While talking with Michael Moore about the Traverse City Film Festival a few weeks ago, he mentioned the fact that he had to look outside the country for good films this year. The reason? Because American distributors aren’t willing to spend money on a film if they don’t think it can make money. I wrote up a post on PopEater about it – hop over there and read the full story.
"The money has really dried up since the crash," said Moore. "They only really want to spend money on sure bets. People don’t want to take risks, so we’re missing out on an American art form that could really speak to the country right now in profound ways."
Of the 80-plus films shown at the Traverse City Film Festival this year, only a half-dozen or so were American independent feature films, "because I just couldn’t find them," he said. "They don’t exist, and that’s sad. But they exist in Korea, France, Denmark, Germany, Italy and Russia."
Here’s the thing, though. I think distributors are underestimating the intelligence of moviegoers in this country. The largest grossing film this year at the festival’s home base — the restored downtown State Theatre in Traverse City — was the little gem ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.’ If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a two-and-a-half hour Swedish film with subtitles, a complicated story and no major actors. That says something about the fact that moviegoers – even in flyover country — are hungry for smart films.
Ben Hickernell, director of ‘Lebanon, Pa.’ agrees that films are a tough sell in the current market. When I talked to him a few weeks ago, he said, "In this market, there are fewer and fewer films getting sold overall, especially these little films that are really just kind of dramas and touch people," said Hickernell.
What’s your take? Do American distributors have it wrong? Would you go see smart independent films if they played at your neighborhood theater? Even if they were foreign with subtitles?
Images: AP; Reconstruction Pictures