Two American indies, a festival hit from an emerging German talent, a Norwegian tale of drug addiction and an Israeli drama topped a list of the Best Undistributed Films in Indiewire's year-end critics poll. More than 160 critics voted in this year's poll, the results of which were published Monday.
While not all critics listed their favorite undistributed films on their ballots, around 275 films received mentions in this category. Admittedly, due to the ever-changing state of U.S. distribution, some of the films listed don't qualify for the category, while others may have already secured distribution in deals yet to be announced. However, the top five films that received the most mentions do not have theatrical distribution.
Leading the charge, Alex Ross Perry's awkward black-and-white comedy "The Color Wheel" landed in first place with 15 votes. The film, the New York-based filmmaker's second after the "Gravity's Rainbow" adaptation "IMPOLEX," had its world premiere at the Sarasota Film Festival in April, followed by a New York premiere at BAMcinemaFest over the summer and an international premiere at the Locarno Film Festival. Indiewire listed the film, which stars Perry and Carmen Altmen as warring siblings on an incredibly uncomfortable road trip, among five highlights from BAMcinemaFest and profiled Perry for our Futures column. The film also came up as a comparison to "Young Adult" in Indiewire's review of the Jason Reitman-directed film a few weeks back.
"At some point in the last few years, it occurred to me that the most important and meaningful thing I could hope to accomplish with my movies is to be accepted and taken seriously by people I consider to be interesting and intelligent," Perry wrote Indiewire this week when informed of his film's ranking in the poll. "As a student and appreciator of film criticism, being cited by a voting body of critics whose taste I trust and whose writing I take seriously is a major victory for me and my very small, very dark and profoundly irritating film." Several distributors have expressed interest in "The Color Wheel" and a 2012 release seems likely.
One of two films to land in second place, newcomer Sophia Takal's "Green" (which, oddly enough, features a cameo by Perry in its opening scene) received 12 votes. The filmmaker's directorial debut follows a troubled couple (Kate Lyn Sheil and Lawrence Michael Levine) whose relationship reaches new levels of discord when a mysterious woman (Green) shows up at their country getaway and introduces a bizarre, unspoken sexual tension to their lives. The film won the Chicken and Egg Emergent Narrative Women Director award at the SXSW Film Festival in March and received a "B" grade in Indiewire's review.
Tied in second place with "Green," German director Ulrich Köhler's "Sleeping Sickness," his third feature. The film premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival in February, where Köhler won the Silver Bear for Best Director. However, not all reviews were positive. When it screened at the New York Film Festival in September, The Playlist (part of the Indiewire Blog Network) gave it a "C+."
The other two movies in the top five of the Best Undistributed Films also landed a tie: "Oslo, August 31st" and "Policeman" both received 11 mentions. "Oslo," the sophomore effort of "Reprise" director Joachim Trier, finds the Norwegian director re-teaming with Anders Danielsen Lie, who delivers a stirring performance as a recovering heroin addict struggling to find some friends after he gets out of rehab. The film was warmly received when it premiered in the Un Certain Regard section at Cannes in May and will screen at Sundance next month. Indiewire reviewed the film at Cannes and gave it a "B+."
"Policeman," the cryptic debut of Israeli director Nadav Lapid, follows two parallels stories of young Israeli in conflicting situations: A tough-minded anti-terrorism officer (Yiftach Klein) and a radical activist (Yaara Pelzig) who eventually crosses his path. Indiewire gave the film a "B" at the Locarno Film Festival in August, where it had its world premiere ahead of screening at the New York Film Festival.
Among these options, both "The Color Wheel" and "Oslo" seem like the strongest contenders to make their ways to theaters in the new year, although with distribution landscape constantly in flux, the other films may find unconventional homes as well. For now, at least, readers unable to see any of these films will have to take note of this year's poll and cross their fingers for some acquisition news in the near future.
Stay tuned for more coverage of Indiewire's year-end poll this week.