— Michael O'Sullivan
The activists at the heart of “Welcome to Chechnya,” a powerful documentary about the underground-railroad-style mission to rescue and relocate LGBT people who have been threatened, detained, tortured and/or maimed in Chechnya — during that predominantly Muslim Russian state’s program of persecution — are heroes. Much of the film features traditional safe-house interviews with rescuers and the rescued (typically disguised, digitally, with facial-altering software). But times, the film by David France (“How to Survive a Plague”) takes on the atmosphere of a real-life thriller, as in a sequence using hidden cameras to document to extraction of a young woman in danger of violence from her own family. That episode, which does not have the happy ending one might wish for, underscores the urgency of the film. And when one of its subjects — a young man who had been tortured — decides to digitally unmask himself and come forward to file an official complaint, it reminds us what true courage means. Unrated. Available on HBO. Contains disturbing thematic material, violence, bloody images, strong language and brief nudity. In Russian, Chechen and English with subtitles. 107 minutes.
“Family Romance, LLC” is one of the strangest — yet perhaps most typical — films made by Werner Herzog. Here, the German director, who has hopped easily back and forth between documentary and narrative over his 50-plus years in film, has made a kind of docu-fiction. The film takes its name from a real Japanese company that rents out actors to play the role of people who, for one reason or another, cannot be there for loved ones: an alcoholic or divorced parent, for instance. In this scripted drama, Yuichi Ishii — the proprietor of that company — plays a fictionalized version of himself, spending most of the film pretending to be the father of a 12-year-old girl whose real dad left her when she was a child. (He takes on other roles as well.) What starts out as a slight idea — look at this kooky thing they do in Japan! — takes on heft as Herzog stirs in additional ingredients that blur the line between reality and illusion: a street mime, robotic aquarium fish and samurai reenactors in a Tokyo park. Slowly, the story becomes more provocative and poignant. Unrated. Available July 3 on Mubi. Contains a brief curse word. In Japanese with subtitles. 89 minutes.
“Ask No Questions” is a documentary about the apparent public self-immolation of several Falun Gong practitioners in 2001, and inconsistencies in the Chinese government’s official account of the incident. Film Threat calls the movie “wildly intriguing and entertaining.” Unrated. Available on demand via various streaming platforms. 79 minutes.
The 2009 documentary “Skiing Everest” featured identical twin brothers Mike and Steve Marolt, part of an elite fraternity of skiers who have challenged themselves on Everest and other high peaks. A sequel of sorts, “Beyond Skiing Everest” looks more deeply into what motivates the brothers — on the slopes, and in life. Unrated. Available on demand via various streaming platforms. 81 minutes.
“Denise Ho: Becoming the Song” is a documentary portrait of the Hong Kong-based Ho, following the openly gay “Cantopop” singer’s evolution from artist to human rights activist Denise Ho. Unrated. Available at afisilver.afi.com. In English and Cantonese with subtitles. 83 minutes.
A young woman (Nasim Pedrad) sends a ranting email to her otherwise perfect new boyfriend (Robbie Amell), after he fails to return her phone call, in the comedy “Desperados.” When she learns that he is in the hospital in Mexico, she drags her friends with her just so she can delete the message. TV-MA. Available July 3 on Netflix. 106 minutes.
The documentary “Money Machine” purports to expose the hidden truth behind the 2017 mass shooting by Stephen Paddock in Las Vegas. Unrated. Available July 3 on jomafilms.com. 85 minutes.
While shooting a Web series debunking urban legends, three filmmakers inadvertently summon an ancient malevolent entity in the found-footage horror film “Ouija Blood Ritual.” Available on demand via various streaming platforms. 77 minutes.
In “Ski Bum: The Warren Miller Story,” documentarian Patrick Creadon (“Wordplay”) looks at the life and career of a former surfer, filmmaker and skiing enthusiast, whose stunt-heavy cinematic work helped popularize the sport he loved. This “exceptional portrait of a true filmmaking iconoclast,” according to the Hollywood Reporter, is “almost as exhilarating as an actual Warren Miller production.” Unrated. Available on demand via various streaming platforms. 93 minutes.
Singer, bass guitarist and actress Suzi Quatro (Leather Tuscadero on “Happy Days) is the subject of the documentary “Suzi Q,” which the Guardian calls “fan-servicing but not necessarily hagiographic.” Unrated. Available July 3 on demand via various streaming platforms. 104 minutes.
The first film by Japanese auteur Hirokazu Kore-eda to be shot outside his home country, “The Truth” stars Catherine Deneuve as a narcissistic film diva. Variety writes that, “From first shot to last, it’s a film of high wit and confidence and verve, an astonishingly fluid and accomplished act of boundary-leaping.” PG. Available July 3 on demand via various streaming platforms. Contains mature thematic material, suggestive elements, smoking and brief strong language. In French with subtitles. 106 minutes.
Mark Rylance, Johnny Depp and Robert Pattinson star in “Waiting for the Barbarians,” a film set in an unnamed border town of an unspecified empire. Based on the 1980 novel by South African writer J.M. Coetzee (who also wrote the screenplay), the parable-like film “requires hard work to feel something that goes deeper than common-sense pity when confronted with stock characters stuck in a generic predicament in a nonspecific time and place,” according to the Hollywood Reporter, which also noted that “the sheer force of Rylance’s performance almost makes it work. Unrated. Available at cinemaartstheatre.com. In English and Mongolian with subtitles. 112 minutes.
Set in a beach town on Italy’s Adriatic coast, “Under the Riccione Sky” follows a group of teenage friends navigating summer love and other entanglements. TV-MA. Available July 3 on Netflix. In Italian with subtitles. 102 minutes.