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The 13 Indie Films You Must See This November: ‘Carol,’ ‘Spotlight’ and More

The 13 Indie Films You Must See This November: 'Carol,' 'Spotlight' and More

In Jackson Heights” (November 4)

Legendary documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman has a career that has spanned over five decades, and this November he releases his three-hour-plus community study entitled “In Jackson Heights,” which just so happens to mark his fortieth feature. In typical Wiseman fashion, “In Jackson Heights” features no narration or story arcs and merely relies on its mosaic-like editing to weave together an ambitious portrait of the Queens, NY community, which is one of the most ethnically and culturally diverse communities in the United States and the world.

Brooklyn” (November 6)

Director John Crowley’s period drama “Brooklyn,” based on the novel by Colm Toibin, stars Saoirse Ronan as Eilis Lacey, an Irish immigrant who comes to America in the 1950’s in search of a better life. Her travels bring her in contact with a charming Italian-American (Emory Cohen), but she’s forced back to Ireland after a family tragedy, and a suitor (Domhnall Gleeson) begins vying for her affections. With a love triangle taking up most of the plot, the narrative is anchored greatly by Ronan’s resilient performance, beautifully crafted visuals and Nick Hornby’s robust screenplay. Its vibrant production design lends an accurate sense of 1950’s New York even as it maintains a touch of suspended belief, giving the film a fantastical air on par with its romanticism. 

Spotlight” (November 6)

Rebounding tenfold after the critically maligned comedy “The Cobbler,” writer-director Tom McCarthy crafts an unforgettable drama ripped from one of the biggest headlines of all time. Starring Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slattery and Stanley Tucci, “Spotlight” tells the riveting true story of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Boston Globe team that investigated allegations of sex abuse in the Catholic Church. Their year-long search for the truth uncovered a cover-up at the highest level of Boston’s religious, legal and government establishments, igniting a wave of controversy and revelations around the world. McCarthy, best known for small human dramas and strong character work, paints his biggest canvas yet, and his incredible cast and commitment to details makes for one of the year’s best.

“Sembene!” (November 6)

After screening at Sundance and Cannes earlier this year, this incredible documentary about the life and legacy of film director, producer and writer Ousmane Sembene is finally opening in theaters. Directed by Sembene-biographer Samba Gadjigo (“Ousmane Sembene: The Making of a Militant Artist”) and award-winning producer Jason Silverman (“Olympia”), the film tells the true story of the self-taught novelist and filmmaker who fought, against enormous odds, a 50-year battle to give Africans the power to tell their own stories. Told through never-before-seen archival footage, the documentary tracks Sembene’s journey from manual laborer to the “Father of African Cinema.”

Trumbo” (November 6)

Jay Roach made a name for himself as the director of the “Austin Powers” and “Meet the Parents” franchises, though in the past couple of years he’s reinvented himself as the Emmy-winning director of HBO political dramas “Recount” and “Game Change.” His politically-minded television work serves him well in the biographical drama “Trumbo,” which stars Bryan Cranston as the eponymous screenwriter who was blacklisted by Hollywood at the height of McCarthyism. Trumbo ended up fighting the U.S. government and studio bosses in a war over words and freedom, and he never stopped working despite being forced to use pseudonyms. Louis C.K., Elle Fanning, John Goodman, Diane Lane, Alan Tudyk, Michael Stuhlbarg and Helen Mirren co-star.

“What Our Fathers Did: A Nazy Legacy” (November 6)

David Evans’ thought-provoking documentary takes on the difficult feat of reexamining one of history’s most atrocious events and exploring what is left of it. By exploring the relationship between two children of high-ranking Nazi officials and human rights lawyer Philippe Sands, Evans investigates the complicated connection between the past and the present. The three embark on an emotional journey together as they examine the sins of their fathers, ultimately coming to some very unexpected and difficult conclusions. The results are poignant and profound. 

James White” (November 13)

After blowing away audiences at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, Josh Mond’s breakout feature “James White” is one of November’s can’t-miss indies, despite also being its most crippling. Featuring former “Girls” star Christopher Abbott in a role that can only be deemed revelatory, the film follows his titular James as he’s forced to reevaluate his bad behavior (including the kind of partying that only makes one look ill all the time, an inability to commit in his romantic life and a real bone to pick with his dad) when his mother (a heartbreaking Cynthia Nixon) falls ill. The film is a singular experience and one that announces the arrival of both Mond and Abbott as indie voices to pay serious attention to.

Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words” (November 13)

“Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words” is equal parts Hollywood glamour and genuine heart. The documentary, which was an official selection at Cannes this year, brings together private letters, pictures, home videos and interviews with family and friends to paint a detailed portrait of the iconic Swedish actress. From her decision to come to America to the scandals that rocked her love life and the staggering legacy she left behind on film — her various classics include “Casablanca” and “Notorious” — the film is an all-encompassing look at one of Hollywood’s most vibrant screen presences. The doc includes interviews with her daughter and celebrated actress, Isabella Rossellini.

Secret in their Eyes” (November 20)

New distribution label STX Entertainment continues its track record of star-studded mid-budget drams with this Hollywood remake of Juan Jose Campanella’s 2009 Argentinian crime drama, which won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. While the industry has had an uneven track record of adapting foreign hits, this new version stars a triumvirate of Hollywood heavyweights — Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman and Chiwetel Ejiofor — and marks Billy Ray’s first film since 2007’s “Breach” (though he recently received a writing Oscar nom for “Captain Phillips”). The shocking story of an FBI investigation into the death of one of its members’ children is full of twists that really hit hard emotionally. It’s hard to compete with the astute execution of the original, but Ray and company certainly have what it takes. 

Carol” (November 20)

Though Todd Haynes’ “Carol” is a measured, faithful adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 lesbian romance “The Price of Salt,” there’s no mistaking its connection to the director’s other work. Since his early days with “Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story” and “Safe,” Haynes has developed sophisticated narratives out of existing cultural reference points. With “Carol,” that approach stems from the text itself, which Haynes enriches by delivering a mannered, classical romance that replaces the original pulp identity of the novel with a gentle, affecting two-hander as the author surely envisioned it. Starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara in top form as a pair of women drawn together in spite of the intrusive men around them, “Carol” undeniably marks Haynes’ most contained work, funneling his thematic oeuvre into a nuanced tale of mutual attraction that reflects a filmmaker and cast operating at the height of their powers, rendering complex circumstances in strikingly personal terms. 

Legend” (November 25)

Tom Hardy starring opposite Tom Hardy — need we say more? Fresh off his work in “Mad Max: Fury Road,” Hardy continues his 2015 hot streak as a pair of infamous London gangsters. Returning to the crime drama for the first time since “LA Confidential,” Brian Helgeland brings the story of Reggie and Ronnie Kray to the big screen, chronicling their rise as mob kings in London during the ’50s and ’60s. The film is based on the book “The Profession of Violence: The Rise and Fall of the Kray Twins” by John Pearson and has plenty of period glamour and extreme gangster brutality. Emily Browning, Colin Morgan and Chazz Palminteri co-star, though it’s really Hardy opposite Hardy that makes “Legend” worth the price of admission.

The Danish Girl” (November 27)

In the perfect combination of rising star power — including current it girl Alicia Vikander and Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne — and fascinating historical drama, Tom Hooper’s “The Danish Girl” is guaranteed to set the awards season alight this season. At its heart, the film is a classic love story, but its timely nature also sets it apart as a tale still relevant to today’s world. Complete with an Alexandre Desplat score, the art-infused feature looks and sounds stellar, but it’s the sterling performances that will carry over well into 2016.

Janis: Little Girl Blue” (November 27)

Amy Berg’s long-gestating Janis Joplin documentary is rife with never-before-seen footage, fresh interviews and the kind of valuable insight fans of the singer have been hoping to see for years. Since various “official” Joplin feature biopics have struggled to be made for the big screen, Berg’s newest doc represents a definitive creative artifact about the late performer’s life and legacy. Singer Cat Power (a.k.a. Chan Marshall) fills in as Joplin’s voice during the reading of various essential letters.

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