The Best International & Indie Films of 2013

Sometimes, you have to travel a bit off the beaten path to find salvation from the onslaught that is the mainstream moviemaking machine.

Sometimes, you have to travel a bit off the beaten path to find salvation from the onslaught that is the mainstream moviemaking machine. In the case of these excellent examples of the medium, creativity trumps the commercial, while experimentation and individual voice rule over rote regurgitation of the same old genre tropes.

Director: Randy Moore

Film: Escape from Tomorrow

Cast: Roy Abramsohn, Elena Schuber, Katelynn Rodriguez, Annet Mahendru, Danielle Safady, Alison Lees-Taylor


Display as: List

List number: 15

Display Width: 200

Escape from Tomorrow
Mankurt Media

Using the concept of wish fulfillment against a backdrop of pre-programmed fun, Escape from Tomorrow wants to suggest that anything is possible in the Disney Universe, both good and bad. Fathers can find “release” in the sweat slicked bodies of vivacious young girls while their own kids head off to less carnal concerns like princesses and amusement park pandering. It’s wallows in the hidden wickedness of such a suggestion, manipulating the House of Mouse’s copyrighted imagery to turn tiny animatronic figures into briefly glimpsed demons and the great unwashed into hyper-entitled trolls. Like David Lynch’s Blue Velvet (an auteur who Moore apes with limited success), we are supposed to see the ugly underneath, the corruption that is covered up by fairytale recreations and outrageously priced adventures. Again, this is typical of most people’s approach to Disney. The company is such a pervasive part of our popular culture that you can’t help but feel trapped by its menacing rhinestone media tentacles. Bill Gibron

Director: Felix Van Groeningen

Film: The Broken Circle Breakdown

Cast: Veerle Baetens, Johan Heldenbergh, Nell Cattrysse, Geert Van Rampelberg


Display as: List

List number: 14

Display Width: 200

The Broken Circle Breakdown
Tribeca Films

Elise is addicted to tattoos; Didier is obsessed with American bluegrass music. The Belgian couple falls in love with a passion hotter than the Orange Blossom Special. After their daughter Maybelle is born -- named for bluegrass matriarch Maybelle Carter -- and Elise joins Didier’s band of beardy bluegrass rascals, the happy circle feels complete. Be prepared for an emotional breakdown -- one that will change the shape of your face. When Maybelle gets life-threateningly sick, the couple must simultaneously experience the jubilation and heartbreak of loving her, those extremes expressed in the music they cling to throughout. Occasionally, a musical interlude turns maudlin when it’s meant to be moving, but that’s a minor quibble for a film that grips hard and doesn’t let go. Beautifully shot by director Felix Van Groeningen, the film surveys American influences both good and evil, and when Didier rails against Bush-era vetos of stem cell research, your blood will boil with his. And bring on the awards for the spitfire performance of Veerle Baetens as Elise, an acting feat that packs a wallop from start to finish. Steve Leftridge

Director: John Krokidas

Film: Kill Your Darlings

Cast: Daniel Radcliffe, Dane DeHaan, Ben Foster, Michael C. Hall, Jack Huston, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Elizabeth Olsen


Display as: List

List number: 13

Display Width: 200

Kill Your Darlings
Sony Pictures Classic

John Krokidas’ fireworks-heavy take on the 1944 murder of David Kammerer by literary scenester and Kerouac pal Lucien Carr doesn’t just feature a mesmeric performance by Dane DeHaan as Carr and Daniel Radcliffe’s vulnerable take on a young Allen Ginsberg about to spread his poetic wings. It’s also a refreshingly non-precious portrait of the nascent Beat scene in all its vivaciously pretentious glory, drunk on words and the thrill of hurling dynamite at an ossified literary establishment. Like their hero Rimbaud, these are writers and would-be writers who thought themselves outlaws, and behaved accordingly. Chris Barsanti

Director: Haifaa al-Mansour

Film: Wadjda

Cast: Waad Mohammed, Reem Abdullah, Abdulrahman al-Guhani


Display as: List

List number: 12

Display Width: 200

Koch Media

Billed as the first feature film to be shot entirely in Saudi Arabia, and the first feature film made by a female Saudi director, Wadjda is a cultural landmark. Writer/director Haifaa al-Mansour has crafted an uplifting ode to female liberation in the face of oppression. Wadjda (Waad Mohammed) is a free-spirited pre-teen who struggles to find her identity in a constraining male-centric culture. In order to pay for a bicycle she desires but is forbidden to ride because of her gender, she participates in her school’s Koran recitation competition. Despite the film’s charming tone, there is a powerful political message at its core that cannot be forgotten: In many cultures, women remain disenfranchised. With Wadjda, al-Mansour bravely uses the cinematic medium to speak for those who are silenced. Is anyone listening? Jon Lisi

Director: Banker White, Anna Fitch

Film: The Genius of Marian

Cast: Pam White


Display as: List

List number: 11

Display Width: 200

The Genius of Marian
Tribeca Films
Five years ago, Pam White started writing a book about her mother, the gifted painter Marian Williams Steele, who died of Alzheimer’s disease in 2001. A year into the project, at age 61, Pam herself was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. At that point, Pam’s son, filmmaker Banker White, set out to document his mother’s battle with dementia. Mixing home video of Pam as a vibrant young mother (she was an actress and model) with new footage of Pam’s increasing incapacitation, the film manages to be graceful and beautiful amid the candid access to a family’s sadness and the crushing effects of the disease. The details on display are disheartening, but by making this tender film about Pam -- and the stalwart courage and caregiving of her husband Ed -- the director has both fulfilled his mother’s desire to preserve the memory of Marian and provided an intimate portrait of a disease that affects over five-million American families. One of the year's best documentaries. Steve Leftridge

Next Page

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.

Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.