Underrated independent films that break the mold

Arti Rathore

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Popularity is defined as that which is loved by the general public — commonly accepted beliefs and ideas and images that society welcomes. But it is the work that breaks out of this generalization, the underrated, that truly leaves a mark. Several movies recently have been attempting to reshape this societal mold into something more socially aware.  This is shown in “Sierra Burgess is a Loser,” a movie which succeeds in making the “fat” girl the main character but eventually ends up justifying stalking and identity theft. The movie pushes to normalize plus-sized actresses but instead normalizes and justifies inappropriate and illegal behavior. Instead, it is the well done movies that really capture what  the public needs to see.

“The Florida Project” is one of the many movies that should be on your must-see list. The movie focuses on two little girls growing up in the projects, housing developments with relatively low rents that are financially supported by the government, outside of Disneyland. On the surface, it’s a simple adventure filled with color to distract from the underlying plot that unravels of a neglectful family life and bad parenting. The movie breaks away from all previous rules of filters and color concepts and completely changes the mindset of the viewer. It captures the real meaning behind the quote “not everything is as it seems.” The movie covers difficult topics in a new cinematographic way and leaves an astounding aftereffect on the viewer. The end of the movie takes a drastic turn from the original plot and with colors that symbolically represent the opposite, the viewer needs a minute to have it sink in. The entirety of the film plays on the idea of innocence and youth, using a pastel color pallet and a light musical soundtrack, only to weave in prostitution and poverty and betrayal into the plot. The cast was also fit to made the characters as they were all inexperienced and had experienced much of what they were conveying. With an instagram model and a first time child actress to play the lead roles, director Sean Baker created a movie with an authenticity and feeling that deserves to be recognised for its importance. Even the very last scene was filmed handheld, with an iphone, and genuine excitement in the children’s eyes.

Another similar movie is “Girl Lost”. The movie isn’t at all subtle about the various narratives that play out  like “The Florida Project” is. Instead, the tones, soundtrack and characters all match the story to a tee. The movie follows the world of a young teen and her mom who move from house to house and get caught up in abusive relationships and sex trafficking. The viewers watch as the teen becomes her mother through a chain of events and follows the sad reality that we often replicate our environment. The movie covers both mental and physical abuse and the topic of sex trafficking in a way that is brutally honest and open. In an interview with Film Courage, Robin Bain, the director, writer and producer of Girl Lost, talks about what movie means to her and the importance of Girl Lost. “The key issue that must be exposed is that each and every girl or boy who ends up in this horrific situation has a unique story. These stories must be told and must be heard.  A real and urgent public awareness of these human tragedies must be presented to the public so that with public awareness there will be demand for change.” Bain not only had a hand in the writing, producing, and directing of the script but even acted in it as a means of conveying her message and doing everything she loves simultaneously. Acting in Girl Lost, formally known as Nowhereland, allowed her to “slip into that character and deliver the performance that I had envisioned.” The movie adopts a raw and heartbreaking style of cinematography where the tones and soundtrack suck the viewer into the realities of sex work and the existence of it in adolescent life.

In our current age where spreading societal awareness is of high importance, it is necessary to have movies that stop sugar-coating the harsh realities and it is movies such as these that help highlight these truths. Directors Sean Baker and Robin Bain use their films to acknowledge hard truths and tough topics and use hollywood as a platform to spread awareness. The movies both adopt completely opposite styles and convey the same heartbreaking message that reality doesn’t always have a happy ending.