In the early days of streaming for Netflix, when it was looking every for content for its catalog, the independent film market was there for this burgeoning new service and still is today. Now Netflix is producing its own big studio-level films, they still haven’t forgotten independent film and here are a few hidden treasures that are worth watching. You need to search for these titles, but they’re there.
2020 AWARD THIS! POP CULTURE DOCUMENTARY WINNER
This Award This! Winner is a documentary about the little known phenomena known as the industrial musical. From the 50s to the late 70s, large corporations like Coca-Cola, Purine, General Electric, and General Standard would hire Broadway writers, composers, and actors to perform musical about their products during national sales meetings. These musicals would only be performed once and often lost to obscurity. Bathtubs Over Broadway follows long-time Letterman writer, Steve Young, and his obsession with hunting down these odd musicals.
In a 1989 interview with journalist George Knapp, Bob Lazar stated that he worked on a secret base near Area 51 and claimed to reverse engineer technology from multiple alien spacecraft. No one believed his outlandish claim, so why did the FBI raid his home? Documentarian Jeremy Kenyon Lockyer Corbell wants to know if Lazar is a fraud or the real deal. After seeing the documentary, Film Threat’s Bobby LePire says, “Bob Lazar is telling the truth.”
2020 AWARD THIS! INDIE LGBTQ+ THEMED FILM WINNER
This Award This! Winner follows the experience of two young LGBTQ+ women. Maya (Madison Lawlor) is a college-aged queer artist who specializes in snarky/cute cartoon pixies. She also has a social media crush on the sexually fluid and impossibly stylish Jasmine (Montana Manning). Maya goes to great lengths to find Jasmine, following her location check-ins, and when they meet, she is swept away. Bradley Gibson says, “Cash’s film is reflective and accomplished, showing the world through the eyes of a young woman challenged by a painful childhood and by the culture of her times, finding her own way through the chaos around her to a functional adult life.”
From first-time filmmaker Stephanie Turner, Justine is the story of a military widow Lisa Wade, whose husband died in during a military exercise, and now she’s left to care on her own for her two children. In need of a job (and distraction in life), Lisa takes a job as a caregiver for Justine, a young girl with Spina Bifida. Now only is it a fantastic narrative, but Turner’s journey to make the film (on her own) and get it in front of Ava DuVernay is equally fascinating. DuVernay’s Array ultimately purchased Justine, and now it streams on Netflix, serves as an inspiration to all filmmakers with a script, and no one to produce it.
2020 AWARD THIS! SOCIALLY RELEVANT DOCUMENTARY NOMINEE
At 18-years-old, Alex Lewis was in a motorcycle accident and awoke from his coma with complete amnesia. The only thing he remembered was his twin brother Marcus. Alex relied on Marcus to fill him in on everything about his life up until that point. More than willing to oblige, Marcus began filling in the gaps in Alex’s life—all but for a dark, hidden family secret. Tell Me Who I Am is a gripping documentary about what you think is about the effects of amnesia, but more about the secrets we keep in hopes of protecting those we love. Alan Ng calls Tell Me Who I Am “an incredible real-life mystery about my favorite subject…being human.”
Jesse V. Johnson’s Triple Threat is a true blending of the two cultures, employing the East’s blood-fest of mixed martial arts with the West’s high body count from assault weapons and other military-grade armaments. It all comes together for a wonderfully brutal evening of death and violence, plus a story if you’re into that thing. Triple Threat stars Scott Adkins, Tony Jaa, and Michael Jai White in this military/corporate thriller/underground MMA kill-or-be-killed tournament. Do you really need a story?