The Best Urban Indie Films To Watch This Year
Independent film is the place to find interesting stories that rarely make it to cinemas. Great directors, writers and actors without the pressure from studios to make something mainstream. For urban film fans, here’s our list of the indie films to watch.
Dope – Rick Famuyiwa
Dope caused a stir when it debuted at Sundance in 2015. The film follows a group of friends caught up in a drug deal. This sounds like pretty standard fare for an urban crime film but it isn’t. The group of friends are a pretty nerdy trio, more at home in 90s hip hop and cartoon references than gang banging.
It’s on the pulse of the changing face of black american life and presents this through the characters. The division between rich and poor black culture, race and music are treated differently to most films and with an understanding few can match.
Gang Tapes – Adam Ripp
Adam Ripp’s 2001 film flew under the radar and it isn’t hard to see why. The film is as indie as it gets. All filmed through a home movie camera it follows a gang and makes it feel completely real. Where a mainstream film in this style would sacrifice some of the realism in favour of following the story, Gang Tapes doesn’t. This alienated a lot of mainstream audiences but got a cult following for the film that truly feels like you’re seeing snapshots of real lives. It’s not the most cleanly produced film but for indie films to watch for their urban them, it’s hard to find something more independent.
She’s Gotta Have It – Spike Lee
The First Spike Lee Joint follows a Nola Darling, a Brooklyn woman trying to decide between three men. It made Lee’s style clear before he refined it in Do The Right Thing three years later. It’s an insightful reflection on masculinity and femininity and a worthwhile watch whether you’re a Spike Lee fan or not.
Night Catches Us – Tanya Hamilton
Tanya Hamilton’s directorial debut centres on an Ex-Black Panther returning home after a stint in prison. The film doesn’t shy away from confronting hatred and the destruction it’s brought to communities. The hopelessness that comes from a lack of options for the future hangs over the film and makes it a difficult but important watch.
Will – Jessie Maple
Jessie Maple became the first African American woman to direct a feature when she made Will in 1981. A film about the effects of drug addiction on communities and families, it follows a recovering heroin addict and basketball coach trying to overcome his addiction. Will and his wife try to take care of an adopted 12 year old boy and fight the influences pulling him away from them.
Fear Of A Black Hat – Rusty Cundieff
Hip Hop’s This Is Spinal Tap follows the talentless Gangsta Rap group N.W.H, Niggaz With Hats. The film parodies the state of the hip hop world at a time when gangsta rap was at its height. It combines weirdly surreal humour with on the nose parodies of big hip hop names. Fear Of A Black Hat is a light hearted entry and shows that there are more indie films to watch that the heavy ones.
Fruitvale Station – Ryan Coogler
Before directing Creed and the upcoming Black Panther film, Ryan Coogler dealt with the true story of the police shooting of Oscar Grant. The film follows Grant in the hours leading up to the shooting. It carefully builds a picture of the man to make audiences understand him before his death. Coogler’s intention with the picture was to take the stories about shooting victims from sentences in a newspaper and speak about the real human lives being lost.
La Haine – Mathieu Kassovitz
Released as Hate in America, La Haine follows three young men living in a Parisian housing project. The three Jewish, Afro-French and Arab men interact with different aspects of the world they grew up in. The things they hate and love in their community. The anger they feel towards the police is amplified by the riots going on around them and the death of one of their friends. Over the course of the day, their frustration and rage builds. The tension of the film rises as it becomes clear that their feelings will drive them to do something they can’t take back.