The great modern era of independent movies begins with… jaws. That’s right: when Steven Spielberg’s shark thriller conquered the world in 1975, Hollywood forgot all about the artsy angles and downbeat endings it had explored in the late 60s and early 70s. And with the reappearance of a prepackaged, demographically tested mainstream, the indie underground cranked up its alternative energy –and flourished anew. Here are the crucial fringe benefits of the last 22 years.
November/December 1997
By Owen Gleiberman and Lisa Schwarzbaum
Photography Director:  Mary Dunn
Picture Editor: Doris Brautigan



Streetwise (1985)

Normally, you might not trust a documentary that looks and feels like fiction. But this lyrical portrait of the homeless street kids in Seattle’s Tenderloin district has the power of fiction. It’s like a cinema vérité version of The Lower Depths, and years after you’ve seen it you won’t forget characters like Tiny, the teenage prostitute who looks like a 12-year-old girl with a 70-year-old woman’s face.