Counter Programming: Narco Cultura and Unforgiven, Japanese style

Your guide to the best indie films of the weekend—popcorn not included.

Inside Llewyn Davis, the new Coen Brothers film, opens this week. We won’t blame you for checking it out, but here are some other options.

Narco Cultura
A music documentary as well as an expose of the Mexican drug war, this work of non-fiction weaves together the stories of a Juarez-based CSI investigator and a U.S.-based singer/songwriter who fronts BuKans de Culican, a band that plays traditional sounding ballads glorifying narco-traffickers. Directed by photojournalist Shaul Schwarz, this film is all about overlaps: Along with the issue of cultural crossover, the fantasy of being a criminal not only contrasts but reciprocates a grim and heartbreaking reality. Fittingly, Schwarz implements a controlled yet arresting visual style while documenting social chaos and its influence on popular art. Not for the faint-of-heart, Narco Cultura is another great documentary released in a year full of them.
WHEN: opens Friday, Dec. 6, various times
WHERE: Laemmle Theaters 

Unforgiven (Yurusarezaru Mono)
While we haven’t seen this film, it’s too intriguing to ignore: As part of LA EigaFest, the Japan Film Society will host the U.S. premiere of Lee Sang-il’s samurai remake of Clint Eastwood’s film Unforgiven. Starring Ken Watanabe, who also starred in Letters from Iwo Jima, this Japanese reimagining of Eastwood’s final Western creates a nice symmetry to film history: A Fistful of Dollars, the Sergio Leone shoot-em-up that made Eastwood an international star, is a secret remake of Akira Kurosawa’s samurai actioner Yojimbo. Sometimes, what goes around does come around. (The screening includes a Q&A with director Sang-Il.)
WHEN: Friday, Dec. 6, 7:00 pm
WHERE: Egyptian Theater