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The 6 Indie Films You Must See This February

February's 6 Must-See Indie Films

Not going to the Berlin Film Festival? Well, there’s plenty of fantastic cinema from around the world about to hit U.S. theaters this month, which should more than make up for that. From India to Palestine, Quebec to Japan, check out Indiewire’s very world cinema-minded picks for February 2014’s best:

1. The Wind Rises (February 21)

Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Martin Short, Stanley Tucci, Mandy Patinkin, William H. Macy, Werner Herzog, Mae Whitman, Jennifer Grey, Darren Criss, Elijah Wood, Ronan Farrow (voices of US dubbed version)
Distributor: Touchstone/Ghibli
Current Criticwire average: A- (see all grades)

Why Is It a “Must See”?
Though Hayao Miyazaki’s movies have always dealt with big ideas — from anti-war arguments to the nuances of gender relations and the innocence of childhood among them — they have always contained a steady dose of fantasy. By contrast, “The Wind Rises” (which the 71-year-old filmmaker claims to be his final film) is a fairly straightforward biopic, revolving around the early career ambitions of Jiro Horikoshi, the late Japanese airplane engineer responsible for designing the Mitsubishi A6M Zero, the lightweight aircraft notoriously used in the attack on Pearl Harbor. That morally complex outcome never really comes into play in Miyazaki’s gentle portrait; instead, “The Wind Rises” obsesses over Horikoshi’s fascination with the ethereal quality of airplanes and his desire to play a role in expanding their possibilities, providing a cogent metaphor for Miyazaki’s own filmmaking passion. Read Indiewire’s review from last fall here.

Watch the trailer below:


2. The Lunchbox (February 28)

Director: Ritesh Batra
Cast: Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Denzil Smith, Bharati Achrekar, Nakul Vaid
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
Current Criticwire average: B+ (see all grades)

Why Is It a “Must See”?  Ritesh Batra’s Mumbai-set drama revolves around a housewife (Nimrat
Kaur) who tries to resurrect her failing marriage through her kitchen,
only to find that her husband’s special lunch has inadvertently been
given to his co-worker. This setup leads her to start a lunchbox-based
correspondence with the other man, a lonely man looking back on his life
whose solace comes in the form of an equally downtrodden soul. A hit on
the 2013 festival circuit, “The Lunchbox” was controversially snubbed by India for submission to the Oscar’s foreign language category. Hopefully audiences still find their way to it anyway.

Watch the trailer below:

3. A Field In England (February 7)

Director: Ben Wheatley
Cast: Julian Barratt, Michael Smiley, Reece Shearsmith, Peter Ferdinando, Ryan Pope, Richard Glover
Distributor: Drafthouse
Current Criticwire average: B (see all grades)

Why Is It a “Must See”? Keeping more in touch with the color of his passport, with “A Field in England” Ben Wheatley delivers a bonkers tale told in the traditions of Monty Python, Blackadder and, more tangentially, Bruce Robinson’s “Withnail and I.” In keeping with this heritage, Wheatley chooses traditional “losers” as his chief protagonists. British comedy has never had much of a tradition based around a character intent on doing evil, preferring instead to champion laissez-faire individuals wanting to simply live their lives in peace and quiet. If these characters have a mantra, it’s “leave me alone.” But you won’t want to do that…

Watch the trailer below:

4. Omar (February 21)

Director: Hany Abu-Assad
Cast: Adam Bakri, Eyad Hourani, Samer Bisharat, Leem Lubany, Waleed F. Zuaiter
Distributor: Adopt
Current Criticwire average: B+ (see all grades)

Why Is It a “Must See”? The gripping and heart-rending thriller “Omar” had its North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival back in September and is now a somewhat surprise nominee in the Oscar’s best foreign language film race (the only film on this list to manage that). The film achingly captures the emotional struggles of a young Palestinian baker whose loyalty to family and country are complicated by his love for Nadia, a beautiful young student. Following the assassination of an Israeli occupation soldier, Omar, a co-conspirator and friend of the suspected sniper, is arrested. Facing a life sentence, he is coerced by the Israeli authorities and enlisted as a collaborator to find the killer in exchange for his freedom. Powerful stuff.

Watch the trailer below:

5. Child’s Pose (February 19)

Director: Calin Peter Netzer
Cast:Luminita Gheorghiu, Bogdan Dumitrache, Ilinca Goia, Natasa Raab, Florin Zamfirescu, Vlad Ivanov
Distributor: Zeitgeist
Current Criticwire average: B+ (see all grades)

Why Is It a “Must See”? Submitted by Romania but not making Oscar’s cut was Calin Peter Netzer’s “Child’s Pose,” which debuts in U.S. theaters almost exactly a year after it premiered at the Berlinale. Starring in Luminita Gheorghiu (in a remarkable performance that should end up on many critics’ lists of 2014’s best) as an upper-class Bucharest architect who is determined to keep her thirtysomething troubled (to say the least) son out of jail after a deadly car crash. Taking on social commentary and psychological realism, “Child’s Pose” is another great offering from Romania, and should not be missed. 

Watch the trailer below:


6. Vic and Flo Saw a Bear (February 7)

Director: Denis Côté
Cast:  Pierrette Robitaille, Romane Bohringer, Marc-André Grondin, Marie Brassard
Distributor: KimStim
Current Criticwire average:  B+ (see all grades)

Why Is It a “Must See”? Montreal-based filmmaker Denis Côté’s work is always both cryptic and heavy with meaning, but his latest narrative feature, “Vic and Flo Saw a Bear,” stands out because at first it seems deceptively simple. From the purely avant-garde “Bestiare” to the restrained father-and-daughter portrait “Curling,” Côté’s movies invite viewers to search for clues to his motives. “Vic and Flo” is no exception. Sharply drawn characters and fine-tuned performances follow a meandering trajectory that finally upends expectations at the very end. Côté puts viewers at ease before throwing them off. In the first shot, newly released 61-year-old prison convict Victoria (Pierrette Robitaille) arrives at the isolated countryside where she will live with her catatonic uncle. There, she encounters a young boy playing an offkey rendition of “Frere Jacques” on his horn. The notes are all there but the entire thing sounds off — much like “Vic and Flo,” which initially takes the form of a pedestrian relationship drama before twisting into odder, darker directions. Read Indiewire’s full review here.

Watch the trailer below:

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