The problem with the recent explosion of alternative distribution methods for cinema - your self-released DVDs, your micro-festivals, your Netflix exclusive streaming windows - is that good stuff can still get lost in the shuffle.
Movies that don't have conventional distribution or a high film-festival profile can fall between the cracks, never even getting the chance to play in front of an audience. If they're made without stars, or have a difficult concept, or are just too weird to boil down to a high-concept pitch, it's even harder to get them noticed.
This is where Jeff Wright's Refocus Film Series comes in. A programmer for the Over The Top Film Festival, Wright has decided to bring interesting movies to Toronto audiences, whether we've heard of them or not. He won't even charge us to see them.
Wright launched Refocus earlier this fall with a September screening of Ben Wheatley's British kitchen-sink gangster movie Down Terrace. (It's now playing at the Carlton, and it's very good.)
Tonight, it takes over Kensington Market's Double Double Land (209 Augusta Avenue, above the La Rosa Bakery) for a free double-bill of two new American independent features, Aaron Katz's Cold Weather at 7 pm and Ben and Joshua Safdie's Daddy Longlegs at 9 pm. You should be there.
If you've been following the indie cinema movement that's come out of the U.S. in the last few years, you might recognize Katz as the writer-director of Dance Party U.S.A. and Quiet City, both of which featured prominently in filmswelike's Generation DIY series back in 2008 - but Cold Weather is a major step forward for him. It's a marvellous little genre-bender about an aimless Portland ice-factory worker (Cris Lankeneau) who stumbles through a complex mystery when his ex-girlfriend (Robyn Rikoon) vanishes without a trace. So, yeah, it's a mystery. But it's also an ingeniously structured slacker comedy, an affecting look at modern relationships and the most affectionate Sherlock Holmes send-up since the first season of House.
The second feature, Daddy Longlegs, is the almost crushingly intimate story of a 34-year-old father (Ronald Brownstein, who wrote and directed Frownland) trying to figure out his place in his sons' lives over a couple of weeks, it's a modest drama about coming of age well after the fact; plenty of American indies deal with immature characters forced to confront their failings - most notably Kelly Reichardt's exquisite Old Joy - but few do it as simply and effectively as this.
If you can't make it down to Double Double Land tonight, you can catch up to Daddy Longlegs on Netflix - but as far as I'm aware, this is your only shot at catching Cold Weather. And that's a shame, since it's one of the best movies I've seen this year, and it deserves a couple of weeks at the Carlton or the Royal or the Lightbox at the very least. Seriously, can somebody get on that?