Wow, 2022 was a pretty good year for movies, huh? We can safely claim this as a fact (not opinion) based on our own current state of frenzied media consumption. There’s simply too much good stuff to keep us busy this awards season, as our ears and eyeballs bounce like grocery store superballs from theater to streaming platform to proprietary Spirit Awards screener link trying to Hoover it all up.
Luckily, we always have the curatorial eye of Film Independent Presents to steer us in the right direction, with December bringing another bumper crop of virtual and in-person film screenings–plus plenty of filmmaker Q&As, available on our YouTube channel.
Check out everything below to see why this was such a December to remember, and see what’s coming up in January and beyond here.
THE WOMAN KING
Guests of honor: director Gina Prince-Bythewood, writer Dana Stevens, editor Terilyn A. Shropshire, composer Terence Blanchard, supervising sound editor Becky Sullivan, re-recording mixer Tony Lamberti, costume designer Gersha Phillips and production designer Akin McKenzie. Moderated by Jenelle Riley (Deputy Awards and Features Editor, Variety).
Synopsis: The Woman King is the remarkable story of the Agojie, the all-female unit of warriors who protected the African Kingdom of Dahomey in the 1800s with skills and a fierceness unlike anything the world has ever seen. Inspired by true events, The Woman King follows the emotionally epic journey of General Nanisca (Oscar® winner Viola Davis) as she trains the next generation of recruits and readies them for battle against an enemy determined to destroy their way of life. Some things are worth fighting for…
What critics are saying: “An exemplary intersectional feminist call to arms for the African sisterhood to keep building on the achievements of their female ancestors & to keep fighting–& dancing–as they did, or might have done… with or without the approval of their patriarch.” Anton Bitel, Sight & Sound.
ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT
Guests of honor: writer/director/producer Edward Berger, composer Volker Bertelmann, actor Felix Kammerer and actor/executive producer Daniel Brühl. Moderated by journalist Gregory Ellwood.
Synopsis: All Quiet on the Western Front tells the gripping story of a young German soldier on the Western Front of World War I. Paul and his comrades experience first-hand how the initial euphoria of war turns into desperation and fear as they fight for their lives, and each other, in the trenches. The film, from director Edward Berger, is based on the world renowned bestseller of the same name by Erich Maria Remarque.
What critics are saying: “A film that feels both aesthetically dazzling and full of necessary truths: an antiwar drama that transcends the bombast of propaganda mostly just because it’s so artfully and indelibly made.” Leah Greenblatt & Joshua Rothkopf, Entertainment Weekly.
Guests of honor: actors Kit Connor and Joe Locke. Moderated by Josh Welsh (President, Film Independent).
Synopsis: Teens Charlie and Nick discover their unlikely friendship might be something more as they navigate school and young love in this coming-of-age series.
What critics are saying: “There are some TV series so sweet, so joyous and so wonderful that the mere mention of them can make you smile. Netflix’s Heartstopper is one of those shows.” Kelly Lawler, USA Today.
Guests of honor: director/producer Melissa Lesh; producer Alysa Nahmias; and producer Joshua Altman. Moderated by Jenn Wilson (Senior Programmer, Film Independent).
Synopsis: Wildcat follows the emotional and inspiring story of a young veteran on his journey into the Amazon. Once there, he meets a young female scientist running a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation center, and his life finds new meaning as he is entrusted with the life of an orphaned baby ocelot. What was meant to be an attempt to escape from life turns out to be an unexpected journey of love, discovery and healing.
What critics are saying: “Lurking beneath the lushly photographed camouflage is a tenderly moving, deeply empathetic human survival story that has as much to do with emotional trauma as it does with the physical.” Michael Rechtshaffen, The Los Angeles Times.
Guests of honor: creator/executive producer/star Mohammed “Mo” Amer. Moderated by SiriusXM host and comedian Dean Obeidallah.
Synopsis: Mo Najjar straddles the line between two cultures, three languages and a ton of bullshit as a Palestinian refugee constantly living one step away from asylum on the path to U.S. citizenship. His family—including his resilient and spiritual mother, sister and older brother—flee to Houston, Texas. Laughing the pain away, Mo learns to adapt to his new world, though getting ahead in life comes with several setbacks.
What critics are saying: “Somehow, Mo manages to be a family comedy, a romance, and occasionally a crime drama without compromising or switching tone.” Promo Khosla, IndieWire.
THE MARTHA MITCHELL EFFECT
Guests of honor: director and editor Anne Alvergue, co-director Debra McClutchy. Moderated by Jenn Wilson (Film Independent Senior Programmer).
Synopsis: She was once as famous as Jackie O.–and then she tried to take down a President. The Martha Mitchell Effect is an archival documentary portrait of the unlikeliest of whistleblowers: Martha Mitchell, a Republican cabinet wife who was gaslighted by the Nixon Administration to keep her quiet. It offers a female gaze on Watergate through the voice of the woman herself.
What critics are saying: “Though brief, The Martha Mitchell Effect is a powerful, at times illusory document of a woman who refused to abide by the status quo of her era.” Johnny Loftus, Decider.
Guests of honor: directors Betsy Hershey and Emma Wall. Moderated by Jenn Wilson (Film Independent Senior Programmer).
Synopsis: Guerrilla Habeas provides an intimate view into the work of two intrepid lawyers fighting to restore human rights and dignity of immigrant populations in the United States. As deportations in the dead of night and violations of civil liberties tear families apart, this searing documentary lays bare the shortage of legal representation for immigrants desperately attempting to navigate a complicated, overburdened and broken system. Filmmakers Emma Wall and Betsy Hershey document the real-life experiences of Baba Sillah, Kinimo Ngoran and Nirna Pierre-Paul as lawyers Sarah Gillman and Gregory Copeland fight to reunite them with their children and families.
What critics are saying: “A powerful documentary premiering on MSNBC next year that humanizes immigrant families caught up in deportation proceedings.” Matthew Carey, Deadline.
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(Header: The Woman King)