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Contemporary independent American and non-American films distributed in the United States have emerged as a distinct system of representation formulated in the expanse between principles of Hollywood popular film and alternative cinematic practices. ‘Cinema & culture’ considers independent film as an industry, a set of institutions, a discursive formation, and a specific series of texts. Investigating the consumption side of the spectrum (distribution, reception, textual analysis), attention is focused on narrative films released theatrically in the United States by nonstudio distributors between 1980 and 2001. The category ‘independent film’ is analyzed as the function of multiple, simultaneous, layered, and interacting discourses; representational, institutional, interpretive, and cultural/historical. Under exploration is the extent to which independent film as a distinct cultural formation is able to represent the stories, perspectives, and experiences of a pluralistic, multicultural society.