10. FRUITVALE STATION
Ryan Coogler’s FRUITVALE STATION -- based on the true story of Oscar Grant, who was shot and killed by an Oakland transit cop in 2009 -- won both the coveted Grand Jury Prize for U.S. Dramatic and the Audience Award for U.S. Dramatic. The movie is compelling, funny, socially significant (the cop was white; Grant was black) and features an outstanding cast including Octavio Spencer, Chad Michael Murray and the preternaturally likeable Michael B. Jordan (Wallace from The Wire) as Grant. Oscar buzz has already commenced on this one.
9. BLOOD BROTHER
Steve Hoover’s documentary BLOOD BROTHER, which won the Audience Award for U.S. Documentary, is a moving labor of love about the director’s friend Rocky Braat, a Pittsburgh art-school student who headed off to India to help orphaned children with AIDS and found his life changed forever.
8. THE SPECTACULAR NOW
It’s teen angst and young love at its finest: Special Jury Prize for Acting winners Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley are transfixing as kids going through high school drama in James Ponsoldt’s THE SPECTACULAR NOW. There’s sex and drinking, of course, but also all the awkwardness and insecurity that go along with them. If any of those things ring true for your own teen years, you’ll fall for this film.
7. CRYSTAL FAIRY
Sebastián Silva won the Directing Award for World Cinema Dramatic with CRYSTAL FAIRY, an improvised tale of youngsters in search of mescaline starring Michael Cera and Gaby Hoffmann. The story existed only in outline form when shooting began, allowing the young actors’ natural timing and rapport to shine through.
6. A RIVER CHANGES COURSE
This unflinching look at how industrialization is threatening traditional ways of life in Cambodia won the Grand Jury Prize for World Cinema Documentary. Director Kalyanee Mam A RIVER CHANGES COURSEturns her lens on several families and tracks their hardships and (small) triumphs, granting us an inside look into a struggle that continues around the world.
Both stylistically stunning and historically important, O Muel’s Grand Jury Prize winner for World Cinema Dramatic JISEUL attempts to reconstruct an infamous 1948 episode where residents of a Korean island were forced to abandon their village and hide from soldiers intent on their capture. The striking black-and-white photography and stark storytelling may not be for everyone, but for fans of the genre, it’s a must-see.
4. THIS IS MARTIN BONNER
This low-budget gem, which won the Best of NEXT Audience Award, focuses on the unlikely friendship between two men and the changes each struggles through. Director Chad Hartigan wrote the role of Travis for Richmond Arquette (yes, he’s one of those Arquettes -- brother to David, Patricia, et. al.) and has said that the role of Martin (Paul Eenhoorn) was based loosely on his own father’s experiences.
3. PUSSY RIOT: A PUNK PRAYER
Ever since three members of the Russian feminist collective Pussy Riot staged a protest performance at a Moscow church in February 2012 -- and were summarily arrested -- they've earned the attention and support of feminists and lovers of free speech the world over. Mike Lerner and Max Pozdorovkin’s documentary PUSSY RIOT: A PUNK PRAYER, which nabbed a World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Punk Spirit, shares the story of their trial and its aftermath.
2. BEFORE MIDNIGHT
Richard Linklater fans fell in love with Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Delpy) in 1995's BEFORE SUNRISE and 2004’s BEFORE SUNSET -- and returning to them in BEFORE MIDNIGHT is, if anything, even more delightful. They’ve both matured, as has the filmmaker, and their love affair is more complex and more subtle than ever. Nearly 20 years after we first met these characters, we come to realize just how indelible an impression they’ve left on us.
1. KILL YOUR DARLINGS
There’s an undeniable appeal to John Krokidas’ KILL YOUR DARLINGS -- one that goes beyond the obvious scintillation of seeing former HARRY POTTER star Daniel Radcliffe in gay sex scenes. As the young Allen Ginsberg, he explores both his budding sexuality as a student at Columbia and the meeting of the minds with fellow proto-Beats William Burroughs (Ben Foster) and Jack Kerouac (Jack Huston). It’s a rebellious-youth look at the ’50s that still feels relevant today.
Sundance Film Festival