One doesn’t necessarily expect April to yield first-class art-house fare, but these days, awards season is so stuffed to the gills with prestige films that even the finest indie gems tend to get overlooked. Case in point: The Rider, the second feature from Chinese director Chloé Zhao. The film centers on a young rodeo cowboy (Brady Jandreau) who suffers a devastating injury and must come to terms with his future; it is also based significantly on Jandreau’s own experiences on the rodeo circuit. Despite earning nominations for Best Feature, Best Director, Best Editing, and Best Cinematography at this year’s Indie Spirit Awards (and winning the Art Cinema award at last year’s Cannes film festival), the film had a hard time breaking through on the Oscar circuit. But regardless, The Rider showcases a formidable young director making pure art with scarce resources—in the true spirit of indie film. In theaters April 13; sonyclassics.com.
Andre the Giant
The demise of hipster-chic sports and culture website Grantland meant that sportswriter/impresario Bill Simmons left his long-time home at ESPN and wound up in the arms of HBO. The pairing first yielded a less-than-stellar talk show, but with this new documentary—which is produced by Simmons and directed by Jason Hehir, a former producer for Simmons’ acclaimed ESPN documentary series 30 for 30—HBO may have a genuine hit. French pro wrestler André the Giant has long been a source of myth and legend for wrestling aficionados who swap tales of his grandeur and legendary drinking ability like trading cards; the film explores those myths, as well as well as the glory—and sometimes pain—of being, quite literally, the biggest man in sports. Premieres April 10 on HBO; hbo.com.