Some incisive insight into independent films framed within a Marxist ethnographic critique that is occasionally impenetrable.
Ortner (Anthropology/UCLA; New Jersey Dreaming, 2003, etc.) presents the indie film world as one in which “we encounter a value system in which ‘Hollywood’ is seen as presenting false pictures of reality, as ‘telling lies,’ while independent film sees itself as trying to tell the truth, to represent reality ‘as it really is.’ ” At her most strident, the author seems to agree with such black-and-white oversimplification, as if studio films were incapable of moral ambiguity (or anything more disturbing than happy endings) and that indie film occupies a position of moral superiority of valuing truth over commerce, while “getting audiences to think about the harsh realities of the world.” Yet within what she terms “a kind of Marxist-inflected feminism” that informs her work, Ortner illuminates how producers function within the indie world as creative forces rather than simply a financial resource, and she’s particularly acute in the chapter titled “Moral Ambiguity,” which casts a critical eye on the ways pedophiles are seen in the world of indie film: “These filmmakers…are obviously not endorsing pedophilia and murder, nor are they embracing the dehumanized post-mortality of the neoliberal economy. What they do seem to be saying is that the world is a very messed up and confusing place, and that we cannot go back to the white hats and black hats of the Hollywood melodrama.”
Academics steeped in the work of Pierre Bourdieu will get the most out of this, yet film fans will also find some revelation.