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The 5 Indie Films You Must See This February

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire February 1, 2013 at 12:24PM

So while it's true that February isn't exactly the prime month for quality independent filmmaking to find release (and many of us are still catching up on the plethora of such that was released toward the end of last year), the month ahead most definitely has a few high quality options, two of them Oscar nominees finally making their way to theaters. From Steven Soderbergh to William Shakespeare, check out Indiewire's picks for February's 5 best options, and then head over to the full month's calendar, as there are many worthy films (including studio offerings) that didn't end up making this list.
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Side Effects Rooney Mara

So while it's true that February isn't exactly the prime month for quality independent filmmaking to find release (and many of us are still catching up on the plethora of such that was released toward the end of last year), the month ahead most definitely has a few high quality options, two of them Oscar nominees finally making their way to theaters.

From Steven Soderbergh to William Shakespeare, check out Indiewire's picks for February's 5 best options, and then head over to the full month's calendar, as there are many worthy films (including studio offerings) that didn't end up making this list.

1. Side Effects (February 8)

Director: Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Rooney Mara, Jude Law, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Channing Tatum
Distributor: Open Road
Current Criticwire average: B+ (see all grades)

Why Is It a "Must Sees"? While somewhat questionable in its "indie" designation here, it was too hard to deny Steven Soderbergh's allegedly final theatrically released film the top spot here. Written by Scott Z. Burns (who also wrote Soderbergh films "Contagion" and "The Informant!"), the well-reviewed film follows a New York couple (Rooney Mara and Channing Tatum, in his third straight Soderbergh film) whose world unravels when a new drug prescribed by her psychiatrist (Jude Law) -- intended to treat anxiety -- has unexpected side effects. Whether or not this actually ends up being Soderbergh's final feature film (though there's definitely still HBO's Liberace biopic "Behind the Candelabra," airing later this year), "Side Effects" should prove one of February's few cinematic highlights (and it's the only film on this list guaranteed a wide release because it's getting one right of the bat -- hence the not-so-indie aspect).

Check out the trailer below:

2. No (February 15)

Director: Pablo Larraín
Cast: Gael García Bernal, Alfredo Castro, Antonia Zegers, Luis Gnecco
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Current Criticwire average: A- (see all grades)

Why Is It a "Must Sees"? Chile managed its very first Oscar nomination for best foreign language film with Pablo Larraín's "No," which has been winning raves on the film festival circuit since it debuted in Cannes last May.  "For his third and most accomplished work," Eric Kohn wrote in his Cannes review, "Larraín has traded the allegorical track for the real thing, delivering a lively, mesmerizing drama about a national call to action during the 1988 referendum on Pinochet's presidency. With a full-bodied turn by Gael Garcia Bernal as its anchor, 'No broadens Larraín's range by replicating historical events in engrossing detail."

Check out the trailer below:

3. The Gatekeepers (February 1)

Director: Dror Moreh
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Current Criticwire average: A- (see all grades)

Why Is It a "Must Sees"? Another Oscar nominee (this time in the documentary feature category, though like "No" this a Sony Classics release), Dror Moreh's "The Gatekeepers" hits theaters the first weekend of February after a string run on the fest circit.  The film looks at the Israeli/Palestine conflict through talking to six men who have run Shin Bet, Israel's Secret Service, from 1980 through 2011. Backed by Israel, France, Germany and Belgium, this very strong doc sheds extraordinary light on a very current world issue.

Check out the trailer below:

4. Ceasar Must Die (February 6)

Director: Paolo Taviani, Vittorio Taviani
Cast: Cosimo Rega, Salvatore Striano, Giovanni Arcuri, Antonio Frasca
Distributor: Adopt Films
Current Criticwire average: B (see all grades)

Why Is It a "Must Sees"? A year after it won the Golden Bear in Berlin, Italian directors Paolo Taviani and Vittorio Taviani's not-quite-adaptation of Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar," "Caesar Must Die." hits US theaters (it was also Italy's submission for the Oscars, but didn't make the cut).  "The prospects of criminals performing Shakespeare has been explored in conventional terms by the 2005 documentary 'Shakespeare Behind Bars,'" Indiewire's Eric Kohn wrote in his Berlin review; "Sibling directors Paolo and Vittorio Taviani's 'Caesar Must Die' takes a far more provocative approach. Following a beautifully shot introductory sequence that captures the finale of the 'Julius Caesar' production in glorious, dazzlingly colorful detail, 'Caesar Must Die' flashes back to six months earlier, at which point the imagery shifts to expressive black-and-white, appropriately evoking the drab interiors."

Check out the trailer below:

5. Lore (February 8)

Director: Cate Shortland
Cast:  Saskia Rosendahl, Kai Malina, Nele Trebs
Distributor: Music Box Films
Current Criticwire average: B (see all grades)

Why Is It a "Must Sees"? Like "Caesar Must Die," Cate Shortland's "Lore" was a foreign language Oscar submission that would not be as Australia submitted the German language film (which premiered at Locarno) but missed out.  The film -- set in southwestern Germany during the dying days of World War II -- follows five siblings who must travel nearly 1,000 kilometers to their grandmother's home after their Nazi parents are arrested by Allied Forces.

Check out the trailer below: