A still from the trailer of “Hale County This Morning, This Evening”
The year’s best indie films screen at the Walker Art Center from January 15 to February 9. That means a lineup of 2019’s Independent Spirit Award nominees—like the Academy Awards but, depending on who you are, smarter or stuffier. And, note: You have to be a Walker member to get two free tickets to each movie. (So, is this finally your excuse?)
You might have heard of the big names: YouTube maestro Bo Burnham’s meditation on the rising generation through his portrait of a girl’s adolescence in Eighth Grade; Barry Jenkins’ adaptation of James Baldwin’s rich novel If Beale Street Could Talk, lovingly, lushly conceived by the mind behind 2016’s Independent Spirit Award winner Moonlight; Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, the doc about Fred Rogers and his life of kindness; Hereditary, the movie where Toni Collette accurately (probably) shows us what it would be like if we finally had to confront our witch mother’s demon-conjuring influence on our kids; Ethan Hawkes’ bleak drama with Amanda Seyfried, performed against a backdrop of religion and climate change, First Reformed; The Tale, based on a true story, where Laura Dern plays a woman remembering the twisted relationships of abuse she endured as a child; and the wild, satirical, hilarious Sorry to Bother You, where rising star Lakeith Stanfield plays a telemarketer in an alternate-universe Oakland whose scramble up the corporate ladder puts his morals in peril.
But here are three flicks you might not know about, coming up this weekend into early next week. The Walker’s screenings likely present your one opportunity to check them out in the Twin Cities. (And see the full lineup here.)
A Bread Factory, Parts 1 and 2
Saturday, Jan. 19, 1 p.m.
Full disclosure: Each part is two hours, separated by an intermission, and each stands on its own as a film. Part one’s plot: The arts center in a small, upstate New York town faces competition when a more modern facility opens up, run by two Chinese performance artists who peddle the sort of art that is, by definition, pretentious—pretending to be more interesting, more profound, than it actually is and driven by money and hype. Filmed in a loose, sweeping style that treats characters epically—as parts of a moving tapestry—A Bread Factory floats atop thoroughly comedic, critically acclaimed performances by Tyne Daly and Elizabeth Henry, who play the founders of the embattled arts center, weary of arguing that art should matter to you, just not at your own expense.
On Her Shoulders
Tuesday, Jan. 22, 6 p.m.
All the documentaries in this year’s lineup reflect our times, and On Her Shoulders might feel most urgent. When ISIL took over the Sinjar district of Iraq, Nadia Murad Basee Taha was a teenager living in a local farm community. Girls and women became sex slaves. Six-hundred people were murdered in an act of genocide. Murad escaped three months later. Recently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, she started speaking out about what happened to her—but wanted to do more. In On Her Shoulders, director Alexandria Bombach tells the story of a young woman who embraces the personal as political, aching to fight for those who did not make it even as she is forced to retell, and relive, her own tragedy.
Hale County This Morning, This Evening
Wednesday, Jan. 23, 6 p.m.
This documentary takes us to the rural Alabama county of Hale. It follows Daniel and Quincy over five years as the young African American men make strides—one toward college, the other toward fatherhood. It’s a wandering, lived-in film that feels deeply American, a work of history that casts real moments in cellulose. Poetic scenes abound, of quietly dynamic domestic set pieces, of thunder and lightening that transform the weathered landscape into a Southern Gothic. Patience is rewarded. “There are unexpected camera angles and long moments that at first seem monotonous but pay big dividends,” said film critic Odie Henderson on rogerebert.com. “The particularity and power of the larger cinematic image … created through a multiplicity of moments are impossible to adequately describe in critical prose,” said critic Glenn Kenny for The New York Times.