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Staff & contributors

This fiery coming-of-age drama has an unlikely origin story: director Jonas Carpignano was first introduced to the sprawling Roma clan that makes up most of the movie’s cast when one of them stole his car while he shot another film. The charismatic Amato family made such an impression on him that he decided to center a movie around their real lives, naming it for the insular neighborhood they live in on the outskirts of a Southern Italian town.

The Amatos are part of a much-maligned ethnic minority, but not the only one in the film. The Ciambra pokes at the idea of solidarity between the Amatos and local African migrants: while his elders are quick to reject the idea, plucky 14-year-old Pio (Pio Amato) flits across these invisible borders and bonds with Ayiva (Koudous Seihon). But Pio is desperate to win the respect of the men in his family, who might then allow him to take part in their criminal exploits — a crisis point The Ciambra chronicles with raw emotion. This is a movie whose grit and bleakness often recall the uncompromising gaze of neo-realist classics, as a child is heartbreakingly forced to declare his allegiances in the dog-eat-dog world his elders can’t imagine an alternative to.

Genre: Crime, Drama

Actor: Damiano Amato, Iolanda Amato, Koudous Seihon, Patrizia Amato, Pio Amato

Director: Jonas Carpignano

South African director John Trengove follows-up his debut The Wound with another take on masculinity, this time set in the States. Manodrome stars Jesse Eisenberg and Adrien Brody as a newbie and a veteran in a support group for men who have been emasculated by women and feminism. That's right, this is a film about incel culture, but one you haven't seen before. In tandem with Taxi Driver, Fight Club, or Joker, Manodrome represents a new era for the incel movie, as it confronts all the terror and aggression feeding into the community head on. Ralphie (Eisenberg) insists that his girlfriend Sal (Odessa Young) keeps their unplanned baby and deep down the rabbit hole he goes. Mental health struggles that have no outlet, worries, disappointment, alienation: all these facets of Ralphie's character come to the fore and bring him to the Manodrome clan, where Dad Dan (Brody) promises two miracles—absolution and acceptance—in exchange for celibacy. Trengove's sophomore feature is a blood-curdling psychological thriller that is not afraid to go to extremes (content warning!) to show that incels are not, in fact, a dorky online minority of youngsters, but a real wound in the body of our patriarchal world.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Adam Wade McLaughlin, Adrien Brody, Brian Anthony Wilson, Caleb Eberhardt, Ethan Suplee, Evan Jonigkeit, Garrett Richmond, Jesse Eisenberg, Jonah Wharton, Lamar Johnson, Matthew Lamb, Odessa Young, Philip Ettinger, Riley Keough, Sallieu Sesay, Zia Anger

Director: John Trengove

Rating: R

, 2020

Bull is a gritty and haunting drama featuring a phenomenal performance by Rob Morgan as a bullfighter. In a poor Houston suburb, he plays an aging and lonely black man doing everything he can to survive. He brushes off unrelenting racism, rides even when it's life-threatening and raises chickens to sell them. His next-door neighbor is a grandmother taking care of her daughter's kids while the daughter is in jail. One day one of these grandaughters harms the chickens and vandalizes Abe's house, prompting them to clash.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Amber Havard, Rob Morgan, Sarah Albright, Troy Hogan, Yolonda Ross

Director: Annie Silverstein

War Pony is not easy to get through. The film, helmed by first-time directors Riley Kough and Gina Gammell, is slow to move and tackles weighty subjects like poverty, child abuse, and cultural appropriation. You’d be forgiven for asking if it was all too much, especially as the film makes its 12-year-old lead (a stellar LaDainian Crazy Thunder, who plays Matho) perform appalling things children are usually protected from. But ultimately, it also feels necessary. Kough and Gammell co-wrote the script with real-life Rez residents Franklin Sioux Bob and Bill Reddy, whose personal experiences inform much of the film’s story. Additionally, indigenous actors inhabit most of the screen and turn in naturalistic performances, adding to the film’s sense of urgency. And War Pony also weaves traces of magic into its realistic tale, making it an awe-inspiring and beautiful (albeit heavy) watch. 

Genre: Drama

Actor: Anjeliq Aurora, Ashley Shelton, Jordan Robinson

Director: Gina Gammell, Riley Keough

Rating: R