GITS development assistant Wendy Cohen here, and welcome back to Declare Your Independents, our new series highlighting the latest developments in the world of independent film!
The Best Foreign-Language Films of 2014
Justin Simien on Dear White People
Interstellar‘s Christopher Nolan, Stars Reveal Secrets of the Year’s Most Mysterious Film
The Oscar Landscape Post-Hamptons, Pre-AFI
Scott and I encourage any of you who go to see an independent movie to post your reactions to the film in these posts. Good, bad, indifferent, whatever. If there’s a film you want to recommend, do it. Use your words to inspire readers to transport themselves into a local cinema.
INDIE SPOTLIGHT: MOVIES TO SEE IN THEATERS THIS WEEK
OPENING FRIDAY (10/24)
In January 2013, Laura Poitras (recipient of the 2012 MacArthur Genius Fellowship and co-recipient of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service) was several years into making a film about surveillance in the post-9/11 era when she started receiving encrypted e-mails from someone identifying himself as “citizen four,” who was ready to blow the whistle on the massive covert surveillance programs run by the NSA and other intelligence agencies. In June 2013, she and Greenwald flew to Hong Kong for the first of many meetings with the man who turned out to be Snowden. She brought her camera with her. The film that resulted from this series of tense encounters is absolutely sui generis in the history of cinema: a 100% real-life thriller unfolding minute by minute before our eyes. Executive Produced by Steven Soderbergh.
Watch an interview with the film’s director, Laura Poitras, here.
Overeducated and underemployed, 28 year old Megan (Keira Knightley) is in the throes of a quarterlife crisis. Squarely into adulthood with no career prospects, no particular motivation to think about her future and no one to relate to, Megan is comfortable lagging a few steps behind – while her friends check off milestones and celebrate their new grown-up status. When her high-school sweetheart (Mark Webber) proposes, Megan panics and- given an unexpected opportunity to escape for a week – hides out in the home of her new friend, 16-year old Annika (Chloë Grace Moretz) and Annika’s world-weary single dad Craig (Sam Rockwell). Lynn Shelton, whose unique directorial voice created such astutely observed comedies as YOUR SISTER’S SISTER and HUMPDAY, crafts a sweet, romantic coming-of-age comedy about three people who find their lives intertwined in the most unconventional way as they make through the imperfect realities of modern day life. Keira Knightley shines as Megan, a rare female slacker hero who shows us that while you never stop growing up, you can choose stop lagging, and start living on your terms.
Watch Vanity Fair‘s interview with writer/director Lynn Shelton here.
Based on the memoir by Amy-Jo Albany, LOW DOWN is a compassionate, tender look at the complex relationship between Amy-Jo (Elle Fanning) and her father Joe (John Hawkes), a man torn between his musical ambition, his devotion to his teenage daughter, and his suffocating heroin addiction. Set against a sensuously textured 1970s Hollywood, the film beautifully evokes a colorful, seedy world of struggling musicians, artists, and vagabonds, in which Joe and Amy-Jo strive to live the lives they want against seemingly insurmountable odds.
Watch DP/30′s interview with the film’s director Jeff Preiss and star John Hawkes, here.
White Bird in a Blizzard
Kat Connors is 17 years old when her perfect homemaker mother, Eve, a beautiful, enigmatic, and haunted woman, disappears – just as Kat is discovering and relishing her newfound sexuality. Having lived for so long in a stifled, emotionally repressed household, she barely registers her mother’s absence and certainly doesn’t blame her doormat of a father, Brock, for the loss. In fact, it’s almost a relief. But as time passes, Kat begins to come to grips with how deeply Eve’s disappearance has affected her. Returning home on a break from college, she finds herself confronted with the truth about her mother’s departure, and her own denial about the events surrounding it.
Watch an interview with the film’s writer/director, Gregg Araki, here.
Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me
The film features those who know and love Glen, including Bruce Springsteen, Bill Clinton, The Edge, Paul McCartney, Jay Leno, Vince Gil, Jimmy Web, Blake Shelton, Sheryl Crow, Keith Urban, Brad Paisley, Steve Martin, Chad Smith and Taylor Swift among many others. Rare vintage footage and extraordinary new performances of Glen’s most beloved hits immerse this moving cinematic account in the overwhelming talent of this humble family man. With joy and a tireless sense of humor, Glen and his family live each moment in the present while preparing for the future, all while playing their music to sold out venues.
23 Blast is based on the amazingly true story of Travis Freeman. A typical teenager growing up in a small town in Kentucky, Travis is a local hero on and off the field. In the fall of 1997, in the prime of his youth, he is unexpectedly stricken with an infection that destroys his optic nerve. He becomes blind overnight. Under the influence of parents who love him, a physical therapist who challenges him, a coach who inspires him, and a best friend who he cannot bear to leave behind, Travis shows us what true bravery is by competing on the gridiron, helping his team advance to the State playoffs. We follow Travis and Jerry Baker, his closest friend, from the time they meet on the football field as kids through high school. Jerry’s attraction to the dark side of teenage temptations, beer and drugs, threatens to pull the friends apart. It is only on the football field where they truly connect.
A Thousand Times Good Night
Rebecca (Juliette Binoche) is one of world’s top war photojournalists, capturing dangerous and chilling images in the most dire landscapes, all in an effort to shed light on the real cost of modern war. But she’s also a wife and mother, leaving behind a husband and two young daughters every time she travels to a new combat zone. After a near-death experience chronicling the ritual of a female suicide bomber, husband Marcus (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) levels an ultimatum: give up the dangerous profession or lose the family she counts on being there when she returns from each assignment. Yet the conviction that her photos can make a difference keeps pulling at Rebecca’s resolve, making it difficult for her to walk away entirely. With an offer to photograph a refugee camp in Kenya, a place allegedly so safe that daughter Steph (Lauryn Canny) is allowed to join her, Rebecca comes face to face with just how much she risks each time she steps back into the fray.
A critical favorite and word-of-mouth sensation at this year’s Cannes Festival, where it took the Jury Prize in Un Certain Regard, this wickedly funny and precisely observed psychodrama tells the story of a model Swedish family-handsome businessman Tomas, his willowy wife Ebba and their two blond, pre-teen children-on a skiing holiday in the French Alps. The sun is shining and the slopes are spectacular but, during lunch at a mountainside restaurant, an avalanche turns everything upside down. With panicked diners fleeing in all directions, Ebba calls out for her husband as she tries to protect their children. Tomas, however, makes a decision that will shake the family’s world to its core. Although the anticipated disaster fails to occur, his marriage now hangs in the balance as he struggles to reclaim his role as family patriarch.
Rhymes for Young Ghouls
Eye-catching feature about a teenage, Aboriginal, revenge-seeking drug-dealer Red Crow. Mi’g Maq reservation, 1976: By government decree, every Indian child under the age of 16 must attend residential school. In the kingdom of the Crow, that meansimprisonment at St. Dymphna’s. That means being at the mercy of “Popper”, the sadistic Indian agent who runs the school. At 15, Aila is the weed princess of Red Crow. Hustling with her uncle Burner, she sells enough dope to pay Popper her “truancy tax”, keeping her out of St.Ds. But when Aila’s drug money is stolen and her father Joseph returns from prison, the precarious balance of Aila’s world is destroyed. Her only options are to run or fight… and Mi’gMaq won’t run.
Life of Riley
Adapted from Alan Ayckbourn’s play Relatively Speaking, LIFE OF RILEY is the ebullient and highly stylized story of the emotional entanglements among three couples living in the English countryside. When the couples learn that their close mutual friend George is terminally ill, their shared bonds are laid bare and Resnais’ exquisitely developed characters begin to grapple with their own mortality and romantic vision of life. The brisk and shrewdly articulate encounters between the characters, played by Sabine Azéma, Hippolyte Girardot, Caroline Silhol, Michel Vuillermoz, Sandrine Kiberlain and André Dussollier, unfold an intimate real life story that bleeds in and out of the theater piece in which they are all cast. Splendid scenes of the English countryside and gorgeously illustrated settings demarcate the turning points in the plot, and the continuously blurred line between fiction and reality. A joyously unsettling meditation on the elasticity of the boundaries of love and affection, LIFE OF RILEY is an entirely unique, ingeniously structured and poignantly jubilant farewell from one of the greatest directors of all time.
The Heart Machine
Tracking two parallel journeys that show how digital media complicates modern love, THE HEART MACHINE explores the evolving relationship between physical and emotional intimacy, isolation in the urban hive, and the seduction of hiding behind a screen. This modern mystery tells the story of Cody (John Gallagher Jr. – HBO’s The Newsroom, SHORT TERM 12) and Virginia (Kate Lyn Sheil – Netflix House of Cards, YOU’RE NEXT), who fall in love online, despite the distance between them. Through an interrelated series of events, Cody suspects that Virginia might not actually live in Berlin and may even live in the same city as he does, and seeks to find the truth. THE HEART MACHINE questions love and intimacy in the digital age, and whether you can really trust whom you meet on the internet.
Watch The Wrap‘s interview with the film’s writer/director, Zachary Wigon, and cast here.
NOW IN THEATERS
Dear White People
Winner of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival’s Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Talent, Dear White People is a sly, provocative satire of race relations in the age of Obama. Writer/director Justin Simien follows a group of African American students as they navigate campus life and racial politics at a predominantly white college in a sharp and funny feature film debut that earned him a spot on Variety’s annual “10 Directors to Watch.”
Watch Stephen Colbert speak with the film’s writer/director Justin Simien here.
Birdman: or The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance is a black comedy that tells the story of an actor (Michael Keaton) — famous for portraying an iconic superhero — as he struggles to mount a Broadway play. In the days leading up to opening night, he battles his ego and attempts to recover his family, his career, and himself.
Watch THR’s Scott Feinberg’s interview with the film’s director and co-writer Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu here and here.
April, 1945. As the Allies make their final push in the European Theatre, a battle-hardened army sergeant named Wardaddy (Brad Pitt) commands a Sherman tank and her five-man crew on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. Outnumbered and outgunned, and with a rookie soldier thrust into their platoon, Wardaddy and his men face overwhelming odds in their heroic attempts to strike at the heart of Nazi Germany.
Watch Trailer Addict’s interview with the film’s writer/director David Ayer here.
A young woman joins the military to be part of something bigger than herself and her small town roots. But she ends up as a new guard at Guantanamo Bay instead, where her mission is far from black and white. Surrounded by hostile jihadists and aggressive squadmates, she strikes up an unusual friendship with one of the detainees. A story of two people, on opposite sides of a war, struggling to find their way through the ethical quagmire of Guantanamo Bay. And in the process, they form an unlikely bond that changes them both.
Watch Sundance’s interview with the film’s writer/director Peter Sattler here.
Listen Up Philip
A complex, intimate, and highly idiosyncratic comedy, Listen Up Philip is a literary look at the triumph of reality over the human spirit. Anger rages in Philip (Jason Schwartzman) as he awaits the publication of his sure-to-succeed second novel. He feels pushed out of his adopted home city by the constant crowds and noise, a deteriorating relationship with his photographer girlfriend Ashley (Elisabeth Moss), and his indifference to promoting his own work. When Philip’s idol Ike Zimmerman (Jonathan Pryce) offers his isolated summer home as a refuge, he finally gets the peace and quiet to focus on his favorite subject — himself.
Watch Sundance’s interview with the film’s writer/director Alex Ross Perry here.
Andrew Neyman (Miles Teller) is an ambitious young jazz drummer, single-minded in his pursuit to rise to the top of his elite east coast music conservatory. Plagued by the failed writing career of his father, Andrew hungers day and night to become one of the greats. Terence Fletcher (J.K. Simmons ), an instructor equally known for his teaching talents as for his terrifying methods, leads the top jazz ensemble in the school. Fletcher discovers Andrew and transfers the aspiring drummer into his band, forever changing the young man’s life. Andrew’s passion to achieve perfection quickly spirals into obsession, as his ruthless teacher continues to push him to the brink of both his ability-and his sanity.
Watch TIFF’s interview with Damien Chazelle, director and writer of the 2012 Black List script, here.
Many thanks to Wendy for today’s post. Remember to Declare Your Independents by going to a theater or use V.O.D. to watch an indie feature this weekend.