My list of best films of 2017 opens with Maren Ade’s Oscar nominated comedy Toni Erdmann, a brilliant (and surreal) film that genuily illustrates our capitalist lives with perfectly balanced comedy. Featuring an amazing rendition of ‘The Greatest Love of All’ and perhaps the warmest fatherly love, Ade’s film stole our hearts.
Then Finnish director-screenwriter Aki Kaurismäki’s take on the refugee crisis with The Other Side of Hope, told the story of two men who have fled their homes. It’s a funny and superbly humane story and together with its carefully designed set, makes it a brilliant picture. Raoul Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro exposed a timely account of race in America and reminded us of the brilliance of James Baldwin. And Korean director Park Chan-wook’s beautiful adaptation of Sarah Waters’ crime novel Fingersmith, The Handmeiden, was a lavish spectacle with romance and many unexpected twists.
In February the Academy revealed the pleasant news of Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight winning the best picture Oscar, beating showy musical La La Land. This was remarkable news for the LGBT community and us at 11Polaroids desk as well as a key moment in queer film history even though the news were revealed after a brief moment of Faye Dunaway’s embarassing wrong award reading.
Another tough viweing from director Yorgos Lanthimos, my second favourite after Dogtooth, his new picture The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a meditation on cold-hearted behaviour. I felt that Lanthimos was directly influenced by Michael Haneke’s Funny Games for this work so expect some uncomfort on your sit.
Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Loveless is placed at the top of my list this year. It tells the heartbreaking story of a 12-year-old boy who dissappears following one of the fights between his parents going through a brutal divorce. It perfectly documents Russia’s middle class, something we rarely see on screen, through the lense of award winning cinematographer Mikhail Krichman (Silent Souls, Leviathan).
Independent director Sean Baker’s triumphant followup to his iPhone-shot Tangerine, The Florida Project, was a favourite to festival audiences around the world. Children are the queens and kings of their vibrant and electric domain. Baker lowers his camera down to the height of six-year-olds in a budget hotel outside Disney World and managed by the charismatic Willem Dafoe.
In addition to Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro countless more docs, telling it like it is, found enormous success. My favourites this year include Emmanuel Gras’ Makala, the first documentary to be presented in competition at the Critics’ Week in Cannes. It documents a Congolese 28-year-old father’s hard labour of producing and selling charcoal to buy 15 sheets of metal that he needs in order to build the roof of his family home. Director Agnès Varda collaborated with artist Antonio Sabàto Jr for a wonderfully optimistic journey in rural France for Faces Places where they met and photographed locals to turn their pictures into enormous murals and Turkish director Ceyda Torun’s Kedi is a superb portrait of urban wilderness painted by the cats of Istanbul. Here’s to 2018 full of more docs, diversity and inclusion!
Special mentions go to, Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman, Francis Lee’s God’s Own Country, Jennifer Brea’s Unrest and Matthew Heineman’s City of Ghosts.
New year’s resolution!
Dir Lucrecia Martel
In 2018 watch out for the release of elusive poet of Latin-American cinema Lucrecia Martel’s Zama. Set in the 18th century, it is a superb piece of filmmaking based on the 1956 novel by Antonio Di Benedetto on Don Diego de Zama, a Spanish officer of the settled in Asunción and awaiting his transfer to Buenos Aires. It is both magical and Kafkaesque, an illusion of time filtered through electronic and indigenous sounds alongside the appearance of lamas.