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The 7 Indie Films You Must See This March

March's 7 Must-See Indie Films

After the first two months of 2013 offered in large part an opportunity to catch up on the best of the 2012, this year’s specialty market is finally rolling with some of the most anticipated films from recent film festival circuits.

From Harmony Korine and Stanley Kubrick to Ryan Gosling and Nicole Kidman, check out Indiewire’s picks for March’s 7 best options, and then head over to the full month’s calendar, as there are plenty more worthy films (including studio offerings) that didn’t end up making this list (as we said, it’s going to be an awesome month).

1. Spring Breakers (March 15)

Director: Harmony Korine
Cast: Ashley Benson, Rachel Korine, Heather Morris, Vanessa Hudgens, James Franco, Selena Gomez, Gucci Mane
Distributor: A24
Current Criticwire average: B+ (see all grades)

Why Is It a “Must See”? Every since it exploded out of Venice and Toronto with huge buzz and strong reviews, folks have been waiting to get a taste of Harmony Korine’s “Spring Breakers,” and upstart distributor A24 has smartly waited until most schools are actually in spring break mode to set it loose. The film — which comes 18 years after Korine wrote “Kids” — stars Disney Channel alums Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens as two among a group of college-aged girls who decide to rob a fast food restaurant in order to pay for their spring break. They end up arrested and then bailed out by hustling gangster named Alien (James Franco), who takes them under his wing. The Playlist reviewed the film out of Venice and said — among other things — that the film belongs to Franco, who “plays Alien like Matthew McConaughey doing an impression of Lil ‘Jon (it’ll make sense when you see us, trust us…).” You won’t have to trust them much longer…

Watch the trailer below:

2. The Place Beyond The Pines (March 29)

Director: Derek Cianfrance
Cast: Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes, Rose Byrne
Distributor: Focus Features
Current Criticwire average: B+ (see all grades)

Why Is It a “Must See”? Ryan Gosling re-teams with his “Blue Valentine” director Derek Cianfrance for this multi-generational story about a motorcycle stunt rider (Gosling), who considers committing a crime in order to provide for his newborn child, an act that puts him on a collision course with a cop-turned-politician (Bradley Cooper). It came out of Toronto with very strong critical responses, but has kept a low profile since. That’ll change at the end of the month, when Focus begins the film’s platform release. Our lead critic seems certain you’ll be pleased. “That the movie succeeds both as a high-stakes crime thriller as well as a far quieter and empathetic study of angry, solitary men,” Eric Kohn wrote in his Indiewire review, “proves that Cianfrance has a penchant for bold storytelling and an eye for performances to carry it through. With ‘Pines,’ the gamble pays off.”

Watch the trailer below:

3. Stoker (March 1)

Director: Park Chan-Wook
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Dermot Mulroney, Jacki Weaver
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Current Criticwire average: B (see all grades)

Why Is It a “Must See”? English-language debuts from acclaimed foreign language directors don’t always go over so well (see “The Invasion,” “The Tourist,” etc), but South Korean director Park Chan-wook definitely found a fair share of admirers when his “Stoker” premiered at Sundance in January. It stars an impressive cast led by Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska and Matthew Goode. A psychological thriller, it stars Goode as the uncle of Wasikowska’s character, who moves in with her and her demanding mother (Kidman). Indiewire’s Eric Kohn called it “Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Shadow of a Doubt’ meets ‘Heathers'” in his Sundance review, saying “Park’s genre cred and the apparent marketplace potential for smart horror demonstrated by last year’s success of “Sinister” bode well for the movie’s performance in limited release.” It opens today.

Watch the trailer below:

4. Gimme The Loot (March 22)

Director: Adam Leon
Cast: Tashiana Washington, Ty Hickson, Meeko, Zoe Lescaze, Sam Soghor
Distributor: IFC
Current Criticwire average: B- (see all grades)

Why Is It a “Must See”? A year after leading the juried awards at the 2012 SXSW Film Festival, Adam Leon’s “Gimme The Loot” hits theaters via IFC. Leon’s first feature, it follows a group of young New York graffiti artists, including standouts Tashiana Washington and Ty Hickson as Sofia and Malcom. “Following Sofia and Malcolm through a series of misadventures set to powerful soul music,” Eric Kohn wrote at SXSW, “‘Gimme the Loot’ meanders aplenty but finds two reliable anchors in its leads. Washington infuses Sophia with a feistiness that keeps all the crude libido of a male-dominated world at bay; physically charged in a way rarely seen among female screen performances even today, she’s a genuine discovery.”

Watch the trailer below:

5. War Witch (March 1)

Director: Kim Nguyen
Cast: Rachel Mwanza, Alain Bastien, Serge Kanyinda, Ralph Prosper, Mizinga Mwinga
Distributor: Tribeca Film
Current Criticwire average: B+ (see all grades)

Why Is It a “Must See”? Alright, so there’s still one Oscar nominee left to hit theaters: Canadian foreign language entry “War Witch,” which comes to theaters a week after losing that Oscar to “Amour” and 13 months after nabbing the best actress prize at the Berlin International Film Festival. The Quebec-produced film is set during a civil war in sub-saharan Africa, where a 12 year old girl named Komona (newcomer Rachel Mwanza, who won the aforementioned prize as well as the best actress prize at Tribeca) is abducted by rebel forces to become a child soldier. It’s a powerful film that was more than worthy of its Oscar nomination.

Watch the trailer below:

6. Beyond The Hills (March 8)

Director: Cristian Mungiu
Cast: Cristina Flutur, Catalina Harabagiu, Cosmina Stratan
Distributor: IFC
Current Criticwire average: B+ (see all grades)

Why Is It a “Must See”? Another foreign language festival alum with a best actress prize on its plate, Cristian Mungiu’s “Beyond The Hills” debuted at last year’s Cannes Film Festival and won a joint prize for actresses Cristina Flutur and Cosmina Stratan (beating out eventual Oscar nominee Emmanuelle Riva, no less). Inspired by Tatiana Niculescu Bran’s novels, the film stars Flutur and Stratan as two young women at an Orthodox convent in Romania. Said Eric Kohn in his Cannes review: “Individual moments testify to the qualities that make contemporary Romanian cinema so incredibly involving — the use of a slow-burn, real-time approach that draws you into the small details of a story and then pulls out to absorb the big picture.”

Watch the trailer below:

7. Room 237 (March 29)

Director: Rodney Ascher
Distributor: IFC Midnight
Current Criticwire average: B+ (see all grades)

Why Is It a “Must See”? Another Cannes alum (though it debuted in Sundance before heading there), Rodney Ascher’s documentary “Room 237” got loads of attention from cinephiles over its year on the festival circuit. The film examines Stanley Kubrick’s “The Shining,” dividing itself into nine segments, each focusing on different elements within the film which “may reveal hidden clues and hint at a bigger thematic oeuvre.” It uses footage from “The Shining” and other Kubrick films (as well as discussions with Kubrick enthusiasts) and is in general a huge gift for Kubrick fans and cinema lovers. “The takeaway isn’t just that ‘The Shining’ is a rich text, but that its richness is a paragon of the magically subjective experience that all great cinema provides,” Eric Kohn wrote in his Indiewire review.

Watch the trailer below:

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