Barbican- Bebop New York: Birth of American Indie Cinema

When: 23rd may – 25th June


Where: Barbican Cinema



Late-50s New York. In Greenwich Village bars and Times Square burger joints painters, writers, critics and musicians were making a new world, one that would spark the counter-culture of the 1960s. Filmmakers were right there too.

Like the Abstract Expressionists, like the Beats, filmmakers were advocating for freedom from convention and the expression of real feeling. They demanded a cinema liberated from calcified professionalism, from Hollywood, from ‘the system’, and for films that were “less perfect, but more free” (Jonas Mekas, 1959). This is the moment when indie movies as we understand them today – as expressive of artistic decisions and personal will – really came into being.

This Barbican season – throughout May and June – presents a selection of films made in New York from the mid-50s to the mid-60s, all emerging from the city’s burgeoning bohemia. At a time when Hollywood films set in New York were still shot on Californian backlots, here are films shot on location, which capture urban life in its raw, unrefined state. Allied to this, there is a sense of spontaneity and immediacy that is new, and a first-person, experiential, shooting style which allows us to inhabit the filmmaker’s way of seeing.

Barbican- Bebop New York: Birth of American Indie Cinema

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