Gallery | We reveal our picks of the best films of 2016 and a new year’s resolution.
From the shocking story of a young boy raised within the confines of four walls in Lenny Abrahamson’s survival drama Room to the rebellious spirit of five sisters from deep Anatolia in Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s powerful first feature Mustang, here are our favourite picks of independent cinema and TV from this year.
Screening for the first time in London at the newly founded festival that merges new forms of documentary and art – Frames of Representation –Zhao Liang’s Behemoth is a haunting documentary about industrialisation in China and its workers. But as 2016 rolled on we were also captured by Susan Kemp’s wonderful documentary on the legacy of the work of Antonia Bird, the first British woman to direct a Hollywood movie. Kemp’s documentary Antonia Bird: From EastEnders to Hollywood for BBC Four is a celebration of her legacyand strength of making her voice heard.
While writing on women directors, the majority of our top films from this year are directed by women with Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami’s powerful Sonita and Sofia Exarchou’s Park being our highlights while Catherine Corsini’s beautiful romantic drama Summertime is our best lesbian film of the year.
Selecting just eleven films was hard enough and we left out debuting director Hope Dickson Leach. Her film The Levelling, was a welcomed surprise in the festival circuit for its originality but Britain’s deep recession and loss of compassion is gloriously revealed in Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake, this year’s Palme D’Or winner at Cannes Film Festival.
Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson is a heartfelt and treasured work. It was a delight of cinema experience, for its sensuous performances and Tilda Swinton strolling in style around the Mediterranean isle somewhere between Sicily and Tunisia, in Luca Guadagnino’s drama A Bigger Splash, a loose remake of the 1969 Jacques Deray film La piscine.
Undeniably if you’re looking for that film representing youth 2016, Sebastian Schipper’s terrific Victoria that plays out in one continuous real time, 138-minute camera shot, is a daring, adrenaline-filled drama that took us through the underbelly of Berlin with stunning performances including the marvellous Laia Costa and Frederick Lau.
A Bigger Splash
Antonia Bird: From EastEnders to Hollywood
I, Daniel Blake
New year’s resolution!
Director Barry Jenkins
In 2017 watch out for the release of Barry Jenkin’s remarkable Moonlight, a rare piece of filmmaking focusing on its characters but with deep universal concerns and complex themes about identity, sexuality and family through exceptional performances and dialogue. It’s a rare achievement.
Gallery | From London to Copenhagen, Hanover and the town of Lyssarea in Arcadia, here’s a roundup of the year’s best exhibitions and best young festivals.
John Akomfrah, Lisson: London, 22 January – 12 March 2016
Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers, Barbican: London, 16 March – 19 June 2016
Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers, Barbican: London, 16 March – 19 June 2016
John Akomfrah: Vertigo Sea, Nikolaj Kunsthal: Copenhagen, 11 February – 8 May 2016
Susan Hiller, Lisson: London, 13 November 2015 – 9 January 2016
Manifesto Julian Rosefeldt, Sprengel Museum: Hanover, 28 May 2016 – 19 February 2017
Georgia O’Keefe, Tate Modern: London, 6 July – 30 October 2016
Apichatpong Weerasethakul, The Tanks at Tate Modern: London
THIS IS A VOICE, Wellcome Collection: London, 14 April – 31 July 2016
TEMENOS 2016, Lyssarea: Arcadia, Greece, 30 June – 4 July 2016
Frames of Representation (FoR): New Visions for Documentary Cinema, ICA: London, 20-27 April 2016
Ethnofest – Athens Ethnographic Film Festival, Athens, 23-27 November 2016
Saul Leiter, The Photographers’ Gallery: London, 22 January – 3 April 2016
We’ve brought together two new documentary festivals that merged new forms of documentary and art – one that launched for the very first time this year and the other in its decisive seventh year – alongside our exhibition highlights from three cities and a remote town in Greece: London, Copenhagen, Hanover and Lyssarea.
In 2016 we were caught by Susan Hiller’s investigation into belief and the unconscious. John Akomfrah’s first solo exhibition at Lisson presented three new film installations including The Airport (2016), a weeping landscape of ghosts lingering in our collective consciousness physically and metaphorically. Copenhagen’s Nikolaj Kunsthal also presented Akomfrah’s epic three-channel installation Vertigo Sea (2015), a magnificent recording describing man’s relationship with the sea, which premiered at the 56th Venice Biennial in 2015, All the World’s Futures.
The Barbican’s Strange and Familiar: Britain as Revealed by International Photographers was curated by photographer Martin Parr and looked into how Britain’s changing landscape and tremendous social history was documented by leading photographers from the 1930s onwards. Frames of Representation, a new festival showcasing daring films, emerged this year from London’s most brave minds and housed at the ICA. Look out for its 2017 version!
Over three nights, the work of Gregory Markopoulos gathered together individuals from all corners of the world for his ENIAIOS IX – XI in Lyssarea – a rare event that takes place every four years for the duration of his ENIAIOS cycle. Cate Blanchett declared rage against persona in 13 rare roles as seen in Julian Rosefeldt’s Manifesto, an installation of 13 parallel films at Sprengel Museum in Hanover and we were magnified by Georgia O’Keefe’s flowers and Mexican landscapes at Tate Modern.
The team behind this year’s Ethnographic Film Festival in Athens did a brilliant job in bringing together more than fifty screenings to an expanding audience, the festival’s largest so far, housed by the newly opened cinema Astor in the heart of Athens.
We immersed ourselves in the work of prolific New York street photographer Saul Leiter while we were taken in an acoustic journey of sound and film at Wellcome Collection’s THIS IS A VOICE exhibition and were morphed from fiction to fantasy to documentary with the unraveling work of Apichatpong Weerasethakul in the Tanks at Tate Modern.
“…and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.” – Georgia O’Keefe
Groundbreaking debuts and genre-bending gems that coloured the reflective quality of this year’s festival.
No idea can be built without sacrifices.
It is time for our turn to introduce you to the films we admired and loved from the 60th BFI London Film Festival. With 245 films, it’s impossible to include every single best work that screened in 14 cinemas around London. But this year’s festival that celebrated exceptional films from around the world, called for equality, observation and imagination for evolutionary thinking in favour of our society today.
How did we get here with a United Kingdom on the verge of a tragic shatter from the outside world?How did we allow to let Europe crack its democratic foundations. And what now?
If we cannot see through this misty glass, what other film would be appropriate for the festival’s opening than director Amma Asante’s astonishing A United Kingdom. This powerful love story of Seretse Khama, King of Bechuanalane (modern Botswana) and his wife Ruth Williams whose their 1948 marriage was fiercely opposed, inaugurated the BFI London Film Festival with deep political insights.
The following days of the festival evolved equally thoughtful and every single day had something special to offer. Below we have put together ten of our best films from this year, a wild discovery and best poster art.
But before you delve into our selection, special mentions go the five-directors collaborative Hong Kong production Ten Years, Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight, Alma Har’el’s Lovetrue, Peter Braatz’s Blue Velvet Revisited, Anja Kirschner’s Moderation, Brillante Ma Mendoza’s Ma’ Rosa,Alice Diop’s On Call, Khushboo Ranka’s An Insignificant Man,Gareth Tunley’s The Ghoul and George Clark’s Sea of Clouds for their originality. We’re hoping to see each one of these works released soon. Congratulations to director Steve McQueen for being awarded the prestigious BFI Fellowship and last but not least, to the awards winners: Kelly Reichardt for Certain Women (LFF Best Film prize), Julia Ducournau for Raw (Sutherland Award, Best First Feature prize) and Mehrdad Oskouei for Starless Dreams (Grierson Award for Best Documentary).
Director Pablo Larraín
It’s three years after the end of WW2 and all of Chile’s bourgeoisie is at the dressing-up party of Nobel Prize-winning poet and diplomat Pablo Neruda. Chilean director Pablo Larraín’s latest project, Neruda, is as he calls it an ‘anti-bio’, plot-genius chase story trumpeting the return of Hitchcockian thriller. At its centre there’s a magnetic cast: the brilliant Luis Gnecco’s Neruda, his ‘eternal’ wife, Mercedes Morán’s Delia and heart-throb Gael García Bernal’s detective Oscar Peluchonneau.
Director-screenwriter Cristi Puiu
Romanian cinema’s enfant naturel, Christi Puiu, returned with a new distinctive feature – a fly on the wall of a crowded family’s flat. As they prepare for their patriarch to be departed according to their local custom, patience, emotions and hunger are tested. Sieranevada is an astonishing achievement for its technical manoeuvres but above all is a film about bonding and compassion.
Director Sofia Exarchou
Park follows a group of bored youths gathering in the concrete wasteland of Athens’ Olympic village. With no much hope in life, the deserted site becomes the playground for teenage kicks and aggression. With her majority-female crew and a group of wild non-actors teenagers, director Sofia Exarchou’s debut feature is a triumphant addition to the Greek new wave.
Director-screenwriter Hope Dickson Leach
Another woman debuting with a bold project, Hope Dickson Leach’s The Levelling advocates Britain’s deep recession and the frailty of people’s lives, especially those who are being impacted the most. British farmers are not an exception and for once there’s a feature commenting on home affairs instead of overseas.
Director-screenwriter Fiona Tan
Ascent, the Experimenta Special Presentation at this year’s festival, is an ode to nature, image and travelling. Examining the themes of presence, photography and memory, the relationship between history and nature, tale and tradition, these reflections on time begin an investigation into the presence of the Mount-Fuji, an active volcano in Japan.
Director Eva Orner
We learnt from director Eva Orner’s film that Australia ranks 67th in the world for refugee intake. In 2001, Australia’s prime minister announced the harshest asylum seekers policies and as of 2013, no asylum seeker is allowed to settle in the country. Currently there are 60 million refugee people in the world. After stopping the boats, 2,175 asylum seekers are stranded in the island of Nauru in no hygiene conditions and numbers of mental health and self harming cases. Filmed secretly, Chasing Asylum is a bitter document of our history.
Director-screenwriter Claire Simon
Ever wondered how to become a film student in a prestigious French college? The Graduation took us through the selection process of world-class school of cinema, La Fémis in Paris. It reminisces Frederic Wiseman’s At Berkeley (2013) and aside from its moments of compassion for the applicants who go through the process of interviews, Claire Simon’s documentary is an insightful study of one’s personal processes and career transitions. A must see for all regardless of age and don’t be afraid to push things further even when there’s rejection.
Director Antonio Campos
Antonio Campos’s volatile film about television journalist Christine Chubbuck who died at the age of 29 after killing herself live during a broadcast, was a festival favourite. Brilliantly performed by Rebecca Hall, Christine loved the medium. But the astonishing dark side of people surrounding her at work and their thirst for inventive ideas meant that she had to adapt to a compromised and fake future, to which she didn’t give in.
Director Pepa San Martin
Our pick from the festival’s Love strand is Pepa San Martin’s explosive Rara with four strong female leads who try to fight for their happiness. Unconventional to their patriarchic society, their bonding slowly falls apart but their love for each other is moving.
Don’t Blink: Robert Frank
Director Laura Israel
‘The photographs are just a memory…’. In this spellbinding documentary world-known photographer Robert Frank took us through his creative life with starting point his book that defined photojournalism, The Americans. It’s energy is riotous featuring a compelling soundtrack and footage from his never released film with the Rolling Stones. Restless, absorbing and most inspirational.
Minute Bodies: The Intimate World of Frank Percy Smith
Director Stuart A Staples
We immersed into the wild imagery of Minute Bodies, a hypnotic and magical tribute to the world of naturalist and pioneering microscopic filmmaker Frank Percy Smith (1880-1945). It is the latest collaboration between Tinderstick’s Stuart A Staples and filmmaker Dave Reeve that combines a constantly evolving soundtrack with the hidden life of nature as filmed by Smith’s lenses. It’s the jewel in the festival’s crown, which we should be seeing its general release hopefully soon.