The weather is getting colder (at least here in the Northeast), and that usually means more interesting and challenging fare is moving into the cineplex. Here’s a look at some of the films being released this fall that might most intrigue progressives (trailers in the playlist below):


Inequality For All (In theaters now)

While this is hardly the first documentary to address the issue of growing inequality in the U.S, reviews indicate it is one of the best to do so.

Directed by Jacob Kornbluth, Inequality for All debuted at Sundance in January where it took home the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award. The film invites comparisons to An Inconvenient Truth, as it’s structured around a public lecture from former Labor Secretary Robert Reich.

Reich details exactly how inequality has exploded in the U.S. over the course of the past three decades and discusses the effect this having on our society and democracy. The film is currently in limited release.

The Fifth Estate (In theaters October 18, 2013)

The early reactions to this film – which chronicles the establishment and rise of WikiLeaks – have not been promising.

Julian Assange has called it a “massive propaganda attack” on himself and his staff. WikiLeaks called the film a “geriatric snoozefest.” And most recently, the Guardian released a letter from Assange to Benedict Cumberbatch (who plays Assange in the film), telling the actor he will be used to present a “debased truth.”

None of this is exactly surprising: I did not expect WikiLeaks to warmly embrace a film based on questionable source material, nor did I expect a Hollywood studio to greenlight a subversive, nuanced take on an organization that is pretty high on the government’s shit list. Nevertheless, I’ll wait to see the film before passing final judgement. And, yes, I will see the film. I’m certainly sympathetic to the argument that dishonest propaganda should be boycotted and ignored. However, I tend to subscribe more to the view that we should engage with any material that deals with issues important to us, and when necessary work to correct any misconceptions caused by that material.

The fact is, people will see this movie and it will cause a discussion on leaks, privacy and whistleblowing. We need to be a part of that discussion in the same way civil liberties advocates pushed back on some of the false narratives regarding torture and the war on terror presented in last year’s Zero Dark Thirty.

Mediastan (Available On-Demand Now)

If you do avoid The Fifth Estate and still want to get your fill of WikiLeaks-cinema (or if you saw TFE and just want an extra helping of Julian Assange, Non-Cumberbatch Edition) – check out Mediastan.

The documentary, co-produced by WikiLeaks and Sixteen Films, was deliberately released as an alternative to The Fifth Estate. Dubbed a “WikiLeaks road movie,” the film details Operation Cablerun – the 2011 operation in which a team of undercover WikiLeaks journalists traveled to central Asia and attempted to get local news outlets to publish the diplomatic cables obtained by the organization.

Assange described the film thusly: “This is journalism in extremis. This is how it is done. This weekend, instead of wasting your time and money on Hollywood propaganda, why not get all your friends around and spend your time watching MEDIASTAN instead?”

Wolf of Wall Street (In theaters November 15, 2013 – maybe?)

A few weeks ago, reports indicated the latest Martin Scorsese – Leonardo Dicaprio collaboration might be delayed until next year after Scorsese submitted a 3-hour cut of the film. But more recent stories indicate the adaptation of Jordan Belfort’s memoir of the same name may be back on track for a 2013 release.

The film details Belfort’s time as a Wall Street broker in the earlier 90s, including his opulent lifestyle and his eventual arrest and conviction for securities fraud and money laundering. A film about a Wall Street criminal being vigorously pursued and eventually prosecuted probably sounds like an elaborate fantasy, a la the Hobbit, but I promise this is a true story. Of course Belfort’s rise and fall occurred before our current financial predicament, but Scorsese no doubt chose to adapt this material because of the parallels to our latest crisis.

Dallas Buyers Club (In Theaters November 1, 2013)

Like Wolf of Wall Street, Dallas Buyers Club is a period film about an issue that continues to dominate American political discourse – in this case, health care. Coincidentally, both films feature performances by a resurgent Matthew McConaughey.

DBC tells the true story of Ron Woodroof – a hard partying cowboy from Dallas – who is diagnosed with HIV in 1986. Woodroof is basically given a death sentence and prescribed AZT, the only FDA approved drug at the time to treat HIV. Unsatisfied, Woodroof heads to Mexico and finds a wealth of alternative drugs readily available. Woodroof begins smuggling the drugs back to the U.S. for sale to fellow HIV patients, before eventually attracting the attention of federal authorities.

Some people may find DBC has lost it’s topicality since the Affordable Care Act arrived and completely solved all of our health care problems. But for those who think the U.S. still has some work to do on that front, DBC should prove the be a poignant and incisive look at the way our system fails to provide people adequate treatment and effectively criminalizes those who seek that treatment by other means.

The Unknown Known (Limited Release – December 2013)

Errol Morris (The Thin Blue Line, Fog of War) turns his sights (and his famous Interrotron) on Donald Rumsfeld in his latest film, examining the former Defense Secretary’s role in selling the Iraq War to the American public.

While the natural inclination would be to view this as a follow-up to Morris’ 2003 Oscar winner Fog of War (a lengthy dissection of the life and times of Robert S. McNamara), Morris himself rejected that comparison in a recent interview with Motherboard:

So, everyone is comparing it to The Fog of War.

I compare it to TabloidTabloid 2 not Fog of War 2.

So why is it more like Tabloid?

Well, I have an affection for certain kinds of clueless characters. In some sense, I find Joyce McKinney [from Tabloid] clueless and in some sense I find Donald Rumsfeld clueless…maybe. I can’t be sure. There are certain responses he has to questions that surprise me with their amazing lack of depth, not the converse.

Rumsfeld was one of the main architects of the propaganda campaign in the run-up to Iraq. And while it’s unlikely Morris will be able to extract the same type of contrition from Rumsfeld that he extracted from McNamara, I’m hopeful he be able to extract some answers as to how and why America was deliberately lied into a devastating and costly war.

The film is currently making the rounds at multiple film festivals. It’s expected to start hitting theaters with a limited run later this year.

Have more suggestions for films FDL readers should check out this fall? Share them in the comments.