The most unique perspectives and outlandish ideas are celebrated at the ÉCU festival that has been gaining more and more attention in the 9 years it has been recognizing the efforts of underfunded freelancers. Another big independent film festival coming up is The Cannes Film Festival (15-26th May). Another display of script and sequencing skill from across the world, it is important to remember that no matter how successful a director’s films are at this prize-giving ceremony, he or she started from humble beginnings too. Three award-winning directors are of particular interest to us at ÉCU, namely Satyajit Ray, Steven Soderbergh and Quentin Tarantino.

Satyajit Ray is regarded as India’s most important director so far. Ray started as a ‘junior visualiser’ in
a British-run advertising agency designing the covers for many books whose stories later influenced his work in film. The novel “Pather Panchli” was the basis of his first film (1955) which depicts the maturation of Apu, a young boy in a Bengal village. He ignored governmental pressure to include a happy ending, refused accept funding from sponsors to change the script for money and managed an inexperienced film crew in order to create his masterpiece. This movie won eleven international prizes including Best Human Documentary at the Cannes Film Festival. Ray created two more films to form the Apu Trilogy (Aparajito 1956 and Apur Sansar-1959). From then on his career blossomed and he received many different awards: at the 1982 Cannes festival he was bestowed with an honorary “Hommage à Satyajit Ray” prize.

In 1989 director Steven Soderbergh’s independent film “Sex, Lies and Videotape” won the Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Interestingly, it only took 8 days to write! Aged 26, he was the youngest director to win the festival’s top award. This movie was key to influencing and revolutionizing the independent film movement in the early 90s. This low-budget film was crucial to launching the director’s career and labeling him as able to create both mainstream and arthouse films. This particular movie is also credited with being the picture which helped Miramax become the studio most closely associated with quality independent filmmaking, producing films for Woody Allen and Quentin Tarantino, to name a few. Therefore starting at 15, by creating short films with second-hand equipment, working briefly as a freelance editor in Hollywood, he didn’t give up when he came back home. Soderbergh continued writing scripts and got his first major break when the rock group Yes hired him to shoot a full-length concert film, earning him a Grammy nomination. He is now known for many different contrasting types of film, examples include the “Ocean’s Eleven” trilogy and “Solaris”.

In contrast, Quentin Tarantino is known for his morally suspect protagonists and violent-tempered individuals who ultimately seek revenge against their antagonists by outmatching them in sheer
brutality. Arriving on the scene at the Sundance Film Festival, he gained critical acclaim for his dialogue-driven heist film “Reservoir Dogs”. Two years later, his film “Pulp Fiction” premiered at the Cannes film festival, winning the coveted Palme D’Or Award. This film maintained the aestheticization of violence as well as his non-linear story lines and has grossed over $200m. As a producer, Tarantino has been known to use Hollywood to boost the attention given to smaller foreign films who would otherwise not have as much success, for example the Hong Kong martial arts film “Iron Monkey” in 2001 which made over $14m in the US, seven times its budget!

Beneath the glamourous façade of the Cannes Film Festival, there are a bunch of writers, directors and producers just wanting to be rewarded for their realization of a project which has tested their endurance, their characters and their budget. While Cannes tends to be dominated by American indie filmmakers (David Lynch, the Coen Brothers etc) we, at ÉCU, incorporate screenings from all kinds of cultural backgrounds, focusing on the most weird and wonderful productions possible. We shine the spotlight on the best unknown filmmakers from the most distant corners of the world, providing a voice for those whose self-expression might otherwise be stifled by a lack of resources – but never by a lack of ambition or creativity! So you never know what luck you might have, submit your Independent film to ÉCU 2014 and see!

Helen Andrews