With glimmers of theatrical exhibition starting to find renewed life after a full year of dormancy in New York and Los Angeles, this April brings a handful of films worth seeking out––some premiering exclusively in cinemas while others will also be getting a digital release. From fascinating documentaries to long-awaited releases from renowned auteurs to acclaimed indies, check out our picks to see this April below.

13. Tiny Tim: King for a Day (Johan von Sydow)

Tiny Tim, a unique artist whose influence would be felt decades later after his passing, is now the subject of a documentary. Featuring the performer’s diaries and letters as read by Weird Al Yankovic, along with archival footage from D.A. Pennebaker, Jonas Mekas, and Andy Warhol, Christopher Schobert said in his Fantasia review, “King for a Day would have perhaps benefitted from more time with Tiny’s daughter (with his first wife); while she explains she spent little time with her father, her existence alone is noteworthy. It’s also rather surprising that the film drops the sexuality angle quickly after spending time on it earlier, but these are minor quibbles. Tiny Tim: King for a Day succeeds because, like its subject, it acknowledges the strangeness at hand while not succumbing to it. The film is positively bursting with kindness. And that’s the approach Tiny Tim deserved.”

Where to Watch: Theaters (April 23)

12. Funny Face (Tim Sutton)

After expanding his scope with Donnybrook, Tim Sutton returns with a smaller-scale effort, Funny Face, which follows two misfit avengers who take on the corporate overlords rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn. Rory O’Connor said in his Berlinale review, “Sutton has dubbed his latest “a New York movie” and that sense of place and authenticity is worthy of note. Shooting on-location with some lovely skylines, DP Lucas Gath (who worked as a second unit cinematographer on Luca Guadanigno’s Suspiria remake) finds a gritty warmth and icy detachment in the contrasting moods of Brooklyn (where our heroes wander) and lower Manhattan, respectively.”

Where to Watch: VOD (April 2)

11. Wet Season (Anthony Chen)

A highlight on the festival circuit back in 2019, Anthony Chen’s Singaporean melodrama Wet Season––which was also the country’s Oscar entry––will finally arrive stateside this month. Rory O’Connor said in our review, “Wet Season was directed by Anthony Chen, a Singaporean native who won the Camera d’Or (the award for best first feature) at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival for Ilo Ilo, a movie in which a Filipino maid becomes unlikely friends with the unruly son of the family she has been hired to work for. Chen returns to that pseudo-mother-son relationship with Wet Season and once again uses it to cast an eye on the themes of class and social prejudice that quietly gave weight to his debut.”

Where to Watch: Theaters (April 23) and VOD (April 30)

10. Gunda (Victor Kossakovsky)

The most immersive swine-related movie since the Babe franchise, Victor Kossakovsky’s Gunda takes us into a ground-level look at the life and times of animals in a Norwegian farm. Leonardo Goi said in his review, “Unanchored to any semblance of plot, and unspooling largely through long takes, much of what composes the film might be described as observational filmmaking, were it not for the fact that the adjective hardly captures the immersive quality of Kossakovsky’s venture. To be watching Gunda isn’t just to witness glimpses of farm life kept at an arm’s length, but to experience something that’s entirely sui generis, an encounter with fellow earthlings that narrows the animal-human gap to an entrancing–and ultimately unsettling–extent.”

Where to Watch: Theaters (April 16)

9. Awaken (Tom Lowe)

Executive produced by the powerhouse duo of Terrence Malick and Godfrey Reggio, Tom Lowe’s directorial debut is a visually stunning journey around the world, as the trailer attests. Featuring narration from Liv Tyler and a score by Joseph Trapanese, the film was shot entirely in 4K over 5 years in over 30 countries. While it doesn’t quite achieve the masterful rhythm nor level of insight found in its inspirations––Malick’s Voyage of Time and Reggio’s Qatsi trilogy––there’s still plenty of awe-inspiring moments to behold.

Where to Watch: VOD (April 9)

8. This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection (Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese)

Lesotho’s first-ever Oscar entry, This is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection premiered way back at the 2019 Venice Film Festival, followed by a run that included Sundance Film Festival, and more. It’s now set to arrive in the U.S. this month. David Katz said in his review, “The visuals are sometimes breathtaking, and we never see the square academy frame he employs as a cute anachronism––its careful, often symmetrical compositions are unthinkable without it. The cinematography starts to privilege rippling slow-motion in some later scenes, which aren’t the only time the film reminds you of Tarkovsky.”

Where to Watch: Virtual Cinemas (April 2)

7. Limbo (Ben Sharrock)

A favorite at Toronto International Film Festival last fall (where it premiered following an initial Cannes selection), Ben Sharrock’s BAFTA-nominated drama Limbo takes a wry and poignant look at the refugee experience in a fictional remote Scottish island. Jared Mobarak said in his TFF review, “What begins as a modest and perhaps slight take on the refugee crisis tinged by an acquired yet welcome taste of British comedy, however, slowly reveals its underlying drama via the stark inevitability of its existence. You can only deflect from your plight so long before the stress and anxiety bubbles back to the surface.”

Where to Watch: Theaters (April 30)

6. Hope (Maria Sødahl)

After naming it one of the best films we saw on the fall festival circuit over 18 months ago, Maria Sødahl’s Hope will now come to the U.S. this month. Norway’s Oscar entry, and among the Academy’s initial shortlist, the film follows Anja (Andrea Bræin Hovig) and Tomas (Stellan Skarsgård) as a couple whose marriage is tested when the former receives a terminal cancer diagnosis. Jared Mobarak said in his review, “While writer/director Maria Sødahl never really leaves Anja’s side to focus on what Tomas is feeling, her film Hope makes certain we know. It’s in the big things like his tearful breakdown when the doctor gives them the test results and the little things when his usual workaholic nature is subverted by showing he’s been Googling experimental treatments. Where Skarsgård really shines, however, are those moments where he can do nothing but stare back at Anja and realize that the words she speaks are true no matter how much they hurt.”

Where to Watch: Virtual Cinemas (April 16)

5. Labyrinth of Cinema (Nobuhiko Obayashi)

The final film from House director Nobuhiko Obayashi is getting a U.S. release this month thanks to MUBI. Leonardo Goi named it one of the best of last year, saying, “No film I saw in 2020 registered as timely and uplifting like Nobuhiko Obayashi’s farewell opus, Labyrinth of Cinema. With all due respect to Mank, if there is one true “love letter to the movies” 2020 gifted us, this is it. Contagiously optimistic and resolutely pacifist, Labyrinth’s requiem for movie theatre doubles as a journey into the horrors of Japan’s 20th century and the films that portrayed them. Whether or not cinema will ever yield Obayashi’s utopia, here’s a film that celebrates the medium in its noblest, most humanist form: a vehicle for compassion.”

Where to Watch: MUBI (April 27)

4. maɬni – towards the ocean, towards the shore (Sky Hopinka)

After building a collection of impressive shorts over the last decade, Sky Hopinka’s feature debut maɬni – towards the ocean, towards the shore follows Sweetwater Sahme and Jordan Mercier as they wander through their surrounding nature in the Pacific Northwest, contemplating their contrasting viewpoints on the afterlife, rebirth, and the place in-between. maɬni always gives us something to observe: it mines Indigenous experience with a remarkably varied formal framework—in-the-moment interviews, time-lapse photography, landscape imagery—and soothing score courtesy of Thad Kellstadt. By film’s end there’s a deeper understanding of people and places most films never once think to explore.

Where to Watch: Virtual Cinemas (April 2)

3. Shiva Baby (Emma Seligman)

A selection at TIFF and SXSW, Emma Seligman’s Shiva Baby was a major hit on the festival circuit last fall as we named it one of our favorites amongst the premieres. Starring Rachel Sennott, the film follows a young woman who struggles to keep up different versions of herself when she runs into her sugar daddy and her ex-girlfriend at a shiva with her parents. Christopher Schobert said in his review, “It is a discovery in every sense: the discovery of a new comic voice behind the camera, the discovery of a note-perfect star in lead actor Rachel Sennott, and the discovery of a viewing experience that is at once hilarious, awkward, uncomfortable, and unforgettable. Shiva Baby is a blast of energy and from its first moment to its last Seligman finds the right balance.”

Where to Watch: Theaters and VOD (April 2)

2. Malmkrog (Cristi Puiu)

The wait for a Cristi Puiu film to arrive in the U.S. can often be a long one, and that’s certainly the case for the Romanian auteur’s latest, his 3-hour and 21-minute, one-location opus Malmkrog. A talkie in the truest sense, the wall-to-wall conversations exploring life, death, faith, war, and more are as thrilling as any high-stakes tent-pole. Rory O’Connor said in his Berlinale review, “It may take hours or even days but eventually something does click here. While offering up what he believes to be an important text, Puiu’s film also works to show the pace of this life, with all its customs and rituals, and it is a wonder to watch on as day slips into night in the gorgeous surroundings; the guests easing into each others company with each passing course and glass of wine–even as the conversation coursens (the cast’s dedication, we should note, is a marvel throughout).”

Where to Watch: MUBI (April 3)

1. About Endlessness (Roy Andersson)

Closing out the decade, Roy Andersson’s masterful About Endlessness premiered at the Venice Film Festival back in the fall of 2019, and now finally arrives this month in the U.S. Mark Asch said in our review, “About Endlessness is Roy Andersson’s fourth film of this century; it looks much like the previous three, and nothing like anything else ever made. Mostly unrelated blackout scenes are shot on forced-perspective studio sets stripped bare of the real world; minor-key moments of human angst, like a waiter ineffectually mopping up a red wine spill with an absolutely sodden towel, or a housewife’s half-consoling, half-embittered impatience with her husband’s wistful reflections on a wasted life, are juxtaposed with more dire vignettes, like the recurring drama of the priest who’s lost his faith. “It’s my job to preach about god,” he wails in despair. (Everybody’s got to make a living.)”

Where to Watch: Theaters and VOD (April 30)

Honorable Mentions

Concrete Cowboy (April 2)
Giants Being Lonely (April 6)
Slalom (April 9)
Moffie (April 9)
Monday (April 16)
Jakob’s Wife (April 16)
Red Moon Tide (April 20)

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