NFS Staff Picks: Our Top Films of 2013 That You Might Not Have Seen
Today is finally the last day of 2013! So many great moments, memories, and films have been made in independent cinema this year -- some of which you might have missed. To celebrate, the NFS staff has shared their top picks for the best 2013 indie films that you might not have seen -- or even heard about. Continue on to check them out!
Stories We Tell, dir. Sarah Polley
In Stories We Tell, the story of writer/director/actor Sarah Polley's complex family history, her brother observes of relationships that love is rarely traded evenly. He explains that one person is always more in love with the other than the other is in return, and the dynamics are always changing. That's how I feel about my ongoing love affair with documentary and fiction films -- sometimes I think I love one more than the other, and then a great film comes along and changes my mind. The great thing about movies, of course, is that we get to be polyamorous, and we don't have to choose. And sometimes one film satisfies the yearning for both documentaries and narratives; Stories We Tell is one such brilliant hybrid.
-- Ryan Koo
Mud, dir. Jeff Nichols
On the surface, Mud may seem like a plot-driven piece, following two boys who make an unlikely partnership with a fugitive to help him elude bounty hunters and reunite with the love of his life. Scratch slightly beneath the surface, and Mud may seem like a film about a charismatic ne'er-do-well who captivates a young boy with his intriguing philosophies and tall tales. Dig deeper, though, and you will discover Mud is an engrossing study of masculinity and romantic love told from various flawed male points of view and experienced through the eyes and mind of a resourceful yet misguided 14-year-old boy.
-- Christopher Boone
Somos Meri Pepa, dir. Samuel Kishi
This movie perfectly captures the foibles of being young and in a rock band. The film follows Alex, the 16 year-old guitar player for his garage band Mari Pepa, to which he explains: 'Mari' meaning Marijuana and ‘Pepa’ for the female genitalia. It’s a love letter to that stage in life when you just wanna fuck around with your friends, talk about girls, play bad music and live unyieldingly -- only shadowed by the backdrop of a nebulous, approaching adulthood. It exposes the fine lines between ambition and lofty jokes, forging creative relationships with your friends and finding your voice. Somos Mari Pepa is disarmingly honest, hilarious and expertly blurs the line between narrative and documentary. A must see for anyone interested in youth culture and the all-too real struggles of being a teenager.
-- Micah Van Hove
Little Black Spiders, dir. Patrice Toye
A story about a clandestine group of underage pregnant girls in 1978 Belgium who find solidarity in the empty top floor of a convent. Katja is our touchstone, a 16 year-old whose optimism is threatened as she comes to terms with her own fate amongst the sisterhood of nuns who protect her from the outside world. Sensitively made with mind-blowing performances, director Patrice Toye lends her vulnerability to render this delicate yet full-of-life story of assimilation and friendship.
-- Micah Van Hove
Video is no longer available: www.youtube.com/watch?v=TD0Gg3FWuks
Supporting Characters, dir. Daniel Schechter
It’s a buddy movie about loyalty, love, ambition and co-dependence. Alex Karpovsky gives a career performance as Nick, a driven film editor (who wants to be a director) who is often called upon to transform turds into gold. Like his character says in the film, “I’m like a surgeon, I’m here to remove the malignant growth.” Directed by Daniel Schechter, it strongly harkens a Woody Allen New York; apartments, mornings, park benches, jobs, fears and desires.The banter is among the best I’ve seen and should feel really close to home for any filmmaker, but also anyone who has gone through a trying creative or business relationship. Supporting Characters had me reeling with laughter and cringing with empathy, and for a film made for under $50,000, it’s a masterful blend of writing and performance. There’s never a dull moment and Schechter too, like a surgeon imbues his characters with an irresistible likeableness, and deftly lasers in on the small moments that explain who we are to each other.
-- Micah Van Hove
Medora, dir. Andrew Cohn & Davy Rothbart
Directors Andrew Cohn and Davy Rothbart have come up big with Medora, a documentary about a winless high school basketball team from a small town in Indiana. The filmmakers moved to the town for 9 months to document the lives of 6 teenagers, and the result is the most quintessentially American film I’ve seen this year.
-- Micah Van Hove
Gimme the Loot, dir. Adam Leon
This film was a festival favorite that scored big with an unknown cast, a first-time director, and a budget of $65k -- and it's a lot of fun. Most of the amusement comes from the two young leads, Tashiana Washington and Ty Hickson, as less-than-respected teenage graffiti artists from the Bronx trying to awkwardly finagle funds to tag the Mets' home-run Apple. Telephoto shots of the two actors mic'ed inconspicuously as they walk past real bystanders in between the Bronx and Greenwich Village give a sense of authenticity and guerilla playfullness to the whole piece. Sure, it underscores grittiness and class inequality, but in a simple, charming comedy about young friends that's well worth a watch.
-- Oakley Anderson-Moore
The Pervert's Guide to Ideology, dir. Sophie Fiennes
In this sequel to 2006's documentary, The Pervert's Guide to Cinema, director Sophie Fiennes again teams up with the most entertaining Slovenian philosopher ever (probably), Slavoj Žižek, to give an entertaining and enlightening introduction to critical theory by way of pop culture and movies. Using examples from a wide-range of films such as John Carpenter's 1988 cult-classic They Live, as well as Jaws, The Searchers, Taxi Driver, Titanic and even The Dark Knight, Žižek introduces complex ideas in a lively and hilarious way (I, personally, would listen to this man read the phone book.) For anyone interested in philosophy, culture, and cinema, The Pervert's Guide to Ideology is a sure bet.
-- Justin Morrow
See You Next Tuesday, dir. Drew Tobia
There's definite truth to the narrative power of relatable characters who an audience can empathize with no matter what extraordinary journey you take them on. But for me, if you can create a unlikeable character who on one hand makes you want to rip your hair out in exasperation, yet is impossible to tear your eyes away from then you've totally nailed it. Drew Tobia's directorial debut (and rude play on words) See You Next Tuesday features a brilliant Eleanore Pienta as the heavily pregnant heroine Mona who goes out of her way to abuse and alienate everyone who attempts to lend a hand. Yet Tobia packs the film with so many guilty laughs and awkward situations that I defy you to not be won over by its abrasive charm.
-- Mar Belle
Blue is the Warmest Color, dir. Abdellatif Kechiche
Two things -- one: I've never cried so much at a trailer before. Two: I hate almost every film about love and romance and relationships, because I'm a cynical ice queen, but this film changed all of that. Blue is the Warmest Color is a coming of age love story about high school student Adèle (Adele Exarchopoulos), who falls for Emma (Léa Seydoux), an artist, and chronicles their turbulent, though passionate, relationship through several years. Raw and brilliantly acted, Blue's intensity, authenticity, and painful honesty is second only to ones own first experience of first love and loss. I can't recommend this film enough.
-- V Renée
No, dir. Pablo Larraín
Political dramas are typically not my kind of thing, but No is a fascinating (and funny) story about a Chilean ad executive (Gael García Bernal) who spearheads a campaign to defeat Augusto Pinochet during the country's 1988 plebiscite. One of the main reasons I loved this movie is its cinematography -- the filmmakers decided to shoot on U-matic 3:4, an analog format used in the 80s.
-- V Renée
All of us here at No Film School would like to wish you all a Happy New Year!
What are your favorite unknown films of 2013? Let us know in the comments.