Francis Ford Coppola once said, "I like all kinds of films, but what I really want is to be moved by a film, to feel as I've never felt, to see things I've never seen before."
Before I go any further, ask yourself this: What does Coppola mean by "see things I've never seen before"? I'd bet most people would assume he meant something like Avatar or even Lawrence of Arabia, a movie that uses a) visual effects wizardry or b) scenic vistas (or a combination of both) to give us something to look at.
I think both of these ideas are wrong. Or, at the very least, an extremely limited way of looking at the issue.
I'm most moved in a film, most compelled to feel, when someone takes a camera and shows us an aspect of our lives we have left unexamined. Chop Shop, Araya (as yet unseen by me but on my list for sure), A Woman Under The Influence, Naked — movies that probably don't use any visual effects at all, that have nothing flashier than a jump cut in their editing, but which are still spellbinding.
I shouldn't dismiss the filmmakers who create something out of nothing. That would mean ditching Stan Brakhage, or pretty much every animated film ever made. A bad idea. But I also know that it is a little too easy to put such things first — to think first of the director who concocts his world whole, instead of going out there with a camera to find some piece of it. Yes, he will inevitably shape what he films, and in that process he is creating something new out of whole cloth (Chop Shop is a drama, not verité footage); but the raw material will be coming from a very different place. He will not simply be taking something that was put on the screen before and reshaping it to fit an audience that wasn't lucky enough to see those tropes the first time.
I mull this over a lot in the course of my own work — how much of what I'm doing is just lifted from other creative end product (not in the sense of plagiarism, but in the sense of inspiration), and how much of it is inspired by things that actually passed in front of my own senses. The latter inspiration should always fuel the former, because the latter includes everything we know about true human behavior as we've experienced it, and that might well be the ultimate subject of any of our pursuits.