Boss lady yacht racers, brave gay art, and a black dude’s admirable pipe dream: These are June’s top indie flicks.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco
Walker Art Cinema
7 p.m. June 12
Like the many blacks and browns kicked to the curb from rising rent and housing prices, the characters in director Joe Talbot’s The Last Black Man in San Francisco aren't asking for much, just a reasonably affordable way to stay in their homes.
Most resign themselves to the changing world, except Jimmie Fails -- played by an actor named Jimmie Fails -- who explores every avenue to stay in San Fran, and ends up confronting deeper meditations on life.
This film was produced by A24 and Brad Pitt’s Plan B indie outfit, which has a soft spot for black stuff that couldn't find substantial funding elsewhere, including 12 Years a Slave and Moonlight.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco is similarly black, similarly lined with gorgeous shots of black faces, but this time against San Francisco's rolling horizon.
It’s also going to pour you out without a tear left to cry, and fill you up with characters’ passions for ownership over a community, a family, a friendship, and self.
The Boys in the Band
9:15 p.m. June 14-15
5:15 p.m. June 16
The movie world in 1970 was just as homophobic as is to be expected, as Hollywood sidelined gay creators, and gay characters were mainly messy stereotypes.
Director William Friedkin’s film adaption of Matt Crowley’s play The Boys in the Band (1970) is one of the first to center on gay men, and not treat their homosexuality as a tangential sideshow. The movie dives right into the story of a group of gay men living and spending time together, addressing their individual lives and characteristics without attributing each to their sexual orientation.
It is light and fun, unabashedly portraying gay men across the feminine and masculine spectrum. Also of note is that instead of sealing the characters in a gay vacuum, the movie confronts the cultural clashes between straights and gays by switching the roles of the dominant group: When a straight man comes to a party held by the gay group, things get weird, and cultural commentary pops up in each of Friedkin’s frames.
Tom of Finland
8 p.m. Wednesday, June 19
Touko Laaksonen, better known as Tom of Finland, was a mid-20th-century dude who liked to bust nuts with dudes and draw images of macho dudes ready to bust all over each other. But when he came back from World War II, his images of butts on butts nearly led to his imprisonment.
Then he escaped for California.
Tom of Finland’s art is highly erotic and so specifically stylized that it inspired all kinds of gay guys over generations to lean into their masculinity, to see it as beauty, and to feel macho in a leather biker outfit that is crotchless.
The life of Laaksonen and his impact is the subject of Tom of Finland (2017), helmed by Finnish director Dome Karukoski and led by a righteously brave, sexy, and subtle performance by Fin Pekka Strang.
9 p.m. June 21-22
5 p.m. June 23
Greek director Theodoros Bafaloukos’ Rockers (1978) is simple and delightful.
Set in the sumptuously shot streets of Kingston, the story follows talented drummer Horsemouth (Leroy Wallace), who takes crappy jobs when music isn't paying the bills and then quits when he gets drummer money. He’s stuck in this endless cycle.
To break his pattern, Horsemouth begins selling his records on the side, hoping to start a small imprint, delivering vinyl using a motorcycle he saved up to buy.
When some dicks steal the bike, Horsemouth rallies his buds in a heist to retrieve it.
This Kingston caper is honest about the state of life in Jamaica, capturing both the hard times and rich, colorful culture with shots sweeping down busy streets full of fun characters.
7:05 p.m. Monday, June 24
Documentary director Alex Holmes’ Maiden (2018) is a movie about a specific kind of persistence.
When Tracy Edwards decided to create the first all-women crew for the 1989 Whitbread Round the World Race (a nine-month, 33,000-mile yacht race), there were all types of objections. While some reactions were vile and rude, many people simply shrugged. There wasn't a committee barring Edwards or other women from participating; those in opposition -- mainly men -- just laughed. It wasn't an outrage that the women wanted to compete; it was simply a joke.
The perseverance of Edwards and the women on her crew in the face of disrespect is a truly inspirational sight to behold.
The Third Wife
One week, starting June 28
A 14-year-old girl becomes the third wife of a wealthy old man in the aptly named The Third Wife (2018, Vietnamese). Nguyen Phong Tra My gives a knockout performance as the young girl, May. The film follows her as she vacillates from moments of despair, exuberant realizations of deep desire, and back to realistic disappointment with ease.
Director Ash Mayfair depicts both ends of sexual passion -- disgust and desire -- with stunning vividness, packing every silence, every look, even the air around the characters with devastating poignancy. What we want and our circumstances are always at odds.
7 p.m. June 9
$6-$12 sliding sale
New Jersey filmmaker and University of Iowa film professor Mike Gibisser likes to examine space, particularly sights in typical domestic settings that might incite panic or bring comfort.
He’ll be presenting a series of short films like third law: n kedzie blvd (2011), a 16mm textural treat fixated on a window on the first floor of a home. Initial shots focus on a curtain drawstring calmly swaying before zooming out to reveal a windy, rainy scene just outside of the window, a tree violently ruffling.
Then, slowly, guided by subtle zooming in and out and shifts in the precise focus of the shot, the wind shifts into a rhythm seducing and exhilarating the tree.
Just as a sensation of ease settles in, Gibisser does more than flip it on its head; he chases it and spins it around a few times. Soon, serenity seems suspicious, and fearful skepticism seems silly.