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The Independent Culture
Strange though it may seem, there are some film lovers who won't be visiting cinemas this weekend to enjoy the new print of The Sound of Music. Instead, these black-clad misfits will be joining others of their kind at the Festival of American Independent Cinema in Manchester, dosing up on transatlantic alienation and radical documentary. The festival, which starts today, displays the innovative underbelly of American film, offering a parallel universe to the studio-generated world of Forrest Gump. Upstanding members of this unorthodox community include beat generation jazz junkies killing time in The Connection (Sun) and compromised Nineties gangsters discovering Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead (tonight). The disparate subjects and styles that comprise Mavericks in Manchester prove that "independent film" is a slippery term, describing a sensibility rather than a particular product. Psychotic stalwarts Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper feature and there is the obligatory Generation X-ploitation flick The Four Corners of Nowhere (Sun) but this collection is much more than the indie stereotype of "non-actors" philosophising in grainy black and white. What films like Todd Hayne's Safe (Thur) and Art for Teachers of Children (Wed) demonstrate is the breadth of work that is Not-Hollywood. Haynes directed a cast of Barbie dolls in his first film, and in Safe he develops this aesthetic by detailing the disintegration of a suburban housewife (Julianne Moore, left). Art for Teachers of Children, meanwhile, tells the autobiographical story of a schoolgirl who has an affair with her dorm counsellor and is hounded to testify against him by the FBI. If all this sounds too degenerate, you can always spend the weekend pondering the significance of raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens; bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens.

Mavericks in Manchester (0161-228 2463) to 23 Nov