December 31, 2013

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TD0Gg3FWuks

Supporting Charactersdir. 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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jzDYHJerN1s

Medoradir.  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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4vE5Kpvf5c

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FyBGkojSUvE

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NUKbhKV7Ia8

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0QwtuU_SK80

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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2OLRrocn3s

Nodir. 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

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ApJUk_6hN-s

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.

Your Comment

23 Comments

Hey people happy new year!!!! Here in Spain is already 2014!!!! :) have fun and be careful tonight!!!

December 31, 2013 at 6:38PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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jesuan

"An Oversimplification of Her Beauty" should be on this list. Go see it. The end.

December 31, 2013 at 7:18PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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An Oversimplification of Her Beauty, so creative, so wonderful. Not the best film of the year, but one of my favorites.

December 31, 2013 at 7:57PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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John Haas

I'm not sure if you'd consider "The Great Beauty" (La Grande Belleza) to be indie, but it's arguably the best picture of the year. Italy's contender for the Oscars.

Don't miss it. Seriously.

December 31, 2013 at 8:35PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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sweested

+1

December 31, 2013 at 8:53PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Dave

agreed- swept the european film awards tho- so shouldnt be under the radar, but then blue is the warmest color won the palm d'or so that shouldnt be either. sadly tho pretty much every film ever not in the english language is under seen/arthouse.

January 1, 2014 at 12:49PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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andy

and are these films in wide release in the US?

December 31, 2013 at 9:18PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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DLD

I caught a few of my recommendations at film festivals, so probably not yet. There's so many good movies being made every year it's surprising how many can slip by you. Bookmark 'em.

December 31, 2013 at 11:25PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Micah Van Hove
Writer
director, producer, dp

I think "Blue is the warmest color" is playing in selected theaters (since Box Office Mojo has the film's data). Others are much harder to find on legitimate sites. VOD, where art thou?

January 1, 2014 at 7:39PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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DLD

Unfortunately I never get to see these films until they end up on the internet, whether on netflix or torrented. Our only indie theater doesn't show most new films, mostly local or old ones.

December 31, 2013 at 11:25PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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mike

These aren't necessarily favorites, but not many people saw 'Post Tenebras Lux' or 'You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet!' and they were both solid films and criminally unknown.

January 1, 2014 at 12:55AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Keegan

no film school aka 'bad education'

January 1, 2014 at 3:20AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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dude

I need to see Wolf of Wall Street and a few other before being sure of my top 2013, but so far it's this:
(I'm french so it concerns films being released in France in 2013)

1 - "Samsara" by Ron Fricke
2 - "La Vie d'Adèle" by Abdelatif Kechiche
3 - "The Master" by Paul Thomas Anderson
4 - "La Danza de la Realidad" by Alejandro Jodorowsky
5 - "It's such a beautiful day" de Don Hertzfeld (not released)

6 - "The place beyond the pines" by Cianfrance
7 - "Synghé Sabour" by Atiq Rahimi
8 - "Upstream Color' by Shane Carruth (not released)
9 - "Spring Breakers" by Harmony Korine
10 - "Before Midnight" by Richard Linklater

11 - "Inside Llewyn Davis" by Ethan et Joel Cohen
12 - "Antiviral" by Brandon Cronenberg
13 - "Gravity" by Alfonso Cuaron
14 - "Forks over knives" by Lee Fulkerson
15 - "Promised Land" by Gus Van Sant

16 - "Frances Ha" by Noah Baumbach
17 - "Prisoners" by Denis Villeneuve
18 - "Foxfire" by Laurent Cantet
19 - "Blancanieves" by Pablo Berger
20 - "Lore" by Cate Shortland

And "A touch of sin" by Jia Zhang Ke, "Wadjda" by Haifaa Al Mansour, "No" by Pablo Larraín, "The Broken Circle Breakdown" by Felix Van Groeningen, "La Vénus à la Fourrure" by Roman Polanski, "Blue Jasmine" by Woody Allen, "After School Midnighters" by Hitoshi Takekiyo, "Jeune et jolie" by François Ozon...
According to me the best year for more than 10 years... I've seen a little more than 100 new films but not all (I missed La grande bellezza, Le passé, Shokuzai, Rush, Aujourd'hui)...

January 1, 2014 at 3:36AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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you have excellent taste, some gems there. you must see rush and the great beauty. for any even slight fan of sorrentino- the great beauty is easily his masterpiece.

January 1, 2014 at 12:53PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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andy

Great List. I the festival films I've seen this year, I was underwhelmed by Adele (ah, expectations). However, Me, Myself and Mum was a beautiful and hilarious surprise. It would be in my top 10 for sure.

January 2, 2014 at 2:05AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Kevin

Prisoners

January 1, 2014 at 5:57PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Greg egan

@Greg Egan, I agree! Prisoners was a fantastic movie and portrayal of the struggle of faith and does a beautiful job of turning the predicament on the audience/viewer to ask him or herself the same questions, "would i do this?"

January 3, 2014 at 7:37PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Michael

Add Mark Phinney's FAT, starring Melvin Rodiriguez (HBO's Getting On).

January 1, 2014 at 6:39PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Heidi Haaland

Just saw "Supporting Characters" and it was great. Going to see the rest now. Excellent list.

January 2, 2014 at 11:02PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Jonathan Tipton...

Word.

January 6, 2014 at 2:42AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Micah Van Hove
Writer
director, producer, dp

Most of these are ridiculous mini or anti-plot foreign films where love is over sexualized and experimental and nothing is rooted in reality of love.

January 3, 2014 at 7:35PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Michael

'Blue is the Warmest Color' got snubbed for a Best Foreign Language Oscar nod but it can still qualify for a Best Picture or Best Actress nod for Adele Exarchopoulos' performance. Stiff competition this award season but it's definitely a film to check out. It's a masterwork.

January 4, 2014 at 12:28PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Interesting list of movies, I'll definitely take a look some of the movies.

February 22, 2014 at 6:52AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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