As the weather heats up, it’s a good idea to head to the dark of an air conditioned theater. There are many great films to check out in both festival and online settings. Here are just a select few.

Director: Marc Munden

In this unsparing drama set during the early days of covid, Jodie Comer is Sarah, a young do-gooder who takes a job at an assisted care home in Liverpool. Before long, the novel virus is raining havoc upon the residents, many of whom are elderly. Sarah and her staff do what they can, but when they make external phone calls for help they are faced with the terrifying reality that the system is overwhelmed, and no one is coming to help. Low on staff and desperate, Sarah enlists a care home resident named Tony (the always-excellent Stephen Graham) to help her as the virus spreads.

Director Marc Munden offers spare, verite-style direction of his handheld cameras in a way that puts you directly in the center of the horror faced not only by those infected by the virus early on, but by their brave caretakers who put themselves so selflessly at risk. Comer is a budding star.

Director: Daniel Lombroso

New York’s Jamaica Bay doesn’t rank high on the list of places one would likely wish to fish, but that doesn’t stop the people who nightly come with their nets for a catch to feed their families. Never mind that the waters there are protected from harvest by ordinance, or that the pollution of decades thanks to G.E. upriver has almost certainly infected the marine life. The New Yorker’s resident filmmaker, Daniel Lombroso, whose camera often exposes pieces of Gotham life often left untouched, uncovers far more about the poachers than might be anticipated. Their desperation outweighs any trepidation at consuming tainted food, or potential fear of being outed by environmentalists.

It’s another fascinating travelogue from Lombroso, one of the most observant documentarians working.

The Sanctity of Space
Directors: Renan Ozturk and Freddie Wilkinson

There are mountain climbers and then there are those like Renan Ozturk and Freddie Wilkinson, who climb to those upper altitudes where few have dared trod–and done so without aircraft. Accordingly, the two climbers are out to follow in the footsteps of climber Bradford Washburn, who not only scaled some of the world’s most impressive mountains but took breathtaking photographs while doing so. The film is as much their own travelogue as it is a revisit to Washburn’s earlier trek Their stark cinematography is not only daring but breathtaking.

In select theaters and streaming starting May 31.

We Are the Thousand
Director: Anita Rivaroli

An Italian marine biologist named Fabio Zaffagnini had an intriguing idea: What if he could gather together a thousand musicians from all across the peninsula at a field in the town of Cesena to play the Foo Fighters’ “Learn to Fly”? That’s quite a lot of musicians, and to Cesena they came–from all walks of life and all manner of day job, for the joy of playing together on the American rock hit for an event dubbed Rockin’1000. That should have been enough accomplishment on its own, but Zaffagnini had a secondary motive to convince Dave Grohl and the Foos to come to Cesena.

The video of his little experiment went viral, and found its way to Grohl, who, doing his yeoman’s best with Italian, replies in his own video that he and the band simply must come to the town.

Such a dream accomplished, what could Zaffagnini do next other than continue to get people together for such large-scale musical festival performances. Zaffagnini is a fascinating character indeed, but he shares the spotlight in the doc with the dozens of everyday Italians who speak to Rivaroli’s camera about their hopes and dreams, their little bands and the times they somehow carve out to play amid their busy lives. And then Zaffagnini came along with such a grand idea.

Coming to theaters and on-demand June 3.

Director: Stephanie Osuna-Hernandez

This short narrative follows a young man played by Gustavo Gomez who begs his drunken father (Manuel Uriza) to scram while the young man has over a girl he fancies (Alex Felix) for pumpkin-carving. But the young lady is far more perceptive than he realizes, forcing the boy to look at, and try to relate to, his father differently.

Coming soon to the Philadelphia Latino Film Festival, Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival and Palm Springs Shorts Fest.

Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story
Directors: Frank Marshall and Ryan Suffern

For a half-century Jazz Fest has been one of the greatest of all live music events before the pandemic shuttered it for two bleak years. The festival is back in 2022, and thus it’s a perfect time to look back on 50 years of its musical history. Jimmy Buffett, Bruce Springsteen, Al Green, Aaron Neville, Katy Perr and a great many others are seen over the decades of performances, with many of them sitting for Marshall and Suffern’s cameras to discuss the long-running cultural event.

It’s a bit of optimism at a time when we could really use some.

Opens May 27

(featured image: Jodie Comer in the Marc Munden-directed “Help”)

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