A history-making Sundance winner and a biopic about the Queen of Soul are among the most anticipated titles hitting theaters this August.
Kicking off this month’s releases is “Pray Away” (August 3), Kristine Stolakis’ documentary about the history and harm of Exodus International, the largest conversion therapy organization in the world. The Netflix film examines the controversial org’s genesis, as well as its toxic effects on the LGBTQ community.
Oscar-winning “Dreamgirls” star Jennifer Hudson will portray Aretha Franklin in “Respect,” out August 13. Liesl Tommy’s biopic follows the singer’s rise to fame during the 1960s. Also set to hit theaters August 13 is “CODA,” the first film to ever receive all three top U.S. Dramatic honors at Sundance Film Festival. Siân Heder’s coming-of-age story follows an aspiring singer who is the only hearing member in a Deaf family. The acclaimed drama will also be available on Apple TV+.
Abby Ginzberg pays tribute to a trailblazing politician in “Barbara Lee: Speaking Truth to Power.” Slated for release in theaters and on VOD August 20, the documentary is a portrait of Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who famously cast the sole vote opposing military force in the wake of 9/11. Lee, who is known for her commitment to racial and economic justice, holds leadership roles in the LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus, the Congressional Progressive Caucus, the Task Force on Poverty and Opportunity, and the Congressional HIV/AIDS Caucus, among others. “Westworld” co-creator Lisa Joy’s feature directorial debut also arrives August 20. She tells another sci-fi story with “Reminiscence,” a thriller that centers around a private investigator of the mind.
Here are the women-centric, women-directed, and women-written films debuting this August. All descriptions are from press materials unless otherwise noted.
“Pray Away” (Documentary) – Directed by Kristine Stolakis (Available on Netflix)
In the 1970s, five men struggling with being gay in their Evangelical church started a bible study to help each other leave the “homosexual lifestyle.” They quickly received over 25,000 letters from people asking for help and formalized as Exodus International, the largest and most controversial conversion therapy organization in the world. Julie is one of hundreds of thousands of people caught in Exodus’ wake. When she came out at sixteen, her mom took her to a residential conversion therapy program where she spent the next decade going through weekly psychological, behavioral, and religious counseling to make her straight. But leaders struggled with a secret: their own “same-sex attractions” never went away. After years as Christian superstars in the religious right, many have come out as LGBTQ, disavowing the very movement they helped start. “Pray Away” chronicles that movement’s rise to power, persistent influence, and the harm it causes.
“Lucky” – Directed by Natasha Kermani; Written by Brea Grant (Available on VOD)
A suburban woman (Brea Grant) fights to be believed as she finds herself stalked by a threatening figure who returns to her house night after night. When she can’t get help from those around her, she is forced to take matters into her own hands.
“Fireboys” (Documentary) – Directed by Drew Dickler and Jake Hochendoner (Available on VOD)
“Fireboys” is the untold story of young men incarcerated in California who are offered a way out by fighting wildfires. Immersive and personal, this coming-of-age story examines a correctional path that is both hopeful and destructive.
“Shiny_Flakes: The Teenage Drug Lord” (Documentary) – Directed by Eva Müller and Michael Schmitt; Written by Eva Müller (Available on Netflix)
Max S. reveals how he built a drug empire from his childhood bedroom in this story that inspired the series “How to Sell Drugs Online (Fast).”
“Pooling to Paradise” – Directed by Roxy Shih; Written by Caytha Jentis (Available on VOD)
“Pooling to Paradise” is an indie comedy about a Los Angeles rideshare pool that turns into a road trip to Paradise, NV, for four millennial strangers, each at a crossroads in their lives, who find unexpected connection.
“A Savage Nature” – Written by Kathryn O’Sullivan and Paul Awad (Available on VOD)
A troubled couple battles home invaders. As the night unfolds, loyalties shift, secrets spill, and lives shatter.
“BLACKPINK: The Movie” (Documentary) (In Theaters August 4 and August 8 Only)
The girl group beloved by the world, BLACKPINK celebrates the fifth anniversary of their debut with the release of “BLACKPINK: The Movie.” It is also a special gift for BLINKs — BLACKPINK’s beloved fandom — to revisit old memories and enjoy the passionate performances in the festive spirit. BLACKPINK — consisting of Jisoo, Jennie, Rosé, and Lisa — has been growing explosively ever since they first stepped out into the world on August 8, 2016. As hectic as the past five years have been, all the memories, delights on the stage, and their shining moments have been wrapped “like a gift for all the fans” in “BLACKPINK: The Movie.”
“The Macaluso Sisters” – Directed by Emma Dante; Written by Emma Dante, Elena Stancanelli, and Giorgio Vasta (In Theaters)
Maria (Eleonora De Luca), Pinuccia (Anita Pomario), Lia (Susanna Piraino), Katia (Alissa Maria Orlando), and Antonella (Viola Pusateri) are five sisters who live in an apartment in Palermo. When Antonella dies, the sisters’ relationships are turned upside down for the rest of their lives.
“Materna” – Written by Jade Eshete, Assol Abdullina, and David Gutnik (In Theaters; Available on VOD August 10)
“Materna” follows the journeys of four New York women who are isolated by city life, separated by class, politics, race, and religion, and yet bound by a shared hunger for identity and connection. With their futures at stake, the characters’ lives are upended by a fateful encounter underground, where their stories of personal transformation become a battle for survival.
“Bring Your Own Brigade” (Documentary) – Written and Directed by Lucy Walker (In Theaters; Available on CBSN and Paramount+ August 20)
In early November 2018, raging wildfires forced the frenzied evacuation of thousands of terrified residents from the cities of Malibu and Paradise, two very different California communities. In her new documentary, twice-Oscar-nominated filmmaker Lucy Walker captures the heroism and horror of that unfathomable disaster. Her character-driven exposé, “Bring Your Own Brigade,” also answers a question humanity can no longer afford to ignore: Why are catastrophic wildfires increasing in number and severity around the world, and can anything be done to lessen the staggering death and destruction they cause? Drawing on hundreds of hours of astonishing wildfire footage and featuring interviews with survivors, firefighters, and scientists, the film reveals that short of solving global warming there are numerous, often simple steps that can be taken to not only mitigate the catastrophic devastation caused by wildfires, but restore health and balance to woodlands that have been mismanaged for far too long.
“Vivo” – Written by Quiara Alegría Hudes and Kirk DeMicco (Available on Netflix)
A music-loving kinkajou embarks on the journey of a lifetime to fulfill his destiny and deliver a love song for an old friend.
“Misha and the Wolves” (Available on Netflix)
A woman’s dramatic memoir of surviving the Holocaust takes the world by storm, until a falling-out causes her publisher to investigate the veracity of her claims.
“The Kissing Booth 3” (Available on Netflix)
It’s the summer before Elle (Joey King) heads to college, and she’s facing the hardest decision of her life: whether to move across the country with her dreamy boyfriend Noah (Jacob Elordi) or fulfill her lifelong promise to go to college with her BFF Lee (Joel Courtney). Whose heart will Elle break?
“Respect” – Directed by Liesl Tommy; Written by Tracey Scott Wilson (In Theaters)
Following the rise of Aretha Franklin’s (Jennifer Hudson) career from a child singing in her father’s church’s choir to her international superstardom, “Respect” is the remarkable true story of the music icon’s journey to find her voice.
“CODA” – Written and Directed by Siân Heder (In Theaters and Available on Apple TV+)
Gifted with a voice that her parents can’t hear, 17-year-old Ruby (Emilia Jones) is the sole hearing member of a Deaf family — a CODA, which means a Child of Deaf Adults. Her life revolves around serving as an interpreter for her fun-loving but sometimes embarrassing parents (Marlee Matlin, Troy Kotsur) and working on the family’s struggling fishing boat every day before school with her father and older brother (Daniel Durant). But when Ruby joins her high school’s choir club, she discovers a gift for singing and finds herself drawn to her duet partner Miles (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo). With help from her supporting, if tough-loving choirmaster (Eugenio Derbez), Ruby is encouraged to apply to a prestigious music school. However, she finds herself torn between taking care of her family and chasing her dreams.
“White as Snow” – Directed by Anne Fontaine; Written by Anne Fontaine and Pascal Bonitzer (In Theaters)
When Claire (Lou de Laâge), a beautiful but reserved young woman unwittingly provokes the furious jealousy of her evil stepmother Maud (Isabelle Huppert), life as she knows it is over. Sent far away from home, Claire awakens, both figuratively and literally, in a small village in the French mountains. As if by magic, her formerly shy demeanor is gone and she is suddenly aware of her feminine power. It’s the beginning of a radical emancipation. As Claire meets the locals and starts to take joy in her sexuality, soon one, two, three… seven men fall under her charm. For the first time in her life she allows herself to indulge in no-strings sex, taking pride in belonging to no one. But then Maud arrives wanting to reconnect, and Claire must decide who to trust — her sophisticated but cold stepmother, or the circle of adoring men that now surround her.
“Howling Village” (In Theaters; Available on VOD August 17)
After her brother goes missing, Kanade (Ayaka Miyoshi), a young psychologist, visits his last known location, an infamous haunted and cursed site known as “Howling Village” to investigate his disappearance. Her investigation reveals that the village’s mysteries are connected to her family and works to uncover her family’s dark history.
“The Meaning of Hitler” (Documentary) – Written and Directed by Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker (In Theaters and Available on VOD)
A provocative interrogation of our culture’s fascination with Hitler and Nazism set against the backdrop of the current rise of white supremacy, the normalization of antisemitism, and the weaponization of history itself. The film traces Hitler’s movements, his rise to power, and the scenes of his crimes as historians and writers, including Martin Amis, Deborah Lipstadt, Saul Friedlander, Francine Prose, Yehuda Bauer, and famed Nazi hunters Beate and Serge Klarsfeld, weigh in on the lasting impact of his virulent ideology. As fears of authoritarianism and fascism now abound, the film explores the myths and misconceptions of our understanding of the past, and the difficult process of coming to terms with it at a time in our history when it seems more critical than ever.
“The Lost Leonardo” (Documentary) – Written by Duska Zagorac, Andreas Dalsgaard, Christian Kirk Muff, Mark Monroe, and Andreas Koefoed (In Theaters)
The film centers on the sale of “Salvator Mundi (Savior of the World),” a portrait of Christ purportedly by Leonardo da Vinci, which in 2017 was auctioned by Christie’s for $450 million, a world record for any work of art. The bizarre story of its provenance, the intrigue surrounding its multi-year restoration, and the worldwide controversy regarding its authenticity are all recounted in a non-stop narrative conflating art world drama, international politics, and high-level financial shenanigans. Art dealers, curators, FBI and CIA agents, journalists, restorers, historians, a Russian oligarch, a Saudi prince, and the director of the Louvre are drawn into this exciting and revealing documentary that exposes the frictions inherent in the sale of great art.
“The Smartest Kids in the World” (Documentary) – Directed by Tracy Droz Tragos (Available on discovery+)
Based on Amanda Ripley’s New York Times bestseller, “The Smartest Kids in the World” chronicles a year abroad with four American teenagers, who study in countries that dramatically outperform the United States in education. We travel with them as they adjust from their local high schools in Wyoming, Orlando, Maine, and The Bronx to high schools in Finland, South Korea, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. The film gives voice to students, hearing first-hand their discoveries and insight about how to reform U.S. high school education.
“Reminiscence” – Written and Directed by Lisa Joy (In Theaters and Available on HBO Max)
Nick Bannister (Hugh Jackman), a private investigator of the mind, navigates the darkly alluring world of the past by helping his clients access lost memories. Living on the fringes of the sunken Miami coast, his life is forever changed when he takes on a new client, Mae (Rebecca Ferguson). A simple matter of lost and found becomes a dangerous obsession. As Bannister fights to find the truth about Mae’s disappearance, he uncovers a violent conspiracy, and must ultimately answer the question: how far would you go to hold on to the ones you love?
“Barbara Lee: Speaking Truth to Power” (Documentary) – Directed by Abby Ginzberg (In Theaters and Available on VOD)
An intimate, inspiring, and timely portrait of Congresswoman Barbara Lee, a true pioneer on behalf of racial and economic justice and the lone voice in opposition to the authorization of military force after the September 11 attacks. A unique selection of political commentators, activists, politicians, and family members add depth to the story of the highest-ranking African American woman in the United States Congress.
“Confetti” – Written and Directed by Ann Hu (In Theaters)
How far would a mother go to reverse her child’s fate? Based on writer/director Ann Hu’s story, that’s the question facing Lan (Zhu Zhu), who travels with her nine-year-old daughter Meimei (Harmonie He) from their small town in China to New York City. Inflicted with a learning disability, Meimei is considered a strange and dumb girl, an outcast in her school and community. What no one recognizes, however, is that she possesses a gift waiting to be unlocked. The world seen through her eyes is unique and filled with magic. “Confetti” looks at the often-silent struggles faced by so many immigrant families.
“Ma Belle, My Beauty” – Written and Directed by Marion Hill (In Theaters)
Lane (Hannah Pepper), Bertie (Idella Johnson), and Fred (Lucien Guignard) once shared a polyamorous relationship in New Orleans. Lane loved Bertie, Fred loved Bertie, they had a balance that worked — until it didn’t, and Lane vanished from their lives. Two years later, Bertie and Fred have gotten married and are living at Fred’s family home in the countryside of southern France. When Lane unexpectedly shows up in Bertie’s seemingly idyllic new life, she finds her former lover much different than she remembers. Bertie is disillusioned in her jazz career, still grieving the loss of her mother, and clearly alienated in this small, white, European town. Lane attempts to recreate their old, carefree dynamic, hoping that her return might lighten Bertie’s mood — but Bertie isn’t having it. It seems time hasn’t healed all wounds, so Lane shifts her strategy when she meets Noa (Sivan Noam Shimon), a young artist and former soldier, quickly reigniting dormant jealousies.
“Rare Beasts” – Written and Directed by Billie Piper (In Theaters and Available on VOD)
Mandy (Billie Piper) is a nihilistic young writer and mother who, while navigating her dysfunctional family and misogynistic workplace, falls for Pete (Leo Bill), a traditionalist searching for “restored” male identity. “Rare Beasts” is a pitch black comedy and marks Billie Piper’s directorial debut.
“The Night House” (In Theaters)
Reeling from the unexpected death of her husband, Beth (Rebecca Hall) is left alone in the lakeside home he built for her. She tries as best she can to keep it together – but then nightmares come. Disturbing visions of a presence in the house calling to her, beckoning her with a ghostly allure. Against the advice of her friends, she begins digging into her husband’s belongings, yearning for answers.
“Wildland” – Directed by Jeanette Nordahl; Written by Ingeborg Topsøe (In Theaters)
“Wildland” stars Sidse Babett Knudsen as kindly Aunt Bodil, who provides a home for her orphaned teenage niece, 17-year-old Ida (Sandra Guldberg Kampp). Aunt Bodil is the grande dame of a coldblooded crime family, her boys who specialize in debt collection. Ida initially finds comfort in their physically tender and unified home, but as they slowly push her to accept violence, addiction, and intimidation as normal, a darker reality emerges in Nordahl’s accomplished directorial debut, a radical meditation on family, loyalty, and the seductive cycle of corruption.
“The Outsider” (Documentary) – Directed by Pamela Yoder and Steven Rosenbaum (In Theaters and Virtual Cinemas)
The film follows the journey of the National 9/11 Memorial and Museum’s Creative Director, Michael Shulan, from the day of 9/11 until the opening day in 2014. During the seven years the filmmakers followed the process, they were given unlimited access to the site, closed meetings, and the senior staff. The team began with a shared vision to create a powerful destination that would invite Americans to think deeply about 9/11, its history, and the future of America in the post 9/11 world. But as pressure mounted, Shulan’s museum of question faced growing opposition from Alice Greenwald, the museum’s director. The documentary team watched as the conflict grew, and as complex questions that arose out of 9/11 were left unasked.
“Habit” – Directed by Janell Shirtcliff (In Theaters)
A party girl and her sexy friends dress up as nuns to hide out from an angry LA drug lord.
“Candyman” – Directed by Nia DaCosta; Written by Nia DaCosta, Jordan Peele, and Win Rosenfeld (In Theaters)
In present day, a decade after the last of the Cabrini towers were torn down, Anthony (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) and his partner move into a loft in the now gentrified Cabrini. A chance encounter with an old-timer exposes Anthony to the true story behind Candyman. Anxious to use these macabre details in his studio as fresh grist for paintings, he unknowingly opens a door to a complex past that unravels his own sanity and unleashes a terrifying wave of violence.
“The Colony” – Written by Mariko Minoguchi and Tim Fehlbaum (In Theaters and Available on VOD)
Cataclysmic conditions on Earth forced a mass exodus to a distant planet. Generations later, a manned mission hurtles back to assess living conditions on the desolate, mostly submerged world. The sole survivor of the expedition is attacked by a violent band of scavengers, themselves locked in battle with a far more sinister foe. Now, mankind’s very survival depends on the bravery and ingenuity of the lone astronaut.
“No Man of God” – Directed by Amber Sealey (In Theaters and Available on VOD)
In 1980, Ted Bundy was sentenced to death by electrocution. In the years that followed, he agreed to disclose the details of his crimes, but only to one man. “No Man of God” is based on the true story of the strange and complicated relationship that developed between FBI agent Bill Hagmaier (Elijah Wood) and an incarcerated Ted Bundy (Luke Kirby) in the years leading to Bundy’s execution.