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25 Indies and Festival Favorites You Can’t Miss This Summer Season

From Olivier Assayas to Jim Jarmusch, Joanna Hogg to Ari Aster, Danny Boyle to Richard Linklater, and plenty of rising stars like Olivia Wilde and Joe Talbot, here are all the indies you're going to want to see this season.

This week, IndieWire will be rolling out our annual Summer Preview, including offerings that span genres, niche offerings for dedicated fans, a closer look at festival favorites finally headed to a theater near you, and plenty of special attention to all the new movies you need to get through a jam-packed summer movie-going season.

Check back throughout the week 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.

Today — 25 indie standouts and festival favorites (including exciting new offerings from some of our favorite directors, from Olivier Assayas to Jim Jarmusch, Joanna Hogg to Ari Aster, Danny Boyle to Richard Linklater, and plenty of rising stars like Olivia Wilde and Joe Talbot) bound for a big screen near you.

“Knock Down the House,” May 1

No one would believe the ending of Rachel Lears’ “Knock Down the House” if it wasn’t splashed all over the news months ago, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t land with a gut punch and more than a few tears. Originally imagined — and, as evidenced by a successful Kickstarter campaign, quite literally pitched — as a documentary about the changing face of America’s political strivers, the inspiring film inevitably changed significantly along the way. The result is an immediate and engaging look inside a system so many newbies are eager to mold into a fresh vision, bolstered by the star wattage of a newly minted political powerhouse. Lears’ film focuses on four first-time candidates scattered around the country, all women, all from working class backgrounds, all pursuing political office for different reasons, though the film inevitably gives way to the full-force power of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign and charisma. (Yes, the film ends with her New York primary win; no, it doesn’t blink at the inevitability that its audience is well-aware of what’s to come.) A film just about Ocasio-Cortez would certainly have been compelling enough, but it would have been lacking the central idea that drives Ocasio-Cortez and her compatriots: for one of them to break free, a hundred will have to fail. Netflix will release the film in select theaters and on its streaming platform. KE

“Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,” May 3

Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

“Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile”

Netflix

Ted Bundy is already a killer by the time we meet him in Joe Berlinger’s “Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile,” a mass murderer and rapist who preyed on women across the American West in the mid-’70s in horrifying ways (or, “extremely wicked, shockingly evil, and vile” ways; the title pulls from one of the eventual Bundy verdicts and is spoken by a judge, played by John Malkovich, late in the film). But that’s not the Bundy who first arrives on the screen: instead, it’s a handsome (he is, after all, played by Zac Efron) sweetheart who easily ingratiates himself with a shy divorcee (Lily Collins), slipping inside her relatively normal life while spending every available moment away from her raping, murdering, robbing, and desecrating the bodies of those he’s killed. That sense of whiplash? It’s a feature, not a bug in Berlinger’s film, which walks the extremely fine line between introducing Bundy to the audience through the eyes of a woman who loved him while never shying away from the gravity of his crimes. Despite being primarily told through the perspective of Collins’ Elizabeth Kloepfer (a very real person, as so many weird things in the film are very much real), “Extremely Vile” isn’t a glossy or loving look at Bundy. More sad than salacious, it’s the rare film about a criminal that offers human details without humanizing a man who so many agree was a monster. Netflix will release the film in select theaters and on its streaming platform. KE

“Non-Fiction,” May 3

“Non-Fiction”

Re-teaming with the great Juliette Binoche and Guillame Canet, French favorite Olivier Assayas delivers a timeless comedy about relationships in the digital age with “Non-Fiction.” The movie hits U.S. theaters this summer after earning acclaim at various fall film festivals, including Venice and New York. The story centers around a controversial writer (Vincent Macaigne) whose new book is based on a real affair he’s having with an actress (Binoche), who just so happens to be married to his editor (Canet). While “Non-Fiction” is relatively small in scale when compared to Assayas’ beloved “Clouds of Sils Maria” and “Personal Shopper,” it’s a sly and delightful gem on its own terms. Breezy and cautiously optimistic, the movie is a late-career reflection from Assayas that finds him interrogating how we ascribe meaning to things in a world that seems to be remodeling itself faster each day. —ZS

“The Biggest Little Farm,” May 10

“The Biggest Little Farm”

Utopian vision meets harsh reality in John Chester’s documentary about he and his wife Molly’s journey to launch a sustainable farm outside Los Angeles. The beautifully shot and incredibly documented seven-year effort to transform the orchard wasteland and a herd of untamed animals into a functioning farm is gripping, and wonderfully juxtaposed to Chester’s “aw-shucks voiceover.” It’s a deeply human and cinematic reprieve from the seemingly endless stream of environmental docs we seem to be getting these days. —CO

“Asako I & II,” May 10

Asako I & II

“Asako I & II”

Ryūsuke Hamaguchi’s acclaimed “Happy Hour” may have been something of a misnomer at 317 minutes long, but it was a catchier title than “Happy Five-Point-Two Hours.” In any case, “Asako I & II” is a worthy follow-up (even if the endurance-minded will scoff at its mere two-hour runtime). About a woman who falls in love with two men who could pass for twins in appearance but not in behavior, the romantic drama is based on Tomoka Shibasaki’s 2010 novel and first premiered at Cannes. Hamaguchi doesn’t lack for ambition, and his movies aren’t widely distributed (if at all), so the fact that this romantic curio advanced beyond the festival circuit at all is a minor miracle. Strange and playful, it will make for valuable counter-programming to just about every other film being released this summer. MN

“Wild Rose,” May 10

Jessie Buckley in “Wild Rose”

Neon

This small-scale movie musical continues the recent tradition of charming little indie offerings, like 2016’s “Sing Street” and last year’s “Hearts Beat Loud.” Following a lauded Toronto International Film Festival premiere, “Wild Rose” follows a young Glasgow mother, recently released from prison, with dreams of becoming a country music star in Nashville. Rose-Lynn is played by up-and-comer Jessie Buckley, who proved herself a daring new talent to watch in 2017, both with Tom Hardy’s BBC series “Taboo” and the tense erotic thriller “Beast.” She faces off with the inimitable Julie Walters, who strikes an altogether different tone — but one just as musical — than her role in last year’s surprise summer blockbuster hit, “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.” JD

“The Souvenir,” May 17

"The Souvenir"

“The Souvenir”

A24

There isn’t much of a story in Joanna Hogg’s Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winning, and wholly heartfelt and searingly honest “The Souvenir.” The British director, somehow a breakthrough talent for the last 30 years, has always been less interested in plot than condition. Nevertheless, this elliptical, semi-autobiographical study of creative awakening lands with the weight of an epic. Set in the early 1980’s, shot with the gauzy harshness of “Phantom Thread,” and named after an 18th century rococo painting by Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Hogg’s most affecting work to date to charts the doomed romance between a young filmmaker (the remarkable Honor Swinton Byrne) and the troubled older man (Tom Burke) who sparks her potential. More than just a tender self-portrait, “The Souvenir” becomes a diorama-esque dissection of that volatile time in your life when every molecule feels like it’s restlessly vibrating in place, and even a brief encounter with another person has the power to rearrange your basic chemistry; when you’re so desperate to become yourself that you’ll happily believe in anyone else you happen to find along the way. And the best thing about it might be the fact that a sequel (pairing Byrne with Robert Pattinson) is set to shoot this summer. —DE

“Booksmart,” May 24

"Booksmart"

“Booksmart”

Annapurna/Youtube

Actress-turned-filmmaker Olivia Wilde has been honing her craft for years now, boning up on filmmaking by working with some of cinema’s most exciting auteurs (she starred in Morano’s “Meadowland,” and the pair seemed to have adored working alongside each other) and helming short films and music videos (include a 2016 banger for the Red Hot Chili Peppers). It’s high time she made her feature directorial debut, and “Booksmart” sounds like a hell of a fit for the budding director. With a screenplay that includes contributions from rising comedic stars like Katie Silberman and Susannah Fogel, the film stars indie faves Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever as a pair of besties who realize during the waning days of high school that they didn’t have as much fun as they should have. So they set about fixing that, in the minimum of time. It sounds fun and frisky, but with so much talent behind the camera, we’re betting it will also have a ton of heart, too. —KE

“Late Night,” June 7

“Late Night”

Like Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon’s 2017 Oscar-nominated “The Big Sick,” “Late Night” deals with how cultures collide, this time in the over-heated New York talk show universe. Directed by TV veteran Nisha Ganatra, the movie centers on screenwriter-producer-star Mindy Kaling as the diversity hire for a failing all-male writers room for a powerful woman talk-show host finally confronting a ratings slide. She’s played with such brio by Oscar winner Emma Thompson (“Howard’s End”) that a Supporting Actress Oscar nomination should be in the bag, assuming the comedy-drama (Tomatometer: 86 percent) delivers at the summer box office (Amazon will release it in select theaters this season). Kaling and Thompson carry the movie as its tone veers from uncomfortable fish-out-of-water conflict to slapstick comedy to gratifying female empowerment tale. —AT

“This One’s for the Ladies,” June 7

The real-life “Magic Mike” dancers put on a far more radical show than the cast of the Channing Tatum-led hit could ever dream of doing, as documented in this wild ride of a documentary. The film takes audiences into their very own dance extravaganza as the hunky exotic male dancers at a Newark nightclub entertain their devoted and enthusiastic female customers. Painting his subjects with all of the colors of their humanity, filmmaker Gene Graham goes beyond the hilarious and sexy energy to craft a contemporary view of sexual and social identity in contemporary black America. The piece will serve as a fascinating counterpoint to last year’s “Shakedown,” a decidedly more experimental film about an underground Los Angeles strip club for lesbians of color. JD

“The Last Black Man in San Francisco,” June 14

"The Last Black Man in San Francisco"

“The Last Black Man in San Francisco”

A24

Jimmie Fails (playing himself) and best friend Mont (Jonathan Majors) dream of reclaiming the Victorian home Fails’ grandfather built in the heart of San Francisco. The pair searches for belonging in a rapidly changing city that seems to have left them behind, and as Fails struggles to reconnect with his family and reconstruct the community he longs for, his hopes blind him to the reality of his situation. A nostalgic journey, the beautifully filmed gentrification drama is inhabited by locals on the margins, offering a touching and timely story about what home really is. Directed by Joe Talbot, with a cast that includes Fails, Majors, Rob Morgan, Tichina Arnold, and Danny Glover, “The Last Black Man in San Francisco” held its well-received world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January, all the better to head into a summer release from A24 with plenty of buzz. —TO

“The Dead Don’t Die,” June 14

Jim Jarmusch made one of the greatest vampire films ever in 2014’s “Only Lovers Left Alive,” so the logical next step is a zombie film. Little is known about “The Dead Don’t Die” other than that it concerns itself with the reanimated dead and a few on-set photos showed off Bill Murray in a cop’s uniform flanked by apparent law-enforcement colleagues Chloe Sevigny and Adam Driver, so unforgettable in Jarmusch’s last film, “Paterson,” as a bus-driving poet. Tilda Swinton, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Caleb Landry Jones, Rosie Perez, Iggy Pop, Sara Driver, the RZA, Selena Gomez, Carol Kane, and Tom Waits round out what Focus Features is calling “the greatest zombie cast ever disassembled.” —CB

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