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Release Rundown: What to Watch in August, from “Emily the Criminal” to “The Princess”

Side profile of the face a woman with short blond hair wearing a teardrop earring

The Princess, a documentary about Princess Diana created entirely from archive footage, was well-received at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. The film begins streaming on HBO Max starting August 31, the 25th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death.

By Vanessa Zimmer

Just as August is the month of returning to textbooks and uncomfortable desks for students across the country, it is also a prime time for joyously “educating” oneself from a cushioned seat in front of a movie or television screen.

From documentaries on Princess Diana and memories from before the Holocaust, to fictional stories on seemingly good people who turn to crime, nine independent films on widely varying subjects — and which were well-received at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival — release to theaters and streaming services in August.

Two Audience Award–winners from the Festival are among this hard-hitting bunch. But, no worries, there will be no test afterward. Just some freewheeling discussion down at the local coffee shop. Or the ice cream shop. No wrong answers on that multiple-choice option.

Mija — Doris Muñoz, a music-talent manager who has successfully championed Latinx performers, and her newest discovery, Jacks Haupt, team up for a musical journey — one that also sees the two American-born women carrying the burden of improving the lives of their undocumented-immigrant families. The documentary feature is directed by Isabel Castro. Releases August 5 in select cities, followed by streaming on Disney+ later this year. 

Summering — Four girlfriends spend the last days of summer before entering middle school on an adventure that involves solving an intense mystery and life lessons about growing up. Sundance alum James Ponsoldt co-wrote and directed the film. Releases to theaters August 12.

Emily the Criminal — Festival favorite Aubrey Plaza seamlessly transforms into Emily, who becomes a criminal out of the desperation of being trapped in a dead-end job and unable to pay off her student debt. Seemingly stymied by a minor criminal record from getting a position that benefits from her artistic talents, Emily becomes a dummy shopper — meaning she joins up with an operation that buys goods with stolen credit cards and resells them. John Patton Ford wrote and directed the film. Releases in theaters August 12.

Girl Picture — Winner of the Audience Award in World Cinema at the Festival, this Finnish film is a coming-of-age story about three friends who work at the food court smoothie shop after school. “Within the film’s tender, funny exploration of the fears and confusions of discovering one’s identity and sexuality, a refreshingly positive portrait of the power of female friendship emerges,” according to the Festival Film Guide. “Writers Daniela Hakulinen and Ilona Ahti consistently present the film’s teen protagonists as complex individuals, while director Alli Haapasalo, rather than aestheticizing the girls’ femininity, vibrantly depicts their trials and tribulations through their own eyes.” Limited theatrical release as of August 12.

Free Chol Soo Lee — In this true-crime story dating back to 1973, a Korean immigrant named Chol Soo Lee is wrongly convicted of a murder in Chinatown and spends several years in prison before journalist K.W. Lee comes to his aid. “The intrepid reporter’s investigation would galvanize a first-of-its-kind pan-Asian American grassroots movement to fight for Chol Soo Lee’s freedom, ultimately inspiring a new generation of social justice activists,” according to the Festival Film Guide. Directed by Julie Ha and Eugene Yi. Releases August 12 in theaters.

The Princess — Told exclusively through archival footage, free of intrusive outside voices, Princess Diana’s story unfolds as never before. “Director Ed Perkins distills thousands of hours of riveting material to present Diana’s story in a fresh and imaginative way, depicting not only one of the most alluring public figures of the 20th century but also the sociopolitical upheaval afflicting the United Kingdom at the time,” according to the Festival Film Guide. Releases August 13 on HBO, then streams on HBO Max starting August 31, the 25th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death.

Three Minutes – A Lengthening — In 1938, David Kurtz shot home movies of his European vacation, including three minutes of footage of his birthplace, Nasielsk, Poland. A year later, the Nazis occupied the predominantly Jewish community, leaving fewer than 100 survivors. “In her fascinating film essay, Bianca Stigter traces the story of those three minutes and the discoveries they prompted, conducting a mesmerizing filmic excavation that seeks to expand time, postponing the inevitable fate of the people caught on celluloid,” according to the Festival Film Guide. Helena Bonham Carter narrates. Releases in theaters August 19. 

The Territory — Winner of the Audience Award and a Special Jury Award: Documentary Craft, both in the World Cinema Documentary category, this film tells the story of an Indigenous movement against deforestation in the rainforest of Brazil. Alex Pritz is the director and cinematographer. Releases in theaters on August 19.

Breaking (formerly 892) — Trying to reintegrate into civilian life, Marine veteran Brian Easley faces obstacles at every turn. Pushed to the brink, he takes hostages at a bank in an attempt to make himself heard. “Based on a true story, [Breaking] showcases powerful performances by John Boyega, the late Michael K. Williams in his final screen role, and others who remind us of the social responsibility we have to our soldiers, colleagues, and families, and to strangers as well,” according to the Festival Film Guide. Releases in theaters August 26.

Two other 2022 Sundance Film Festival alums came out at the end of July. Don’t miss them!

We Met in Virtual Reality — This unique experience, shot entirely inside the world of virtual reality, introduces an enlightening exploration of an alternate way of life. “Following a number of couples who met in VR during the pandemic, [filmmaker Joe] Hunting leads with romance but opens an exploration of technology, borders, and imagination,” according to the Festival Film Guide. “One of the most visually singular and formally exciting documents of the COVID-19 lockdown, We Met in Virtual Reality is a powerful testament to the new paths to connection that creativity can forge.” Streaming on HBO Max as of July 27.

Resurrection — Sundance regular Rebecca Hall stars as a strong career woman and single mom whose life begins to unravel upon the repeated, disturbing appearance of a man (Tim Roth) from her past — apparently returning for unfinished business. “Writer-director Andrew Semans has crafted a surreal and deeply disturbing film,” according to the Festival Film Guide, “blending drama and horror to deftly unearth a nightmare that feels all too real.” The film released in theaters on July 29.

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