ASFF selects five films for release on demand. A mixture of fiction and documentary self-portrait, these distinct and idiosyncratic works come from America, Peru and Britain, and explore a wide variety of evergreen issues: guilt, anxiety, addiction, mental health and institutional corruption.
Lee Daniels (Precious, The Paperboy) returns with a stately bio of singer Billie Holiday, starring Andra Day. The film’s thrust comes from Holiday’s drug-addled relationship with Jimmy Fletcher (Moonlight’s Trevante Rhodes), an undercover Federal agent planted to entrap the singer – all part of a plot to destabilise black political culture. Day is electric as Holiday, well worth the two Golden Globe nominations she’s received for her performance – for Best Actress and Best Original Song.
As director Khalik Allah puts it, I Walk On Water is “a sort of first-person documentary poem; a statement of my artistic integrity and my uncompromising dedication to the streets”. Partly, it deals with Allah’s relationship to Frenchie, a 60-something schizophrenic, homeless Haitian man, who is something of a muse. But it’s also very much a self-portrait, as he becomes embroiled in a turbulent romance and even takes advice from the likes of hip-hop pioneer Fab 5 Freddy and various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.
Song Without a Name (Sovereign Film Distribution)
An atmospheric drama from Peru, writer-director Melina León’s debut feature first played in Cannes’ Director’s Fortnight in 2019 and has been gaining admirers ever since. Set in 1988, it tells of a horrifying story – a newborn baby is whisked away from her mother at a health clinic, never to be returned. The clinic too disappears – and so begins a disturbing case of kidnapping that reeks of institutional corruption. Intriguingly, the film is dedicated to León’s journalist father Ismael, who uncovered a real-life case of child-trafficking.
Adapted from a play by Terry Hughes, Gatecrash is co-written and directed by Lawrence Gough, a TV veteran on shows like Vera, Hollyoaks and Misfits. Revolving around an off-screen hit-and-run, the drama unfolds at an isolated country house as driver Steve (Ben Cura) and his partner Nicole (Olivia Bonamy) are soon confronted by a policeman (Samuel West) and an oddball mystery character named Sid (Anton Lesser). All very theatrical, all very strange, all very intriguing.
The Dark and the Wicked (Shudder)
Texas-born filmmaker Bryan Bertino (The Strangers, Mockingbird) continues on his one-man mission to scare the pants of us with The Dark and The Wicked, a family tale set on an isolated rural farm. Marin Ireland and Michael Abbott Jr. play siblings that arrive back home as their father (Michel Zagst) is dying and their mother (Julie Oliver-Touchstone) is traumatised from looking after him. A bleak but atmospheric slow-burn of a movie that will leave you chilled to the bone.
All films released by 27 February.