Underground film

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Underground films are short films or feature films, the creation and reception of which essentially take place under exclusion from the general public. As a variant of independent film , the filmmakers work independently of film studios, theatrical distributors or television stations and can realize their artistic vision without any influence. Since the productions often only have limited financial means, they are mostly no-budget films . Underground films occasionally find a following in scene circles and thus become cult films.


A film like Un chien andalou ( An Andalusian Dog , 1929) by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí was supposed to be as provocative as an underground film, but was shown in regular cinemas and therefore a scandal.

The term underground film first appeared in 1957 in the essay Underground Films by the American film critic Manny Farber. Farber used it to refer to directors who had made "anti-art in Hollywood". He contrasted "soldier-gangster-cowboy-directors like Raoul Walsh , Howard Hawks , William Wellman ", and others with the "less talented directors De Sicas and Fred Zinnemann , who still fascinate film critics."

In the late 1950s, underground film was used in reference to a small number of independent filmmakers, first in San Francisco and New York City, and soon after in other cities. Well-known representatives in the USA were Stan Brakhage , Bruce Conner , Piero Heliczer , Ken Jacobs, Jonas Mekas , Ron Rice, Barbara Rubin , Jack Smith , George Kuchar and Andy Warhol .

In Europe, a true underground emerged primarily in Austrian films with artists such as Kurt Kren , Otto Muehl and Otmar Bauer. In France, for example, Jean Genet's 1950 film Un chant d'amour ( A Love Song ) is seen as a forerunner of the underground . In Germany, Birgit Hein and Wilhelm Hein pioneers have been the underground film.

In the late 1960s the movement had "matured" and some protagonists began to distance themselves from the countercultural and psychedelic connotations and preferred expressions such as avant-garde or experimental film .

In the 1970s and 1980s, however, the term underground film was still used to describe the countercultural pole of independent cinema. Nick Zedd and other filmmakers in New York's Cinema of Transgression and No Wave Cinema from the late 1970s to the early 1990s invoked underground film in particular .

In the early 1990s, the legacy of early Cinema of Transgression in the United States was picked up by a new generation of filmmakers who blended "underground" film with transgressive art and no-budget films, films that drew on the more commercialized versions of independent film which the nouveau riche distributors like Miramax Films and New Line Cinema were selling, as well as the institutionalized experimental film that the major museums had canonized, opposed.

This spirit defined the early years of underground film festivals like the New York Underground Film Festival, Chicago Underground Film Festival, Toronto's Images Festival , and others, zines like Film Threat , and the work of filmmakers like Craig Baldwin , Jon Moritsugu , Carlos Atanes , Sarah Jacobson and Bruce LaBruce .

Since the late 1990s, the expression has become fuzzy again, as the underground festivals are now mixing more closely with the more established experimental film. If the term is still used in the United States, it refers to films with a very low budget and transgressive content, analogous to post-punk music.


  • Duncan Reekie, Subversion - The Definite History of Underground Film , London, New York: Wallflower Press, 2007
  • Phil Hall, The encyclopedia of underground movies: films from the fringes of cinema , Studio City, Calif .: Wiese, 2004
  • Dominique Noguez, Une renaissance du cinéma: le cinéma “underground” America; histoire, économie, esthétique , Paris: Klincksieck, 1985
  • Hans Scheugl; Ernst Schmidt, A sub-story of film: Lexicon of avant-garde, experimental and underground films , Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, ​​1974
  • Birgit Hein , Film in the Underground , Frankfurt, Berlin, Vienna: Ullstein 1971
  • Sheldon Renan, An introduction to the American underground film , New York: Dutton, 1967

See also

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Manny Farber: Underground Films (1957), in Negative Space: Manny Farber on the Movies (New York: Da Capo, 1998), 12–24; 12.

Web links