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The 15 Indie Films You Must See This June

The 15 Indie Films You Must See This June

#1. “The Tribe” (June 17)

Director: Myroslav Slaboshpytsky
Cast: Grigoriy Fesenko, Yana Novikova, Rosa Babiy, Alexander Dsiadevich, Yaroslav Biletskiy, Ivan Tishko, Alexander Osadchiy, Alexander Sidelnikov, Alexander Panivan
Criticwire Average: A-
Why is it a “Must See”? Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s Ukrainian drama has been the darling of film festivals ever since its premiere at Cannes last year, and when it’s finally released in theaters this June it will unquestionably be one of the most devastating and singular moviegoing experiences of 2015. That’s not hyperbole, trust us. Told without any spoken dialogue or subtitles, “The Tribe” follows a new student at a boarding school for the deaf as he’s drawn into its institutional system of crime and prostitution. Indiewire’s Eric Kohn hailed the film as an “unprecedented cinematic accomplishment” following its Cannes’ premiere, raving, “The director not only gives his real-life deaf actors the opportunity to emote in their own vernacular, a spectacular technical challenge that largely holds together, he also provides them with meaty roles that never condescends or pities them on the basis of their disabilities.” Told primarily through startling long takes that would bring even Steve McQueen to his knees, “The Tribe” is as difficult to watch as it is thematically rewarding. Serious movie lovers shouldn’t miss it. 

#2. “The Wolfpack” (June 12)

Director: Crystal Moselle
Cast: Bhagavan Angulo, Govinda Angulo, Jagadisa Angulo, Narayana Angulo, Krsna Angulo, Mukunda Angulo
Criticwire Average: B+
Why is it a “Must See”? Crystal Moselle, 34, had one of the most buzzed-about documentaries coming into Sundance… and also one of the most baffling. As Sundance director John Cooper told Indiewire back when the competition lineup was first announced, “No matter how much you read about it, it’s going to sound odd.” Odd or not, the film was a hit with audiences and critics — and won the first-time filmmaker the U.S. Grand Jury Prize (Documentary). Her haunting and artfully rendered achievement centers on six teen brothers whose father forced them to spend their entire childhood locked away from the outside world in a cramped apartment on New York’s Lower East Side. During their years of solitude, the boys turned to movies to teach them about life. Moselle meets them when the boys begin to break out of their insular world. “The Wolfpack” is unlike any documentary you’ve ever seen and marks the arrival of a major new talent.

#3. “Eden” (June 19)

Director: Mia Hansen-Love
Cast: Félix de Givry, Pauline Etienne, Vincent Macaigne
Criticwire Average: B+
Why is it a “Must See”? French director Mia Hansen-Love’s last two features, the ode to heartbreak “Goodbye First Love” and the family drama “The Father of My Children,” both covered lengthy time periods with a fascinating degree of understatement. “Eden,” her fourth effort, which screened at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival, elevates this approach to a more ambitious scale. It encompasses the history of the French electronic music scene over the course of 20 years. Based on the career path of her brother Sven — who co-wrote the movie with his sister — “Eden” tracks the dreams and frustrations of an aspiring French DJ named Paul (Felix de Givry), one half of a duo Cheers that plays a pioneering role in the rise of the French house music scene (otherwise known as the “French touch”).

#4. “Love & Mercy” (June 5)

Director: Bill Pohlad
Cast: Paul Dano, John Cusack, Paul Giamatti, Elizabeth Banks, Kenny Wormald, Jake Abel, Erin Darke, Joanna Going, Brett Davern
Criticwire Average: A-
Why is it a “Must See”? From “Brokeback Mountain” to “The Tree of Life” and “12 Years a Slave,” Bill Pohlad has produced some of the most critically acclaimed films of the past two decades. Stepping behind the director’s chair for the first time since his 1990 debut “Old Explorers,” Pohlad is set to reinvigorate the biopic genre with a unique approach to chronicling Beach Boys leader and co-founder Brian Wilson. The film is presented in a parallel narrative covering two important time periods in Wilson’s life: the 1960s and the 1980s. Bringing the singer to life over these two separate decades is a pair of performances by Paul Dano and John Cusack that critics are already fawning over. The movie’s unorthodox approach to the genre is also garnering acclaim. “Wilson makes for such an appealing oddball that it’s hard not to get swept up in the quest to save him,” wrote Eric Kohn after the drama’s Toronto Film Festival premiere. “‘Love & Mercy’ is an engrossing portrait of Wilson’s specific artistic inclinations, which draw from no real precedent. In its best moments, it hovers in the same fragile space as the music.” Cusack has been prospering as of late with bold indie choices like “The Paperboy,” “Grand Piano” and “Maps to the Stars,” and we’re especially thrilled to see him step into some of the more complex years of Wilson’s life.

#5. “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” (June 12)

Director: Alfonso Gomez-Rejon
Cast: Thomas Mann, RJ Cyler, Olivia Cooke, Connie Britton, Nick Offerman, Molly Shannon
Criticwire Average: A-
Why is it a “Must See”? It would behoove cinephiles to see the film that took home the most recent Audience and Jury Prizes at the Sundance Film Festival. Our Sundance review called the film, “Poignant without being melodramatic, overflowing with unforced charm, ‘Me and Earl and the Dying Girl’ holds a unique appeal that’s certain to last.” It centers on 17-year-old Greg Gaines (Thomas Mann), who spends most of his time making whimsical films with friend Earl (RJ Cyler) and begins spending time a  a Leukemia-stricken classmate named Rachel. With it’s balance of comedy and drama, “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl” is bound to be the sick-kid tear-jerker of the summer. 

#6. “A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence” (June 3)

Director: Roy Andersson
Cast: Holger Andersson, Nisse Vestblom
Criticwire Average: A-
Why is it a “Must See”? Acclaimed Swedish filmmaker Roy Andersson doesn’t make films all that frequently. In 2000 he released “Songs From the Second Floor,” which won the Jury Prize at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival. Seven years later came “You, the Living.” Now Andersson is back with “A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence,” which premiered at last year’s Venice Film Festival where it won the Gold Lion (the festival’s top honor). Andersson’s spread-out filmography is reason enough to be excited for this dark comedy — every time he comes back, he comes back with something more thematically jarring and surreal than the last. 

#7. “Dope” (June 19)

Director: Rick Famuyiwa
Cast: Shameik Moore, Tony Revolori, Kiersey Clemons, Kimberly Elise, Blake Anderson, Chanel Iman, Keith Stanfield, Zoë Kravitz, A$AP Rocky, Rick Fox, Roger Guenveur Smith, Ashton Moio, Michael Flores, De’aundre Bonds, Amin Joseph, Mimi Michaels
Criticwire Average: B+
Why is it a “Must See”? A standout at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year where in won the Editing Award, the hip-hop-driven story follows Malcolm (Shameik Moore) as he carefully survives life in a tough Los Angeles neighborhood while juggling college applications, academic interviews and the SAT. When a chance invitation leads to an underground party, an adventure begins that could allow him to make the jump from being a geek to being himself. “Dope” co-stars Tony Revolori, Kiersey Clemons, Blake Anderson, Zoe Kravitz, Chanel Iman and ASAP Rocky.

#8. “The Overnight” (June 19)

Director: Patrick Brice
Cast: Adam Scott, Judith Godrèche, Jason Schwartzman, Taylor Schilling
Criticwire Average: B+
Why is it a “Must See”? “The Overnight” was one of the most talked-about films to premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, based on its racy premise alone. Writer-director Patrick Brice’s second feature centers on a couple (Adam Scott and “Orange is the New Black” star Taylor Schilling) new to Los Angeles who attend a “playdate” with another family, only to soon discover that the other couple’s intentions aren’t exactly G-rated. Jason Schwartzman and Judith Godrèche play the swinging duo, set on making the most of their night. “In the pantheon of lighthearted sex comedies, it’s basically a paragon of the genre,” Indiewire’s Eric Kohn wrote of the film in his Sundance review.

#9. “Manglehorn” (June 19)

Director: David Gordon Green
Cast: Al Pacino, Chris Messina, Holly Hunter, Harmony Korine
Criticwire Average: B-
Why is it a “Must See”? Imagine “Pineapple Express” director David Gordon Green directing Al Pacino as an ex-con man and you have “Manglehorn.” Pacino portrays the titular character, who, after decades of living with his terrible actions and losing the woman of his dreams, must once again deal with his haunted past. Green’s work is varied — from “George Washington” to “Prince Avalanche” to “Joe,” another film dealing with an ex-con, so to see what he does here has us interested. The added mix of indie-favorite Chris Messina gets us that much more intrigued.

#10. “What Happened, Miss Simone?” (June 24)

Director: Liz Garbus
Cast: Nina Simone, Lisa Simone Kelly
Criticwire Average: B+
Why is it a “Must See”? Netflix is quickly becoming a prestigious destination for documentaries thanks to Oscar-nominated hits “The Square” (2013) and “Virunga” (2014), and Liz Garbus’ portrait of the iconic recording artist and civil rights activist should be another success story for the online streaming platform. Using Simone’s own songs, diary entries and letters as a narrative backbone, plus rare concert footage and interviews with her daughter, friends and collaborators, Garbus dives into the soul of the troubled blues singer, uncovering her devotion to empower black America and exposing her abusive personal life, her controlling managers and her own spiral into bipolarism. Writing for Indiewire from the Sundance Film Festival, Anisha Jhaveri stated, “Watching Simone discuss her life and art is simultaneously inspiring and saddening… Whether she’s speaking about her music’s ability to empower or divulging her battles with depression, it’s her magnetic presence on screen that breathes life into the film.” Whether or not Netflix has another awards darling on its hands remains to be seen, but the haunting quality of Simone’s music and the genius of her creative process should make for a powerhouse doc.

#11. “Hungry Hearts” (June 5)

Director: Saverio Costanzo
Cast: Alba Rohrwacher, Roberta Maxwell, Adam Driver
Criticwire Average: B+
Why is it a “Must See”? Before Adam Driver explodes at the end of the year with “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” the Emmy-nominee sinks his teeth into the juiciest role of his career so far in this psychological drama from writer-director Saverio Costanzo. IFC Films picked up the movie soon after it premiered at last year’s Venice Film Festival, where Driver and Alba Rohrwacher both won Coppa Volpi Awards (Best Actor/Actress Awards) for their performances. The two star as a young married couple in New York City who engage in a fateful struggle over the life of their newborn child. As the mother’s increasingly nightmarish child rearing practices take center stage, Driver is forced into an emotional ringer as the film evokes the classic slow-burn thrillers of Roman Polanski and Alfred Hitchcock. Driver has been flexing different acting skills left and right, be it droll comedy in “Inside Llewyn Davis” or pseudo-hipster chillness in “While We’re Young,” and the opportunity to go full blown dramatic should make for his best acting showcase yet. 

#12. “The Yes Men Are Revolting” (June 5)

Director: Laura Nix, The Yes Men
Cast: Andy Bichlbaum, Mike Bonanno
Criticwire Average: A-
Why is it a “Must See”? The Yes Men duo of Andy Bichlebaum and Mike Bonanno (not their real names) have made a career out of filming activist pranks that trick corporations into revealing ugly truths. They achieved a lot in their first two films, “The Yes Men” and “The Yes Men Fix the World,” but it’s the third film, “The Yes Men Are Revolting” which was directed by Laura Nix, that brings a more personal touch. This time around, the issue is climate change, and the pair oversees an attempt to launch “survival balls” across the East River to raise environmental awareness. But though the film contains their usual stunts and exposing of corruption, “The Yes Men Are Revolting” also explore’s their home lives, Mike with his wife and child (and another on the way) and Andy who starts dating a new boyfriend. It’s these intimate inclusions that make this third installment a step up from the previous two incarnations.

#13. “Infinitely Polar Bear” (June 19)

Director: Maya Forbes
Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Zoe Saldana, Imogene Wolodarsky, Ashley Aufderheide, Beth Dixon, Keir Dullea
Criticwire Average: B
Why is it a “Must See”? In the aptly-titled “Infinitely Polar Bear,” a manic-depressive mess of a father (Mark Ruffalo) tries to win back his wife (Zoe Saldana) by attempting to take full responsibility of their two young daughters. Through this relatively basic premise, Emmy-nominated director Maya Forbes (“The Larry Sanders Show”) fashions a perfectly-pitched emotional roller coaster. Ruffalo inhabits what many have declared his most substantial role to date, drawing universal praise out of the film’s premiere at Sundance in 2014. But most notable about “Infinitely Polar Bear” is the streak of authenticity running through it. Drawing from her own experiences, Forbes injects levels of humor and emotion as only someone intimately connected to the subject matter could.

#14. “Testament of Youth” (June 5)

Director: James Kent
Cast: Alicia Vikander, Kit Harington, Hayley Atwell, Dominic West, Emily Watson, Colin Morgan, Anna Chancellor, Miranda Richardson, Taron Egerton
Criticwire Average: C+
Why is it a “Must See”? Alicia Vikander just gave a star-making performance in Alex Garland’s “Ex Machina” and Kit Harington has played the brooding Jon Snow on “Game of Thrones” for the past five seasons. Performances from two promising actors are reason alone to check out James Kent’s WWI period drama “Testament of Youth.” Based on the 1933 memoir of the same name, the film chronicles an Oxford student’s life and the sacrifices she makes to become a WWI nurse after her fiancé is sent to the front lines. With it’s sweeping historical setting and tragic romance, “Testament of Youth” looks like it could be this year’s “Atonement.”

#15. “Gabriel” (June 19)

Director: Lou Howe
Cast: Rory Culkin, David Call, Deirdre O’Connell, Emily Meade, Louisa Krause, Lynne Cohen, Alexia Rasmussin
Criticwire Average: A-
Why is it a “Must See”? Though “Gabriel” is writer-director Lou Howe’s first feature film, he has studied with Hal Hartley, worked alongside Christine Vachon and cited Mike Leigh as an inspiration — all promising indications of a budding talent. In “Gabriel,” the AFI graduate creates an indelible portrait of Gabriel (Rory Culkin”), a troubled young man struggling with mental illness and obsessed with an ex-girlfriend. Unlike other quirky portrayals of mental illness on screen, “Gabriel” looks to be the real deal — a film that chronicles the desperate agony of a troubled soul with nuance and intensity. 

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