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The 13 Indies to Watch on VOD This September

The 13 Indies to Watch on VOD This September

“Belle” (Sept 9)

Inspired by a 18th century painting of Dido Elizabeth Belle, “Belle” follows the story of a young, mixed-race woman who is an illegitimate daughter of a Royal Navy officer born in the West Indies. She is eventually brought to England, put in the care of her uncle and raised alongside her cousin. The film is both a romantic one and a political one. We see Belle fall in love with a lawyer (to the disapproval of her family) and we also get a glimpse at the period of time where slavery was about to be abolished in England.  

“Borgman” (Sept 9)

Dutch horror thriller “Borgman” opened to strong critical acclaim in early June and gained a cult following as it made its way through select theaters throughout the summer. Written and directed by former stage painter Alex van Warmerdam, the foreign language psychodrama takes a page from Michael Haneke’s  “Funny Games” as it tells the story of vagrant who terrorizes the lives of an upper-class family. When a bored housewife (Hadewych Minis) agrees to let a mysterious stranger (Jan Bijvoe) hide out in her family’s backyard shed, a nightmarish situation ensues as the man calls upon his menacing friends and introduces chaos into the family’s life. The titular dweller’s ambiguous agenda imbues each new twist with claustrophobia and dread and keeps the film escalating with tantalizing curiosities. As American horror films continue to regurgitate old tropes and stories, “Borgman” is further proof that the best, most subversive scares can be found abroad.

“Elena” (Sept 9)

Brazilian documentary “Elena” represents director Petra Costa’s spiritual search for her older sister, an aspiring actress who fled Brazil’s military junta (1964-85) when Petra was only 7-years-old in order to live out her dreams in New York City. Addressing her personal subject with recrimination and visual virtuosity, Costa’s first feature length film is a elegiac dreamscape in which the director attempts to find Elena in New York City while piecing together a limited number of home movies, diary entries and newspaper clippings in order to learn more about her. Punctuated with bold images and poetic symbols, “Elena” is not a conventional documentary in any sense, and the more Costa allows the fractured lives of herself and her sister to meld, the more fluid the story becomes as a powerful meditation on time, sisterhood, identity and forgiveness.

“Fed Up” (Sept 9)

Produced and narrated by journalist Katie Couric, Stephanie Soechtig’s “Fed Up” follows in the footsteps of movies such as “Food Inc.” and takes a page from a host of Malcolm Gladwell novels by exposing just how much our food eating and processing habits aggravate America’s obesity epidemic. Relaying its message with the directness of a well-thrown dart, the activist documentary chronicles the lives of several kids struggling with obesity and intercuts an impressive roster of interviewees who all support the argument that the food industry is knowingly endangering the American population, especially when it comes down to sugar and “Big Sugar” lobbyists. While many documentaries have explored a similar road, “Fed Up” takes it a step further by asserting that the United States government is complicit in the process of fattening up America. It’s quite the serious accusation, but the film quickly establishes itself as a master debater with its comprehensive, compelling argument.

For No Good Reason” (Sept 2)

Between the delirious overdose that is Terry Gilliam’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” and the jumbled ramblings of Bruce Robinson’s “The Rum Diaries,” Johnny Depp has been hit-or-miss when it comes to channeling the gonzo spirit of famed journalist Hunter S. Thompson. Charlie Paul’s documentary, “For No Good Reason,” finds Depp exploring Thompson’s warped world by stepping out of the writer’s skin and into his own as he spends time with Ralph Steadman, the renowned British cartoonist who was one of the last artists to work along side Thompson. Featuring interviews with Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner, music producer Hal Willner, and directors such as Gilliam and Richard E. Grant, the film unlocks the rush of Thompson’s wild energy by taking a look at the one of a kind art and artist who turned his words into visionary images.

Frank” (Sept 5)

What happens when Michael Fassbender loses his trademark grin and is forced to wear a papier-mache head for an entire movie? Apparently nothing that should cause concern. His good looks may be absent, but the Oscar nominee’s talent remains top notch in Lenny Abrahamson’s idiosyncratic “Frank.” The comedy-drama focuses on a wannabe musician (Domnhall Gleeson) who joins an eccentric pop band led by the eponymous Frank. The entire cast is wonderful, including a very funny Maggie Gyllenhaal as a stone-faced drummer, but Fassbender dominates the screen with his honest and endearingly slapstick performance. Full of heavy-handed whimsy and cartoonish personalities, “Frank” is a perceptive work of cultural criticism for those willing to operate on its zany level.

“God Help the Girl” (Sept 5)

Belle and Sebastian lead singer Stuart Murdock makes his feature film debut with “God Help The Girl,” a British musical drama that played well at several film festivals earlier this year, including Sundance and Berlin. The talented Emily Browning stars as the reckless Eve, a recovering anorexic who escapes from a psychiatric hospital and heads to Glasglow to live out her dreams as a musician. While there, she befriends an aspiring songwriter (Olly Alexander) and his guitar student (Hannah Murray of “Game Of Thrones” fame), eventually forming the titular band and experiencing the tumultuous ups-and-downs of making music. With a talented young cast backing him up, Murdoch’s signature balancing of bittersweet reality and irrepressible optimism hits a high note that suggests some serious promise for the future of the musician behind the camera.

“Honeymoon” (Sept 12)

First premiering at SXSW, “Honeymoon” received raves for its commitment to the scares. Directed by Leigh Janiak and starring TV standouts Rose Leslie (“Game of Thrones”) and Harry Treadaway (“Penny Dreadful”), “Honeymoon” follows these newlyweds who decide to have their honeymoon in a old cabin in the middle of nowhere. Things start to go awry when Leslie’s character Bea disappears in the middle of the night. Although she’s found the next morning, something is clearly different. 

 “Ida” (Sept 9)

A young Polish nun is instructed to visit her family before her vows can be taken, but when she does everything she thought she knew about her name and family history is dramatically uprooted. Thus begins Pawel Pawlikowski’s gorgeously bleak foreign language drama, one that is a retrograde study of European cinema that simultaneously feels timeless. Winner of the FIPRESCI Special Presentations Award at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival, “Ida” was met with universal acclaim when it opened stateside at the beginning of the summer and represents Poland’s official entry for Best Foreign Language Drama at the upcoming 87th Academy Awards. Shot in pristine black-and-white and Bergman-approved 4:3, the film channels art-house aesthetics with ease and has a genuine feel that demands to be taken seriously. Although “Ida” requires some commitment from the viewer, its sober, silent rewards are profound.

“Last Weekend” (Sept 1) 

Patricia Clarkson leads “Last Weekend,” a comedy drama about a dysfunctional (and wealthy) family who gets together at their lake house over a holiday weekend. Although Clarkson’s character Celia had always seemed pretty sure about her role, the weekend begins to make her question who she is within her family unit. Directed by Tom Dolby, the film also stars actors Zachary Booth, Joseph Gross, Chris Mulkey, Devon Graye and Rutina Wesley. 

“Life of Crime” (Sept 1)

Based on the novel “The Switch” by Elmore Leonard, “Life of Crime” follows two ex-cons who decide to kidnap a wealthy woman (Jennifer Aniston). The problem? The woman’s husband was going to file for divorce anyway and refuses to pay the ransom. It’s a quirky comedy, one that boasts a fantastic cast including Isla Fisher, Tim Robbins and Johh Hawkes and Aniston herself. 

“Night Moves” (Sept 2)

Kelly Reichardt’s environmentally conscious drama “Night Moves” is finally available on VOD this month following a theatrical run. The director has made a couple of stunning films (“Meek’s Cutoff,” “Wendy And Lucy”) with “Night Moves” being the latest. The film stars Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard as three environmental activists who plan to blow up a dam. Each character has different motivations though, something we discover throughout the film. 

“White Bird in a Blizzard” (Sept 25)

Gregg Araki’s latest drama is unsurprisingly an odd one. The film features rising star Shailene Woodley as a teenager, who, just as she
comes into her sexuality, her housewife mom disappears. It’s a dreamy, often campy movie, that looks at burgeoning adulthood, 1980s suburbia and the relationship we share with our parents. In addition to Woodley, the film also stars Eva Green, Christopher Meloni, Gabourey Sidibe, Angela Bassett and Thomas Jane. 

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