Join us weekly as Rotten Tomatoes reports on what’s indie features are streaming. From promising releases by new voices to experimental efforts from storied filmmakers – or perhaps the next indie darling to go the distance for end-of-year accolades – we will break it all down for you here each week.
This week in our inaugural 2021 installment of Indie Fresh List, we have a theater adaptation about a famed night in history, a historical political documentary about MLK and the FBI, and newly available on VOD, a tale about a young woman going to extreme lengths to handle grief — and get vengeance. In our Spotlight Section, we have a recent drama starring The Crown’s Vanessa Kirby and a fantastical documentary about people with autism who are non-verbal. Catching up on some trailers that dropped while we were on hiatus, we have new clips featuring Zendaya, Daniel Kaluuya, Rosamund Pike, Trevante Rhoades, and Tilda Swinton.
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A fictional re-telling of a famous night in history when Malcolm X, Sam Cooke, Jim Brown, and Muhammad Ali (then Cassius Clay) met up after the latter was crowned the Heavyweight Champion of the world in 1964 is at the center of the drama for our first pick this week. As we singled out in our Ridiculously Early Actor and Director predictions, debut feature director Regina King (Watchmen) has assembled an incredible ensemble that includes Leslie Odom Jr., Aldis Hodge, Kingsley Ben-Adir, and newcomer Eli Goree. King showcases her skill not just behind the camera but in crafting elevated performances as well, and all the aforementioned names are in the Oscars conversation.
Playing in select theaters now and streaming on Amazon Prime.
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Director Sam Pollard received unpreceded access to the FBI archives while assembling the historical crime documentary MLK/FBI. Though it can be classified as a crime doc, it is an equally powerful examination of the politics of activism and serves as an expose of the brutal surveillance and harassment of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI, who labeled King the “most dangerous” Black person in America. “Pollard has many ways of providing material to immerse the viewer in the cultural moment and cut the tensions of government intrusion with interviews and archival footage,” writes Aaron Neuwirth of We Live Entertainment.
Playing in theaters and available on VOD now.
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Writer-director and Killing Eve showrunner Emerald Fennel had a clear vision for her grief-stricken dramedy that was more than a rage-filled revenge plot. “I think lots of people think that this film is very sort of scorched-earth, but actually… much of the movie is about forgiveness and redemption and the possibility of those things. But those things only come after some honesty and some self-scrutiny and apology,” Fennel told us when we chatted earlier this month. A favorite with critics since its Sundance debut, the film was released by Focus Features on Christmas Day, and just three weeks later, we now get it on VOD.
Available on VOD now.
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Inspired by the acclaimed Japanese memoir originally written by a young man named Naoki Higashida when he was just 13 years old, the documentary The Reason I Jump explores neurodiversity through the experiences of nonspeaking autistic people, offering fresh, fascinating insight into the world as seen through their eyes. Critics were enraptured with praise for the film — it currently sits at 97% on the Tomatometer — which illustrates that just because you don’t speak, it doesn’t mean you have nothing to say. It will be “revelatory for viewers who know little about the subject, and affirmative for caregivers and parents of children on the autism spectrum,” writes Marjorie Baumgarten of the Austin Chronicle.
Playing in select theaters.
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In Pieces of a Woman, Vanessa Kirby (Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Hobbs & Shaw, Netflix’s The Crown) plays a young mother who loses her child during childbirth and then attempts the herculean task of piecing herself back together after the tragedy. Things are not helped by her narcissistic mother and her well-meaning but clueless husband, who also happens to be a recovering addict. Kirby, who picked up the Best Actress prize at the Venice Film Festival, is a favorite to nab a nomination in the same category for the Oscars, and Sara Michelle Fetters of MovieFreak.com writes that “Kirby’s magnificence alone makes Pieces of a Woman worthy of a look.”
Streaming now on Netflix.
[movie_link_apple id=771531135 tmeter=true], a thriller about a woman on the run who is stalked by a violent predator. [/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771534136 tmeter=true], a documentary that examines the fight against voter disenfranchisement.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771534675 tmeter=true], a Spike Lee-directed concert documentary of Talking Heads frontman David Byrne’s live stage show.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771517281 tmeter=true], a horror film about a young woman who gets a killer weave.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771512515 tmeter=true], a documentary biopic on famed jazz singer Billie Holiday.
[movie_link_apple id=771534628 tmeter=true], a writer struggling to find story heads to a remote cabin to meet married friends and make potentially inspirational mischief between the couple.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771534791 tmeter=true], a thriller about a widower recovering from a traumatic brain injury who undergoes experimental treatment. [/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771522227 tmeter=true], a rom-com about an aimless twenty-something who creates an art exhibit to showcase items from past relationships as a means to find closure.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771517665 tmeter=true], a drama about a young man who is seduced by the Baltimore street bike community.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771508379 tmeter=true], a comedy about a pair of best friends whose relationship is tested when one of them gets involved with a woman.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771535052 tmeter=true], a horror film about a pair of siblings who discover something sinister when they return to their childhood home to care for their dying father.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771522173 tmeter=true], starring Mads Mikkelsen in Thomas Vinterberg’s dramatic comedy about four teachers who decide to drink at work.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771554253 tmeter=true], a documentary about the long tradition of the United States Postal Service’s Dear Santa program.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771517527 tmeter=true], an in-depth documentary about trans performers on screen.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771517664 tmeter=true], about a middle-aged playwright who looks to re-invent herself by returning to her hip hop roots. [/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771534886 tmeter=true], a powerful documentary on climate activist Greta Thunberg.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771534688 tmeter=true] – A young pregnant woman suspects the family caring for her has nefarious intentions for her unborn child. [/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771520054 tmeter=true], about a group of female dial painters who take on the system after they discover their employer has been knowingly infecting them with deadly radium.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771519151 tmeter=true], about an Ethiopian filmmaker who heads home from school to find his community is unrecognizable. [/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771518604 tmeter=true], a coming-of-age romantic comedy about a wild night on a college campus. [/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771512613 tmeter=true], a sci-fi thriller about a pair of best friend EMTs who get caught up in a series of strange events while on duty.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771517658 tmeter=true], a documentary about a woman’s fight to free her husband from prison. [/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771534762 tmeter=true], a comedy about two former best friends who cross state lines to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771535332 tmeter=true], a dark comedy-thriller about a Sheriff who appears to be the only person not convinced the town is being terrorized by a werewolf.[/movie_link_apple]
The Human Voice
Tilda Swinton stars in Pedro Almodóvar’s (Pain & Glory) first English-language film — and clocking in at 30 minutes, it’s a short one — inspired by the play of the same name by Jean Cocteau about a woman dealing with some personal issues in dramatic fashion.
Recording artist-turned-actress Audra Day and Trevante Rhodes appear in this clip from the long-awaited biopic about Jazz legend Billie Holiday and her frequent legal troubles.
An examination and celebration of the unseen life of actor Pat Morita, who the world knew as the sage Karate sensei Mr. Miyagi.
A second trailer from the upcoming historical thriller Judas and the Black Messiah goes in-depth on the figures from the dramatized take on the assassination of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton; starring Daniel Kaluuya and LaKeith Stanfield.
Thumbnail image by Focus Features