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.

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.

Capernaum
Dir. Nadine Labaki

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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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