Summer box office is a great indicator of the direction that the film industry is following. Since Jaws and Star Wars invented the modern blockbuster film, Hollywood studios have done their utmost to repeat those achievements every year.
In recent years, those efforts have taken the form of those loud superhero films we are all too familiar with. Despite an obvious attempt at reaching for the lowest common denominator, those films have their artistic merits and certainly showcase impeccable craft.
This summer, however, has so far proven to be an exception. Yes the sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy happened. But Baby Driver and Dunkirk also happened - and that fact is a game changer.
These two surprise hits were made by singular writer-directors who have become known for bringing their independent visions to the silver screen. This should not be taken lightly, considering that we live in an era when auteurs who once were luminaries of the big screen -Jane Campion, Steven Soderbergh, and many others- have made a home on television.
These films are elegantly made, idiosyncratic, innovative and fresh. They are not content to be binged over a weekend, nor are they aiming for the lowest common denominator. They are appealing to the audience's emotion by creating an authentic aesthetic that is sustained throughout the length of the feature. They are, in the purest sense of the word, movies.
They are not independent films as such, one being backed by Warner Bros and the other by Sony, yet they do strike a contrast in a sea of Wonder Woman and Spider-Man. Yet they have fared better than films everyone thought would be surefire hits: Pirates of the Caribbean, Despicable Me, Cars... It could be that the world is suffering from franchise fatigue, in the end.
When you also consider that, in recent years, independent films have also been slowly but surely gnawing the box office market share occupied by studios, there are signs of hope for independent voices to be heard.
Summer is my favourite time of the year, not just because of the movies that are released, but also because I get excited about the upcoming Raindance Film Festival. For now 25 years, emerging filmmakers have come through our doors and shown us Following, What's Eating Gilbert Grape, Pulp Fiction, Memento, Oldboy and so many others...
Filmmakers need dedicated spaces to show original work. The Raindance Film Festival is one such space and has been the place where those voices have been heard. Christopher Nolan came through Raindance in the late 90's, David Yates -now helmer of the latter half of Harry Potter as well as the Fantastic Beasts franchises- learned filmmaking with us, Ken Loach has been longtime supporter of our initiatives, and Edgar Wright was the very first intern of the festival.
Ken Loach's I, Daniel Blake started an important conversation on the benefits system in the UK and the attacks on the working class. He is one illustrious example of why independent films need to be made, especially in today's intensely polarised world.
It is crucial that we foster independent voices and let them express dissent. It is essential that we let filmmakers make the films they want to make. It is essential that we let them express themselves -and that we listen.