Although dedicated exclusively to independent films, this summer’s Philadelphia Independent Film Festival (PIFF) includes a wide range of flicks, from opening night documentary “American Jihadist” — an account of militant Islam in the U.S. — to sweet coming-of-age road flick, “The Beginner.” “Bastard Art” takes a look at ’70s punk rocker Andi Sex Gang. And then there are the music videos and rock-paper-scissors faux documentaries. So what, exactly, is an “independent film”? According to festival director Benjamin Barnett, it involves a drunken agreement and pretty much zero money.
What makes PIFF different from the city’s other film festivals?
We are the only festival that really goes out and looks from a local and global perspective. We’re not soliciting Sundance or Tribeca for their best documentary or something like that — it’s just traditional: hundreds and hundreds of people submitting.
What do you look for in selecting films?
It’s a bunch of things. We’ll consider stellar acting that maybe wasn’t shot so well, and vice versa. We’ll pick apart the movie for what it is — when you watch it, the first question is, “Is this the movie the person set out to make?” We’d prefer to have first-time filmmakers in a lot of ways, but in the same breath, we know that doesn’t necessarily make an independent film.
So what does make an independent film?
Independent is you go out and make a movie. You do it on your own terms and your own way. You’re not pandering to a producer to sell it to, or to an actor or diva who you think you need. You and I cobble it together — we meet at a bar and just do it. Money’s tight, and you just want to make something. On a real independent movie, people work for free, not for scale.