Release Rundown: What to Watch in July, from “Summer Of Soul” to “Summertime”
A still from Carlos López Estrada's "Summertime." The 2020 Sundance Film Festival feature arrives in U.S. theaters July 9.
By Virginia Yapp
Tuesday, June 15th, 2021
ICYMI, the Sundance Institute teamed up with TheFutureParty recently to launch Club Cinema, a new series on Clubhouse where audiences are invited to hear directly from the creators of their favorite new releases — and maybe even ask a question of their own. More details here!
During Summertime’s world premiere at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival — during the peak of a snowy Park City, Utah, winter — writer-director Carlos Lopez Estrada called his free-verse love letter to Los Angeles a “miracle movie.” “We basically sold the movie on a three-sentence pitch,” he remarked of the communal project, which weaves together the stories of more than 30 disparate characters in a loose, roving, Slacker-esque narrative style over the course of a hot summer day.
Made in collaboration with a group of young poets López Estrada met a mere seven months before the film’s premiere at the Festival, the project roams from Venice Beach to downtown Los Angeles to Crenshaw to Hollywood, capturing its cast of skateboarders, taggers, aspiring rappers, and fast food workers in fleeting moments of heartbreak, joy, and everything in between. The project will fittingly meet new audiences this summer — on July 9, to be exact — as audiences return to theaters post–COVID-19.
And don’t miss Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s Summer Of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised), a project that took root back in 1969 with the Harlem Cultural Festival. Despite the event’s all-star lineup, which included acts like Nina Simone, Sly and the Family Stone, and Stevie Wonder, live footage from the performances sat in a basement for more than half a century — until Thompson learned of its existence and began piecing his documentary together. The finished project, which premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival, will arrive in theaters July 2.
Below, see the full list of Sundance-supported projects making their debuts in theaters and on streaming platforms this July.
Summer of Soul
In 1969, during the same summer as Woodstock, a different music festival took place 100 miles away. More than 300,000 people attended the summer concert series known as the Harlem Cultural Festival. It was filmed, but after that summer, the footage sat in a basement for 50 years. It has never been seen. Until now. Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s debut feature — which won the U.S. Documentary Audience Award and the Grand Jury Prize at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival — will make its way to U.S. theaters July 2.
Mike, a high school kid with a crush, finally summons the courage to ask Kelsey out on a date. With a date but no wheels, Mike borrows money and gets duped into buying a clunker ’65 Chrysler. Although many a first date goes awry, Mike’s swiftly descends into a surreal misadventure that finds him inexplicably targeted by a pair of cops, a criminal gang, and a vengeful cat lady — with all roads leading to a showdown. Manuel Crosby and Darren Knapp’s throwback thriller will arrive in theaters July 2.
Over the course of a hot summer day in Los Angeles, the lives of 25 young Angelenos intersect. A skating guitarist, a tagger, two wannabe rappers, an exasperated fast-food worker, a limo driver — they all weave in and out of each other’s stories. Through poetry they express life, love, heartache, family, home, and fear. One of them just wants to find someplace that still serves good cheeseburgers. Carlos López Estrada’s exuberant free-verse second feature will hit theaters July 9.
On the day an asteroid is scheduled to obliterate Earth, freewheeling Liza scores an invite to one last wild gathering before it all goes down. Making it to the party won’t be easy, though, after her car is unceremoniously stolen, and the clock is ticking on her plan to tie up loose ends with friends and family. With a little help from her whimsical younger self, Liza embarks on a journey by foot across Los Angeles as she seeks to make peace with her regrets — and find the right company for those last few hours. Zoe Lister-Jones and Daryl Wein’s freewheeling pre-apocalyptic comedy will arrive in theaters July 20.
Many know the name Alvin Ailey, but how many know the man? Ailey’s commitment to searching for truth in movement resulted in pioneering and enduring choreography that centers on African American experiences. Director Jamila Wignot’s resonant biography grants artful access to the elusive visionary who founded one of the world’s most renowned dance companies, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. See it when it arrives in theaters July 23.
After premiering his debut feature Here at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, director Braden King returned to Park City in 2020 with The Evening Hour, a drama that delves into the opioid crisis in rural Appalachia. Based on the 2012 Carter Sickels novel of the same name, the project features a standout performance by Philip Ettinger as Cole, a young health aide at a nursing home who becomes uneasily embroiled in the local drug trade. See it in theaters beginning July 30.
What if being born is not the beginning but the goal? In a house distant from the reality we know, a reclusive man named Will interviews prospective candidates — personifications of human souls—for the privilege he once had: to be born. Five contenders emerge. During the course of nine days, Will tests each of them, but he can choose only one. The victor will be rewarded with a coveted opportunity to become a newborn in the real world, while the others will cease to exist. Edson Oda’s inventive debut feature, which won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, hits theaters July 30.
Kurdish filmmaker Hogir Hirori takes audiences inside Al-Hol, a Syrian prison that has been called the most dangerous prison camp in the Middle East. With just a mobile phone and a gun, Mahmud, Ziyad, and their group risk their lives trying to save Yazidi women and girls being held by ISIS as sabaya (abducted sex slaves). See it in theaters in NYC and L.A. beginning July 30; the film will expand nationwide on August 6.