Independent Film Channel carves niche


Besides being films, what do the early work of John Cassavetes, the current work of Hal Hartley, Bernard Tavernier's "L.667," "The Last Picture Show," "Suture," "One False Move," "Carnal Knowledge," "Chinatown," "Strictly Ballroom" and "Chameleon Street" have in common?

According to director Steven Soderbergh, whose 1989 film "sex, lies and videotape" took top prize at the Cannes Film Festival, they're all "impact films" -- the kind of "terrific, smart, ambitious" independent films that today's major Hollywood studios wouldn't interested in.

He also says that they're the kind of films that Bravo's Independent Film Channel, which was launched yesterday, is interested in showing. The channel will show 24 hours a day of uncut, commercial-free films made outside the Hollywood studio system.

"Independent films are hard to find on cable except for Cinemax," said Mr. Soderbergh, a member of the channel's advisory board, in a recent teleconference.

Opening-night programming includes an original production, Ileana Douglas' "Everybody Just Stay Calm -- Stories in Independent Filmmaking," plus the short "Franz Kafka's 'It's a Wonderful Life,' " Jim Jarmusch's "Night On Earth," Jonathan Demme's "Swimming to Cambodia" and Volker Schlondorff's "A Handmaid's Tale."

Mr. Soderbergh says the new channel will be a venue for everything from "new talent -- people whose work hasn't been picked up for theatrical or video distribution -- to early Cassavetes stuff from the '50s, some of the best of the Janus film package and shorts. As for the shorts, this channel will be their only real proving ground."

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