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Under the Radar Indies for All Tastes

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Comedies for All

The Living Wake

Fans of wacky, whimsical comedy will enjoy this hilarious indie about an eccentric man facing a terminal condition who decides to do a "living wake" to enjoy the event. Mike O'Connell co-wrote the script and takes the starring role without a hint of vanity - wait until you see him tap dancing in a silver bodysuit. The cast includes Jesse Eisenberg, his only friend, who helps him achieve his ridiculous plan. Anne Dowd is the town's librarian. You are unprepared to see "The Handmaid's Tale"' Aunt Lydia playing for laughs.

Dream for an Insomniac

Walk down memory lane with this seminal romantic indie comedy from the ‘90s. And if you are younger…well, discover why your parents are like that! Ione Skye, the dream girl of a generation thanks to “Say Anything,” is Frankie, a girl hooked up on the idea of finding extraordinary love. She is also an insomniac, so perhaps the lack of sleep makes her silly. She might miss out on David (Mackenzie Astin), a budding writer with one inconvenient secret. Jennifer Aniston, on the rise with “Friends,” plays Frankie’s saucy bestie. Her comedic timing is peerless.


Canadian directors Milos Mitrovic and Fabián Velasco are witty providers of anti-comedy, that is, something so dark you can’t help but laugh. Mitrovic does not ask his performers to do things he would not do himself. That is why he stars as a hypochondriac who claims to be infected with the titular parasite. He is just one of many eccentric but tenderly human characters scraping by in the less pictorial side of Winnipeg, Manitoba. “Tapeworm” premiered at the 2020 Slamdance Film Festival, where it competed for the Grand Jury Prize for Best Narrative Feature.

The Maid

Chilean director Sebastián Silva gave us one of the most irreverent and daring comedies of 2023 with “Rotten By The Sun.” It’s easy to see where he came from with “The Maid,” his international breakthrough. The amazing Catalina Saavedra is Raquel, the long-time maid of a well-to-do Santiago family. She goes into an epic meltdown when her bosses hire another person to share the workload with her.

Saavedra is also the heart of the bawdy “Rotten by The Sun,” as a domestic assistant entangled surprisingly in the disappearance of Sebastian Silva. Yes, the director is a character in his movie, playing a mercilessly satirized version of himself. Saavedra is nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Actress. See where this magical collaboration began. Martin Scorsese & Robert De Niro, Todd Haynes & Julianne Moore...add Silva & Saavedra to the list of great director-actor teams.

Foreign Films Fit for the Art House

Where Are You Going, Habibi?

An indie gay romance from Germany. Cam Alkan is Ibo, the closeted son of Turkish immigrants struggling with life after college graduation. It doesn’t help that he falls for Ali (Martin Walde), a straight, 100% German petty criminal who moonlights as a wrestler. Can their bromance turn into something else? Will Ibo be able to come out to his family? These themes may be common to LGBTQ cinema, but the setting and the cultural issues make it fresh.

Charlie's Country

Australian indigenous actor David Gulpilil achieved worldwide fame by starring in Nicolas Roeg’s classic “Walkabout” (1971). He went on to have a long and rich body of work, which includes this drama directed by Rolf de Heer. Gulpilil stars as a man who struggles to embrace the lifestyle of his ancestors once he decides to turn his back on white-dominated society. The movie competed at the Cannes Film Festival, where de Heer was nominated as Best Director at the Un Certain Regard sidebar. Gulpilil took the Un Certain Regard Prize for Best Actor.

La Soledad

An excellent primer on life under Latin American dictatorships of the XXI Century. Filmmaker Jorge Thielen Armand brings a moving docudrama with biographical undertones, but like Alfonso Cuarón in "Roma" (2018), he pans the camera away from himself and focuses it on the workers who made his upper-class upbringing possible. The protagonist is José (José Dolores López), the grandson of his nanny, Rosina (María Agamez Palomino). American audiences may find it challenging to decode the social mores that unite patrons and domestic helpers. The complex relationship gets even twistier by the upheaval of Hugo Chavez's "socialist revolution" in Venezuela.

The family lives in a stately old mansion gone to seed. Their former patrons allow them to stay there to keep squatters away, but neither they nor the tenants have money for the upkeep. It is a magnificent, atmospheric ruin. The house is called "La Soledad" - in Spanish, the word stands for a woman's name, but also "solitude" or "loneliness" -. The place is now the perfect embodiment of the word. You glimpse the glory days in fragments of home movies and old photo albums left behind.

The movie’s conflict blooms when the owners announce the guests must vacate the premises. The house will be demolished to make it easier to sell the land. It’s an extra crisis for Jorge, who does not seem to have other jobs besides the construction gigs Jorge recruited him for. His elderly grandmother is desperately sick, and her blood pressure medication does not exist in the country. His wife (Marley Alvillarez) only sees migrating to Colombia as a way out.

Playing somewhat fictionalized versions of themselves, the characters take you for a tour of Venezuela in dire straits. You'll see barren supermarkets and crowded hospitals, pharmacies without medicine, and the rich and the poor united in desperation. It's like a parallel world whose vividness levels the sadness. The movie premiered at the Venice International Film Festival. It has amassed a treasure trove of awards worldwide, including a Special Jury Prize at the Atlanta Film Festival, the Audience Award at the Miami Film Festival, and Best Feature at the Rhode Island International Film Festival.

Before I Forget

Straight from Brazil comes a heart-warming family comedy with a touch of bawdiness. Legendary actor José de Abreu is Polidoro, a retired judge who stirs up a scandal when he buys a strip-tease joint. Danton Mello is Paulo, his estranged son, roped in to keep the old man on the line. The movie had a good run in international film festivals. It was nominated for Best Foreign Picture in the United States at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival and the Santa Barbara International Film Festival. In China, Abreu won the Audience Award for Best Actor.

Classic Horror With a Twist

The Color Out of Space

Not to be confused with the 2019 version starring Nicolas Cage, this adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft’s horrifying tale bets on historical resonance. Writer-director Huan Vu conveys a contemporary narrative frame: the son of an American WWII veteran looks for his elderly father, who seems to have gone missing in his old theater of operations in Germany. He finds a local who reminisces about a strange episode that marked his father’s war mission and may hold the key to his whereabouts.

Or does it? Sometime before the war, a meteorite fell on the land of a farmer, with awful consequences for everyone. A flashback structure turns the past into the present. The gauzy black-and-white cinematography goes a long way toward giving the movie a disquieting, otherworldly quality. Regretfully, the mesmeric quality is somewhat compromised by some garish special effects in the final act - this is where the modest resources of an indie production become a liability. Also, the framing device is gratuitous and fails to connect the sci-fi elements with the loaded historical moment. Still, for a good part of its running time, “The Color Out Of Space” casts a dreary spell for fans of the genre.

New Indie Drama with a Beat


In three decades of relentless work, legendary video clip director Joseph Khan has collaborated with virtually every musician of note: Beyonce circa Destiny’s Child, Britney Spears, Rob Zombie, Katy Perry, Wu-Tang Clan, Dr. Dre & Snoop Dog, Imagine Dragons, DJ Khaled, and several videos for Woman of The Year Taylor Swift. From time to time, he shakes things up with a feature film. The latest is “Bodied,” a social satire that brings his love for hip-hop to the forefront, with a little help from producer Eminem. The movie follows a white grad student whipping up a storm of controversy when he decides to do his thesis on battle rap.

“Bodied” made a fruitful run at film festivals. It won the People’s Choice Award at the Midnight Madness sidebar of the Toronto International Film Festival. It won the ICP Award for Best Undistributed Film at the Indiewire Critic’s Poll before being picked up for distribution by Neon.


Christopher Abbott is one of the most sought-after actors in the indie scene. Since his feature film debut in “Martha Marcy May Marlene” (2011), up to this year’s Sundance sensation “Sanctuary,” he is a fearless, magnetic performer. His considerable talents are displayed in “Full-Dress,” a dark meta-comedy about an actor trying to succeed in film, theater, and life. Chilean director Carlos Puga is a veteran of MTV’s influential “True Life” documentary series and video clips for bands like Interpol.

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