Bebop New York

Birth of American Indie Cinema

Bebop New York artwork

Late-50s New York. In Greenwich Village bars and Times Square burger joints painters, writers, critics, musicians were making a new world. 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 Hollywood, from ‘the system’. They wanted, in the words of critic Jonas Mekas, films that were “less perfect, but more free.”

This season presents a selection of films made in New York in these years. Here are films shot on location, which capture urban life in its raw, unrefined state, and with a spontaneity and immediacy that is new. Some go further, developing a first-person shooting style which allows us to inhabit the filmmaker’s way of seeing.

This is the birth of American indie cinema as we know it, featuring films by John Cassavetes, Stan Brakhage and Shirley Clarke.

The Bebop New York film season accompanies the major exhibition Lee Krasner: Living Colour in the Art Gallery from 30 May – 1 Sep 2019.

‘This festival reveals the birth of American indie cinema as we know it. Maybe give the Odeon a miss and check it out? Who cares who Thanos kills anyway, tbh.‘
‘Late-50s New York [...] thanks to the current season at London’s Barbican cinema we can still get feel of that Bebop era that became the birthplace of so much revolutionary art. ‘
Maisha Frost, The Express