With theatrical exhibition regaining some life as New York City theaters open up at a limited capacity this month, the spring and summer will be an interesting time for the film industry. In terms of the arthouse model, it’ll be curious to see how the Virtual Cinemas that so many theaters have relied on as a revenue stream these past 12 months meld with the more limited capacity standard physical screenings. As we wait and see how these shifts take shape, check out our rundown of the films to check out this month.
14. Sophie Jones (Jessie Barr)
Executive produced by Nicole Holofcener, Jessie Barr’s coming-of-age tale Sophie Jones had a festival run last year, earning acclaim at Deauville Film Festival and more, and now it arrives this month via Oscilloscope Laboratories. Led by the director’s cousin, Jessica Barr, she plays the title character, who struggles with the unexpected death of her mother and the trials and tribulations of growing up with heartache. While the film doesn’t look to be breaking the mold of such a story, it does look to be told with a warm, clear-eyed authenticity. “Because of the personal subject matter, Jessie Barr’s feature directing debut contains a multitude of sensitivity and care,” Michael Frank said in our review.
Where to Watch: Theaters and VOD (March 2)
13. A Shape of Things to Come (J.P. Sniadecki & Lisa Malloy)
What if Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab made The Beach Bum? A fatuous comparison, maybe, but A Shape of Things to Come otherwise lacks an identifiable precedent. What starts as an ethnographic movie about hunting becomes a vision of living fully off the grid becomes an unbearably ominous story of eco-terrorism, all the while filtered through a cinema-beyond-vérité form that’s more Leviathan than Kelly Reichardt. (The protagonist’s embrace of psychedelics, down to extracting juice from a frog, might play some part.) I can promise this much: you’ll never hear Flock of Seagulls the same way again.
Where to Watch: Projectr (March 5)
12. Wojnarowicz: Fk You F*ggot Fker (Chris McKim)
Following screenings at Tribeca, DOC NYC, and Hot Docs last year, a new documentary portrait of New York City artist, writer, photographer, and activist David Wojnarowicz is arriving this month. Before passing away from AIDS-related causes in 1992 at only 37, Wojnarowicz was a prominent voice in AIDS activism and the documentary illuminates his artistic fight, featuring newly rediscovered tape recordings and interviews with Fran Lebowitz, Gracie Mansion, Peter Hujar, and more.
Where to Watch: Virtual Cinemas (March 19)
11. Coming 2 America (Craig Brewer)
After teaming with Eddie Murphy on Dolemite Is My Name last year, director Craig Brewer reunited with the star for the comedy sequel Coming 2 America. Arriving 33 years after the 1988 original, it marks a major pick-up for Amazon, who slapped down $125 million to acquire from Paramount Pictures as COVID-19 disrupted the film’s original August 2020 release plans. Here’s hoping the reunion of Brewer and Murphy, not to mention a truly stacked cast, will deliver a worthwhile follow-up for those that have been waiting just a few decades.
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime (March 5)
10. Come True (Anthony Scott Burns)
If your sleeping has been a bit off during the pandemic for understandable reasons, a new sci-fi thriller should feel frighteningly relatable. A selection at Fantasia Film Festival, Nightstream Film Festival, and Sitges International Fantastic Film Festival, Anthony Scott Burns’ Canadian feature Come True follows an 18-year-old runaway named Sarah (Julia Sarah Stone) who submits to a university sleep study, but soon realizes she’s become the conduit to a frightening new discovery. Jared Mobarak said in our review, “Stone builds on her psychologically distressed performance in Allure to truly embody what it’s like to be lost in your own life as you struggle to discern the difference between your waking state and that of dream.”
Where to Watch: Theaters and VOD (March 12)
9. Bad Trip (Kitao Sakurai)
Scheduled to have its world premiere a year ago at SXSW, Eric André’s latest project will finally arrive on Netflix this month, after the streamer acquired the hidden camera comedy from MGM. Following André and Lil Rel Howery’s East Coast trip with some semblance of a story, fans of the comedian likely know what they’re signing up for, and hopefully this recipe of scripted-meets-pranks delivers. Produced by Jackass whiz Jeff Tremaine, it’ll be a fitting warm-up before the fourth entry of that series arrives later this year.
Where to Watch: Netflix (March 26)
8. Lost Course (Jill Li)
Exploring a six-year community-led fight against corruption in South China, Lost Course is a three-hour documentary of epic scope. Artemis Lin said in our forthcoming review, “Jill Li’s fantastic first feature, the documentary Lost Course, explores the extraordinary events that led to the ousting of Wukan’s corrupt officials and subsequent ascension of the once-protestors to local government. The three-hour film at times feels more like a political epic on the scale of Dickens or Hugo, weaving a cautionary tale about democracy, power, and the pitfalls of idealism.”
Where to Watch: Virtual Cinemas (March 5)
7. Violation (Dusty Mancinelli and Madeleine Sims-Fewer)
A rape revenge thriller that weaves through a non-linear timeline to tell the story of fierce and deserved retribution after an unthinkable act, Violation is sure to leave an imprint. Jared Mobarak said in his review, “We’re often told growing up that every story has two sides so that we can learn how to put ourselves into another’s shoes and see whether actions we thought were harmless actually did cause harm. That doesn’t mean you can’t project the sentiments onto adult situations too, though. Especially when they deal with memory. Take Miriam (Madeleine Sims-Fewer) and Greta (Anna Maguire) for example—two sisters who used to do everything together in their youth. When the topic of teenage injustice first arrives in conversation, their anecdote is colored as Big Sis defending the honor of Little Sis. When it comes up a second time, however, Greta reminds Miriam that she specifically asked her not to do what she did because of the consequences that did ultimately arise.”
Where to Watch Shudder (March 25)
6. Quo Vadis, Aida? (Jasmila Žbanić)
With Bosnia’s Oscar contender shortlisted for Best International Film, NEON’s Super LTD snapped it up for a release that’s sooner than expected. Orla Smith said earlier this year, “The most moving, harrowing, and best film I saw at TIFF ‘20 was Jasmila Žbanić’s Quo Vadis, Aida? The film reenacts the horrific Bosnian genocide through the eyes of a UN translator stuck between the powerful officials calling the shots and the vulnerable townspeople to whom she belongs. It’s a fascinating study of power and complicity that never glorifies violence, instead training an accusing lens on those who hold the power to hurt others.”
Where to Watch: Theaters (March 5) and VOD (March 15)
5. The Fever (Maya Da-Rin)
Having first covered The Fever back in when it premiered at Locarno in 2019, the multiple award winner is finally getting a proper U.S. release this month. Leonardo Goi said in his review, “The Fever, director-cum-visual artist Da-Rin’s first full-length feature project, puts a human face to a statistic that hardly captures the genocide Brazil is suffering. This is not just a wonderfully crafted, superb exercise in filmmaking, a multilayered tale that seesaws between social realism and magic. It is a call to action, an unassuming manifesto hashed in the present tense but reverberating as a plea from a world already past us, a memoir of sorts.”
Where to Watch: Virtual Cinemas (March 19)
4. Rose Plays Julie (Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor)
One of the best films we saw on the film festival circuit last year is coming to the U.S. this month. Jared Mobarak said in his review, “Get ready for a tense ride because writers/directors Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor’s Rose Plays Julie never relinquishes its sense of brooding until the very last frame’s welcome exhale of relief. Why should they considering the subject matter? This is a dark story dealing with a reality too many women have experienced without the means for guaranteed justice. So while it might be a spoiler to say, I’m not sure it’s possible to speak about the film without mentioning how everything we witness is the result of a rape that occurred two decades previously. That event led to Rose’s (Ann Skelly) birth. It forced Ellen (Orla Brady) to explicitly state that she did not want her daughter to ever reach out. And its shared pain drives them today.”
Where to Watch: Virtual Cinemas and VOD (March 19)
3. The Human Voice (Pedro Almodóvar)
The great Pedro Almodóvar has made his English-language debut with a new short starring Tilda Swinton and it’s arriving in the U.S. paired with the digital restoration of his early classic Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. David Katz said in his review, “Short work by great directors is customary at major festivals, but most often it underwhelms. Not here. Perhaps it’s because this is a project with special resonance for Almodóvar. The Human Voice, Jean Cocteau’s one-act, one-character monodrama has echoed across the Spanish great’s career. It’s directly referenced in Law of Desire and informs the plot of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. And Almodóvar’s own debut work in the English-language has been a long-delayed event––past projects he was touted for include Brokeback Mountain and The Paperboy (a bullet dodged?). Tilda Swinton, key collaborator of the greatest working filmmakers, plays the unnamed woman teetering on the verge of yes, a breakdown, but one eventually focused into cataclysmic external force.”
Where to Watch: Theaters (March 12)
2. The Truffle Hunters (Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw)
“If you’re not picky, you can eat them on anything.” So says one of the elite group of experienced, elder Italian truffle hunters portrayed in Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw’s stately, charming new documentary, regarding their prized possessions. The only issue is these delicacies from the ground are impossible to find without knowledge, skill, and a trusted dog. And when they are miraculously discovered, they go for an incredible amount of money. The Truffle Hunters explores this age-old tradition of culinary treasure-hunting and the clash of passion and commerce around such a specific way of life. Executive produced by Luca Guadagnino, it’s also far from your standard documentary in terms of the picturesque approach in which we meticulously enter this Northern Italy milieu. Continue reading my review.
Where to Watch: Theaters (March 5)
1. The Inheritance (Ephraim Asili)
An early favorite for one of the best directorial debuts of 2021, Ephraim Asili’s The Inheritance places its audience inside a Black activist collective in Philadelphia as the director explores both the traumatic history of the liberation group MOVE and a brighter path ahead through radical action. Insightful as it pertains to the power of collective artistry and activism, it’s also a genuinely entertaining film—Asili, borrowing from his own experience, recreates a housing scenario that brings an unexpected dose of humor.
Where to Watch: Virtual Cinemas (March 12)
Also Arriving this Month