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HtN’s Summer 2024 Preview – Indies Only Edition

Hammer To Nail's Summer 2024 Preview

Summer is approaching. We at Hammer To Nail have dug deep beyond the buzzworthy studio titles to present an in-depth look at what should be on your radar this season. From festival hits, to microbudget marvels, to horror that gets under your skin, there’s plenty of independent cinema to anticipate. 

Check out our list below of 30+ indie films to see this summer!  

Banel & Adama (June 7)

The first romance of the season is a visually breathtaking journey of love, tradition, and phenomena set in Senegal. Ramata-Toulaye Sy’s Banel & Adama premiered at last year’s Cannes in competition and went on to be selected as Senegal’s official Oscar entry. It centers on a young couple’s (Khady Mane and Mamadou Diallo) devoted bond in a remote village that’s threatened by the disapproval of their elders, slow-simmering tensions, and strange phenomena. 

Trim Season (June 7)

Noted production designer Ariel Vida (The Endless, Aporia) follows up her 2022 directorial debut, Vide Noir, with Trim Season, a horror-thriller about a group of jobless young Los Angelenos who head to a pot farm in the northern part of their state to trim cannabis plants. What starts as a way to make a quick buck turns into something a little deadlier than expected, as protagonist Emma (Beth Million) and her friends find that their employer, Mona (a witchy Jane Badler), has other things on her mind. 

Summer Solstice (June 14)

One film that should be on your watchlist for Pride is writer-director Noah Schamus’ feature debut Summer Solstice, a touching, funny, and beautifully rendered study of friendship through change. It follows two reunited college best friends (Bobbi Salvör Menuez and Marianne Rendón), one trans and one straight/cisgender, whose contrasting lives and attitudes impact their bond. Shot in only 14 days in Brooklyn and the Hudson Valley, Summer Solstice is the kind of filmmaking we champion here at HtN.

Ghostlight (June 14)

Saint Frances filmmaking duo Kelly O’Sullivan and Alex Thompson return to their native Chicago for a new tragicomedy with just as much heart. It stars a real-life family: Keith Kupferer, Tara Mallen, and Katherine Mallen Kupferer as versions of themselves going through a personal tragedy. They find themselves in the orbit of a community theater group led by Triangle of Sadness sensation Dolly De Leon. As father and daughter get involved in a production of Romeo and Juliet, the Kupferer family must confront emotional scars as they try to heal. 

Treasure (June 14)

HtN alum Lena Dunham and the always sensational Stephen Fry share the screen as a woman and father traveling abroad to face the past and forge new beginnings. Julia von Heinz’s dramedy Treasure follows a journalist (Dunham) who accompanies her Polish father and Holocaust survivor (Fry) back to his home country where they confront hidden traumas and make sense of their family’s past – but not without a good dose of humor. Seems to be in conversation with Jesse Eisenberg’s A Real Pain, which will come out in the fall.

Green Border (June 21)

Polish filmmaker Agnieszka Holland – known for her examinations of the Holocaust in her Oscar-nominated features Europa, Europa and In Darkness – turns the focus on the ongoing migrant crisis in her native country, as well as the right-wing government’s response to it in her revelatory new thriller. Green Border puts the viewer in the middle of the crisis through the eyes of a Syrian family fleeing ISIS, young border guards grasping the harsh realities of their job, and an activist aiding the refugees. 

Thelma (June 21)

Oscar-nominated character actress June Squibb finally gets her leading lady moment in Josh Margolin’s comedy Thelma. Guaranteed to bring plenty of laughs and smiles, it stars Squibb as a 93-year-old retiree who after being duped by a phone scammer goes on a mission with her grandson (Fred Hechinger) and fellow nursing home resident (the late Richard Roundtree) to get her money back, by any hilarious or violent means necessary. And yes, do bring your grandma. 

Kinds of Kindness (June 21)

Yorgos Lanthimos has been on quite the roll lately. Not even a year after the success of Poor Things, he reunites with stars Emma Stone and Willem Dafoe in this dark anthology comedy that goes back to the director’s maniacally deadpan roots. Its wild and dumbfounding stories – aided by a fellow cast including Cannes Best Actor winner Jesse Plemons, Margaret Qualley, Hunter Schaeffer, Hong Chau, Joe Alwyn, and Mamadou Athie – should make for another jaw-dropping Lanthimosian experience.

The Bikeriders (June 21)

Austin Butler leads a terrific cast, including Jodie Comer and Tom Hardy, in Jeff Nichols’ motorcycle diary. Though it was made for $40 million, we still think it’s worth mentioning on this list as it’s a rare studio film that’s not a sequel or existing IP. Some critics have called it old-fashioned, but for nostalgic audiences it will be hard to resist the intoxicating hum of The Bikeriders’ engine.

Janet Planet (June 21)

Playwright Annie Baker (winner of the 2014 Pulitzer for The Flick) marks her feature-filmmaking debut with Janet Planet, a coming-of-age tale set in 1991 Massachusetts. Julianne Nicholson stars as Janet, a hippie-ish mother to 11-year-old Lacy (Zoe Ziegler). After debuting at the 2023 Telluride Film Festival (with follow-up screenings at the New York Film Festival and the Berlinale), the film now gets a U.S. theatrical release, bringing Baker’s unique perspective on parenthood and growing up to American audiences.

Fancy Dance (June 28)

With her nomination for a Best Actress Oscar this past year for Killers of the Flower Moon, Lily Gladstone saw her star rise dramatically. But she’s been putting in work on small indie sets for a while, including in this gem from writer-director Erica Tremblay, which premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Set mostly on the Seneca-Cayuga Reservation in Oklahoma, the film follows Gladstone as Jax, an ex-con who makes ends meet through some not-so-petty theft, often accompanied by her teenage niece, Roki, whose mother, like so many Indigenous women, is missing. Dodging the law, both women head to an annual powwow where Roki hopes to perform a mystical dance.

Daddio (June 28)

Another 2023 festival charmer now getting its theatrical due, writer-director Christy Hall’s debut feature is a two-person chamber piece set in a New York yellow cab. Dakota Johnson is just coming back from a fraught trip, and Sean Penn is the taxi driver who picks her up at JFK airport. What starts out as a somewhat ribald exchange of pleasantries turns into a surprisingly intimate discussion of relationships and gender politics. Even more unexpected is how moving the experience proves to be, thanks to divine performances from the two (and only) leads.

Music (June 28)

The tenth feature from German filmmaker Angela Schanelec follows a young man with extraordinary musical talent imprisoned on a manslaughter charge who falls in love with a female prison guard, unaware that they share a much deeper connection. It premiered at Berlinale where Schanelec swooped up the Best Screenplay award. 

Last Summer (June 28)

Controversial French auteur Catherine Breillat returns with her steamy new feature after a decade. It follows an attorney and mother (Léa Drucker) whose stable family life in the French countryside is thrown for a loop with the arrival of her troubled stepson (Paul Kircher), with whom she grows way too close – leading them to do the unthinkable. Sideshow and Janus Films will roll it out in U.S. theaters.

The Devil’s Bath (June 28)

Do you appreciate either psychological or supernatural horror? Even better, what if both genres exist within the same film? That is the combo promised by The Devil’s Bath, courtesy of co-directors Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala (Goodnight Mommy, 2019’s The Lodge). Set in 18th-century Austria, the movie follows the travails of newly married Agnes as she struggles with the twin burdens of a disinterested husband and a domineering mother-in-law. Add to that the isolation of their woodland existence, and you have a recipe for despair. Or, perhaps, terror. The devil awaits.

Chronicles of a Wandering Saint (June 28)

A three-time Independent Spirit Award nominee, including for Best First Feature, Tomás Gómez Bustillo’s supernatural comedy follows a highly devout Argentinian villager who, in her very competitive nature, decides to stage a miracle that frames her as a modern-day saint. 

MaXXXine (July 5)

Director Ti West and star Mia Goth conclude the blood-soaked X trilogy this summer. MaXXXine follows Goth’s adult film actress who after surviving the massacre from the first film flees to L.A. to achieve her dreams of stardom, only for her to confront her past when a serial killer starts stalking the streets. Aided by a top-notch supporting cast including Kevin Bacon, Bobby Cannavale, Lily Collins, Giancarlo Esposito, Elizabeth Debicki, Halsey, Moses Sumney, and Michelle Monaghan, prepare yourself for another bloody fun thrill ride.

Made In England: The Films of Powell & Pressburger (July 5)

David Hinton’s new documentary has narrator Martin Scorsese take us back in time through the personal collections of two of his filmmaking heroes: Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. Its tribute to the directing duo, known for The Red Shoes and A Matter of Life and Death, will be one that cinephiles all over will admire and perhaps be just as inspired as Scorsese was.

Longlegs (July 12)

We might be in for an ultimate big-screen nightmare this summer from writer-director Oz Perkins. Modern horror icon Maika Monroe stars as a young FBI agent who is forced to confront her past when she begins investigating a cold case of serial killings, leading her to a sinister figure – a diabolically creepy Nicolas Cage. Reports have been circulating of viewers crying in the theater.

Sing Sing (July 12)

The story of a theater program in the Sing Sing prison is based on a real life organization called ‘Rehabilitation Through the Arts’. Colman Domingo leads an ensemble of non-actors who bring authenticity to the proceedings. This heartwarming drama, made independently, was picked up by A24 out of Toronto.

National Anthem (July 12) 

Photographer Luke Gilford’s feature directorial debut follows a young Texas man (Charlie Plummer) who finds work on a ranch pioneered by an all-queer community. There he falls for a trans cowgirl (Eve Lindley) who forces him to look within himself and forge his own identity.

Crossing (July 19)

An official selection of Berlinale and Tribeca, writer-director Levan Akin’s (And Then We Danced) heartfelt drama centers on a world-weary, middle-aged schoolteacher who travels to Turkey to search for her long-lost niece and soon finds herself embraced by the local trans community in a way that opens up her worldview.

Didi (July 26)

Focus Features picked up this AIM-era coming-of-age story out of Sundance where it won the U.S. Dramatic Audience Award, in an effort to appeal to younger audiences. However, it lacks the bite and comic timing of Eighth Grade.

Kneecap (August 2)

Get ready for one drug-fuelled, musical blast this summer! Writer-director Rich Peppiatt’s Sundance Audience Award winner chronicles the early days and rise of Northern Irish rap trio Kneecap (who star as themselves), as well as their chaotic, ketamine-fueled journey to become global sensations. Michael Fassbender also winds up in the frey as one of the member’s deadbeat father.

Cuckoo (August 2)

We may find a new scream queen this summer in the form of Hunter Schaeffer. The Euphoria star leads writer-director Tilman Singer’s delirious nightmare as a teenage girl forced to move to a German resort with her father (Marton Csokas) and stepmother (Jessica Henwick) where things are more depraved than they seem. Dan Stevens also stars.

My Old Ass (August 2)

A teenage girl (Maisy Stella) gets a visit from her future self (Aubrey Plaza) who advises her never to fall in love, until she meets the boy she was warned about…

After bringing viewers to tears with her urgent directorial debut The Fallout, writer-director Megan Park takes a more lighthearted approach with her coming-of-age comedy My Old Ass (great title). Amazon MGM liked what they saw with Bottoms and got behind My Old Ass at Sundance to the tune of a whopping $15 million, though it’s unlikely to make that much at the box office. Bottoms was a success at around $12M B.O., but also on VOD and streaming. It’s encouraging to see when these big deals materialize for ‘smaller movies’. 

Sugarcane (August 9)

This personal and powerful doc is about Indigenous Canadians and abuse at the hands of their Catholic school principals. The filmmaker’s father escaped a tragic fate and now his son is telling their story. Nat Geo acquired the doc at Sundance – where it won the U.S. Documentary Directing Award – with an eye towards awards season.

Good One (August 9)

After premiering at Sundance and New Directors/New Films, writer-director India Donaldson’s Good One was invited to screen out of competition at Cannes, which proves how much of a critical darling it is. The story resembles a novella, with a precocious teenager contending with her father and his friend over the course of a three-day backpacking trip.

Daughters (August 16)

Directors Natalie Rae and Angela Patton explore humanity within the prison industrial complex through the ‘daddy-daughter dance.’ Brace yourselves for an emotional journey. Comparisons could be made to Garrett Bradley’s 2020 Oscar-nominated doc Time. Netflix is putting their full support behind this one.

Between The Temples (August 23)

Indie maestro Nathan Silver’s new cringe, yet heartwarming comedy stars an always reliable Jason Schwartzman as a cantor going through grief (and poor life choices) who wakes up to life’s possibilities when his newest bat mitzvah student happens to be his grade school teacher (a sensational Carol Kane). 

Close Your Eyes (August 23)

Legendary director Victor Erice’s (The Spirit of the Beehive, El Sur) long-awaited comeback (40 years in the making) is finally coming to U.S. theaters courtesy of Film Movement. This labyrinthian drama centers on a filmmaker who revisits the mysterious disappearance of an actor from one of his sets by talking to those who knew him professionally and dearly. 

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