REGIONALISM HAS LONG BEEN a watchword of American independent filmmaking, predating the identity politics that shaped the movement in its heyday from the mid-1980s to the early ’90s. More often than not, it is synonymous with “the heartland,” the vast swaths of the United States that lie between, and north and south of, New York City and Los Angeles. But in a finer sense, regionalism refers to the filmic depiction of places where life is actually lived as opposed to the movie-set versions of those places that Hollywood produces. Barbara Loden’s Wanda (1970) and Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep (1977), two pioneering American independent films whose influences have only begun to be felt with their recent rediscoveries, might both be regarded as regional films. Loden said of the shot just after the opening of Wanda, in which the titular heroine is seen at a distance picking her
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