Following the more commercially-oriented films of the 1980s, the 1990s represented a remarkably fertile time for American independent cinema, with a cohort of directors emerging to rival the Film Brats of the 1970s. Eschewing the lure and lucre of the major studios, these filmmakers presented on their own terms work that was in many ways extremely personal, yet resonated with wider audiences, receiving commercial and critical acclaim to the point of significant box office returns and the winning of major awards, from Sundance to Cannes and ultimately, to the Oscars. The groundwork had been laid by 1980s success stories such as Jim Jarmusch, David Lynch, and Spike Lee, all fiercely independent, but it was really with Steven Soderbergh’s Palme d’Or-winning sex, lies and videotape (1989) that a door was opened. Through it came nuanced, insightful explorations of sex and sexuality, of race and class, as well as wide-ranging humour, and, practically above all else, beautifully written dialogue, and lots of it.

Any season of films covering this period is a mere snapshot; there are simply too many films of quality to include them all, and this has led to regrettable omissions. While every effort has been made to make the picture as diverse as possible, it is an inescapable reality that for all its strengths as a golden period of filmmaking whose influence has pervaded American cinema of all stripes and budgets since, it was still a time when opportunities for women and members of sexual and racial minorities were far from plentiful.

This season will continue in August. The IFI’s online platform, IFI@Home, will also host a selection of American independent films of the 1990s throughout July and August, many of which
are in addition to those screening theatrically. Please see here for details.

Season Notes by Kevin Coyne.

3 films for €30 bundles available from IFI Box Office, in-person or over the phone on 01 679 3477.


The IFI is supported
by The Arts Council

Arts Council of Ireland