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by Peter Knegt
September 1, 2011 2:37 AM
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The 9 Indie Films You Must See This September

Andrew Haigh's "Weekend." Sundance Selects.

There's a whopping 31 films listed on indieWIRE's September calendar. From a cancer dramedy to a martial-arts family drama, check out indieWIRE's picks for the nine best options, and then check out the full calendar or iW's fall movie preview; there's many worthy films that didn't make this list (including notable studio efforts like "Contagion" and "Moneyball").

1. Weekend (September 23, IFC Films)

What's The Deal? Over the course of its titular timeframe, this SXSW favorite follows Russell (Tom Cullen) and Glen (Chris New), two men who extend their blurry and drunken one-night stand into 48 hours to remember. Russell is a pragmatic and semi-closeted lifeguard; Glen is a stubborn intellectual who “doesn’t do boyfriends.”

Who's Already Seen It? 9 critics gave it an average of B+ on the film's criticWIRE page.

Why is it a "Must See"? Tender, talky and intensely sexy, the film could reductively be described as a sort of gay "Before Sunrise." Which is meant a compliment. The star-crossed romance in "Weekend" is quite perfectly executed by director Haigh, who lets the film quietly creep up on the viewer as a powerful new entry into the queer cinema lexicon.


2. Drive (September 18, FilmDistrict)

What's The Deal? Nicolas Winding Refn goes Hollywood (at least relatively) in this adaptation of James Sallis' novel, which follows a Hollywood stunt performer (Ryan Gosling) who moonlights as a wheelman only to discover that a contract has been put on him after a heist gone wrong.

Who's Already Seen It? Eighteen critics gave it an average of B+ on the film's criticWIRE page.

Why is it a "Must See"? "If 'The Fast and the Furious' franchise borrowed liberally from 1980s action tropes and ditched plot in favor of sheer speed, it would probably resemble the mad hustle of 'Drive,'" indieWIRE's Eric Kohn wrote in his quite positive review of the film, which won critical raves and the best director award at Cannes (over the likes of Terrence Malick, the Dardenne Brothers and Pedro Almodovar, which is no small feat).

"50/50." Summit Entertainment.
3. Take Shelter (September 30, Sony Pictures Classics)

What's The Deal? Jeff Nichols won over critics at the Sundance Film Festival (and won Cannes' Critics Week) with this story of a young husband and father (Michael Shannon) who begins being plagued by a series of apocalyptic visions that threatens the comfortable existence he has with his loving wife (2011's actress of the year Jessica Chastain).

Who's Already Seen It? 24 critics gave it an average of B+ on the film's criticWIRE page.

Why is it a "Must See"? Featuring remarkable performances from Shannon and Chastain, "Shelter" is an exceptional example of the year in cinema's apocalyptic vibe. "Burrowing into the subconscious of a damaged man," Eric Kohn wrote in his Sundance review, "[Nichols] delivers a modern American epic with extraordinary restraint."

4. 50/50 (September 30, Summit Entertainment)

What's The Deal? Summit Entertainment has been advance screening Jonathan Levine's cancer dramedy all summer in hopes of gaining Oscar traction leading into its September debut. Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Bryce Dallas Howard, Anna Kendrick and Anjelica Huston, the film is loosely based on screenwriter Will Reiser's real-life battle with cancer in his 20s.

Who's Already Seen It? No one yet. But check back with the film's criticWIRE page after it screens in Toronto.

Why is it a "Must See"? Oscar bait or not, "50/50" should be a welcome opportunity for Gordon-Levitt and Rogen to show off their dramatic acting chops, and give audiences an intelligent, accessible and uplifting alternative to the typically lackluster September studio fare.

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5. Warrior (September 9, Lionsgate)

"Warrior." Lionsgate.

What's The Deal? On few people's radar until advanced screenings gained it many fans, Gavin O'Connor's "Warrior" tells the story of alcoholic former boxer (Nick Nolte) who trains his youngest son (Tom Hardy) for mixed martial arts tournament that puts him on a collision course with his older brother (Joel Edgerton)

Who's Already Seen It? No one yet. But check back with the film's criticWIRE page as its release date approaches.

Why is it a "Must See"? Buzz for the performances of Hardy, Edgerton and Nolte has been through the roof, suggesting "Warrior" will be a welcome addition to the extraordinarily long list of movies about competitive fighting.


6. & 7. The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 (September 9, Sundance Selects) & We Were Here (September 9, Red Flag)

What's The Deal? The history of American minorities and their struggles gets chronicled with these two acclaimed Sundance docs. Göran Hugo Olsson's "Black Power Mixtape" looks at the black power movement between 1967 and 1974 via a series of archival footage and interviews, while David Weissman's "We Were Here" does the same in its powerful portrayal of the onset of AIDS in San Francisco.

Who's Already Seen Them? 5 critics gave "Black Power" an average of A- on the film's criticWIRE page; 8 critics gave "We Were Here" an average of A- on the film's criticWIRE page.

Why Are They "Must Sees"? Both hitting theaters September 9, this duo provides an extraordinarily worthwhile window into two crucial moments in the history of 20th-century America.


8. The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu (September 9, The Film Desk)

What's The Deal? Culled from 1,000 hours (!) of archival footage and four years in the making, Andrei Ujica’s epic montage documentary unfolds the story of former Romanian ruler Nicolae Ceausescu.

Who's Already Seen It? Six critics gave it an average of A- on the film's criticWIRE page.

Why is it a "Must See"? Sure, it's 180 minutes long. But reviews have rarely been kinder to a film. You'll also walk out feeling like you just took a fascinating course in Romanian history.


9. Margaret (September 30, Fox Searchlight)

What's The Deal? A full-length book is more appropriate for this question. Kenneth Lonergan's long-awaited follow up to "You Can Count On Me" starring Anna Paquin, Matt Damon, Mark Ruffalo was originally scheduled for release back in 2007, but was continuously delayed as the director struggled to create a final cut he was happy with. This resulted in multiple court cases and the fear that the film might never actually be released. Now it is, albeit quietly: No festival slots for this one.

Who's Already Seen It? In various incarnations, quite a few producers and Fox Searchlight execs. But for official considerations, check back with the film's criticWIRE page closer to the film's release.

Why is it a "Must See"? Five years in the making, it's only reasonable to pay your respects to the fact that "Margaret" is actually being released.

The full fall calendar:
September 2011 | October 2011 | November 2011 | December 2011.

Peter Knegt is indieWIRE's Associate Editor. Follow him on Twitter and on his blog.

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6 Comments

  • L.A. Proper | September 9, 2011 11:48 AMReply

    Might I add the award-winning (and with a more relatable low $ indie budget) comedy, "L.A. Proper" to this list? You can stream it for free here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kzpR7-HQZ78

  • geoffrey thorne | September 9, 2011 8:01 AMReply

    Yeah, you left out the best film of the summer, ATTACK THE BLOCK.

  • Dana Harris | September 2, 2011 1:34 AMReply

    Awesome. Thanks, Dave.

  • Dave Miller | September 1, 2011 8:52 AMReply

    Now girls, you're both pretty.

  • Dana Harris | September 1, 2011 6:39 AMReply

    We do this story every month. Glad that we had differences of opinions... give reason for readers to go to both.

  • CinemaBeach | September 1, 2011 5:46 AMReply

    Wow, we did the almost exact story last week here: http://cinemabeach.com/news/?p=397
    But ours included Burke and Hare (the John Landis laugher), Three (Tom Tywker' latest), and Restless (from Gus Van Sant).
    But I wouldn't include Warrior in that list...