Summer 2021 is special because we didn’t get to enjoy the last one. Though some of us are lucky enough to take a breather from COVID, it’s not quite a summer of joy, as new variants pose threats, and we see wildfires, floods, and record-breaking high temperatures all around the globe…We’d love to stick with fun and light summertime films - we still need those, but it would be an oversight to leave out the more challenging ones. Here are 7 films covering a wide range of themes and styles for summertime viewing.
Summertime in New York
Directed by Max Weissberg | Comedy | 2011 | 86 mins | United States
Synopsis: Six people form a circle - through friendship, love, or sex. The tighter their circle gets, the more the spokes begin to twist and bend. The protagonist is then forced into the ultimate role-play.
What makes it special: Premiered at SXSW as “Room 4 Rent” and went on to win best screenplay at First Time Fest, Max Weissberg’s debut film has been a Filmhub classic. A witty and sexy summer delight featuring exuberant performances and top-notch cinematography, Max’s ode to the city is as authentic as any of its more prominent predecessors.
Directed by Canyon Prince | Drama | 2014 | 95 mins | United States
Synopsis: After the death of her parents, a young woman assumes primary guardianship of her special-needs brother. As she attempts to balance her new life and her own blossoming romance, it becomes painfully clear that life will only make room for one.
What makes it special: The sun beats down hard in Southern California. A fitting title for a heart-wrenching drama about a woman having to sacrifice her own life and dreams to care for her younger brother who has Fragile X syndrome. One of the few films made on this topic, and still one of the best.
Directed by Dan Kennedy | Drama | 2017 | 83 mins | United States
Synopsis: A girl in a dead-end town struggles to overcome abuse, raises her young brother, and finds love in a mysterious, brooding nomad with a dangerous past.
What makes it special: Here’s a different kind of summer vibe - not much sunshine or breeze, but humid air and the smell of decay. Described by the filmmakers themselves as Winter’s Bone meets Ain’t The Bodies Saints, Loud Places explores the dark side of coming-of-age in elegant and poetic manners.
The Beautiful Washing Machine
Directed by James Lee | Drama | 2004 | 113 mins | Malaysia
Synopsis: Teoh’s second-hand washing machine has a life of her own: she washes when she wants to and stops when she feels like it. When Teoh discovers the secret soul of this temperamental slave, he exploits her for all his other household chores.
What makes it special: Prolific Malaysian Chinese director James Lee has made everything from action-thrillers to zombie flicks to this strange but charming arthouse gem. Supposedly a modern spin on The Snail Girl, the film examines the role of women in Malaysian society and deals with the loneliness and isolation of urban dwellers - a theme that’s reminiscent of fellow Southeastern Asian auteurs such as Apichatpong Weerasethakul and Tsai Ming-Liang.
Where to stream it: Tubi
The Rise and Fall of Miss Thang
Directed by Stacie E. Hawkins | Drama | 2007 | 90 mins | United States
Synopsis: A former tap dance prodigy turned nightclub queen can barely find the energy to braid a few heads in her mother’s beauty salon when a handsome dance instructor and her mother’s destructive gambling addiction jolt her into reality.
What makes it special: Shot in Chicago in 17 days during the summer of 2006, Stacie E. Hawkins’ debut film about a young woman’s struggle and pursuit of her dream is raw and uncompromising. The star of the film is real-life “tap’s leading lady” Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, who appeared on Broadway in the Tony Award-winning Bring In Da’Noise, Bring In Da’Funk as the only female dancer.
Directed by Giuseppe Valentino | Drama | 2017 | 78 mins | Italy
Synopsis: Southern Italy. Rosa is a woman with a troubled past who lives in a trailer in the countryside. Her lover is the rich Gino. When she meets Nathaniel, a French drifter, and they both decide to steal a fight dog called Xolo, the danger starts.
What makes it special: A sun-scorched road movie based on a true story. Upcoming filmmaker Giuseppe Valentino has a light yet distinctive touch, and his cross-genre debut is minimalistic but emotionally rich.
Where to stream it: Fearless
Directed by Richard Sidey | Documentary | 2019 | 43 mins | New Zealand
Synopsis: A black-and-white visual meditation of wilderness and the elements. Filmed over five years on seven continents, Elementa is an immersive cinematic experience like no other.
What makes it special: The final installment in seasoned nature photographer and filmmaker Richard Sidey’s ‘Speechless’ trilogy - an ambitious project most comparable to The Qatsi Trilogy, Elementa is a transcendental experience and an alarming message without words. As we reach a tipping point in climate change, the frightening yet stunning sight of calving glaciers might be the only thing we really need to see this summer.