When we mention the word sci-fi, surely images of light sabers and extraterrestrial life come to mind? But here’s the catch – good sci-fi films do not need a director as pricey as Inception’s Christopher Nolan or the clinking of metals à la Transformers. They are supposed to spark curiosity and propel a discussion about values are inextricably linked to science. And this is precisely what these six of our indie favorites do:
Produced on a modest budget of only $7000, Primer is about the accidental discovery of a method for time traveling. Directed and produced by a math major, you can tell from the movie’s incredibly complex plot structure and its dialog that this piece of art is not for the weak to consume. The story of four engineers who go on to invent a time traveling machine, this movie will make you think, coil, frustrate, and think more. You will watch it once, and you will watch it twice and if you think you’ve understood the plot completely, think again.
2. “Being John Malkovich”
You might think that how can this film, with its star-studded cast and commercial success can be considered an indie-movie. Well for one, director Spike Jonze only had a budget of $13 million to play with. Exploring issues of sexuality, fidelity, and controlling others, Being John Malkovich takes an unemployed puppeteer into the mind of the great actor through a portal with a lot of drama, sex, and plain weird stuff happening in the middle. You’ll only know once you see it yourself.
In contrast to Being John Malkovich, which has its ensemble cast, Moon has practically only one human character, the one played by Sam Rockwell, who happens to dominate (almost) the entire movie in terms of screen time. Rockwell’s character Sam Bell is on a three year shift at a mining site on the moon and is almost on the verge of returning home to his wife and child before falling unconscious during one of his routine trips out to the mining site. Unable to ascertain how he ended up back in the base after regaining consciousness, Sam discovers an identical version of his own self out on the moon. With director Duncan Jones not only altering Sam’s reality but ours too in the process of unraveling the story, Moon will keep you on your toes for every second for 97 minutes.
4. “Safety Not Guaranteed”
Another indie movie about time travel, Safety Not Guaranteed has garnered raving reviews from critics and won the screenwriting award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. It is inspired by a comical ad published in 1997 in Backwoods Home Magazine, which requested for a person who could accompany a person in time travelling. The movie explores the relationship between an intern at a newspaper who befriends and follows a person who gives out such an ad. Funny, gripping, and interesting, a standing ovation is in order for the writer and director.
It’s an indie with Terry Gilliam all right, but it doesn’t just end there – Jonathan Pryce and Robert de Niro add to the glamor as well. Even though it was unsuccessful when it was released in 1985, it has gained a cult following over the years. It’s a paranoid peek into future times where people are just consumed by technology. With images of facial skin being stretched out and wires spread out in apartments like noodles, there are prints of Gilliam’s genius everywhere.
6. “Silent Running”
Another movie involving astronauts, Silent Running depicts a future Earth where all plant life has been killed off. Only a few specimens exist that are preserved in domes that are just outside Saturn’s orbit. When the resident botanist Freeman Lowell receives orders to destroy the remaining plant specimens as well, he finds himself in a dilemma – whether to follow orders or preserve an entire species. Hesitant to kill the specimens, Lowell even goes to the extent of killing one of his fellow astronauts in his mission. With not many movies around that are focused on the saving of plants, you’ll want to watch this if you’re environmentally minded.