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“Born In Flames” Is What Being Independent Is All About

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By Thom Bennett

IFC News

The term “independent film” has been forced onto far too many titles over the years, sometimes to lend a film credibility or as a defense of filmmaking incompetence. Another term overused by film critics the world ’round is “seminal.” So there are any number of “seminal independent films” and filmmakers that have garnered accolades while others that truly deserve them are forgotten to time. Lizzie Borden’s 1983 film “Born in Flames,” finally released on DVD June 13th, is legitimately both seminal and independent, an example of 80s New York guerilla filmmaking at its finest.

People have been making underground, experimental and self-financed films since the beginnings of cinema. Before being indie was a genre or a fashion statement, there was a substantial movement of underground and self-described “transgressive” filmmakers that arose out of New York in the late 70s and early 80s. Prominent in this movement were Richard Kern, Nick Zedd, Beth B, Amos Poe and Lizzie Borden, among others. Their films, while varied in style and approach, dealt in no uncertain terms with the political and social concerns of the day and served as a stark contrast to the American ideals of the 80s.

“Born in Flames” is set ten years in the future, after a second American Revolution. Societal ills have allegedly been eliminated and the world is a far better place. When the founder of the Women’s Army, Adelaide Norris, is killed, factions of women of divergent race, class and sexuality rise up to tear down the façade that has been created in an effort to achieve actual justice and freedom for all.

The film is a mixed bag of filmed interviews, footage of pre-gentrified, early 80s New York City, feminist manifestos and a loose narrative that serves mainly to hold the whole thing together. The documentary look and feel of the film, a result of the simple economics of guerrilla filmmaking more than any grand aesthetic, give the films an immediacy and intensity that cannot be faked. “Born in Flames” is an angry, funny, provocative statement that deserves a place of prominence in any serious assessment of American independent film.

Chalk it up to the visionary genius of Lizzie Borden or the eerie similarities between the then Reagan, now Bush-era United States, but “Born in Flames” holds up remarkably well. Hopefully the DVD release will help it find a larger audience and inspire a new generation of filmmakers.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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