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.
For the foreseeable future, the specialty box office and all theatrical releases will be on hold as we all make efforts to socially distance ourselves and reduce the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. With that in mind, we have reshaped our Indie Fresh List to include VOD and select drive-in releases. This week we have a southern crime thriller, a gory horror flick, a drama about a strange homecoming, and a powerful doc about voting rights. In our Spotlight Section, we have an award-winning story about an undocumented trans woman looking for love and citizenship, along with a new interview with the writer-director, Isabel Sandoval. Finally, in our Indie Trailers section, we have new clips featuring Vince Vaughn, Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hopkins, and Olivia Colman.
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Since the repeal of portions of the Voting Rights Act in 2013, the fight against voter disenfranchisement has never been more critical. After controversial elections in Florida, North Carolina, and Georgia amid election interference in 2016, a tireless group of activists led by former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacy Abrams has been battling to protect the vote, and All In: The Fight for Democracy chronicles that fight. This stirring doc mixed with a history lesson is “A valuable public service wrapped in an educational, informative, and engaging documentary,” writes Odie Henderson of RogerEbert.com.
Streaming September 18 on Amazon Prime.
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This straightforward but terrifying survival horror flick stars Jules Wilcox as a woman on the run and Marc Menchaca as the murderous drifter who is after her. Jessica (Wilcox) is a widower looking for a restart in her hometown when she encounters a strange man who begins hunting her through the woods. “Director John Hyams and writer Mattias Olsson lend their vision to this popular narrative with Alone, creating a survivalist thriller that, while playing with familiar tropes, manages to feel somewhat fresh,” writes Sara Clements of Next Best Picture.
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If you would like to see the Brits who play Spider-Man and Batman pushing out thick southern accents, Antonio Campos’ The Devil All the Time is your ideal choice for the weekend. Robert Pattinson plays a sinister preacher while, Tom Holland plays a “sinner” looking for a bit of his time. The director of Christine helms an all-star cast that also includes Bill Skarsgard, Riley Keough, and Sebastian Stan in a southern gothic crime thriller based on the novel of the same name. Stephanie Archer of Film Inquiry says, “There is a lot to take in, but let the film take you along on this examination of opportunity, villainy, family, loneliness, religion, and small-town living — one that will have you sorting out your emotions long after the film has ended.”
Available to stream now on Netflix.
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A tale about coming home, Residue is an incredible debut film from Merawi Gerima that weaves sadness, regret, and love to tell a story of Black identity translated through art. It follows a filmmaker studying in LA who comes home after film school to find a city that he no longer recognizes. “Merawi Gerima makes a stunning feature debut with Residue, a moving homage to the Northeast Washington neighborhood where he grew up,” writes Anne Hornaday of The Washington Post.
Available to stream now on Netflix.
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Writer-Director Isabel Sandoval translates her own gender confirmation journey with the marginalization of trans people and immigrants into the framework for an illuminating and timely story. While Filipina trans woman Olivia (Sandoval) is striving to secure a green card to stay in America, she unexpectedly begins a relationship with the son of the woman she works for, and issues around identity, civil rights, and immigration soon complicate the already fraught romance. “Lingua Franca happens to shine a spotlight on transgender representation by way of a film that places a strong focus on immigration,” according to Danielle Solzman of Solzy at the Movies. Rotten Tomatoes chatted with Sandoval about the film, her historic Venice premiere, working with Ava DuVernay, and using the president’s voice.
Let’s talk about Venice. What was it like to screen there?
Last year, there were few women directors with films playing at Venice — fewer than Cannes or Berlin. It’s such a gratifying feeling to know that I’ve blazed a trail, but ultimately I hope we get to a point where diverse voices being presented at major festivals happen more often and stops being news. On a personal level, when Venice invited the film, I felt vindicated that we premiered at that major a festival. I had this feeling of relief that this risky, idiosyncratic work will be seen more widely and taken more seriously, and hopefully, become enough of a success that it allows me to continue making films that I want.
Talk about working with Ava DuVernay and Array.
Ava sees the merit in a fiercely personal work that could’ve fallen through the cracks. It’s a work that can be regarded as difficult because it doesn’t pander to conventional, easy resolutions or film language. To paraphrase Hardy, “It’s difficult for a woman to define her feelings in language which is chiefly made by men to express theirs.” In the same way, I’m inventing my own cinematic language that I want the audience to put in the effort to understand. That’s why I feel grateful that Lingua Franca was acquired by Ava and Array. The Array team has worked very hard and been stunningly creative in getting the word out about Lingua Franca, and I’m honored to be part of the Array family. Apart from being a formidable filmmaker, Ava is a tireless maverick in Hollywood, one who continues to open doors for younger filmmakers. As busy as she is, I appreciate her still finding the time to check in, like calling me personally the day that Lingua Franca came out. I’m a bit introverted, so it really takes quite a bit of effort on my part to be assertive or entrepreneurial. The delicate balance between creative focus and the energy to navigate the industry and champion underrepresented voices is one that Ava has mastered. It’s something I’d like to emulate; as a woman of color, Hollywood isn’t going to just hand me opportunities easily.
The Trump voice-over, was that there from the beginning? Why did it feel necessary to include that in the story?
As anchored in reality as the film is, it’s also impressionistic, evoking Olivia’s emotional state as an undocumented immigrant. And in that space, Trump is a looming, oppressive presence. You might not see him, but you feel him, and sometimes you can’t turn that feeling off. The Trump V.O. very succinctly evokes a specific mood and atmosphere, more than any musical score or effect can. It’s almost Pavlovian; you can just feel your throat tighten.
The film is on Netflix, which increases its reach. What do you hope viewers take from it?
It’s only on Netflix North America at the moment, but I hope it compels the audience to feel the complicated, fraught emotions that the film brings up. That’s how you begin to empathize with Olivia and live in the world in her skin. It’s not a social drama where you’re emotionally coddled and everything is neatly resolved at the end. Reality is far too complex for that. I want the film to linger and haunt. But I don’t think it’s a bleak film; it’s hopeful and tender.
What is on your Indie Fresh List? What are you watching?
Available to stream now on Netflix.
[movie_link_apple id=771512524 tmeter=true], about a young Hollywood assistant to a predatory producer who struggles when presented with daily evidence of his abuse of women.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771511898 tmeter=true], a dark rom-com about a sickly girl who falls for the town screw-up.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771521846 tmeter=true], a thriller about a girl left alone who must battle escaped convicts when they invade her vacation home.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771514802 tmeter=true], a drama about two childhood friends who are torn apart by gang violence.[/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=771517527 tmeter=true], an in-depth documentary about trans performers on screen.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771512204 tmeter=true], a documentary about an impressive group competing at the National Slam Poetry contest.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771505272 tmeter=true], a comedy about a group of teens who head to the woods for a nature hike, and hijinks ensue.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771517656 tmeter=true], a documentary about the lawyers who work on landmark cases at the Supreme Court for the ACLU.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771520518 tmeter=true], a comedy about a failed thirtysomething writer travels back to her alma mater trying to relive former glory.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771517033 tmeter=true], an intimate documentary on Civil Rights icon and politician John Lewis.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771517673 tmeter=true], a drama about a former beauty queen who looks to recapture her glory through her rebellious daughter’s own pageant run.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771511899 tmeter=true], a visceral Holocaust drama about a young orphan’s journey through the grim events of World War II.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771517757 tmeter=true], a documentary about an artist who develops an unexpected friendship with one of the men who stole some of her paintings.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771501921 tmeter=true], a biopic about famed scientist Madame Curie.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771517617 tmeter=true], a horror film centered on three generations of women as the elder matriarch suffers from Alzheimer’s.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771521401 tmeter=true], a thriller about a pair of couples who discover they’re under surveillance while vacationing at a seaside rental.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771512683 tmeter=true], a drama about a former boxer who is pushed to the darker side of the Irish mob.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771506759 tmeter=true], about a girl and her father who live nomadic lives out of their van.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771514121 tmeter=true], a period drama about a reclusive author who is charged with a ward during WWII.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771511363 tmeter=true], a French dramedy about an aging star actress and her relationship with her daughter.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771504523 tmeter=true], a sci-fi thriller about a young ham radio operator and a local DJ who hear a strange radio transmission.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771517273 tmeter=true], an eye-opening doc about Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda’s improv hip-hop group.[/movie_link_apple]
[movie_link_apple id=771517661 tmeter=true], a powerful documentary about LGBTQ+ rights in the conservative nation of Chechnya.[/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=771504650 tmeter=true], a horror-comedy about a family of con-artists who tries to sell zombie bites to strangers as a fountain of youth.[/movie_link_apple]
Vince Vaughn plays a serial killer who suddenly wakes up in the body of a teenage girl, and vice versa. Hilarity ensues.
Aaron Sorkin directs Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, Joesph Gordon-Levitt, and Michael Keaton in a big-screen take on the trial of those accused of bombing the 1968 Democratic Convention.
Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman star in this drama about a man slowly succumbing to dementia.
Thumbnail image by Glen Wilson / © Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection