Memo to Distributors: Buy These Movies From the 2018 SXSW Film Festival

The festival is over, but these movies still need homes. Somebody do something!

While the SXSW Film Festival technically stretches across two weekends, it’s drowned out by music after the first one, while many of the programming highlights remain homeless. SXSW doesn’t usually play host to marketplace activity on the level of Sundance or other big festivals, in part because the Austin gathering attracts few buyers and hosts no special industry screenings. However, the programmer showcases a wide range of titles that arrive at the festival without distribution, including many that could stand the chance of finding audiences beyond the insular festival circuit. (Previous SXSW breakouts range from “Tiny Furniture” to “Weekend”) Here are some of the top titles from this year’s lineup that deserve an audience beyond it.

“Don’t Leave Home”

Michael Tully has built one of the more unusual filmographies over the past decade, veering from the druggy thriller “Cocaine Angel” to the documentary “Silver Jew,” the twisted family drama “Septien” and the coming-of-age comedy “Ping Pong Summer.” With “Don’t Leave Home,” he fuses many of those storytelling instincts into a fascinating whole, with a slow-burn thriller set in the Irish countryside. Building on a premise that suggests “Rosemary’s Baby” through the specter of Catholic guilt, and a kooky gothic setting right out of “The Addams Family,” this bizarre atmospheric horror effort hails from familiar storytelling traditions while remaining unpredictable throughout. The story finds American artist Melanie Thomas (a superb Anna Margaret Hollyman) accepting an offer from the mysterious Father Burke (Lalor Roddy) to visit him in the Irish countryside and produce a new work in the creepy setting, while grappling with the mysterious disappearance of a young girl that took place there ages ago. Tully hits plenty of familiar horror notes even as he connects them in fresh ways, building toward an unexpected climax that’s at once spiritual and ominous. Given the commercial viability of the horror, the movie seems like a good fit for a company that excels at promoting the genre to diehard fans. —EK

Sales Contact: XYZ Films

“People’s Republic of Desire”

“The People’s Republic of Desire”

Eric Jordan

The newly crowned winner of SXSW 2018’s Documentary Grand Jury Prize, Hao Wu’s “People’s Republic of Desire” illustrates how the shift from real to virtual spaces is growing into one of the defining migrations of the 21st century. Wu’s intimate portrait of China’s live-streaming culture uses one country’s recent past as a dark portal into our collective future, sketching a world in which even the most basic pleasures of human connection can only be experienced vicariously. Focusing on a live-streaming platform called YY, the film introduces us to some of the regular people who have become national idols just by sharing their lives with a few million strangers, using their stories to explore the digital evolution of human capital in a massive country where internet access is one of the only things that most of the people can afford. Tragic and terrifying in equal measure, Wu’s film traces a reality where our pleasure is simulated, but our pain is real. “People’s Republic of Desire” may have started as an homage to “Black Mirror,” but it ends by making that show feel completely redundant. — DE

Sales Contact: Jason Ishikawa, Cinetic Media

“Thunder Road”

thunder road

“Thunder Road”

The Grand Jury prize winner at the 2018 SXSW Film Festival tests the limits of how long one can sit with the unflinching portrait of an angry, broken man whose life is falling apart in every direction, and it turns out it’s about 91 minutes. Writer-director-star Jim Cummings’ adaptation of his acclaimed 2016 short focuses on a wayward police officer who can’t manage to put his life together, largely due to his own simmering rage and sloppy mistakes. Cummings’ unruly performance as the mustachioed anti-hero engenders a paradoxical character study, in which the filmmaker takes to both sides of the camera to beg the audience for empathy, but doesn’t make it easy. From its teary-eyed, cringe-inducing opening eulogy to the tragic finale, “Thunder Road” maintains a beguiling funny-sad balance that’s unique to Cummings’ filmmaking voice, and won him overnight fans at SXSW. Considering the charged image of the police officer in America at the moment, this complex portrait could hit the zeitgeist; more than that, it would put a distributor in business with a filmmaker who’s clearly just getting started. —EK

Sales Contact: Jim Cummings, 10 East (jimmycthatsme@mac.com)

“Unlovable”

“Unlovable”

Suzi Yoonessi’s first feature film in nearly a decade has plenty going for it, from a timely message to a slew of star power both on the screen and behind the scenes, but it’s most appealing because of the full-force charm and talent of its leading lady, Charlene deGuzman. Written by deGuzman and fellow filmmakers Mark Duplass (who also executive produced the film) along with Sarah Adina Smith, the film is loosely based on deGuzman’s own experiences with sex, heartbreak, and recovery. It’s a fluffy spin on a familiar genre, but with fresh intelligence, and deGuzman’s hard-won life experience adds a dose of honesty to the snappy narrative. She’s also just plain wonderful to watch, providing a tough character in a tough situation with the maximum of grace. DeGuzman is a star in the making, and “Unlovable” is her first big vehicle; now, someone smart just needs to buy the keys. —KE

Sales Contact: Jessica Lacy, ICM

“Wild Nights With Emily”

Molly Shannon and Susan Ziegler in “Wild Nights With Emily”

SXSW

Madeleine Olnek’s films may not be for everyone, and that’s a good thing. The playwright-turned-filmmaker makes madcap comedies with an absurdist bent, imbuing her oddball farce with irreverent feminism. Her third feature rights a wrong of literary straight-washing, casting Molly Shannon as a distinctly lady-loving Emily Dickinson. Posthumously sold as a reclusive spinster by a literary establishment that rejected her poems during her lifetime, Shannon’s Dickinson is vivacious and passionate. The movie imagines her lifelong love affair with her sister-in-law, Susan Dickinson (née Gilbert) with scenes that are in turns both hilarious and surprisingly sweet. Olnek honors Dickinson’s writing while reframing the narrative around the world’s most famous female poet. With Shannon’s popularity, and the revisionist feminist story as its backdrop, “Wild Nights With Emily” is the perfect indie comedy for a mid-level distributor to add to its 2018 slate. —JD

Sales Agent: John Sloss, Cinetic

The Best Independent TV Series at SXSW 2018 — Memo to Distributors

The inaugural lineup of Independent Episodics saw a number of series with high potential in Hollywood and beyond.

SXSW offered a streamlined slate of 12 Independent Episodics, making it easy for festival goers to appreciate the entire section in just two screenings. From love stories to horror shows, there was something for everyone, and each project is worth looking into if given the chance. Below, IndieWire has highlighted the best series — be it web series, pilots, or foreign entries — that still need distribution. As many eyeballs as possible deserve to see these creations, and each entry is ready to draw an audience for whatever platform is smart enough to snatch them up.

Read More:The Indie TV Dream: Here Are the Ambitions and Realities Facing Sundance’s First Full TV Section

So if any of these sound as good as some of the shows you’re currently watching (if not better), then make it known: Take to Twitter. Poke your favorite network or streaming service. Tell them to pay attention — they’ll thank you later. As as for the distributors reading this: Take heed. These shows are ready for a bigger audience.

“Beast”

The grand jury winner of the Independent Episodics section, “Beast” is a moving, mysterious, and beautifully crafted pilot that immediately draws to mind prominent storytellers (like Steven Spielberg) and stories (like “Stranger Things”). Though the first episode primarily focuses on a teenage boy’s search for his father off the coast of Smith Island, the season looks to explore a string of disappearances in the tiny seaside town. With a keen eye and a good ear, the 17-minute tease checks off every imaginable box for what you want out of an opening episode — strong visuals, dialogue, set-ups, characters, and even a plan for the future. Imagined as an anthology series, creator Ben Strang said each season would focus on a new monster. That’s the kind of show any array of distributors should want to back.

“Polar”

This wild Danish story is another mysterious horror story with kids at the center, but it’s far closer to Tomas Alfredson than Steven Spielberg. Set in Nuuk and told with English subtitles, “Polar” follows a group of teenage friends who hear a horrible, mesmerizing sound from deep in the ocean and commit suicide because of it. But after being legally dead for hours, one boy named Ivik comes back to life. What’s making the sound? Why is it only affecting teens? How can it be stopped, and why did this one kid survive while no one else did? “Polar” is a haunting, full-length pilot (34 minutes, including a prologue) told methodically and featuring strong performances from its young cast. Fans of Netflix’s indie-esque foreign shows (like “Dark”) and most of SundanceTV’s eclectic and rewarding lineup should love this one.

“First World Problems”

First World Problems SXSW 2018 Stephen Park

Stephen Park in “First World Problems”

Chris Saul

Of all the Indie Episodic entries, director X. Dean Lim’s father-son story feels like it has the most to say and, aptly, is most excited to say it. Harold (Stephen Park) is a well-off father and husband who’s come to the unfortunate realization that his family has become too apathetic in their comfy lives. But rather than bitch and moan or start up an affair, Harold pushes back. The first chapter, titled “Two-Hundred Dollars,” shows the dad out to dinner with his son. There, he puts forth a challenge: Providing him $200 in cash, Harold leaves his son in Los Angeles while he flies back home to the East Coast. He can use the money to buy a plane or bus ticket to get home himself, or use the money to have an authentic experience before he heads off to college in a few months. Immediately intriguing, what makes “First World Problems” work beyond its hypothesis is an authenticity of character; both Harold and his son feel genuine (thanks to the performances and dialogue), while Lim’s direction keeps things zipping along. It’s a fun, challenging black comedy that’s got a mystery built in underneath it all. Seeing how this Asian-American family challenges societal norms is exciting, but there’s a beating heart here, too.

“She’s the Ticket”

The only docuseries of the section, “She’s the Ticket” tracks five women who were inspired to run for public office following the 2016 election. Tracking candidates from local city council races to Congressional campaigns, Nadia Hallgren’s simple concept is executed with clarity, enthusiasm, and positivity. In the first episode alone, each candidate is given a quick sense of self and teased just enough to make you want to see how this plays out, beyond the (fantastic) overall reason they’re all running. Three of the five races get a proper ending in the first season, but there’s enough human interest (and savvy editing) to make this more than a worthwhile watch.

“Night Owl”

Imagine a version of “Superstore” where everyone is working the night shift and one insomnia-plagued customer is the star and boom — you’ve got an idea of what the quirky, off-kilter, but very charming “Night Owl” has to offer. Starring and co-directed by Rebekah Miskin, the pilot sees her character begrudgingly drag herself out of the house and drive to her 24-hour supermarket where she bumps into a shy but jovial security guard, a talkative, sympathetic cashier, and a few random fellow shoppers who turn heads for different reasons. The structuring feels a little erratic, but by the end, you’ve already grown accustomed to a style meant to evoke that groggy, otherworldly, 3 a.m. feeling where every normal occurrence can take on a loopy significance. It’s the kind of journey you want to take through your television, rather than real-life (who wants to be an insomniac?), and “Night Owl” feels like a knowing vision of a trippy new world.

Memo to Distributors: Buy These 2018 Sundance Film Festival Movies

Here are the standouts from this year’s festival that still deserve to find homes.

By most estimations, this year’s Sundance was not a big marketplace. While Neon picked up the midnight movie “Assassination Nation” for $10 million, and breakouts like “Sorry to Bother You” (Annapurna), “Puzzle” (Sony Pictures Classics) and “Colette” (Bleecker Street) are all coming to theaters at some point, a number of highlights from this year’s program ended it without homes. Of course, it goes without saying that obvious commercial plays like “Juliet, Naked” and star-driven dramas like “Wildlife,” both of which didn’t end Sundance with distribution plans in place, will eventually find them. But they aren’t alone. As the dealmakers continue to sift through their options, here are the festival standouts we’d like to see at the top of every buyer’s list.

“306 Hollywood”

A film still from <i>306 Hollywood</i> by Elan Bogarín and Jonathan Bogarín, an official selection of the NEXT program at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Elan Bogarín and Jonathan Bogarín. All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

“306 Hollywood”

Courtesy of Sundance Institute, photo by Elan Bogarín and Jonathan Bogarín

When people occupies the same household for decades, they tend to leave a lot of possessions in their wake. From this ordinary scenario, Elan and Jonathan Bogarin mine a very special cinematic experience. The sibling filmmakers treat their late grandmother’s home as the site of an archeological dig — literally defining it in those terms — digging through the random ephemera she accrued through multiple generations in search of a bigger picture. The movie’s whimsical approach to random objects (Band-Aids, pennies, old clothes) is just on the edge of Wes Anderson territory, but it applies the fetishization of objects to weave an intimate psychological profile, using old interviews with the late woman to explore how she lingered in a world of her own making. The movie’s blend of charm and philosophical inquiry makes it at once structurally daring and a total crowdpleaser, sure to find appreciative audiences who will see echoes of their own clutter-filled lives in its story. —EK

Sales Contact: Endeavor

“Blaze”

Benjamin Dickey Alia Shawkat BLAZE

“BLAZE”

Courtesy of Sundance Institute, photo by Steve Cosens.

Texan Ethan Hawke’s third narrative feature “Blaze” is an accomplished musical portrait of late country singer-songwriter Blaze Foley, played with sensitivity by Arkansas musician-turned-actor Ben Dickey. Writer-actress Sybil Rubin helped Hawke to adapt her memoir of her romance with Foley. Alia Shawkat plays Rubin with sexy authority while musician Charlie Sexton and character actor Josh Hamilton provide ace support. Hawke, who directed the documentary portrait of a pianist, ‘Seymour: An Introduction,” has supplied music for several movies including “Boyhood” and Sundance entry “Juliet, Naked,” which is also seeking a buyer. “Blaze” should play well on the arthouse circuit. —AT

Sales Contact: Cinetic

“Burden”

Garrett Hedlund appears in <i>Burden</i> by Andrew Heckler, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Michael Muller. All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

Garrett Hedlund in “Burden”

Courtesy of Sundance Institute, photo by Michael Muller

Andrew Heckler’s decades-in-the-making look at the life of former KKK member Mike Burden features Garrett Hedlund in his best role ever. The actor responds to tough material with the kind of truly conflicted performance often missing from the redemption genre. This is a man in pain, but he’s also a man who has caused tremendous pain. The magic of “Burden” is that it marries those ideas, with Hedlund providing his most nuanced, lived-in performance yet. It’s a timely, rich film, but also the kind of thing that could put up quite a fight at next year’s Oscars, with Hedlund as its headline. —KE

Sales Contact: CAA, Endeavor, Good Universe

“Holiday”

Victoria Carmen Sonne in Holiday movie Isabella Eklöf's Holiday

“Holiday”

Sundance Institute/Jonas Lodahl

“Holiday” is already unsettling in its portrait of a young woman trapped by a cruel overlord, and then it arrives at a brutal, graphic rape scene more alarming than anything comparable in world cinema since “Irreversible.” No matter the extreme disgust at the center of this scene and the devastating circumstances surrounding it, Danish writer-director Isabella Eklof’s debut never feels like an empty provocation. This astonishing first feature depicts a world of superficial pleasures with such precision that even the people trapped in its confines can’t deny its appeal. As Sacha (Victoria Carmen Sonne) contends with being arm candy for slick gangster Michael (Lai Yde), she prances around a Turkish resort in search of finding a good time on her own. Instead, she creates more problems for herself and the people she encountered; however, as the movie barrels toward a gripping finale, it’s not entirely clear who has the upper hand. Eklof’s brutal storytelling isn’t for the feint of heart, but it’s never devoid of purpose. In the right hands, it could be quite the conversation-starter about the nature of abuse and power, and deserves a prominent spot at the table. —EK

Sales Contact: Heretic Outreach

“Inventing Tomorrow”

Fernando Miguel Sánchez Villalobos, Jose Manuel Elizade Esparaza and Jesús Alfonso Martínez Aranda appear in <i>Inventing Tomorrow</i> by Laura Nix, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by IQ 190 Productions. All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

“Inventing Tomorrow”

Courtesy of Sundance Institute, photo by IQ 190 Productions

Among a rash of bleak Sundance documentaries, veteran documentary producer-writer-director Laura Nix’s environmental agit-prop “Inventing Tomorrow” offers much-needed hope that young science brainiacs are eager to save our planet. Nix (TIFF debut “The Yes Men Are Revolting”) followed two high school girls (from Indonesia and India) and two boys (from Hawaii and Mexico) who were presenting innovative environmental solutions at California’s Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF). We see each of the kids interacting with their supportive families, gathering data and assembling their projects, and facing the daunting prospect of explaining and defending their research to the judges at the fair. Deputing in the U.S. Documentary competition, the movie left audiences crying and applauding. There is hope, people. —AT

Sales Contact: Submarine

“Mandy”

Nicolas Cage in "Mandy"

Nicolas Cage in “Mandy”

Sundance

Even before Nicholas Cage does a line of coke off a shard of broken glass in “Mandy,” the movie has entered batshit insane territory. Panos Cosmatos’ followup to his wacky debut “Beyond the Black Rainbow” is another stunning dose of psychedelia and derangement, this one folded into the constraints of a woodsy revenge thriller, but that’s mainly an excuse for Cage to unleash his most psychotic extremes. Cosmatos gives him plenty of opportunities in this hypnotic midnight movie, which veers from astonishing, expressionistic exchanges to gory mayhem without an iota of compromise. For years, Cage has swung wildly in search of gonzo material; at long last, he’s found a movie willing to match his wild intentions. Reports suggest a backstop deal involving the film’s producers have delayed its sale; here’s hoping someone figures out a way around that hurdle, because the world is clamoring for more crazy Cage. —EK

Sales Contact: CAA

“Madeline’s Madeline”

Helena Howard in “Madeline’s Madeline”

One of the boldest and most invigorating American films of the 21st century, Josephine Decker’s “Madeline’s Madeline” is an ecstatically disorienting experience that defines its terms right from the start and then obliterates any trace of traditional film language, achieving a cinematic aphasia that allows Decker to redraw the boundaries between the stories we tell and the people we tell them about. The story of a single mother Regina (the multi-talented Miranda July), her irrepressible teenage daughter Madeline (major newcomer Helena Howard), and the unspecified mental illness that drives a wedge between them when the latter joins an experimental theater troupe, this mesmeric tour de force claws at its premise with incredible precision, using. The result is an experimental movie with the emotional tug of a mainstream hit, a fragmented coming-of-age drama that explores the vast space between Jacques Rivette and Greta Gerwig in order to find something truly new and ineffably of its time. Decker’s masterpiece might not be the easiest sell in the world, but it’s far more accessible than its aesthetic might suggest, and it’s also a completely immersive theatrical experience. A small distributor would do well to show this one some love and let it become a word-of-mouth hit that people return to time and again. —DE

Sales Contact: Paradigm, Visit Films

“The Miseducation of Cameron Post”

“The Miseducation of Cameron Post”

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Winner of this year’s Grand Jury Prize, “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” is a humble, poignant, and extremely touching coming-of-age drama that unfolds like a seriocomic “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” set at a gay conversion camp for Christian teens circa 1993. Complete with Jennifer Ehle as an indomitable riff on Nurse Ratched, the movie shears Emily M. Danforth’s massive YA novel of the same name down to a sensitive film that cuts right to the heart of the matter. Played by am understated Chloë Grace Moretz, Cameron Post is an orphaned high school junior who develops some very biblical — and blessedly mutual — feelings for a girl she meets at Sunday school. But then she gets caught and shipped off to the woodsy and suppressive environs of God’s Promise. Directed by Desiree Akhavan, and similar in feel to “Short Term 12,” (though with much greater box office potential), this is a small movie, far too modest and knowing to surrender to melodrama or apply cosmetic fixes to deep wounds, but it beautifully articulates the need for young people to realize the validity of who they are, and even more beautifully crystalizes the moment when that starts to happen. In other words, it’s Mike Pence’s worst nightmare, which is reason enough to put it into theaters across America. It’s funny, it’s sensitive, and it’s desperately needed. —DE

Sales Contact: Endeavor, UTA, Elle Driver

“Nancy”

Andrea Riseborough appears in <i>NANCY</i> by Christina Choe, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Zoë White. All photos are copyrighted and may be used by press only for the purpose of news or editorial coverage of Sundance Institute programs. Photos must be accompanied by a credit to the photographer and/or 'Courtesy of Sundance Institute.' Unauthorized use, alteration, reproduction or sale of logos and/or photos is strictly prohibited.

Andrea Riseborough in “Nancy”

Sundance

Andrea Riseborough’s remarkable performance is the main attraction in this twisted and wholly satisfying psychological thriller, while filmmaker Christina Choe’s writing is as taut and incisive as it comes. The first-time feature filmmaker is all about delivering compelling details with a minimum of fuss — just one tossed-off comment from co-star Ann Dowd and a single rejection later from The Paris Review, and the status of Nancy’s nonexistent career is blindingly obvious. A trio of slapdash digital photos conveys years’ worth of Nancy’s wicked pathology and how she ensnares people in her lies. Risebourgh — who was at Sundance with four films — feels destined to break out this year, and a wily distributor could build huge buzz around her stunning performance in the film, while also getting on board with rising star Choe while there’s still time. —KE

Sales Contact: Endeavor

“On Her Shoulders”

“On Her Shoulders”

A 24-year-old Yazidi woman who escaped an ISIS genocide of her people, joined forces with Amal Clooney to take legal action against the terrorists, and then became the first person to ever brief the UN Security Council on the subject of human trafficking, Nadia Murad is a remarkable human being, and any distributor should be lucky to have a hand in telling her story. Lucky for them, Murad is now also the subject of a remarkable documentary. Far from a simple tribute, Alexandria Bombach’s “On Her Shoulders” offers a profound testament to Murad’s suffering, courage and unfathomable tenacity, but this deceptively straightforward portrait also recognizes that compassion has never been so competitive, or in such short supply. This isn’t just an issue film, it’s also an urgent character study about the burdens of loss, the need to be heard, and the difficulty of convincing people to listen. “On Her Shoulders” will still be relevant and vital stuff long after the Yazidi crisis has passed; unfortunately, that doesn’t look as though that’s going to happen any time soon. —DE

Sales Contact: UTA

Memo to Distributors: Buy These 2017 TIFF Movies

So far, these Toronto International Film Festival highlights don’t have distribution. Here’s our usual plea to change that.

The Toronto International Film Festival may be known more as a platform for fall season movies than a market, but there are plenty of strong films in each year’s lineup looking for U.S. distribution. While films ranging from the Margot Robbie vehicle “I, Tonya” to Louis C.K.’s “I Love You, Daddy” landed sturdy deals during TIFF, many other highlights remain homeless. Here’s a look at a few of them, presented in the hopes that distributors will take note.

Bodied

If Eminem got a PhD in English without sacrificing his hip-hop talent, he might have turned out something like Adam (Calum Worthy), the scrawny white hero of Joseph Kahn’s “Bodied.” Kahn’s long-awaited follow-up to his snarky teen slasher comedy “Detention” is a hyper-stylized rap satire that plays out like Scott Pilgrim stumbling into “8 Mile” and stealing the spotlight. Set in an assaultive world of underground rap battles in which Adam finds himself unexpectedly talented, “Bodied” delivers the provocative goods at an alarming rate, and boasts Eminem as an executive producer as if to embolden its point. It’s the most subversive movie about hip hop ever made, one of the most exciting modern portraits of race relations period, and a daring assault on white liberal privilege that checks it from the inside out. It deserves a bold distributor willing to capitalize on its provocations to stimulate the same conversations about political correctness at the center of its wildly entertaining plot. —EK

Sales Contact: ICM Partners

“Disobedience”

As a white guy from Chile, Sebastian Lelio isn’t the most obvious source for the feminist gaze, but his growing filmography suggests otherwise. From “Gloria” to “A Fantastic Woman” and “Disobedience,” the writer-director has shown a profound capacity for representing strong female characters better than virtually any other filmmaker working today. With “Disobedience,” he makes a successful push into the English-language market with a powerful look at two women in love against the backdrop of a strict ultra-Orthodox Jewish community in London. Rachel Weisz, who also produced the project, gives one of her most nuanced performances as a woman who left the community in her youth only to return when her father dies; it’s there that she rekindles a romance with Esti (Rachel McAdams), who’s now stuck in a marriage against her will. Lelio manages to treat the religious backdrop with a surprising degree of sensitivity even as he draws out its oppressive qualities, suggesting that this is the rare provocative movie that could play for multiple audiences at once, with its “love conquers all” message resonating for all of them. —EK

Sales Contact: FilmNation

Foxtrot

“Foxtrot” spends its first half hour as a bleak drama about distraught parents mourning their dead son, and then it becomes something entirely different. Israeli director Samuel Maoz’s brilliant followup to his debut “Lebanon,” which took place within the confines of a tank, deals with a very different kind of confinement — being imprisoned by an ambivalent world, and forced to deal with whatever random tragedies it chooses to dish out.

foxtrot

“Foxtrot”

Yet despite its dreary overtones, Maoz pierces his milieu with flashes of perceptive satire, an animated interlude, and a touching, romantic finale, all of which adds up to a wonderfully unexpected hodgepodge of insights into intergenerational Israeli frustrations. It starts with middle-aged couple Michael (the ever-reliable Lior Ashkenazi) and Daphna (Sarah Adler, in a fiery turn) being visited by a pair of soldiers bearing the bad news that their son has been killed in the line of duty. But that’s only the first act of a story that later shifts to a remote Israeli outpost in which the malaise of daily Israeli life sets the stage for a number of fascinating twists and turns. By turns sad, funny and profound, “Foxtrot” is above all unpredictable. The movie is filled with rewarding moments and deserves all the audiences it can get. —EK

Sales Contact: ICM Partners

“Hostiles”

Scott Cooper’s tough epic western “Hostiles,” still has no takers, even though producer John Lesher was trying to recoup a hefty production budget of $35 million-$50 million. (Even Netflix balked at the original asking price.) Christian Bale is in athletic movie-star mode in the gorgeously-mounted 19th-century western co-starring Rosamund Pike and Wes Studi, which played well at Telluride and Toronto. Writer-director Cooper, adapting a vintage script by Hollywood veteran Donald Stewart, said that he would love to see “Hostiles” open this fall, so that Bale could be in the awards mix. (The trades played along, offering gushy Oscar bonafides.) This admirable period adventure deserves to find a home, and at this point that seems likely to happen at a lower price point — with a berth in 2018. —AT
Sales Contact: CAA

“Lots of Kids, a Monkey and a Castle”

Flying under the radar at TIFF was a delightful passion project from Goya-winning Spanish actor Gustavo Salmerón: a documentary portrait of his indomitably charismatic 80-year-old mother (Julita Salmerón) and his sprawling family as they weather Spain’s financial crisis and unload the overwhelming contents of their castle. He adroitly blends vintage home movies, new footage and interviews with his father and five siblings. And their comfortable intimacy yields amazing moments, like one in the bedroom when, his father asleep, his mother reveals a fork that stretches into a prod to keep her husband from snoring.  “Lot of Kids, A Monkey and a Castle” won the top documentary prize at Karlovy Vary 2017, and is seeking a buyer. —AT

Sales Contact: Dogwoof

“Who We Are Now”

Told with the full texture of real life, Julianne Nicholson’s second collaboration with “From Nowhere” filmmaker Matthew Newton is a close-up character study that explores notions of forgiveness and self-worth with surgical precision. It’s also a devastatingly authentic drama that’s as guarded and unforthcoming as its protagonist. The only thing we’re told about Nicholson’s character is that her name is Beth; everything else we’re left to sort out — or pry out — for ourselves. Eventually we learn that she’s been in jail for the last 10 years and is fighting for custody over her son, and the story of her legal case becomes a profoundly affecting portrait of sacrifice, redemption, and accepting the fact that the present is the only part of your life that you have the immediate power to change.

Julianne Nicholson Who We Are Now

“Who We Are Now”

Audiences have earned good reason to be wary of any micro-budget American indie that grapples with those themes, and there are so many places where this film could have gone wrong, where it could have been trite or treacly. But “Who We Are Now” very seldom feels like it’s just serving its big ideas, and it handles each of them with such a rare degree of specificity that it often seems like a movie without precedent. Watching the gears spin behind Nicholson’s eyes, or the astonishing long take in which she finally bares her soul while struggling to save a piece of it for herself, Newton’s writing surrenders to an ineffable honesty that blots out everything on both sides. This is a phenomenal film, and Nicholson’s performance in it might be the one to beat in 2017. — DE

Sales Contact: UTA

Memo to Distributors: Buy These Cannes Film Festival 2017 Titles

The 70th edition of Cannes is behind us, but these highlights still don’t have U.S. distribution. Here’s our plea to change that.

While the Cannes Film Festival lineup is consumed by thousands of audience members over the course of 10 days, much of the dealmaking takes place elsewhere. Buyers are less likely to dig through the official selections than they are to spend time in the market, watching clips and presentations for unfinished work. As a result, it’s rare for many big deals emerge from the world’s most glamorous film festival, and the 2017 edition was no exception. Though Sean Baker’s “The Florida Project” sold to A24 after a fierce bidding war that lasted several days, it was in the minority. Still, there were plenty of first-rate movies from this year’s Cannes that have yet to land U.S. distribution. Here’s a look at some of the ones we think deserve audiences far beyond the Croisette.

“Gabriel and the Mountain”

Few outside of Brazil know about Gabriel Buchmann, the young Brazilian who grew frustrated with society after being rejected by academia and went on a freewheeling journey through Africa in 2009; it was there that he got lost on a mountain trail that local guides had cautioned him against, and eventually died alone in the wilderness. “Gabriel on the Mountain,” directed by Fellipe Gamarano Barbosa, is at once a tribute to that plight and a subtle indictment of the recklessness that led to it. Carried by Joao Pedro Zappa’s extraordinary performance, the movie follows Gabriel through his journeys while sprinkling in documentary voiceover narrative from many of the people he encountered along the way. The drama echoes the fates of the protagonists in “Into the Wild” and “Grizzly Man,” but takes a formally ambitious approach; it never explicitly lays out Gabriel’s backstory, and constantly wrestles with the morality of his decisions. It’s a gorgeous movie, shot in the real locations where Gabriel explored in this final stage of his brief life, and directed by a man who identifies as his friend. But it also pits the beauty of the setting against Gabriel’s Westernized gaze, suggesting that it led to his undoing more than any practical decision. American distributors wary of foreign-language titles may want to note that “Gabriel” is mostly an English-language drama; more than that, even as it adopts an innovative narrative technique, the emotional core of Gabriel’s journey is universal. —EK

Sales Contact: Films Boutique

“I Am Not a Witch”

Rungano Nyoni’s feature-length debut follows a young Zamibian girl forced into a “witch camp” where she’s placed on display for eager tourists. The movie is at once a gorgeous, solemn look at the way a society’s rituals can lead to hysteria, and a scathing, at times almost shockingly funny satire of national corruption. Forced on television programs and into the center of outlandish rituals, the character becomes a vessel for the witch camp owner (John Tembo) in his shameless attempts to turn her into his property. With its risky tonal balance and unpredictable plot, “I Am Not a Witch” is unquestionably one of the most striking debuts of the year, a parable-like indictment of the tourism industry and the destructive effect when tradition runs headlong into capitalist desire. It’s a movie bound to get people talking about the contradictory world at its center, one both in touch with its roots and more than eager to exploit them. —EK

Sales Contact: Kinology

“Makala”

Emmanuel Gras’ experimental documentary won the Critics’ Week section this year for good reason: It’s an ambitious experiment with film form that also resonates on a powerful emotional level. The movie follows the plight of a Congolese coal salesman through every step of his process, from chopping down trees to journeying across a sun-baked landscape in a grueling trip to support his family back home. The poetic imagery and elegant sound design all contribute to a mesmerizing, lyrical descent into this cycle of survival, which ultimately embodies a universal struggle. While Cannes 2017 was dominated by conversations about Netflix and the future of the moviegoing experience, “Makala” makes the case that some cinematic achievements demand the big screen experience, and on some level contribute to its continuing relevance. It’s a movie that should get audiences talking — about capitalism, economic hurdles, personal ambition — and for that reason alone, deserves to be seen around the world. —EK

Sales Contact: Les Films du Losange

Promised Land

A documentary as sprawling and brilliant and flawed as the country it traverses, Eugene Jarecki’s “Promised Land” is a fascinatingly overstuffed portrait of America in decline. In the process, it’s also: a road trip in which the director drives Elvis Presley’s 1963 Rolls-Royce Phantom V across the United States, a biography of the 20th century’s most famous musician,; a story about how a man became king of a democratic nation; a nuanced analysis of cultural appropriation in a multi-racial society; a southern-fried rock n’ roll performance piece; a horrifyingly sober look at the rise of Donald Trump; a closed-casket funeral service for The American Dream; the best recent film about how the hell we got here; and more. So much more. But the more strains to get there, the more it seems to all make sense. Elvis was so many different things to America that the film’s exhaustingly kaleidoscopic attack proves more revealing than a straightforward approach ever could. Whether arguing the degree to which Elvis stole (and profited from) black culture, or contrasting his cushy military service against Muhammed Ali’s refusal to fight, or offering a sympathetic take on how easily the King was ruled, Jarecki paves the last 70 years of American history so that every road leads back to a poor kid with black hair and high cheekbones. The result is the most insightful and comprehensive profile of the icon ever been captured on camera, one that refashions the past to give it fresh relevance for today’s audiences. — DE

Sales Contact: UTA

“Tesnota”

Set in 1998 Nalchik, a harsh region in Southern Russia rife with ethnic strife, Katemir Balagov’s Un Certain Regard kitchen sink drama “Tesnota” follows a close-knit traditional Jewish family whose tomboy daughter loves fixing cars with her father. She’s enjoying a hidden romance with a non-Jew, knowing the relationship has no future. After a celebratory engagement party, her brother and his fiance are captured by a ring of kidnappers who hold them for ransom. Gruesome videos reveal the stakes: no money equals certain death. The parents must figure out how to save their son, selling just about everything they own, asking help from their neighbors; their sacrifices are devastating — and unrecoverable. Balagov is a director to watch — and if Russia opts not to reward Russia critic Andrey Zyagintsev for his Prix du Jury winner “Loveless,” they could go with this one instead, which also does not paint a pretty picture, but at least is set in the past. —AT

Sales Contact: Wild Bunch

Memo to Distributors: Buy These 2017 Tribeca Film Festival Movies

These Tribeca Film Festival world premieres still don’t have U.S. distribution. Here’s our humble plea to change that.

The 2017 Tribeca Film Festival has come and gone, but several of its highlights face an uncertain future. While the festival opened with an iTunes-ready documentary about Clive Davis and closed with back-to-back screenings of the first two “Godfather” films, many of the films in its competition sections arrived at the festival without distribution deals and ended it in the same state. Here’s at a few significant titles from this year’s edition that deserve to get picked up.

“Blame”

Overachieving multi-hyphenate Quinn Shephard was just 20 when she wrote, directed, produced, edited and starred in her feature directorial debut, a modern spin on Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible,” set in the witch hunt capital of contemporary America: the suburban high school. While Shephard cast herself as the film’s Abigail Williams — an outcast with secrets to spare who gets entangled with a smoldering substitute teacher, played by Chris Messina — the budding filmmaker’s strengths are clearer behind the camera, including her ability to get a handful of startling performances out of her actors, particularly Nadia Alexander. Shephard, a long-time actress with a slew of TV credits under her belt and a handful of film roles on the horizon, has already made it clear that she sees her future in filmmaking, and “Blame” is a banger of a first effort. Indie and upstart distributors would be wise to jump on board with Shephard now, she’s only going to fly higher as she matures as a woman and a filmmaker. —Kate Erbland

Sales Contact: josh@submarine.com

“The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson”

David France’s followup to the Oscar-nominated “How to Survive a Plague” is a brilliant combination of LBGBT history with the makings of a detective story. Following up on his earlier project’s focus on early nineties efforts to combat the AIDS crisis, the new movie explores the unsolved murder of trans activist Marsha P. Johnson in the early nineties — and the lone activist still seeking justice today. France’s use of archival footage effectively resurrects Johnson and the community she supported, while modern-day investigator Victoria Cruz provides a contemporary anchor for the movie’s underlying point — that trans people continue to face a dangerous world, and need all the help they can get. It’s a powerful statement that should continue to resonate for the world at its center when the movie gets out there. —Eric Kohn

Sales Contact: josh@submarine.com

“Saturday Church”

Imagine a very special episode of “Glee,” with a touch of “Hedwig” grit thrown in, and comedic relief from the sisters of the girls from ‘Tangerine,” and you’ll have some idea of the world of “Saturday Church.” Damon Cardasis’ makes a splashy directorial debut with this sensitive coming-of-age musical about a cross-dressing teen from the Bronx who discovers queer family on the piers of New York’s West Village. Newcomer Luka Kain carries the film as Ulysses, blending a wise-beyond-his-years sadness with a hopeful naiveté. The film really picks up when Ulysses is adopted by a Greek chorus of three hilarious and gorgeous trans women (played by actual trans women! Imagine that). Featuring a cameo from radical trans author Kate Bornstein, Cardasis crafts the world of “Saturday Church” with as much care as he handles Ulysses, who seems guided by divine provenance even in his lowest moments. Striking the perfect balance of being teen friendly without sugar coating the harsh realities of the homeless LGBTQ youth who inspired the story, “Saturday Church” could cut across many demographics with the right distributor at the helm. —Jude Dry

Sales Contact: llewis@caa.com

“Sweet Virginia”

Prepare to see the hyper-intense Christopher Abbott like you’ve never seen him before! Just kidding, Jamie M. Dagg’s breathless crime saga finds the actor evolving into his ultimate form: The millennial Anton Chigurh. Playing a mumble-mouthed hitman who likes to toy with his prey, Abbott sets the tone for this nerve-shredding neo-noir; it’s a story about a one-man crimewave that sweeps through a small town like wildfire, and Elwood is nothing if not a force of nature. A dark and densely packed chunk of pulp fiction, the film is set in a verdant Alaska valley, but it’s much more easily located in Coen brothers territory. It starts, as such things must, with a killing gone wrong. Lila (Imogen Poots, an ace femme fatale) only paid Elwood to shoot her two-timing husband, but the assassin from out of town gets a little impatient and murders two other men along with his target. Add a disgraced rodeo star (Jon Bernthal) and the newly widowed woman who loves him (Rosemarie DeWitt), and you’ve got the recipe for a film that’s suffocated by suspense. Gripping from start to finish, “Sweet Virginia” could be an excellent pickup for a small distributor looking for a strong day-and-date release during the dog days of summer. —David Ehrlich

Sales Contact: nate@xyzfilms.com

“Thirst Street”

Nathan Silver’s endearing melange of seventies-era references points will make diehard cinephiles salivate, but that’s not all it has to offer. The prolific director of minimalist dramas ranging from “Uncertain Terms” to “Stinking Heaven” reaches a whole new level of stylistic ambition with this enthralling portrait of a young flight attendant (Lindsay Burdge, “A Teacher”) who hits rock bottom after her lover commits suicide. On a whim, she falls for a grimy Parisian bartender (Damien Bonnard) and begins to stalk him around the city, even taking a job at the unseemly strip club where he works. The ensuing story is a pitch-black comedy about romantic desperation and life abroad that suggests Rainer Werner Fassbinder doing “Simon Killer.” If that means anything to you, check out “Thirst Street.” Others may be intrigued by Angelica Huston’s monotonous voiceover, which adds an air of deadpan comedy to the story as it grows increasingly tense and unpredictable. As a gateway to international cinema and an actor’s showcase, “Thirst Street” is a microbudget cinematic treat. —EK

Sales Contact: Jason@cineticmedia.com

Memo to Distributors: Buy These SXSW 2017 Movies

The SXSW 2017 film festival has come and gone, but these movies still don’t have U.S. distribution. Here’s our usual plea to change that.

“Most Beautiful Island”

A short, stressful, and utterly spellbinding debut that transforms the immigrant experience into the stuff of an early Polanski psychodrama, “Most Beautiful Island” was a worthy winner of the SXSW Grand Jury Prize for best narrative feature, and might prove to be a breakthrough moment for a major new talent: Spanish actress Ana Asensio not only wrote, directed, and produced this fraught metropolitan thriller, she also appears in just about every frame.

It would be criminal to reveal too much about what happens to her character, a Manhattan immigrant who’s struggling to make a life for herself in the big city and in for the longest night of her life, but it’s thrilling to watch the anxiety of neo-realism as it slowly bleeds into something that resembles the suspense of the orgy sequence from “Eyes Wide Shut.” Creating a lucid sense of reality only so that she can defile it with a wicked pivot towards madness, Asensio’s film creates a vision of immigrant life in America (and its value) that’s all the more urgent for how it uses genre elements to exaggerate the experience. People will be talking about this one, which is as weird as it is timely, and an indie distributor would be wise to hop on it for a slow-roll summer knockout. Read IndieWire’s full review here— David Ehrlich

Sales Contact: Lucas Verga, The Film Sales Company, lucas.verga@filmsalescorp.com

“The Work”

Imagine a Tony Robbins session with a bunch of testosterone-fueled convicts and you’ll start to get an idea of SXSW documentary Grand Jury Prize winner “The Work,” an emotionally riveting documentary that may very well be the most powerful group therapy ever caught on camera. Co-directors Jairus McLeary and Gethin Aldous gained access to a tense four-day session at Folsom State Prison, where inmates engage with civilians in intimate conversations about their repressed frustrations. Scene by scene, their masculine armor falls away, and the tears erupt with volcanic intensity.

The minimalist scenario, almost exclusively set within the confines of a nondescript room, foregrounds the visceral process of confronting anger and regret through a fascinating collaborative approach, with results that are alternately terrifying and cathartic. At a time when America’s prison system remains more broken than ever, it’s essential viewing. Read IndieWire’s full review here. —Eric Kohn

Sales Contact: Andrew Herwitz, The Film Sales Company, andrew.herwitz@filmsalescorp.com

“Bad Lucky Goat”

The first feature from Colombian director Samir Oliveros is one of the best debuts of the year — and a great indication of things to come. Oliveros’ minimalist story takes place over the course of a single day on the tropical island of Port Paradise, where a pair of teen siblings accidentally ram into a goat while driving around town and fighting, then spend the remainder of the movie trying to figure out what to do with the carcas.

The playful narrative careens from a series of exotic locales, from rastafari drum makers to a climactic cock fight, with a blend of naturalistic dialogue and magic realism that’s both charming and unpredictable. The vivid backdrop creates an infectious atmosphere to this lighthearted romp, which stands toe-to-toe with Ozu in its depiction of angsty kids at odds with their surroundings. Yet Oliveros manages to use the rich environment to imbue the proceedings with an otherworldly quality that tips into fantasy and creates the sense that anything could happen. It’s a genuine crowdpleaser that deserves more crowds. —EK

Sales Contact: Samir Oliveros, Solar Cinema, samiroliveros@gmail.com

“La Barracuda”

Julia Halperin and Jason Cortlund’s tender relationship drama “Now, Forager” was a sleeper hit on the festival circuit in 2012 that stood out in the New Directors/New Films lineup this year. “La Barracuda” is further evidence of their understated storytelling talent. This beautiful, haunting drama stars Alison Tolman (the first season of FX’s “Fargo”) as Merle, the Austin-based daughter of a recently-deceased country music star whose life is changed when British singer Sinaloa (extraordinary newcomer Sophie Reid) shows up at her doorstep and claims they’re sisters.

While Alison is initially wary of Sinaloa’s advances, she eventually embraces her newfound sibling and her carefree, nomadic ways. However, Sinaloa makes no secret of her resentment of the family her father preferred to raising her, and the slow-burning tension gradually transforms this quiet material into a suspenseful journey. But the real focal point of “La Barracuda” has less to do with the way Sinaloa talks about her problems than her ability to sing them. Not since “Broken Circle Breakdown” has a movie used country melodies so effectively to convey its characters’ internal turmoil. Word of mouth could propel “La Barracuda” to wider audiences, and its talented cast is well-positioned to tie the release in with concerts, which are usually reliable ways to get people off their couches and into the theater. This one deserves it. —EK

Sales Contact: David Hartstein and Nancy Schafer

“Mr. Roosevelt”

Mr. Roosevelt

“Mr. Roosevelt”

Dagmar Weaver-Madsen

After brief stints on “SNL” and “Master of None,” Noël Wells has found her true calling — as a filmmaker. Wells’ first feature, which she wrote, directed, and stars in, finds her playing Emily, a struggling actress in Los Angeles doomed to an endless cycle of auditions. But just before you think you’ve heard this one before, Emily’s called back to her old home in Austin, where her cat is dying and her ex-boyfriend has moved on with his life in their old home. Not since “Young Adult” has a return to old haunting grounds gone so hilariously wrong. Emily’s messy attempts to resurrect her abandoned life leads to a series of awkward showdowns, drunken revelry, one-night stands and some first-rate punk rock.

The whole thing builds to a comic set piece in which Emily confronts her past mistakes and learns to move on. Wells guides the material dangerously close to whimsical overload, but salvages the situation with a raw performance and a penchant for cringe comedy that could play well with audiences keen on alternatives to bland studio romcoms. And if the studios want to improve that situation, they might want to give Wells a call. —EK

Sales Contact: ICM

“Infinity Baby”

“Infinity Baby”

Matthias Grunsky

Bob Byington’s movies are an acquired taste — smarmy portraits of oddball characters alienated from society at large — but anyone who has appreciated his blend of surrealism and deadpan performances in “Somebody Up There Likes Me” and “Seven Chinese Brothers” will appreciate more of that humor in “Infinity Baby,” a wry blend of corporate satire and relationship comedy. The black-and-white feature takes place in a near future in which abortion has been deemed illegal, but the government has placated the left by allowing companies to run wild with stem cell research. The result is an insane startup run by a stern executive (the reliably hilarious Nick Offerman) in the business of producing infants that don’t age. Kevin Corrigan and Martin Starr play an irreverent couple tasked with selling people on the idea.

Meanwhile, an agitated loner (Kieran Culkin) careens through a series of relationships, rejecting one woman after another when they fail to find approval from his mother. If any of that sounds appealing to you, trust us: “Infinity Baby” hits its modern targets with plenty of bite, not unlike the way Mike Judge’s “Idiocracy” did a decade ago. There and gone in just over an hour, the movie is a charmingly deranged dystopian comedy readymade for the VOD market. —EK

Sales Contact: Andre Des Rochers

“Lucky”

A wise and wistful love letter from one remarkable character actor to another, John Carroll Lynch’s “Lucky” returns 90-year-old Harry Dean Stanton to the dusty desert environs he shuffled through in 1984’s “Paris, Texas,” and offers the rawboned legend one of the best roles he’s had since. Beginning as a broad comedy before blossoming into a wry meditation on death and all the things we leave behind (a transition that kicks into gear when one of Stanton’s old friends shows up and steals the show), Lynch’s directorial debut is a wisp of a movie, blowing across the screen like a tumbleweed, but it’s also the rare portrait of mortality that’s both fun and full of life.

With a supporting role by no less than David Lynch, who plays a distraught bar regular who won’t be happy until he’s reunited with his missing pet tortoise, President Roosevelt. John Carroll Lynch, who’s worked with everyone from Martin Scorsese to Albert Brooks, doesn’t explicitly borrow from any of his directors, though it’s clear from his careful precision that he learned a little something from all of them. Read the full review here. —EK

Sales Contact: XYZ Films

“Muppet Guys Talking”

“Muppet Guys Talking”

Frank Oz’s intimate and informative documentary featuring five Muppet creators and puppeteers talking about their work sounds like total fan catnip, but it’s also a moving look at the power of creativity and collaboration. At just over an hour, it’s a brisk watch packed with fun insights and moving chestnuts about life and work. Instructional without being pedantic about it, it’s one of the most truly satisfying films to emerge from the festival. Distributors looking for a documentary that covers a subject with a built-in, long-standing fanbase would do well by this one, but it could also be a big winner for more academically inclined outfits, who could get this charming doc into every middle school in America. Read our full review here—Kate Erbland

“The Relationtrip”

The marketing possibilities alone are reason enough for buyers to take a good look at C.A. Gabriel and Renee Felice Smith’s ambitious and fun romantic comedy. The directorial debut for the pair puts a twist on some old genre tropes and tricks, bolstered by the appearance of a foul-mouthed puppet, a weird gag involving characters removing literal masks and a signature cocktail that’s as gross as it is inventive. Romantic comedies are already in short supply at the box office, why not take a chance on one that features a couple with genuine chemistry (Smith and Matt Bush) and some smart commentary on the genre itself? It’s a win-win. —KE

Sales Contact: CAA

“Daphne”

“Daphne”

A raw fiction debut that feels like a romantic comedy with all of the bullshit taken out, Peter Mackie Burns’ London-set “Daphne” is a remarkably real and well-realized big screen version of an archetype that has given birth to some of the best new television on both sides of the pond: The self-destructive single girl. Cut from the same cloth as Mickey in “Love” or, uh, Fleabag in “Fleabag,” Daphne vibrates with the singular sense of self that makes those other characters feel alive and indifferent; and thanks to Emily Beecham’s outstanding lead performance in the title role, she’s able to achieve it in just a fraction of the time.

This is a modest movie, one that feels more like a snack than a meal, but it’s so vivid and disarming precisely because it doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel or deliver its red-haired heroine unto salvation. Its lack of an obvious hook might scare away the boutique distributors who usually snack on British fare, but strong reviews could bolster strong interest in advance of a long life on Netflix, and Beecham’s star is only going to rise from here. Read our review— DE

Sales Contact: The Bureau

“Song of Granite”

For a film that taps into the natural beauty of Ireland, it seems a bit counterintuitive for Pat Collins to have shot his biopic of traditional Irish folk singer Joe Heaney in black-and-white. Nevertheless, this pristinely photographed anti-biopic still captures the inner passion and outward majesty of both the singer and his country of origin. Heaney’s life unfolds in three chapters, from the first inklings of his vocal talent as a young boy in the village of Carna through his sojourn across continents. Collins’ film floats through these generations, incorporating some unconventional formal elements along the way. Though light on details about the usual milestones of Heaney’s achievements, “Song of Granite” harnesses the spirit of his music in an unexpectedly dreamlike way. Read our full review right here—Steve Greene

Sales Contact: Soda Pictures, edward@sodapictures.com

“I Am Another You”

A portrait of a young Florida street kid is at first a fascinating exploration into the concept of freedom as seen through the eyes of director Nanfu Wang (“Hooligan Sparrow”), who had recently come to the U.S. from China when she started filming. This documentary transitions into something completely unexpected when Wang travels to Utah, two years later, to meet her subject’s family. The film is about the layers of perception and the complexities of mental health, while also solidifying Wang as a major new voice in the world of nonfiction filmmaking.  —Chris O’Falt

Sales Contact: Josh Braun, Submarine

“The Secret Life of Lance Letscher”

Profiles of artists are common in the documentary world and on the surface Sandra Adair’s film about Austin collage artist Lance Letscher checks off many of the genre’s conventions. Yet, the film does a remarkably good job of capturing an artist’s process, while making a satisfying connection between Letscher’s not always easy life and his art. Adair, who is Richard Linklater’s long time editor, has created a film that is subtly complex, but feels lived in and familiar. —CO

Sales Contact: John Sloss, Cinetic Media

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