10 Must-See Films at the Philadelphia Film Festival

There's a lot to choose from at this year's fest. We're here to help.

Let The Fire Burn

Let The Fire Burn

I know I wasn’t the only cinephile disappointed that the Philadelphia Film Festival didn’t make IndieWire’s inaugural list of the 50 leading film festivals back in 2010. They haven’t released a new installment of the list since then, so you’d have to imagine that the PFF – under the stalwart leadership of executive director J. Andrew Greenblatt and artistic director Michael Lerman, who took the reigns back in 2008 – would most definitely make the cut now. Especially with the wealth of films they’ve amassed for this year’s edition, which begins this Thursday and runs through October 27th, and promises some 90-plus features for our viewing consumption. Forthwith, one critic’s picks for some of the most anticipated, must-see entries over the next 10 days, in alphabetical order.

A Touch of Sin

Straight outta Cannes and the NYFF, where it earned pretty serious praise, Chinese director Zhangkie Jia’s multi-part narrative involves four entangled stories, each having to do with the emotional breaking points of several protagonists who eventually take action against their oppressors. October 20th, 24th


All is Lost

J.C. Chandor follows up his criminally underappreciated debut, Margin Call, with a nearly wordless film about one sailor’s attempt to survive on a badly damaged yacht during a massive storm on the Indian Ocean. That the sailor is played by Robert Redford only adds to the intrigue. October 17th (sold out)


August: Osage County

This year’s most obvious Oscar-bait film finds a drug-addled matriarch (Meryl Streep) calling her three misbegotten daughters and their families back to Oklahoma when their father suddenly goes missing. Despite the seemingly banal set-up, which sounds like some sort of gummy weepster, the film, based on the searing Pulitzer-prize winning play by Tracy Letts, is anything but saccharine. October 19th


Blue is the Warmest Color

An intimate portrait of a fledgling lesbian romance has run the gauntlet at this point: It won the ultra-prestigious Palme d’Or at Cannes, but by the time it played at TIFF three months later, Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos, the two (excellent) female leads had gone on record complaining about their roles and the methods of director Abdellatif Kechich; while Kechich himself disavowed the entire project, saying it never should have been released in the first place. Good times? October 20th, 22nd



Another film that earned previous festival acclaim, primarily for the uncanny work of lead actress Paulina Garcia. She plays the titular heroine in director Sebastián Lelio’s bittersweet dramedy about a slightly more-than-middle-aged divorcee who remains defiantly open to new romantic experiences. October 20th, 26th


God Loves Uganda

A highly praised doc from Roger Ross Williams about a group of right-wing American evangelists who travel to Africa as missionaries to convince Ugandans to conform to the exacting laws of the Bible. October 24th, 27th


Let the Fire Burn

Of particular interest to the citizens of our fair city, Jason Osder’s doc concerns the infamous MOVE bombing of 1985, wherein then-mayor Wilson Goode ordered a drop of military-grade bombs on a West Philly row home, which resulted in the deaths of 11 people–including five children–and the destruction of 60 houses. October 26th



Alexander Payne’s ode to irascible elderly men and spartan landscapes features Bruce Dern as an aging alcoholic father convinced that a crappy sweepstakes letter proclaiming him to have won a million dollars is absolutely on the level. Will Forte plays his long-suffering, good-natured son, who indulges his father’s fantasy as far as he can. October 21st



Dame Judi Dench plays the real-life Philomena Lee, an aging Irish woman who recalls to a journalist (Steve Coogan) how her infant son was taken away from her and sold by the nunnery in whose care she was entrusted. It’s something of a mixed-match road movie, but one with a lot of emotional pull. October 23rd


Stranger by the Lake

Alain Guiraudie’s intelligent thriller concerns a lost man finding love on a gay-friendly lakeshore resort, only to find his lover has seriously murderous ambitions. October 18th, 23rd

Tickets and full schedules can be found right here.