Posted: 01/29/2008

 

IndiePix and the Human Rights Collection

by Jef Burnham




Film Monthly Home
Archives
Wayne Case
Interviews
Steve Anderson
The Rant
Short Takes (Archived)
Small Screen Monthly
Behind the Scenes
New on DVD
The Indies
Horror
Film Noir
Coming Soon
Now Playing
Television
Books on Film
What's Hot at the Movies This Week
Interviews TV

IndiePix, if you haven’t heard of it, is an Internet-based video distribution company that specializes in independent film from past to present, featuring filmmakers like the neo-realist Robert Bresson (Pickpocket, Au Hasard Balthasar) alongside first-time filmmakers—their only prerequisite is quality. I spoke with Bob Alexander, president of the now three-year-old company, and he told me, “Our view is that, very simply, there are very many terrific films that very many people would like to watch. The problem is making that connection.”

IndiePix has made getting your film to a distributor foolproof for independent filmmakers. If you visit the IndiePix website, you’ll see a section for submissions labeled “Filmmakers,” but they don’t distribute just anything. “I would say that we probably accept 20-25% of the films we get,” Alexander estimated. “What we look for in a film is that it has some festival history and that it has won some sorts of awards… If the film has some kind of credentials and is submitted to us, we’re going to get back to the filmmaker and put it on our site.” One film that was submitted to the site, having been selected by IndiePix for distribution, is a film called Skid Row by Linda Nelson, which follows a rapper living on Skid Row in Los Angeles for one week.

By recruiting independent filmmakers and gathering distribution rights from companies such as the prestigious The Criterion Collection, IndiePix has compiled a catalogue just shy of 3,100 titles. One duty of the manager of the IndiePix catalogue, Shreekant Pol, is to identify the natural groupings of films from within their catalogue to market as collections. Pol recently organized nine films into the IndiePix Human Rights Collection, which covers topics from nations oppressed by military occupation to civil rights. “Human rights is a theme that independent films have explored in many different ways very effectively over the years. In fact, with great result,” Alexander said. “For example, The Trials of Darryl Hunt [one film in the collection] by Annie Sundberg and Ricky Stern is credited in part with having re-opened that man’s trial, leading to his release on a wrongful conviction.”

The nine films that comprise the collection are:

  1. The Devil Came on Horseback (2007)
  2. The Trials of Darryl Hunt (2006)
  3. Words on Water (2002)
  4. Jashn-e-Azadi – How We Celebrate Freedom (2007)
  5. The Times of Harvey Milk (1984)
  6. Sentenced Home (2006)
  7. The Battle of Algiers (1966)
  8. The Short Life of Jose Antonio Gutierrez (2007)
  9. Iraq in Fragments (2006)
I had the opportunity to view two films from the collection. Jashn-e-Azadi – How We Celebrate Freedom (2007) is an unsettlingly subdued documentary about the daily struggle of the citizens in Indian-occupied Kashmir. The Kashmiri people adhere to their traditions even as their friends, family, and livelihoods are cruelly and unjustly taken from them by the occupying forces, which the Indian government admits outnumbers the Kashmiri militants by a staggering 7000 to one. The film is at its most effective when juxtaposing scenes of the Kashmiri people enjoying their coveted land of paradise with archival footage of Indian troops maliciously assaulting the homes of innocent civilians, leaving entire villages in ashes. The most telling scene in the film is when the totals of the first-ever “Survey of ‘Conflict-Related’ Deaths” are tallied. Although the occupying Indian forces admits to 5000 casualties of their own, and claims that there are a mere 1000 armed militants in Kashmir, the survey reveals that the occupation has claimed the lives of 60,000 Kashmiri with another 10,000 missing and presumed dead.

The Battle of Algiers is, as Bob Alexander aptly described it, “an absolute classic,” and available on The Criterion Collection DVD with two bonus discs of documentaries. This extraordinary 1966 production from director Gillo Pontecorvo surprisingly features not a single frame of archival footage, though much of the film appears to be documentary as vast groups of protesting Algerians are parted by the tanks of the occupying French forces. Ultimately, the effectiveness of the film lies in the fact that Pontecorvo depicts the heinous acts committed by the French Army as well as the rebel National Liberation Front (FLN), who recruit children to participate in the random execution of French Officers. Pontecorvo leaves us jittering nervously as we anticipate the devastation caused by FLN explosive devices left in public places and what it will mean for the Algerian people. The terrorist attacks aggravate the situation, spawning French officer Colonel Mathieu, head of Operation Champagne. Operation Champagne was a Machiavellian mission of the French authorities to torture and destroy their way through to the top of the FLN’s Executive Branch, even if it meant leveling the entire Kasbah of Algiers. The Battle of Algiers is as powerful today as it was when it was banned in France in 1965.

When all-encompassing corporations like Amazon dominate the sales market, we need the smaller, specialized companies like IndiePix to give a forum to the as yet undiscovered talents; and for IndiePix, it’s not just a matter of finding a hole in the market and filling it. With the unveiling of the Human Rights Collection and the showcasing of so many unknown filmmakers, IndiePix has tried to show that it’s not just profit, but people they care about. This was obvious when Bob Alexander spoke of the company’s relationship with Sanjay Kak, director of Jashn-e-Azadi. “He is relying on us to provide distribution for that film to the expatriate [Kashmiri] communities in England and throughout Europe. I think it’s going to be an important project.”

For more information on IndiePix and the films in their Human Rights Collection, visit www.indiepixfilms.com.

Jef Burnham is a writer flm critic living in Chicago.



Got a problem? E-mail us at filmmonthly@gmail.com