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Film Independent Fri 12.23.2022

The Must-List: Nine of Our Favorite Indie Movie Holiday Gems

Somehow, we’ve just about made it through 2022. And while it’s not like everything will suddenly change on at midnight on December 31, all signs point to 2023 trending in the right direction. So if anyone deserves at least a couple weeks of holiday relaxation and cheer, we do (“we” here meaning the entire world.) Here now are nine of our favorite wintertime holiday movies to help get you into the spirit of the season.



Written and Directed by: Joe Swanberg

Starring: Anna Kendrick, Joe Swanberg, Melanie Lynskey, Lena Dunham

Producers: Joe Swanberg, Alicia Van Couvering, Peter Gilbert

Why We Love It: For Jude, Joe Swanberg’s real-life toddler son, who appears in the film as protagonists Kelly (Lyskey) and Jeff’s (Swanberg) child. Says Jen Chaney of The Washington Post: “Improvised family drama feels all too real. But what is often surprising in this entertaining and fluidly acted portrait of females in flux is the specific way things get messy.”

Where To Watch: Hoopla, Pluto TV, Starz



Directed by: M.K. Asante

Screenplay by: M.K. Asante & Maya Angelou

Featuring: Maya Angelou, Jim Brown, Chuck D., Lovensky Jean-Baptiste

Producers: M.K. Asante, Ben Haaz, Kenny Gamble,Walter Lomax

Why We Love It: Maya Angelou. One simply cannot ignore the iconic poet, whose voice graces this enlightening documentary about the history of Kwanzaa, which was created in the wake of the Watts Riots by African Studies professor, activist and author Dr. Maulana Karenga. Says Marina Brafa of FemFilmFans.com: “It shows how and why Kwanzaa emerged, what it is about and where it is headed. Asante does this by documenting the holiday celebrations in pictures and sound. This provides an informative starting point to get to know Kwanzaa.”

Where To Watch: Peacock, Tubi, Freevee



Produced and directed by: Norman Jewison

Screenplay by: Joseph Stein

Starring: Chiam Topol, Norma Crane, Leonard Frey, Paul Michael Glaser

Why We Love It: For Tevye (Chaim), breaking the fourth wall and talking to us and guiding us through this spirited musical about Jewish identity and cultural traditions. Of the film, no less than The New Yorker‘s Pauline Kael said: “An absolutely smashing movie; it is not especially sensitive, it is far from delicate, and it isn’t even particularly imaginative, but it seems to me the most powerful movie musical ever made.”

Where To Watch: Watch TCM, Broadway HD


CAROL (2015)

Directed by: Todd Haynes

Screenplay by: Phyllis Nagy

Starring: Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett

Producers: Elizabeth Karlsen, Stephen Woolley, Christine Vachon

Why We Love It: For its depiction of two women fighting for the love they deserve. “At once ardent and analytical, cerebral and swooning, Carol is a study in human magnetism, in the physics and optics of eros. With sparse dialogue and restrained drama, the film is a symphony of angles and glances, of colors and shadows,” says A. O. Scott of The New York Times. Carol won Best Cinematography and received Best Female Lead, Best Screenplay, Best Director and Best Feature nominations at the 2016 Film Independent Spirit Awards.

Where To Watch: Kanopy, Hoopla, Tubi, Freevee, Pluto TV


KRISHA (2015)

Written and directed by: Trey Edward Shults

Starring: Krisha Fairchild, Robyn Fairchild, Trey Edward Shults

Producers: Justin R. Chan, Chase Joliet, Trey Edward Shults, Wilson Smith

Why We Love It: For the character of Krisha, the film’s black-sheep protagonist (Krisha Fairchild) and one of 21st century film’s purest examples of the independent spirit. “The story will eventually draw the viewer outside Krisha’s perspective, but the beauty of the film is that its compassion deepens along with its very real sense of horror—compassion not just for Krisha but for those who still love her or have given up on trying,” says Sherri Linden of The Hollywood Reporter. The film won the John Cassavetes Award at the Spirit Awards in 2016.

Where To Watch: HBO Max, Kanopy



Directed by: Sean Baker

Screenplay by: Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch

Starring: Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Maya Taylor, James Ransome

Producers: Sean Baker, Karrie Cox, Marcus Cox, Darren Dean, Shih-Ching Tsou

Why We Love It: For Sean Baker filming his low-budget, Christmas-set, Melrose Boulevard masterpiece on a iPhone 5. “An exuberantly raw and up-close portrait of one of Los Angeles’ more distinctive sex-trade subcultures,” writes Justin Chang of Variety. Tangerine won Best Supporting Female and was nominated for Best Female Lead, Best Feature and Best Director at the 31st Film Independent Spirit Awards.

Where To Watch: Kanopy, Fubo TV, Hoopla


C.R.A.Z.Y. (2005)

Directed By: Jean-Marc Vallée

Screenplay By: Jean-Marc Vallée and François Boulay

Starring: Marc-André Grondin, Michel Côté, Danielle Proulx

Producers: Pierre Even, Jean-Marc Vallée

Why We Love It: For its spirited portrait of Zac (Grondin), young gay French Canadian whose growth into his own identity is chronicled through Christmas parties set in 1960, 1975 and 1980. “The whole family can feel comfortable watching C.R.A.Z.Y., Jean-Marc Vallee’s bouncy coming-of-age tale that coasts along on a terrific soundtrack and a spot-on feel for period detail,” writes Jay Weissberg of Variety.

Where To Watch: HBO Max, Hoopla, Kanopy



Directed by: Arnaud Desplechin

Screenplay by: Arnaud Desplechin and Emmanuel Bourdieu

Starring: Catherine Deneuve, Jean-Paul Roussillon, Anne Consigny, Mathieu Amalric

Producers: Pascal Caucheteux

Why We Love It: Of the hit French family drama, Roger Ebert wrote: “A strangely encompassing collection of private moments among the members of a large family with a fraught history. Some of the moments are serious, some revealing, some funny, some simply wry in the manner of a New Yorker story about small insights into the lives of characters so special as to deserve to be in the story.”

Where To Watch: The Criterion Channel, Pluto TV, AMC+



Director: Clea DuVall

Screenplay by: Clea DuVall, Mary Holland

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Mackenzie Davis, Dan Levy, Victor Garber, Mary Steenburgen, Alison Brie, Mary Holland, Aubrey Plaza

Producers: Marty Bowen, Isaac Klausner

Why We Love It: One of the most surprising streaming hits of the 2020 movie calendar (and if Film Twitter has anything to say about it, a modern holiday classic), actor-turned-filmmaker Clea DuVall’s second feature is a queer-friendly romp through holiday-season chaos. Mackenzie Davis’s Harper invites her orphaned girlfriend Abby (Stewart) to spend Christmas with her family—only to reveal to Abby that she has yet to come out to them. That’s just one plot thread in a film that has plenty of ‘em, boasting an all-star cast that includes not least of all Dan Levy, fresh off the run of everyone’s favorite Canadian import, Schitt’s Creek.

Where to Watch: Hulu


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