The year in 11 films: 2019

Cinema in 2019 was punk, powerful and passionate. It was difficult to limit my list down to 11 films but after long thinking, I chose the ones that found a pulse inside the film theatres this year. Plus what to expect in 2020 and a wildcard.

The Souvenir
Dir. Joanna Hogg

Joanna Hogg’s powerful semi-autobiographical story of a couple whose love is killed because of addiction. Devastating, sincere and unique.

Winner
London Critics Circle Film Award 2020 for British/Irish Film of the Year and Young British/Irish Performer of the Year (Honor Swinton Byrne)
Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize 2019 for World Cinema – Dramatic

Varda by Agnès
Dir. Agnès Varda

 

The late French auteur’s last film, a superb documentary of her life behind the camera. Varda’s death in March this year at the age of 90 was like the passing of a great friend.

Winner
Women Film Critics Circle Award 2019 for Best Documentary by or About Women

Capernaum
Dir. Nadine Labaki

An astonishing portrait of children in today’s unjust war crisis that funds crime, corruption, misery and chaos.

Winner
Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize 2018

If Beale Street Could Talk
Dir. Barry Jenkin

Moonlight director Barry Jenkin returned with his adaptation to James Baldwin’s 1974 novel of the same title. Following the wild romance of a couple, If Beale Street Could Talk tells the powerful story of love at a difficult time in 1970s New York.

Winner
Academy Award 2019 for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Regina King)
Independent Spirit Film Award 2019 for Best Director, Best Feature and Best Supporting Female

For Sama
Dir. Waad Al-Kateab, Edward Watts

A student of economics at Aleppo University when the 2011 war in Syria began, Waad Al-Kateab took her camera to the streets and began documenting the devastation of the regime and its allies. She spent five years documenting the atrocities inflicted by Assad’s regime upon civilians in Aleppo during which time she became mum to her first child, Sama. This astonishing and multi-winning documentary is a letter to her daughter.

Winner
BAFTA Film Award 2020 for Best Documentary
British Independent Film Award 2019 for Best Director, Best British Independent Film, Best Documentary and Best Editing
Cannes Film Festival 2019 Golden Eye Award for Best Documentary
Hot Docs 2019 Special Jury Prize for International Feature Documentary
IDA Courage Under Fire Award and Best Feature 2019
London Critics Circle Film Award 2020 for Documentary of the Year
Audience Awards from Sheffield Doc/Fest, SXSW Film Festival and IDFA all in 2019

Atlantics
Dir. Mati Diop

A groundbrreaking work from French actor-director Mati Diop who starred in the 2008 film 35 Shots of Rum. Winner of the Grand Jury Prize for best directorial debut at Cannes Film Festival this year, thought the eyes of two lovers Atlantics tells the astonishing tale of Dakar’s workers-turned ghosts in a gloomy Senegalese construction site. Beautifully shot with a top lead performance by Mame Bineta Sane.

Winner
London Film Festival 2019 Sutherland Award for Best First Feature
Cannes Film Festival 2019 Grand Prize of the Jury

Bait
Dir. Mark Jenkin

British gem about class and the unpleasant results of gentrification, Mark Jenkins’ film is one of the defining films of the decade. Shot on black and white, the story unravels in a Cornish fishing town where locals and tourists clash.

Winner
BAFTA Film Award 2020 for Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director, or Producer
British Independent Film Award 2019 for Breakthrough Producer
London Critics Circle Film Award 2020 for Breakthrough British/Irish Filmmaker of the Year

Blindspotting
Dir. Carlos López Estrada

Oakland-based indie film with timely social commentary, Blindspotting is the debut feature by director Carlos López Estrada. Starring Daveed Diggs, who also wrote and produced, and Rafael Casal, it’s powerful drama that sees a friendship tested following a brutal street killing by the police.

The Favourite
Dir. Yorgos Lanthimos

Helmed with the Academy Award for best actress, a superb performance by Olivia Colman alongside Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone in this record-breaking ten awards winner, the latest from Yorgos Lanthimos. One of the first UK theatrical releases this year, The Favourite is a nasty, funny and at the same time wonderful film.

Winner
Academy Award 2019 for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Olivia Colman) 
BAFTA Award 2019 for Best Supporting Actress (Rachel Weisz), Outstanding British Film of the Year, Best Leading Actress, Best Screenplay, Best Make Up/Hair, Best Costume Design and Best Production Design
British Independent Film Award 2018 for Best Screenplay, Best British Independent Film, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress (Rachel Weisz), Best Casting, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Make Up/Hair and Best Production Design
London Critics Circle Film Award for Actress of the Year, Supporting Actress of the Year (Rachel Weisz), Screenwriter of the Year and British/Irish Film of the Year

The Great Hack
Dir. Karim Amer & Jehane Noujaim

If you think you know everything about the fate of your data and the global political landscape, think again. The Great Hack explains it all but it’s not for the lighthearted.

Reason
Dir. Anand Patwardhan

Scooping the award for best feature-length documentary at IDFA in 2018, thankfully Reason made it to UK cinemas this year. It’s the latest from Indian director Anand Patwardhan, a non-fiction epic (261 minutes) divided in eight chapters. Reason is a shocking record of India’s injustices and the battle between faith and reason.

Winner
IDFA Award 2018 for Best Feature-Length Documentary

Wild card

Blue Story
Dir. Andrew Onwubolu

It feels like a 21st century musical or the evolution of a music video but Blue Story is a lot more. It’s the feature adaptation of Rapman’s YouTube series about friendship versus street war. The underbelly of unprotected youth.

2020

Bacurau
Dir. Juliano Dornelles & Kleber Mendonça Filho

Just don’t miss this film. Things are just starting to get interesting in the new decade with Bacurau.

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