This crowd-pleasing documentary played to acclaim at the 2012 Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Film Festival, and won an Audience Award at Sundance. Director Katie Dellamaggiore follows the members of Brooklyn inner-city I.S. 318's chess team through a year of ups and downs. The Star Tribune's Colin Covert said, "Castle is suspenseful, funny and, particularly in its depiction of the challenging home lives of some of the kids, moving."
Nominated for last year's Best Foreign Language Oscar, the Belgian film Bullhead stars Matthias Schoenaerts in a star-making performance as a steroid-ripped, psychologically-wounded cattle farmer who gets involved with organized crime with predictably bad results. The New Yorker's Anthony Lane said that "what matters in the film, and gives it such a concentrated shot of melancholy, is the figure of Jacky [Schoenaerts]" and Roger Ebert says that while he wouldn't have tabbed it as one of the five best foreign films of 2011, "It impresses because of the pain, sadness and rage contained in the title performance by Flemish actor Matthias Schoenaerts, who ... seems ready to burst from his clothes and even his skin."
This documentary about Detroit's current bleak economic situation was shortlisted for the Best Documentary Feature Oscar (though it didn't end up securing a nomination) and was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance (but lost to The House I Live In). The New Yorker's David Denby called it "surprisingly lyrical and often very moving" while the Arizona Republic's Barbara Vendenburgh labeled it "a fascinating portrait of a 21st-century post-industrial hellscape."
Ira Sachs' semi-autobiographical account of the lives and tribulations of two gay men in 1990s Manhattan notched Independent Spirit Award nominations for Best Feature, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Male Lead (Thure Lindhardt), though the Oscars ignored it completely. The Star Tribune's Colin Covert called the cast "uniformly excellent".
Crossover arthouse superstar Marion Cotillard stars alongside Bullhead's breakout lead Matthias Shoenaerts in this dramatic French love-story about an orca trainer and a bouncer. Rust and Bone was nominated for two Golden Globes (Best Foreign Language Film and Best Actress), for nine Cesars (the French Oscars, including a win for "Most Promising Actor") and for the Palme D'Or at Cannes.
With his last two films, The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell has carved out a fascinating niche for himself in the film world. Once a purveyor of Michel Gondry/Spike Jonze-style high-concept strangeness (see I Heart Huckabees), he's refashioned himself into the ultimate auteur of Hollywood cliche. This may sound like a complaint, but actually I don't mean it to be. He's taken stories that scream Suburban Middlebrow and elevated them with the simple, but sadly uncommon, combination of technical competence and real heart. It's clear that he's throwing himself heart-and-soul into these stories and the result is something you might call a plain, old-fashioned, genuinely good movie. And its amazing how modern that seems.
Winner of the Special Jury Award at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival, The Revisionaries examines the ideological battle for public school curricula in America. Michael Moore said, "The Revisionaries is a must-see film for anyone concerned about enforced ignorance and intolerance, and for those who still believe in science and in Thomas Jefferson. I hope every American sees this film."
War Witch, also known as Rebelle, was nominated for the most recent Best Foreign Language Oscar, losing to Michael Haneke's Amour in a particularly strong year. War Witch/Rebelle follows 14-year-old Congolese girl Komona as she is abducted into the life of a child soldier and all that happens to her as a consequence. Non-professional actress Rachel Mwanza won the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the 62nd Berlin International Film Festival.