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Indie '80s at BAM: Essential films

Spike Lee's debut film, 1986's

Spike Lee's debut film, 1986's "She's Gotta Have It." Photo Credit: Island Pictures/Photofest

There's a common and altogether unfortunate misconception that the '80s were a time of glossy corporate junk at the movies.

In fact, the indie spirit was alive and well throughout the decade, a fact made abundantly clear by the "Indie '80s" series running at BAM through the end of August.

This is an extraordinarily robust program that spans the breadth of creative, off-the-beaten-path cinema made during the Reagan Years.

Iconic documentaries such as Errol Morris' "The Thin Blue Line" play adjacent to horror classics like "A Nightmare on Elm Street," David Lynch's unforgettable "Blue Velvet" and the coming-of-age crime pic "River's Edge," starring a young Crispin Glover and Keanu Reeves.

Those are some of the movies you've heard of -- others include Spike Lee's debut "She's Gotta Have It" and "My Dinner with Andre."

Then there are the new discoveries, the pictures that remain so far below the mainstream radar it's possible to discover them fresh. "Parting Glances," starring Steve Buscemi, offers an early look at HIV's effect on NYC's gay community. Jon Jost's "Bell Diamond" explores a Vietnam veteran's struggles. "Will," a 16mm picture shot in Harlem, tells the story of a boy adopted by a basketball coach and his wife, and is considered the first modern independent film made by an African-American woman (Jessie Maple).

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