The previous year was certainly nothing like we have experienced ever before. We needed to adapt and to do it quickly. Like the vast majority of industries, film industry has gone virtual. Almost a year later, most cinemas in the UK, US, and Europe remain closed. All film festivals have gone online. Also, film production in 2020 seemed only possible for large production companies, as their budget will certainly allow them to quickly adapt to constantly changing safety regulations and challenges that come along the way. Yet despite it all, independent cinema remains alive, and in 2020 we saw some incredible films, such as: smart and funny delight The Climb (2020, dir. Michael Angelo Covino), big-hearted story First Cow (2020, dir. Kelly Reichardt), and light-hearted singalong Lovers Rock (2020, dir. Steve McQueen). Therefore, we are more than certain that 2021 will be a great year for independent cinema.
When searching for the hidden independent gems for you, we saw that 2021 promises to be a year of mainstream come backs. Although every year, we see almost over 20 new franchise releases; in 2021 we seem to revisit some mainstream beloved classics. In 2021 films, such as: Coming to America (1998, dir. John Landis), Mortal Kombat (1996, dir. Paul W. S. Anderson), Space Jam (1997, dir. Joe Pytka), The Matrix (1999, dir. Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski), and Avatar (2009, dir. James Cameron) are making a comeback. Yet the question remains, will we enjoy them as much as the original ones?
But what attracts us to the independent films? It is the messages, the creativity of directors, the shock value. Moreover, independent films exude a strong sense of a filmmaker’s freedom in his/her creation. As the limited budget of an independent film asks filmmaker to be more creative with the film.
Here are some anticipated independent films of 2021, which we cannot wait for you to see!
Away (2019, dir. Gints Zilbalodis) digital release early 2021
“A sense of personal urgency in the age of communal abandonment.”
Away is a quite unique creation that parallels with Studio Ghibli films, yet this one was solely created by a Latvian filmmaker Gints Zilbalodis. He is the film’s director, animator, and editor. Away is a simple yet exquisite film. This animation is much different than the rest, it is a simple animation and does not pretend to be something else. In Zilbalodis’ work there is no shadows, little to no texture, and the physics are basic. However, Zilbalodis manages to create a though-provoking story of a boy and a bird traveling across a strange island to get home. Alone. Adrift. Away.
76 Days (2021, dir. Hao Wu, Weixi Chen) release date January 22, 2021
Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post
76 Days is a raw and intimate documentary. It was shot during the 76 days of lockdown in the ground zero of COVID-19 pandemic – Wuhan, China. This documentary does not shy away from fear and grief, as it captures the struggles of patients and medical professionals on the frontline battling the pandemic. At times it is frightening to watch, but there is a bright element of hope and even humour in the film.
MLK/FBI (2021, dir. Sam Pollard) release date January 15, 2021
“Eye-opening and jaw dropping…Could not have arrived at a more pertinent moment.”
Sam Pollard is already known for his exposés, such as: Eyes on the Prize (1987-1990) and Two Trains Runnin’ (2016). This time, pieces of sensitive government information, to which we should not have access to, are being revealed. Based on the information, FBI called Martin Luther King Jr. the most dangerous (read powerful) civil rights leader. King wanted to shine the light on segregation and urge people to demand equality; therefore, FBI wanted to use everything at its disposal to destroy him.
The documentary is powerful as it explores US government’s surveillance and harassment of Martin Luther King Jr. The Vanity called this documentary to be, “One of the most urgent films this year”, and we could not agree more.
Minari (2021, dir. Lee Isaac Chung) release date February 12, 2021
“A sweeping must-see.”
It is as simple as that, a must-see. Especially now, during the time when all of us need another breath of hope. It is a very tender and heartful story about what is really important. The film shows a powerful journey of a Korean-American family searching for their own American Dream. Although it is heart-breaking, but it will make you stronger as never before!
From the film, Jacob to Monica:
— Remember what we said when we got married?
— That we would move to America and save each other?
— I remember.
Nomadland (2021, dir. Chloé Zhao) release date February 19, 2021
“There is no good bye. I’ll see you down the road.”
Quote from the film
Extraordinary, deeply intimate, inspired, gorgeous, sublime, these are the adjective which come to mind, not only to us but to film critics too, when describing the film. It is yet another ray of light for us when everything feels falling apart. The story is about a woman’s journey through the American West, after losing everything in the Great Recession. It is told so powerfully that there is no wonder it won the main prize at 2020 Venice Film Festival. Moreover, the film itself is based on Jessica Bruder’s book of the same title that is a nonfiction but a deep research on the rising numbers of Americans for whom a stable existence is unaffordable.
Gunda (2020, dir. Viktor Kosakovskiy) release date March 25, 2021
“A soul-stirring meditation.”
The Hollywood Reporter
Viktor Kosakovskiy is known for his nature documentaries. In 2011 in ¡Vivan las Antipodas! he compared two places diametrically opposite to each other on the earth’s surface (Entre Rios in Argentina and Shanghai in China). Also, in 2018 we saw how strong and beautiful the world of water is in Aquarela. This year, we might wonder, what life of a mother pig, a flock of chickens, and a herd of cows would like from an artistic point of view? The answer is in a black and white, though-provoking, one-of-a-kind documentary with a slow flow – Gunda. Moreover, it offers you an intimate look on the daily life of such animals.