Strippers. A football team on the brink. The founder of a world shattering website like WikiLeaks. These are just a few of the subjects that documentaries have focused on during the span of 2012, up to his point. Films big and small, shinning their light upon some of the most singular or topical subjects that this planet has to offer. And then there is Indie Game: The Movie.
Following the tale of four independent video game developers, Indie Game looks at three small teams, and the heart, soul, sweat and tears that they put into their respective outlets. Be it the man behind the greatest independent game of our generation, or two teams simply looking to find some way, some impossible way, to finish their attempt at bringing glory, honor and in some cases money to their lives and the lives of their family. Self-doubt lingers, existential factors show their ugly heads, and ultimately while it may feature four of the most unlikely protagonists that 2012 will have to offer up, it is not only one of the year’s most touching documentaries, but it shows a monster of an artistic outlet, still just getting its feet under itself.
Narratively, the film is structured as if it were your standard documentary. Following three teams of people, the film looks into the duo behind the creation of a game entitled ‘Super Meat Boy,’ and their self doubting, the creator behind ‘Braid,’ the greatest indie game of this generation, and finally a man dealing with legal issues while finishing up his massively hyped passion project. Interspersed are supplemental interviews with other developers and players in the industry, attempting to add stakes and scope to this film and this overall universe. However, if there is one great thing about this film it is that the stakes never need to be raised. Not once.
Directed by the duo of Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky, the film is a Master’s class in documentary filmmaking. Adding in a modern sense of kinetic storytelling, the film is very much inspired by those people that it follows. You feel for each of these people, be it the one guy trying to work out legal issues while still showing off his game, the guy dealing with his own doubt after being casted as the indie game voice of his generation, or the two guys coming out of nowhere to break all kinds of records, the film’s stakes are automatically as high as one human being could ever hope or expect. You’ll find yourself absolutely hanging on every single moment in these people’s lives, and for a documentary, that is the absolute best thing one could ever have happen.
Visually, the film is gorgeous. This type of documentary doesn’t ask for much in the way of visually striking filmmaking, but the editing is top tier, and the cinematography is quite great. The film’s score is solid, and you get very little of the director’s voice, really just giving this film a great sense of style and aesthetic. A tad overlong and a bit slight in moments, the film isn’t without flaw, but as far as 2012 documentaries go, this thing is an absolute winner.
Overall, the film itself may not be, superficially, what a filmgoer wants to be subjected to. Admittedly a tad slight, Indie Game: The Movie, is far from that though. The film ramps up its stakes from scene one, giving us three separate stories that are impossible not to become emotionally invested in. Well made and well shot, the film is not quite the year’s best documentary, but it may very well be its most emotionally resonant. This is an art form in its infancy, and these are its first steps on tape.