Five cracking free, pay-what-you-want feature films online

Written by Nic Wistreich on . Posted in Feature film

Here's some picks of filmmaker owned and distributed free (as in lunch) feature films you can download or watch online that really stood out over the last year. Most of them are 'pay what you want' and as ultra-indies they are produced, distributed and promoted by the filmmaker - so anything you donate goes to help them pay off their debts and make more.

Nasty Old People

Hanna Sköld, Sweden, 2009,

Pensioners and the far right make unlikely bedfellows in this remarkably accomplished debut feature from Hanna Sköld. It follows the angry, headstrong yet arresting Mette who in her work as a carer is given some of the most stubborn, difficult and neglected old people of her community. She is also a neo-Nazi.

It's a set-up I haven't seen at cinema before and the inevitable turning point for her could easily have been played for cheap and preachy point-scoring. Instead it's a complex and thoughtful drama, often funny and interspersed with mumblecore-y animations. It's peppered with broad and mostly believable characters. It's not perfect, but for a film made mostly on a €10,000 budget, with some completion funds from Film i Skåne, shot over a year in weekends and evenings, it's perhaps the first pay-what-you can live action film that looks and feels like a much bigger budget European arthouse film.

Licensed under Creative Commons, No Commercial, Share Alike
Download torrents: Nasty.Old.People.2009.XviD [837 MB] or Nasty.Old.People_2009.dvd.iso [3.7 GB]
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RIP: A Remix Manifesto

Brett Gaylor, USA, 2008

RIP is one of those films I've resisted seeing for ages because I thought it would just repeat the same arguments we've heard countless times from the copyfighting movement. More fool me - it's an entertaining and fascinating film, with a good pacing things to keep the interest up. It's central debate centres on the contrary attitude of the media industry who have made so much money from hip-hop, fairy tales and spoofs - towards remix, mashups and sampling. This issue, which currently prevents much of the creative sector from monetising such work, without a well paid media team does occasionally get confused with the more complex and debatable area of the pirate movement. Nevertheless it asks fair questions - I don't have a right to opt out from the 3,000+ adverts I see each day, and now they are lodged in my headspace, surely I have some ownership over them. Or rather, if, as Churchill said, 'the empires of the future are the empires of the mind' then the ability to adapt and remix that culture is a vital part of keeping such empires in check.

Licensed under Creative Commons Share Alike
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Sita Sing the Blues

Nina Paley, US, 2008

Self-funded and made entirely in Flash, Nina Paley's retelling of the Indian epic Ramayana has been screened around the world and picked up dozens of awards and much acclaim. The songs of Annette Hanshaw weave links between the present-day story of the breakup of Nina's relationship, against the classic love tale of Sita and Rama.

Doubtless embittered by her own experiences, Paley scoffs at the Ramayana's portrayal of devotion and patience in the face of a break-up, and the film has picked up some criticism in India. Nevertheless the running improvised commentary by a group of a shadow puppets, the technicolor animation and songs of Leti, which were a discovery for me, plus the openness with which Paley shares her experience, made it a moving experience. And as it's under a Creative Commons license - if you think you can improve any part of it, you can make your own cut. As well as the video file, hosts versions in everything up to 4k size if you're able to get your hands on a digital cinema projector.

Licensed under Creative Commons Share Alike
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Just to Get a Rep

Peter Gerrard, US/UK

From Edinburgh-based American Peter Gerrard and upcoming Scottish production company Accidental Media (nominated for five new Talent Scottish BAFTAs), J2GAR is a graffiti documentary which takes us around America to explore the route of possibly the most visually recognisable and impacting art movements of our generation. Short at under an hour we don't get to hear from the many people to whom graff is a nuisance or hear mention of Banksy, but everything else seems to be here, including the guys who invented bubble lettering.

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The Hunt For Gollum / Born of Hope

Born of Hope dir: Kate Madison, UK-Int, 2009 / The Hunt for Gollum dir: Chris Bouchard

Want to experience more of middle Earth but can't wait until the New Line Hobbit films arrive, Born of Hope is a 70 minute feature telling the tale of Arathorn and Gilrean, the parents of Aragorn. For an illustration of quite high the production values of 'no-budget' self-financed work can go, the burgeoning Lord of the Rings universe fan-films promise much. The 40 minute Hunt for Gollum was the first serious fan-film from the universe released, set before the first Lord of the Rings book/film and featuring sme stunning British countryside that no doubt must have helped inspire Tolkein when first describing middle earth. Both come with the obligatory copyright disclaimer but also supportive quotes from members of the WETA team suggesting on this occasion New Line/Peter Jackson concluded non-profit fan support will benefit the franchise more than harm it.

The Hunt for Gollum

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Born of Hope

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