Film Independent Tue 12.30.2014

Don’t Miss Indies—What to Watch in January

The Guest
When: January 6
Where: DVD/VOD
Director: Adam Wingard
Starring: Dan Stevens, Sheila Kelly
Why We’re Excited: In 2011, DIY slasher moviemaker Adam Wingard took his career to the next level by scaring the crap out of mainstream audiences with the home-invasion horror flick, You’re Next. His latest, The Guest—nominated for Best Editing at the upcoming Film Independent Spirit Awards—uses home sweet home as the horrifying setting once again. If it’s anything like You’re Next, we recommend watching with the lights on.

Middle of Nowhere
When: January 13
Where: DVD/VOD
Director: Ava DuVernay
Starring: Emayatzy Corinealdi, Daniel Oyelowo
Why We’re Excited: Ava DuVernay’s acclaimed Selma is generating the biggest buzz of awards season (It snagged five Spirit Award Nominations including Best Director and Best Feature.)
This month you can catch her small-budget Spirit Award winning drama, Middle of Nowhere on DVD. The film features strong, breakthrough performances from Emayatzy Corinealdi and Daniel Oyelowo, and tells the story of a woman who undergoes major life changes when her husband is sentenced to eight years in prison.

femalefilmmakerofcolor spiritaward microbudget

When: January 13
Where: DVD/VOD
Director: Leigh Janiak
Starring: Rose Leslie, Harry Treadaway
Why We’re Excited: It’s best to know as little as possible about Leigh Janiak’s dark and creepy feature debut before sitting down to watch it. It’s the story of a newly married couple who retreat to a log cabin in the woods for what’s meant to be a romantic honeymoon. But what occurs is both baffling and terrifying, relying on psychological and natural scares rather than special effects and genre cliches.Janiak made the film on a very modest budget, with only four actors and minimal sets and locations.
female firsttime

When: January 14
Where: Theaters/IFC VOD
Director: Stephen Belber
Starring: Patrick Stewart, Carla Gugino, Matthew Lillard
Why We’re Excited: Based on the Broadway play that launched his writing career, Match is an adaptation by Stephen Belber of his own material for the big screen. Fans of Patrick Stewart (especially those who love the movie Jeffrey) will be excited to see him in this new leading role, as Tobi, a Julliard professor with a juicy past.

Appropriate Behavior
When: January 16
Where: Theaters
Director: Desiree Akhavan
Starring: Desiree Akhavan, Rebecca Henderson
Why We’re Excited: Introducing herself to the indie film world as a triple threat, Desiree Akhavan takes on writing, directing and starring in her first feature. Drawing inspiration from her personal life, this comedy hones in on how cultural barriers can prevent family members from truly knowing each other. Akhavan (who earned a Best First Screenplay Spirit Award Nomination for the film) plays a young woman struggling to be an ideal Persian daughter and coming to terms with the fact that her closeted bisexuality could be part of the problem.
LGBT female firsttime

Little Accidents
When: January 16
Where: Theaters
Director: Sara Colangelo
Starring: Elizabeth Banks, Chloe Sevigny, Josh Lucas
Why We’re Excited: Another Spirit Award Nominee for Best First Screenplay, Little Accidents also happens to be from a first-time female filmmaker. In Sara Colangelo’s dramatic debut, a small town is turned upside-down by the tragedy of a coal mining accident and the disappearance of a teenage boy. Produced by Film Independent Fellow Summer Shelton, the film features an all-star cast of indie favorites, including the young Jacob Loftland, who made his debut in the Spirit Award Winning film Mud.
findmember firsttime female

The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz
When: January 20
Where: DVD/VOD
Director: Brian Knappenberger
Why We’re Excited: Aaron Swartz was a programming prodigy, a co-founder of Reddit and one of the brains behind the development of basic internet protocol RSS. While the young mastermind became lauded for his work on the web, his social justice work left him in a two-year legal battle. At the age of 26, Swartz tragically took his own life, launching many debates over technology and its affect on civil liberties. Judging from its Sundance premiere, this emotionally charged documentary is bound to spark heated discussion and provoke thought.

When: January 23
Where: Theaters
Director: Daniel Barnz
Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Felicity Huffman, Anna Kendrick
Why We’re Excited: One of the most talked about performances this year comes from Jennifer Aniston. In this stripped down, uncharacteristically dramatic turn—(think: Oscar-bait)—Aniston plays the survivor of a nearly fatal car accident, who joins a chronic pain support group to cope with the post-traumatic stress of cheating death. The film is produced by Film Independent Fellow Shyam Madiraju.
findmember spiritaward

When: January 23
Where: Theaters
Director: Xavier Dolan
Starring: Anne Dorval, Antoine-Olivier Pilon
Why We’re Excited: The latest from twenty-something French filmmaker Xavier Dolan revisits the mother-son dynamic that inspired his debut feature I Killed My Mother. Far grittier than his debut dramedy, the film follows a widowed mother who decides to remove her violent ADHD-diagnosed son from a detention center, only to discover she may not be able to care for him. In its Cannes debut, the film won a Jury Prize and competed for the Palm d’OR and is now up for Best International Film at the upcoming Spirit Awards.

Coming Home
When: January 30
Where: Theaters
Director: Yimou Zhang
Starring: Li Gong, Daoming Chen
Why We’re Excited: Li Gong and Daoming Chen star as happily married couple Feng and Lu, who endure a tragic separation when Lu is sent to labor camp as a political prisoner during the Cultural Revolution. Lu finally comes home only to discover his wife no longer remembers him. After premiering in China, the film kicked off its festival run at Cannes. If you love Zhang’s previous films, including Raise the Red Lantern and House of Flying Daggers, you’ll want to catch this romantic and heartfelt drama when it hits the states at the end of the month.

Chris Lombardi / Film Independent Blogger 

Film Independent Fellow or Member findmember
Los Angeles Film Festival Alum  LAFF
Spirit Award Winner  spiritaward
First-time Filmmaker firsttime
Microbudget microbudget
Female Filmmaker female
Filmmaker of Color filmmakerofcolor
LGBT Filmmaker LGBT