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2016 Fall Movie Preview: 34 Indie Films to See This Season

Our annual Fall Preview kicks off with a close look at 34 heartily recommended indie films to check out this season.

All this week, IndieWire will be rolling out our annual Fall Preview, including offerings that span genres, a close examination of some of the year’s biggest breakouts, all the awards contenders you need to know about now and special attention to all the new movies you need to get through a jam-packed fall movie-going season. Check back every day for a new look at the best the season has to offer, and clear your schedule, because we’re going to fill it right up.

“The Light Between Oceans,” September 2

The Light Between Oceans

“The Light Between Oceans”

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures/Entertainment One

Derek Cianfrance’s sweet spot is relationship dramas that don’t balk at showing just how damn hard it can be to love someone and to sustain that love (hi, “Blue Valentine”), and with his big screen adaptation of the bestselling novel of the same name, he takes those interests and skills right to a post-World War I landscape tailormade for a sweeping, heart-stopping romance, all co-financed by Participant Media. Michael Fassbender stars in the feature as a haunted lighthouse keeper who falls in love with an effervescent Alicia Vikander (just coming off her first Oscar win) and promptly hauls her off to the private island where he lives and works. As the pair fall deeper into love, they also struggle to conceive a baby, and when a dead man and a live infant wash up on-shore one day, who’s to say the baby isn’t really a gift from God they should just keep? Turns out, lots of people! As the film moves towards a series of crushing climaxes, Cianfrance digs deeper into his own mini-genre of pained romance with skill (and tears, lots of tears). -KE

“Yoga Hosers,” September 2

Yoga Hosers

“Yoga Hosers”

Invincible Pictures

Kevin Smith is back, and he’s moving even further afield from the talky, lo-fi comedies upon which he once built his brand. Undaunted by the savage reviews that greeted his 2014 creature feature, “Tusk,” the man behind “Mallrats” is returning to genre territory for the second chapter of his “True North” trilogy, but this time he’s skewering a bit younger. Centering on two teen yoga obsessives (Lily-Rose Depp and Smith’s daughter, Harley Quinn) who work as clerks (!!) at a Manitoba convenience store, “Yoga Hosers” switches gears into a full-blown creature feature when a crack in the Earth erupts with tiny monsters called Bratzis (bratwursts that are Nazis, obviously). Savagely reviewed out of Sundance, this is one for the diehard fans. -DE

“White Girl,” September 2

White Girl

“White Girl”


Writer-director Elizabeth Wood’s feature debut follows college student Leah (“Homeland’s” Morgan Saylor) as she parties away the last two weeks of summer with her new flame, a Puerto Rican drug dealer named Blue (Brian “Sene” Marc). Leah helps Blue sell weed and cocaine to some of her rich white friends, but the party stops when the cops bust him right before her eyes, leaving her with thousands of dollars of his cocaine. She then must choose between using the coke herself or selling it to help pay for Blue’s release. “White Girl” stars Justin Bartha (“The Hangover”), Chris Noth (“Sex and the City”) and Adrian Martinez (“Focus”). The film premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival where it was snapped up by Netflix and FilmRise. Loosely based on a true story, the movie generated a significant amount of buzz thanks to its NSFW trailer and steamy poster. -GW

“Max Rose,” September 2

Jerry Lewis Max Rose

“Max Rose”

“Max Rose” stars legendary comedian Jerry Lewis in his first lead role in a feature film for more than 20 years. Lewis plays Max, a retired jazz musician whose wife of 65 years, Eva (Claire Bloom), has just died. After discovering an intimate note from another man written to Eva in 1959, Rose begins to question the strength of his marriage and starts looking for clues to identify Eva’s suitor. An early cut of “Max Rose” screened at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival before director Daniel Noah embarked on a more than two-year process of re-editing the movie. The re-cut version had its world premiere at MoMA in April, and is being distributed theatrically by Paladin films. An indie producer who executive produced the 2014 horror film “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night,” Daniel previously directed the 2001 sci-fi mystery “Twelve.” -GW

“Klown Forever,” September 2

'Klown Forever"

“Klown Forever”

Nordisk Film

As far as cringe comedy goes, the “Klown” crew makes either version of “The Office” seem like “Sesame Street.” Five years after Frank and Casper’s twisted hijinks made the jump to the big screen, this sequel reunites director Mikkel Nørgaard with writers/stars Frank Hvam and Casper Christensen. But rather than a tour of debauchery through the backwoods of Denmark, the boys make the trek to Los Angeles and meet some familiar faces along the way. Be prepared for how far this creative trio is willing to have these characters go as they look to regain both their friendship and their pants. -SG

“London Road,” September 9

Tom Hardy in 'London Road'

“London Road”

BBC Worldwide North America

It’s taken a year for Toronto debut “London Road,” even with National Theater director Rufus Norris (“Broken”) and stars Tom Hardy and Olivia Colman on board, to come stateside. The National Theatre’s ground-breaking sung musical — written by Alecky Blythe, with music by Adam Cork and lyrics by Alecky Blythe and Adam Cork — put Norris on the map and landed him the directorship of the National. Astonishingly, the play used Blythe’s verbatim transcripts from people she interviewed who were involved in tracking a serial killer of prostitutes on London Road, which she edited into a sung musical that the actors had to execute precisely. Norris decided to turn it into a low-budget movie, altering the structure and adding one key song to seamlessly transition viewers into a musical. For the film, Norris had to rely on actors with singing chops from the original stage ensemble who knew the material inside out. But to obtain financing, Norris added the brave and gifted Colman and Hardy. You’ve never seen anything quite like this. -AT

“Other People,” September 9

Other People

“Other People”

“Saturday Night Live” writer Chris Kelly makes the jump into feature filmmaking with the deeply personal and surprisingly funny “Other People.” The Sundance premiere casts Jesse Plemons as a big screen version of Kelly, a neurotic comedy writer who returns home to suburban California to help care for his dying mother (a revelatory Molly Shannon). Kelly, who writes and directs the film, lost his own mother to cancer, and he shades in the kind of personal details that make “Other People” ring achingly, wonderfully true. – KE

“Kicks,” September 9



Fifteen-year-old Brandon (Jahking Guillory) really wants a new pair of expensive sneakers, but his quest brings him into conflict with a neighborhood thug. The shoes though are simply a story device to motivate a journey through a gritty Bay Area neighborhood, in what becomes a delicate balance of a touching coming of age story mixed with an edgy portrait of urban life.  Writer/Director Justin Tipping has been a director to watch ever since he won a Student Academy Award, but according to IndieWire’s Eric Kohn it’s newcomer and young star Guillory who steals the show. From the producers of “Short Term 12,” “Kicks” was the Opening Night film at the Tribeca Film Festival and is being released by Focus World. -CO

“Author: The JT LeRoy Story,” September 9

Author: The JT Leroy Story

“Author: The JT Leroy Story”

Former male-prostitute and drug addict JT LeRoy became a literary sensation in the early 2000s by publishing three acclaimed works of fiction by the age of 25. Then, in 2006, it was revealed that there was no JT LeRoy. The author was in fact an invented persona, and the person appearing at book signings was a woman in drag whose sister-in-law Laura Alpert was the real writer of LeRoy’s books. “Author: The JT LeRoy Story” is the stranger-than-fiction documentary from director Jeff Feuerzeig (“The Devil and Daniel Johnston”) that reveals how Alpert, a former San Francisco punk rocker who once worked as a phone sex operator, pulled off one of the biggest literary hoaxes of the modern era. The film features celebrities including Gus Van Sant, Winona Ryder and Smashing Pumpkins’ frontman Billy Corgan, all of whom were duped into befriending Alpert’s self-described “avatar.” “Author: The JT LeRoy Story” premiered at Sundance to favorable reviews and was acquired by Amazon Studios and Magnolia Pictures. -GW

“Cameraperson,” September 9



The hand of the cinematographer is not suppose to be felt, which has certainly been the case with Kirsten Johnson, who has shot some of the best documentaries of the last 20 years. Johnson has gone back to the dozens of films she shot and found unused footage where the viewer does a get sense of person behind the camera — the nervous negotiation of trying to get a dangerous shot with director Laura Poitras, comforting a scared and pregnant single mom, a sneeze that shakes the camera. Pieced together, the footage becomes an unusual and surprisingly affecting portrait of a woman who has spent her life capturing images around the world, while simultaneously being a meditation on what it means to film nonfiction/reality. -CO

Check out the rest of September’s best indie offerings on the next page. 

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