It was exciting to see many films we’ve loved and supported reach audiences in 2017. Several of these releases are now available to watch at home, with more on the way.
We got behind these projects because we believed in their potential—that they would offer artful insights into the present moment, and make lasting ripples in the cultural conversation. Although awards season is upon us, and we’re thrilled to see many of these films recognized, it also means a great deal to us to look at what was unique and remarkable about them without weighing them as (incomparable!) competitors. And as they become more widely accessible, we can only imagine how they might be re-interpreted and refracted over time.
Below is a selection of 2017 releases available to watch at home now and where to find them. We think they all have a bright future.
On Blu-ray, DVD, Digital, On Demand.
In Cinereach production Beach Rats, Frankie (Harris Dickenson) is an aimless teenager on the outer edges of Brooklyn. He escapes a bleak home life by hanging with delinquent friends and flirting with older men online. When the pressure to reconcile his competing desires intensifies, Frankie finds himself hurtling toward irreparable consequences.
Although often categorized as a “coming-of-age” story, Eliza Hittman’s Beach Rats breaks the mold in how it deals—understatedly, and then devastatingly—with the internal struggle to define oneself in a society where narrow ideals of masculinity prevail.
Brimstone & Glory
On Digital VOD.
A Cinereach co-production with the Department of Motion Pictures, Brimstone & Glory is set during The National Pyrotechnic Festival in Tultepec, Mexico, a site of festivity unlike any other in the world. In celebration of San Juan de Dios, patron saint of firework makers, spark-flying partying engulfs the town for ten days and massive and dazzling papier-mâché bulls are ignited as they dance to the town square.
The emotional heft of Brimstone is in how close it brings you—with its stunning visuals, death-defying angles, and spiritually rousing score—to the height of revelry and the brink of mortal danger, making you see how truly inextricable these two feelings are, and how deeply the soul needs both.
The Cage Fighter
On VOD platforms.
Newly 40, Joe Carman juggles long hours working in a boiler room, an ongoing custody battle, his wife’s chronic illness, and the demands of raising four girls. The one place he finds release is in the ring, where he competes in the bruising sport of mixed martial arts, despite promising his family to give it up.
Showing the deeply human truth of Hollywood’s fighter who returns to risk it all trope, The Cage Fighter, is a riveting and real look at the demons that can drive us to the limit and what we sacrifice to chase who we want to be.
Available on Netflix, iTunes (coming to DVD and BluRay 3/27)
Casting JonBenet, which received grant Support from Cinereach, is a sly and stylized exploration of the world’s most sensational child-murder case, the still unsolved death of six-year-old American beauty queen, JonBenet Ramsey. Over 15 months, the filmmakers traveled to the Ramsey’s Colorado hometown to elicit responses, reflections and performances from the local community, creating a bold work of art born from the collective memories and mythologies the crime inspired.
Taking on a well-worn but still mysterious subject, Casting Jonbenet is not trying to be the true crime caper the world’s been waiting for. It does not rehash what we know or unearth missing evidence. Instead, Director Kitty Green shows us the many “truths” that still surround private-turned-public tragedy, and prompts us to question what we project onto the modern myths of our news cycle.
The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson
Available on Netflix.
Marsha P. Johnson is a beloved queer icon, whose style and principle provide continual inspiration. Known as a pivotal figure in the Stonewall Riots, igniting a powerful and lasting movement for gay liberation, Marsha was joined in the struggle for queer rights and recognition by fellow trans heroine Sylvia Rivera. But even the fiercest spirits are not immune from conflict and violence; when Marsha, the self-described “street queen” of the west village was found floating in the Hudson River in 1992, the NYPD called her death a suicide and refused to investigate. A quarter-century later, fellow activist Victoria Cruz reexamines what happened, summoning vivid recollections and impressions left along the paths charted by Sylvia and Marsha.
Moving back and forth across eras, this Cinereach grant-supported film by David France invites us to look for how the struggles of then are still fought now. The rights and safety of gender nonconforming people remain embattled today, in spite of progress made since Marsha’s time. The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson contributes to a conversation struck across multiple films that place trans persons at the forefront of queer legacy, in order to refocus their historical perception and still-resonant significance.
Death of a Child
Available on Amazon video, Google Play and other digital platforms.
How do you live with the unbearable? When the worst has happened to you and your loved ones and you have nobody but yourself to blame? Doug, Lyn, Norman and Antonio are all responsible for their children’s deaths. Their stories offer insight into what it means to live with what they have done. The legal, social and personal aftermath differs, often depending on gender, social status, and relationships. But overall, these parents trigger a very specific social rage and condemnation. Death of a Child challenges preconceptions of guilt, punishment and forgiveness. It is an attempt to comprehend the incomprehensible, a note-to-self to be less sure of what we don’t know.
The second in a trilogy (following Pervert Park) that explores the most damning of society’s stigmas, Cinereach grantee film Death of a Child gives us stories and perspectives most would resist seeing, in life or on film. But both film subjects and audiences are safe in the radically empathetic hands of Frida and Lasse Barkfors, whose work continues to illuminate some of the darkest pathways to understanding humanity.
On DVD and digital platforms, including iTunes.
Dina, an eccentric and outspoken 49-year-old in suburban Philadelphia, invites her fiancé Scott, a Walmart door greeter, to move in with her. Having grown up neurologically diverse in a world blind to the value of their experience, the two are head-over-heels for one another, but shacking up poses a new challenge.
Dina, which received distribution and audience assistance and grant support from Cinereach, is a rare film not only in its cinematic depiction of a loving relationship between two neurodiverse adults, but in how widely relatable and empathetic its central relationship is. Dan Sickles and Antonio Santini’s sensitive, funny, and moving film shows us the sweetness and complexity, individuality and partnership, negotiation and communication, that any pair of lovers needs to thrive. On top of all that, Dina’s resilience, and her unsinkable pursuit of what makes her most happy, make her a heroine audiences won’t soon forget.
The Florida Project
iTunes, Amazon and more.
On a stretch of highway just outside the Disney World bubble, The Florida Project, a Cinereach grant-supported film, follows six-year-old Moonee and her rebellious mother Halley over a single summer. They live week-to-week at a budget motel managed by Bobby, whose stern exterior hides a deep reservoir of compassion. Moonee has no trouble making each day a celebration of life with her ragtag playmates, as Halley faces increasing danger to keep providing for her daughter.
In a time and place mercilessly indifferent to a young mother’s struggles, adventure and magic fill her daughter’s days. With rare authenticity and heart-centered humanism, The Florida Project celebrates childhood and friendship, while dancing between coexisting poles of pain and beauty.
On DVD and iTunes.
In 2014, after over a decade of federal monitoring for misconduct and civil rights abuses, the Oakland Police Department hires Chief Sean Whent to bridge an historically conflicted divide between its officers and the community. The Force, which received Cinereach grant support, leans into this tension as experienced by the police; whether on the beat, addressing the public, or steeping rookies in departmental values. We see a force trapped in transition, desperate to shed its corrupt image but challenged by the urgent Black Lives Matter movement developing right outside its doorstep.
Director Peter Nicks takes a great narrative risk by placing his audience beside OPD officers at a time when trust between the police and policed communities is at an all-time low. But as this position offers crucial context for the officers’ role, coupled with a larger story arc that expands the need for accountability and reform, this directorial approach unleashes critical layers of complexity, identification, and perspective.
Last Men in Aleppo
Available on Netflix and other digital platforms.
Last Men in Aleppo follows the efforts of the internationally recognized White Helmets, ordinary Syrian citizens who organized to save lives after military strikes and attacks. Incorporating heart-pounding suspense and improbable beauty, it draws us into the lives of three of its founders—Khaled, Subhi, and Mahmoud—as they grapple with the chaos around them and struggle with an ever-present dilemma: do they flee or stay and fight for their country.
Without stopping for the expected context or analysis, Cinereach grantee film Last Men in Aleppo, trusts audiences to join its harrowing and heartrending journey and draw their own conclusions. Ripped from the headlines—yet unfolding as lived cinema rather than journalism—Feras Fayyad’s film takes on a heavy burden with grace and empathy. It bears witness and it does not flinch.
Available on iTunes.
Filmed with vérité intimacy over a decade, the Cinereach grant-supported documentary Quest is the portrait of the Rainey family of North Philadelphia. Beginning at the dawn of the Obama presidency, Christopher “Quest” Rainey and his wife, Christine’a “Ma Quest” raise a family while nurturing a community of hip hop artists in their home music studio. It’s a safe space where all are welcome, but this creative sanctuary can’t always shield them from the strife that grips their neighborhood and their family.
Quest is miraculous for being both intimate and epic. Its longitudinal narrative creates the impression that we are living life alongside the Raineys, seeing their children grow and their strength tested by circumstance. We get to know them so well that at moments they almost seem ordinary, though the resilience and love they embody is anything but.
The Reagan Show
On digital platforms.
Told solely through archival footage, and set against the backdrop of the Cold War, Cinereach grant-supported The Reagan Show captures the pageantry, absurdity, and charisma of a prolific actor’s defining role: Leader of the Free World.
The magic of The Reagan Show is how it gives us an incisive and darkly comic critique of a president using source material that was created for an entirely different purpose. The Reagan White House “produced” footage of the presidency to an unprecedented degree, forever changing what it looked like to lead in America, and leaving behind a trove of footage that, from the contemporary perspective of Directors Sierra Pettengill and Pacho Velez, reveals far more than its original creators imagined.
Available on Netflix.
Strong Island examines the violent death of the filmmaker Yance Ford’s brother years ago, and the judicial system that allowed his killer to go free. It calls us to bear witness to the reality of injustice, going beyond interviews into the homes of those left behind, and into profound crises of civic faith. Strong Island, which received grant support from Cinereach, interrogates murderous fear, racialized perception, and re-imagines the wreckage in catastrophe’s wake.
Many documentaries translate the political into the personal, but Strong Island does so with distinct depth and art. It is meditative and explosive, loving and furious, painful and beautiful, and from its opposing tensions emerge its unforgettable power.
On DVD and digital platforms.
When unarmed teenager Michael Brown is killed by police and then left lying in the street for hours, it marks a breaking point for the residents of St. Louis county. Grief, long-standing tension, and renewed anger bring residents together to hold vigil and protest this latest tragedy. In the days that follow, artists, musicians, teachers and parents turn into freedom fighters, standing on the front lines to demand justice. As the national guard descends on Ferguson, a small suburb of St. Louis, young community members become the torchbearers of a new wave of resistance.
Whose Streets?, which received grant support from Cinereach, is thoughtfully and intentionally crafted with a community of authentic voices. “Honoring community leadership” was one of the principles of the movement, says Sabaah Folyan, who directed the film with Damon Davis. “We knew the only way to do this project was to do it in collaboration with people from St. Louis, who understand that place.”