Alden Ehrenrich and Phoebe Dynevor heighten the tension in thriller “Fair Play.”
By Lucy Spicer
Summer may be over, but movie nights are forever. The last few months have seen a steady flow of Sundance-supported projects arriving in theaters, and the trend continues in September (with several films appearing on streaming services, too, for those of you who’d rather watch from the comfort of your couch).
This month’s list features seven titles that premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, plus two riveting projects supported by Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program. September’s releases are an eclectic bunch: They include a lycanthropic coming-of-age story, a documentary about a fashion industry icon, a heartwarming musical, a sexy workplace thriller, and more.
Whether you want to be inspired, delighted, enthralled, or a little scared, there’s a new September release for you.
While We Watched — Supported by Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program, this gripping documentary follows journalist Ravish Kumar for two years as he props up an Indian newsroom in crisis while being labeled a traitor and receiving regular death threats for his continued protests to maintain fact-based programming. Director Vinay Shukla’s timely documentary paints an urgent picture of the dangers of sensationalism and misinformation in the media. Making its broadcast premiere on PBS’ POV September 4.
My Animal — Heather (Bobbi Salvör Menuez) feels like an outcast in her dreary, isolated town. She’s dealing with a lot: an alcoholic mother, a sexist hockey coach who won’t let her play, regular taunts from her peers. Oh, and she has to shackle herself to her bed every full moon so she won’t hurt anyone when she transforms into a werewolf. When she meets intriguing figure skater Jonny (Amandla Stenburg), Heather must reckon with her sexuality, personhood, and the beast within. Directed by Jacqueline Castel in her feature film debut. Arriving in select theaters September 8.
Rotting in the Sun — Where in the world is Sebastián Silva?! That’s the question that drives this dark comedy in which director and co-writer Sebastián Silva plays a version of himself. At a gay nude beach where suicidal artist Sebastián has traveled on a friend’s recommendation, he meets influencer Jordan Firstman (also playing himself) and the two agree to collaborate on a series. But when Jordan later arrives at Sebastián’s Mexico City apartment to start the project, Sebastián is nowhere to be found, and Jordan begins to question whether the housekeeper, Vero (Catalina Saavedra), had something to do with his disappearance. Arriving in select theaters September 8, streaming on Mubi September 15.
Cassandro — Award-winning documentary filmmaker Roger Ross Williams makes his fiction directorial debut with a biopic of Cassandro, the real-life “Liberace of lucha libre.” The iconic gay luchador’s story follows Saúl Armendáriz (Gael García Bernal) as he transforms from El Topo — a masked runt who’s never allowed to win a match — into Cassandro, an unmasked exótico. Flamboyant exóticos are also supposed to lose, but Cassandro changes the game as his larger-than-life personality makes him a crowd favorite. Supported by Sundance Institute’s Feature Film Program. Arriving in select theaters September 15, streaming on Amazon Prime Video September 22.
Invisible Beauty — Trailblazing model, agent, and activist Bethann Hardison teams up with co-director Frédéric Cheng to tell her own extraordinary story. In this thought-provoking documentary, Hardison candidly reflects on her personal journey — from her days as a runway model in the ’70s to the founding of her own agency and advocating for racial diversity in fashion over the following decades — while interviews with her friends, family, and mentees reveal how her actions changed lives and the industry. Arriving in select theaters September 15.
Flora and Son — Flora (Eve Hewson) is a single mother living in Dublin and trying to keep Max (Orén Kinlan) — her teenage son whom she had when she was only a teenager herself — out of trouble. When Max rebuffs her gift of a refurbished guitar, Flora decides to take up the instrument herself, turning to virtual lessons from Los Angeles–based guitar teacher Jeff (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). The latest musical comedy-drama offering from writer-director John Carney (Once, Sing Street) reminds us that music has the power to bring people together, near and far. Arriving in select theaters September 22, streaming on Apple TV+ September 29.
Mami Wata — Lílis Soares received the World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award: Cinematography at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival for her work on C.J. “Fiery” Obasi’s film about an African village whose relationship with Mami Wata, the powerful water deity, has been disrupted. Shot in black and white, this modern fable follows sisters Prisca (Evelyne Ily Juhen) and Zinwe (Uzoamaka Aniunoh) as they try to restore harmony to their oceanside village after troubling events — including the death of a child and the arrival of of a rebel deserter — throw their community into chaos. Arriving in select theaters September 29.
Fair Play — The future is looking bright for Emily (Phoebe Dynevor) and Luke (Alden Ehrenreich). Not only do they both work at a buzzing financial firm in New York City, but they’ve just gotten engaged, too (though they’re keeping their relationship a secret from their workplace at the moment). But when the chance for a big promotion comes along, cracks start to form in the foundation of the supportive couple’s relationship. Writer-director Chloe Domont’s unflinching feature film debut asks how far (and how low) people will go to rise to the top. Arriving in select theaters September 29, streaming on Netflix October 13.
Fire Through Dry Grass — Supported by Sundance Institute’s Documentary Film Program, this documentary captures the turbulent experiences of a group of Black and brown artists living in a nursing home on Roosevelt Island in New York City during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the harrowing months that followed. Co-directed by Alexis Neophytides and one of the nursing home’s residents — Andres “Jay” Molina in his directorial debut — the film weaves together real-time footage with illustrated poetry narrated by the Reality Poets. Arriving in select theaters September 29, making its broadcast premiere on PBS’ POV October 30.
The 2023 Sundance Film Festival Short Film Tour is underway! Traveling to all corners of the United States and beyond in the following months, the 90-minute program features seven short films selected from the 2023 Festival. Check here for dates and venues; see below for dates in September.
- Chicago, Illinois, September 1–5, The Gene Siskel Film Center
- Louisville, Kentucky, September 8–10, Speed Art Museum
- Auckland, New Zealand, September 28, Academy Cinemas
- Columbus, Ohio, September 14, Wexner Center for the Arts
- Ithaca, New York, September 14–21, Cornell Cinema
- Lowell, Massachusetts, September 16–30, Luna Theater
- Salt Lake City, Utah, September 15, The Broadway Theatre
- Cleveland, Ohio, September 16–17, Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque
- Ridgway, Colorado, September 19, Sherbino Theater
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, September 21–24, PhilaMOCA
- San Diego, California, September 22, Digital Gym