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CINE-DEBATE: Indie Remakes?

I think we can all agree that the remake machine needs to stop. A year or so ago, I drew the line on watching remakes of movies that were only themselves 20 or so years old. Which is why I not only had no desire to see Let Me In but that its mere existence offended me (though, word on the street is that this particular film is a fine example of how this concept can actually work—I’ll believe that if/when I see it). If pressed, I can offer two 21st century remakes that I consider to be as effective as—or even more so than—their originals: The Ring and The Hills Have Eyes. But the positive fleeting presence of an accomplished remake every few years doesn’t outweigh the negative impact of seeing so much time and money spent on the cinematic board game of retreading a movie that is already so easily accessible.

Having said that, I had a funny thought the other day. What if the indie world caught a similar case of remake fever? Granted, I understand the reason Hollywood stoops to this level over and over and over again is because it is a business machine, which is fine. But what if those who seem to make films for personal and creative reasons first and foremost found a particular creative charge in revisiting the past. In some senses, Todd Solondz did that himself with Life During Wartime, but I’m talking about a young budding director getting the chance to purchase the rights to a previous indie in order to give it another go.

What do you think? I guess there are two ways to ask this question:

1) As a filmmaker, what indie film have you dreamed about remaking?

2) As a movie lover, what indie film do you think could actually benefit from a modern revamping?


3) Are the best independent films too personal and distinct for us to even begin trying to play this silly game?

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Michael Tully is an award-winning writer/director whose films have garnered widespread critical acclaim, his projects having premiered at some of the most renowned film festivals across the globe. He is also the former (and founding) editor of this site. In 2006, Michael's first feature, COCAINE ANGEL, chronicling a tragic week in the life of a young drug addict, world premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam. The film immediately solidified the director as one of Filmmaker Magazine’s "25 New Faces of Independent Film,” a reputation that was reinforced a year later when his follow-up feature, SILVER JEW, a documentary capturing the late David Berman's rare musical performances in Tel Aviv, world-premiered at SXSW and landed distribution with cult indie-music label Drag City. In 2011, Michael wrote, directed, and starred in his third feature, SEPTIEN, which debuted at the 27th annual Sundance Film Festival before being acquired by IFC Films' Sundance Selects banner. A few years later, in 2014, Michael returned to Sundance with the world premiere of his fourth feature, PING PONG SUMMER, an ‘80s set coming-of-age tale that was quickly picked up for theatrical distribution by Gravitas Ventures. In 2018, Michael wrote and directed the dread-inducing genre film DON'T LEAVE HOME, which has been described as "Get Out with Catholic guilt in the Irish countryside" (IndieWire). The film premiered at SXSW and was subsequently acquired by Cranked Up Films and Shudder.

  • This concept had never even occurred to me. Honestly, it would seem to me that the best indies are indeed very personal, but that could be what works for the concept. The very personal qualities of independent films are also what gives them a poignancy that speaks directly to viewers; even in ways that the filmmaker may not have intended. Perhaps a remake wherein the filmmaker develops the story in the manner it spoke personally to them–or maybe even from the perspective of the character they most identified with–could be a really strong proposition.

    October 18, 2010
  • slick rick

    I thought that The Five Obstructions was a great concept in “remaking” a film.

    Seems to remake classic idie films you would need restrictions. I offer that the remake should be made within the budget of the original.

    October 18, 2010
  • mannythacheese

    1. Slap Shot
    2. ”
    3. No

    October 18, 2010
  • Chad Hartigan

    I don’t really like the idea of remaking indie films, but I sold the remake rights to mine and took the money straight to the bank so I’m a big hypocrite.

    October 18, 2010
  • J. Lambert

    If a Hollywood remake helps the original indie find a wider audience, then sure why not?

    October 18, 2010
  • John Lichman

    1) the Indie Film Blogger Road Trip.

    2) Plan 9 from Outer Space. But in the format of Star Was Uncut:

    October 18, 2010
  • Songofsadbirds

    I would venture to say that the concept of finding a creative charge in revisiting the past is almost an oxymoron, as revisiting past work from a distance of years inevitably suggests to me a kind of undeniable creative bankruptcy—a filmmaker has no new ideas so he trods on his own past in desperation, trying to stay relevant by clinging to a previous success. That being said, it’s high time for a reboot of the “Old Joy” franchise!

    October 21, 2010
  • Anonymous

    I concur.

    October 25, 2010
  • Anonymous

    Gee, I wonder why you’re taking that stance these days, Mr. Lambert! Speaking of, can’t wait to see what Hollywood and Mr. Carrell do to your awesome real-life version of their movie. Hoping for the very, very best, of course.

    October 25, 2010
  • Anonymous

    You sold for 10 million, correct? Can’t argue with that.

    October 25, 2010
  • reversetown

    I’m surprised no one mentioned Todd Haynes remake of “All that Heaven Allows;” “Far From Heaven” for me is an incredible example of a remake done well; incredibly well. A remake should offer a new spin or retelling. A straight up remake is pointless, a little insulting and kind of annoying. A retelling, however, is an honor.

    October 25, 2010
  • When I started reading this I thought it was going in a completely different direction, which I thought was hilarious. What happens when the indie world gets the rights to a bigger film and remakes it. What would the mumblecore interpretation of avatar be? A dude in a band moves to a different town and tries to fit into their band culture?

    what hollywood movie would best be reinterpreted by the indie world?

    November 2, 2010
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