kingdom)..

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Abstract

This dissertation pursues a study of independent film, from 1980 to 1999, as an emergent system of representation. Independent American and non- American films distributed in the United States have evolved into a distinct cultural site, formulated as points of intersection between principles of mainstream popular film and the traditions of the avant-garde. Contemporary independent film's identity as a commodity stresses its differences from Hollywood's output; the independent industry is not ruled by the same economic, political, aesthetic and historical imperatives as Hollywood cinema. Arguably, this creates an autonomous filmic enterprise able to represent alternative political views and aesthetic perspectives. But simultaneously, the independent industry is driven by familiar marketplace demands and competition for consumers. My study focuses on films released theatrically in the U.S. by nonstudio distributors, such as Miramax, Fine Line, Goldwyn, October, and so on. The films considered will have received some measure of widespread play, permitting an analysis of how these specific texts, their distribution, and their reception conform to and diverge from the institutional and discursive practices of a dominant Hollywood industry. The dissertation analyses both the material, concrete aspects and the discursive dimensions of independent film. For instance, under the purview of the independent industry a division exists between 'art films' and 'political films'. A frequent attribute of work in the art category is formal experimentation. Political films tend to be those made by representatives of subcultural groups and marketed as such to their 'specialised audiences'. They may or may not exhibit formal experimentation. On the one hand, in a kind of tyranny of the formal, art films continue to be defined by their aesthetic variations without a corollary questioning of whether they are indeed 'alternative' at the level of narrative signification. On the other hand, political films are promoted as an acknowledgment to underrepresented communities --- what the industry should be providing --- and as a marketing strategy for product-starved audiences to whom these films often sell well. In other words, political films may be chosen for their subject matter or for the audiences they specifically address, but they remain specialised, without the 'universal' appeal of films accorded the label of art. This investigation traces the extent to which and how independent films represent the stories, perspectives, and experiences of a pluralistic, multicultural society. This research project develops a discursively-based methodology in which films are analysed as the functions of multiple, simultaneous, layered, and interacting discourses: representational, institutional, interpretive, and cultural/historical. The study offers a contribution to the field in its exploration of contemporary independent film as a distinct cultural formation, in its expansion of theoretical work on narrativity and the representation of subcultural groups, in its development of discursive analytical procedures, and in its integrated approach towards cultural theory, cultural politics, and cultural production.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information: Thesis (Ph.D.)--Sheffield Hallam University (United Kingdom), 1999.
Research Institute, Centre or Group: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Depositing User: EPrints Services
Date Deposited: 10 Apr 2018 17:21
Last Modified: 30 May 2018 13:00
URI: http://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/20247

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