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.
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.
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.
The Devil All the Time (2020)
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.
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.
Lingua Franca (2019)
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.
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