With the the year end approaching there’s plenty of ‘best of’ lists making the rounds. While we typically don’t do that here on Stark Insider we do like to revisit the year and enjoy some of the highlights. Plus, we want to make sure you didn’t miss anything.

In this case we’re talking about film. Specifically: indie film.

Given your focus on theater, arts and the independent scene most of our content centers around lesser known productions. Lower budgets. But every bit as creative as the big Hollywood blockbusters.

There’s a strange sense of accomplishment in making an independent film. Everything’s against you; there’s no time, and even less money – you bring a bottle of glue, chip in twenty bucks, and hope you all make it through the day. If you manage to finish it and it actually turns out to be pretty good, it’s thrilling.

– Eric Stolz

2021 was another good year. Not surprisingly filmmakers continue to be a creative lot. And despite budgetary pressures (as tricky as ever) and an ongoing pandemic (as tricky as ever too!) they find ways to see challenging projects through to completion.

So here’s to the indies. And with that here’s the 2021 Stark Insider indie film year in review. Many thanks to Jeanne Powell for her contributions and helping the indie film reach more viewers.

Stark Insider Indie Film 2021

Sylvies Love film review on Stark Insider

‘Sylvie’s Love’ makes a convincing case for returning romantic love front and center to movies

Sylvie’s Love had its debut at the Sundance Film Festival, to well deserved applause. With exquisite costumes, a timeless soundtrack, and wonderfully subtle performances by Tessa Thompson and Nnambdi Asomugha, director and writer Eugene Ashe makes a convincing case for returning romantic love front and center to movies.

‘Bliss’ an intriguing, if flawed, exploration of simulation theory

Salma Hayek and Owen Wilson have genuine chemistry, as they weave back and forth between his rather dreary world and the glamorous one she projects, suggesting parallel realities which occasionally overlap. How that would work no one really knows, but things might get chaotic, one suspects.

In ‘Nomadland’ Frances McDormand takes to the open road

There is pain and loss, yes, as set forth so well in Lillian Rubin’s “Worlds of Pain” and Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Nickel and Dimed,” but director Zhao has chosen to emphasize the strength and quiet determination of these people. The nomadic way of life works when there is community.

Living on borrowed time in ‘Concrete Cowboy’ – Netflix review

Authentic and lively performances here from the cowboys and cowgirls, as well as the troubled teen who has to make a choice — hang out with street kids destined for run-ins with the law, or train to understand the world of horses within this remarkable community.

‘Dreamland’ a beautifully produced, moving documentary about the Tulsa race massacre

The search for what happened to Greenwood is essential to help heal the wounds.

Talented cast brings ‘In The Heights’ to the screen flawlessly

The Heights is a Spanish-speaking community with elders who immigrated from Cuba, Puerto Rico and especially the Dominican Republic (DR). Olga Merediz gives a moving performance as the grandmother, Abuela Claudia, “serving community” by reinforcing a sense of family and providing a spiritual anchor. Her musical celebration of her Cuban heritage during a major electrical blackout is eloquent and beautifully rendered.

Film Review - The Mauritanian a quietly powerful biography

‘The Mauritanian’ a quietly powerful biography

Directed by Kevin Macdonald, this film is a study of character, who a person is or becomes when faced with an impossible situation.

‘Minari’ an elegiac but life-affirming story

As grandmother, father, mother and the children walk through the 50 acres between sunrise and sunset, each on his or her mission that day, as hopes and prayers are formed, the viewer identifies with this elegiac but life-affirming story.

‘Respect’: Aretha Franklin’s cinematic story comes to life. And, yes, Jennifer Hudson is that good

Oh yes, the music is powerful and perfect because Jennifer Hudson did her homework and dug deeply to portray Aretha in distinctly different phases of her life, as she slowly and painfully broke free of male domination — the man who violated her as a child, then the influence of her domineering father, then mistreatment by her abusive first husband.

‘My Name Is Pauli Murray’ a fascinating, uplifting documentary about a pioneering activist and intellectual

It has been said that “We live in the architecture of the world that Pauli Murray built. You cannot teach U.S history without teaching about her.”

‘The Last Duel’ showcases Matt Damon, Ben Affleck in peak form

Because the argument between the vassals is about their honor, and not about whether Marguerite has been harmed, this duel must be to the death. In the gaiety leading up to the duel, as nobility and royalty fill the grandstands with a festive air, no one quite seems to understand what this means.

The network shows have this very commercial voice that you have to adhere to, and the cable shows, it’s kind of like winning the lottery. The independent film world is a world you can actually get to. You can get the under-a-million-dollar film by finding a good cast and financing.

-Jill Soloway

‘Passing’ a stunning directorial debut by Rebecca Hall

Hall has asked, is either woman free? One risks her life in passing for white. The other is “safe” but plagued by doubt and uncertainty. In a telling moment, Irene turns sharply on her white friend, a closeted male, and says “We’re all of us passing for something or other.”

‘King Richard’ an impossible story of family love and determination

Actor Will Smith (AladdinMen in BlackIndependence DayAliWinters Tale) has a lock on an Academy Award nomination with his performance in King Richard as Richard Williams, the much maligned father of tennis champions Serena and Venus Williams.

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