These filmmakers spoke the truth. You only have to dig out their works and 2019 already looks hopeful.
Dir. Molly Dineen
A rare portrait of black lives, Molly Dineen’s documentary follows record shop owner, renowned music producer and Brixton’s hero, Blacker Dread. Filmed with the warmth of their friendship, the starting point of Dineen’s film was Blacker’s invitation to his director friend to film his mother’s funeral. A BBC2 production, it was one of the most influential feature documentaries on TV to start the year with. Blacker opens up at a time of great personal crisis facing his first prison sentence and he reflects on his time in the UK, a 40-year experience of inequality, poverty, crime and racism that made him send his youngest child back to school in Jamaica.
Under the Wire
Dir. Chris Martin
A powerful documentary about journalist and foreign affairs correspondent for The Sunday Times, Marie Colvin, and photographer Paul Conroy’s assignment on the frontline in the Syrian city of Homs. Based on Conroy’s book Under the Wire, Chris Martin’s film had its world premiere at Sheffield Doc/Fest 2018. It tells the tragic events during the Arab spring, during which Colvin was tragically killed and Conroy critically injured after an attack on the international media centre.
Matthew Heineman’s A Private War, based on Marie Brenner’s Vanity Fair article “Marie Colvin’s Private War”, will have its UK release early next year with Rosamund Pike in the lead role.
Dir. Pawel Pawlikowski
Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski tells the story of his parents’ bonding and love in the backdrop of Cold War in 1950s Poland, Berlin, Yugoslavia and Paris. The film depicts an impossible love story in impossible times. Filmed in gorgeous black and white palette, Zula (Joanna Kulig) and Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) are separated by borders and ideologies but at the end of their long and difficult journeys, they remain drawn to their love that bonds them.
Even When I Fall
Dirs. Kate McLarnon and Sky Neal
Even When I Fall tells the incredible true story of Nepal’s first and only circus set up by survivors of human trafficking. The film’s directors Kate McLarnon and Sky Neal filmed Circus Kathmandu’s journey over 7 years, as two incredible women – survivors of child trafficking – took the bold step of bringing an unrecognised art form to the stages of Nepal.
- Read our Even When I Fall interview with directors Sky Neal and Kate McLarnon and producer Elhum Shakerifar
Dir. Jumana Manna
Jumana Manna’s Wild Relatives is an outstanding documentary about environmental disasters created by humans. In this superb work Manna calls on global justice and places the marvellous and disastrous together while highlighting our commitment towards safeguarding nature’s goods.
Dir. Carla Simón
Carla Simón’s autobiographical film Summer 1993, is a powerful look into children’s psychology and their ability to cope with change and difficult circumstances. A reminiscent of Carlos Saura’s acclaimed 1976 film Cría Cuervos, Simón’s film explores the universal stories of childhood and family.
Dir. Hirokazu Koreeda
Japanese director Hirokazu Koreeda’s Shoplifters digs deep in family secrets and bonding. At first it may look like an unusual story but it’s one that resonated across full cinema houses this year for its non-judgemental stance towards diverse ways of living and survival.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Dirs. Joel and Ethan Coen
The anthology Western from the Coen brothers that is a delightful viewing as much as a clever satire on current American politics.
Dir. Alfonso Cuarón
Shot in a glorious granular black and white quality, Roma is Alfonso Curarón’s autobiographical film. Its intimacy and docu-drama of 1970s Mexico relies very much upon Yalta Aparicio’s Cleo, a servant in a middle class Mexican family of seven. It is a beautiful work and an essential viewing on the subject of female strength and a woman’s often isolated place in the world.
The Wild Pear Tree
Dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Four years after his acclaimed Winter Sleep, Turkish auteur Nuri Bilge Ceylan returns with a powerful story of overcoming family drama through creativity. It’s Ceylan’s best work so far with a script so meaningful and warm that reads deep inside the power of will and love for these people who want the best for you but sadly they’re unable to support you due to society’s imposed austerity measures and the psychological turmoil that comes with it.
Dir. Mike Leigh
Mike Leigh’s account of the criminally little known events of the Peterloo massacre in Manchester on 16 August 1819 is a tribute to democratic values. Echoing today’s global austerity policies of a political system that gives ground to a bunch of out-of-touch elite few to fool around with people’s rights, nearly 200 years ago British forces attacked a peaceful pro-democracy rally in Manchester killing 15 people. Maxine Peake and her fellow actors are superb in every single shot akin to a canvas painted in the colours of a fierce palette. Great work.
The wild card
Dir. Spike Lee
Spike Lee’s new work tells the true story of Ron Stallworth, an American police officer who infiltrated the ranks of the Ku Klux Klan in Colorado Springs. It is a reflection on the disturbing mindset of the 1970s organisation that echoes today’s neo-Nazis and alt-right grouping of Trump’s white nationalist era. A timely and vital work from a visionary filmmaker.
The film posters
What to look out for in 2019
If Beale Street Could Talk
Dir. Barry Jenkin
UK theatrical release: 8 February
Following his best picture Oscar winner Moonlight, writer-director Barry Jenkins’s If Beale Street Could Talk is his adaptation to James Baldwin’s much-loved 1974 novel.
It’s a film with love at its root, both familial and romantic, and Jenkins fills so much of it with a radiating warmth. – Benjamin Lee, The Guardian
Birds of Passage
Dirs. Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra
UK theatrical release: TBC
Based on true events in Bolivia from 1940 to 1960, Birds of Passage is a singular work of a universal message on capitalism. As the film quotes: “Let gold not shine brighter than our souls”. Its remarkable production, under the watchful eye of directing duo Cristina Gallego and Ciro Guerra, is divided in song chapters and reflects on humanity’s wild, prosperous and eventual catastrophic nature.
Happy as Lazzaro
Dir. Alice Rohrwacher
UK theatrical release: 15 March
A satire of our world now, Alice Rohrwacher’s Happy As Lazzaro exposes today’s slavery in such an intelligent way that summarises and ridicules the negligent condition of our society. Sweet peasant Lazzaro, superbly performed by Adriano Tardiolo, is leading the story who together with his fellow actors and cinematographer Hélène Louvart shooting on lustrous 16mm camera, they lead a genre-bending gem of cinematic anarchy.