Critics and Filmmakers Poll 2020
Filmmakers poll, hold by our friends at Japanese film magazine Z-SQUAD
During the New Year holidays, Japanese movie magazine Z-SQUAD assembled critics and filmmakers around the world, publishing the article which summarizes the best movies of the year 2020. International film magazines bring together many interesting lists at the end of the year, from well-established magazines such as Cahiers du Cinéma or Sight & Sound to sharply audacious magazines such as Little White Lies and Desist Film.
Reading these lists is a pure delight around the New Year, which make me want to watch more and more films infinitely. But I'm frustrated that the magazines in Japan don't publish such a list, or can't because of its sparse connection to the world of film criticism and narrow perspective into the world itself. Their list consists of just Japanese critics' words, concluded within Japan itself. Then, it's us that can or must make such an internationally interesting list in Japan.
We contacted the people I met on our film journey, asking what were their best films this year. So here's a list of the best 2020 films by cinephiles around the world. The number of people that contributed to the list is around 40 including myself, Tettyo Saito. Although the scale is small, it is not bad to us considering that this is our first poll. What I like is that bias. Any person in the USA, UK or France doesn't participate at it because, if so, this list would become another ordinary English / West-centric list. Instead of them, there are 4 cinephiles from Azerbaijan, 3 from Myanmar, 3 from Slovenia, and so on. We are always with the countries whose abundant film history is unfairly ignored.
Many people couldn't see the new films due to COVID-19 this year, so we let contributors put on their list everything from new to old, long to short, fiction to the documentary. In this way, you will have a golden opportunity to discover diverse, rare and kaleidoscopic films from all around the world. Good cinema should not have any borders, truly.
Aung Phyoe (Myanmar, director of "Cobalt Blue")
- "Anwar Ka Ajab Kissa" by Buddhadev Dasgupta (2020)
- "The Disciple" by Chaitanya Tamhane (2020)
- "Knife in the Clear Water” by Xuebo Wang (2016)
- "CatDog" by Ashmita Guha Neogi (2020)
- "The Cockroach" by Sxar Kiss (2020)
- "Fire Will Come" by Oliver Laxe (2019)
- "To the Ends of the Earth" by Kiyoshi Kurosawa (2019)
- "Ixcanul" by Jayro Bustamante (2015)
- "First Cow" by Kelly Reichardt (2019)
- "The Power of Kangwon Province" by Hong Sang-soo (1998)
Favourite Burmese film: "The Cockroach" by Sxar Kiss (2020)
Hamza Bangash (Pakistan, director of "1978")
1) His House (Remi Weekes. 2020)
A refugee film meets horror with a heart to spare. This is one of the greatest spins on the genre and tells me we are living in the golden age of contemporary horror.
2) Zindagi Tamasha / Circus of Life (Sarmad Khoosat. 2020. Pakistan)
A story is so beautiful, so honest, and so terrifying that it led to mass protests across Pakistan- and put the filmmakers life in real danger. It is a film that reminds me of the power of cinema, and why now more than ever, we need the movies.
3) Investigation of a Person Above Suspicion ( Elio Petri, 1970)
The absurd horrors of fascism- something that has never been more relevant than in 2020.
4) The Forty-Year-Old Version ( Radha Blank. 2020)
Hilarious. Makes me hope for more films about black creatives navigating the arts scene, where white gatekeepers are the final decision-makers in what is 'bankable.' Well-observed, witty and full of heart.
5) Hereditary ( Ari Aster, 2018)
I have not been this scared of watching a film in ages. Genuinely terrifying. Beautiful and inventive. After Rosemary's Baby- this is the best horror film of- dare I say it- all time.
6) The Big City ( Satyajit Ray, 1963)
My favourite film from Ray. The film draws parallels with Parasite for me, in its a scathing critique of capitalism as well - In the final scene, her husband says “Earning our daily bread has made us cowards." Cinema is timeless.
7) The Wound ( John Trengove, 2017)
Almost a perfect script. The vivid imagery of African tribal traditions meets queer thriller, leading to an explosive - incredible conclusion. I was spell-bound. So taunt.
8) Never rarely sometimes always (Eliza Hittman, 2020)
Amazing performances, and a razor sharp observation into the trials of obtaining an abortion as a young, broke woman. This is a social-issue cinema at it's very best.
9) Day for night ( François Truffaut, 1973)
I love this film. I couldn't stop laughing. I love that it tells me where I am in the great tradition of cinema, and how little has changed. That while cameras have improved, people are fundamentally the same. Never have I seen a film that I have related to more. A film I will now watch on repeat.
10) Orlando ( Sally Potter, 1992)
One of the weirder films I've seen this year, but it really stayed with me. Tilda Swinton's performance, the way the time and genders blur. This film was so ahead of its time, it guessed our contemporary questioning of gender- thirty years earlier. The spirit of a human remains the same, just the flesh changes.
Favourite Pakistani film: Zindagi Tamasha / Circus of Life (Sarmad Khoosat, 2020)
Anna Bátori (Hungary, film scholar and writer of"Space in Romanian and Hungarian Cinema")
I have a hard task to collect my best five or ten movie experiences this year as none of the award-winning pieces has left a mark on me. However, here you have my five which did:
- Mehetapja/Süütu/Vari (The Manslayer, the Virgin, the Shadow, dir. Sulev Keedus, 2017)
I've recently come across this Estonian film. It is beautifully shot, the narrative coherence is splendid, and - most importantly - it summarises everything we know about storytelling and personal history. More than that, it portrays womanhood through three narrative sets, and as of this moment, I couldn't tell a more important film than this when it comes to gender configurations.
- Wer bin ich? (Who Am I, dir. Barand bo Odar)
I accidentally found this movie in one of my old folders last February. Since then, it stands out as one of my favourites. With its postmodern narrative, this film gives us a glimpse into the world of hackers and the power they hold. Beautifully structures, with big twists in the end, Who Am I is an ultimate movie experience.
- Fleabag (Series, created by Phoebe Waller-Bridge, 2016-2019)
A witty series that blends in comedy, tragedy and our very existence as 21st-century women. Fleabag operates with unusual televisual narration by breaking the fourth wall, narrating personal (hi)stories and our everyday tragedies in a funny, yet heart melting formula. Must watch.
- Tabula Rasa (Series, created by Veerle Beatens and Malin-Sarah Gozin, 2017)
I think it is really hard to surprise a film scholar by intertwining mysterious plots that have completely other endings than what she/he would expect. This happened to me when watching Tabula Rasa: I did not expect the big twist in the end, and I must admit: this horror-thriller series left me with a mind-blowing experience.
- Fear of 13 (dir. David Sington, 2015)
Fear of 13 is absolutely my favourite documentary film I have seen this year. It tells the story of Nick Yarris who spent decades in prison for a crime he did not commit. What is interesting in this series is the way he narrates his own story and the visual poetry of images that stand behind his struggles. How can you survive twenty-two years on Death Row? What gives you the strength to become another person? And overall, what kind of human stories are embedded in the cells of a prison? As visual poetry, Sington’s movie opens a gate into the very soul of confined people.
Hilal Baydarov (Azerbaijan, director of "In Between Dying")
- Dea Kulumbegashvili - The Beginning
- Tsai ming Liang - Days
- Cristi Puiu - Malmkrog.
Ratchapoom Boonbunchachoke (Thai, director of "Red Ansari")
I haven't watched many new films in 2020. It's a very strange year for everyone, I guess. Most of this year, my cinematic journey has been more about discovering old films.
- Silvestre (1981, João César Monteiro)
I wasn’t prepared to be faced with this gigantic masterpiece as I was more familiar with Monteiro’s late, self-starring works such as The Recollection of Yellow House or The God’s Comedy. Silvestre and Veredas were his early work with a more subtle, understated style and less cheeky humour, and they, especially Silvestre, literally took my breath away! Totally sublime!!
- Liberte (2019, Albert Serra)
My kind of dream cinema. Almost the entire film purely consists of people looking horny at one another. Such a challenge and Serra pulls this one out spectacularly.
- Mirror (1975, Andrei Tarkovsky)
I was really late introduced to this. Having watched most of his major works, I think Mirror is Tarkovsky at his greatest. His legacy still makes a strong, visible impact on contemporary films.
- From Miyamoto to You (2019, Tetsuya Mariko)
This hyper-masculine revenge tale is undeniably problematic on several levels, but I can’t help admit to enjoying the emotional rollercoaster the film put me on while watching.
- Oblivion Verses (2017, Alireza Khatami)
Serenely poetic and heartbreaking. Strongly resonant with me as someone who lives in the still-developing world.
- Man of Marble (1977, Andrzej Wajda)
Watch it in pair with Man of Iron. But I think I prefer this one with a strong female protagonist and its clever, relentless, proto-postmodern deconstruction of a cult of personality.
- Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind (2007, John Gianvito)
I’m always fond of historical films. But it does not necessarily mean period films with costume drama. Gianvito’s film impressively dissects American history in a very economic and concise way.
- One Summer Story (2020, Shūichi Okita)
Unadulterated joy! Teen Spirit.
- The White Meadows (2009, Mohammad Rasoulof)
A shatteringly beautiful allegory.
- Dead Man’s Voice (1954, Bernett Lamont)
This recently discovered, long-lost ‘Thai’ film backed by US propaganda unit is an unashamedly anti-communist noir. The detective genre has never established its popularity in local production to this day but this film is one rare exception. The look and the production quality are of superior standard compared to the contemporary local productions. The awkward mixture of Western-style and Thai story culminates in an alluringly bizarre flavour.
Ádám Csiger (Hungary, film critic of Filmvilág)
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (Jason Woliner, 2020)
I couldn’t wait to watch this. It’s really hard to go back to watching regular comedies after Sacha Baron Cohen’s pranks. He is the king of mockumentaries, his stunts cannot be repeated but can be enjoyed many times. I remember not knowing much about his style back in the day when I saw Borat and Brüno, but after watching the Ali G and Who Is America television series, I say he is both the best and most underrated comedian alive. To me, this was the best film of the year, although it was a really awful year - in the film as well - because of the pandemic.
Tenet (Christopher Nolan, 2020)
Christopher Nolan is not my favourite director: obviously, I loved Memento, but I hated The Prestige, thought of his Batman-movies as overrated, and by the time of Inception his style of mindfuck, twists and revelations became a cliché even parodied by South Park. Tenet also has a very convoluted story, but it is also the perfect spectacle for a big screen with its in-camera and analogue effects. I think this was the perfect movie to lure back audiences to theatres after the first wave of the coronavirus.
The Traitor (Marco Bellocchio, 2019)
“Il traditore” got to Hungarian cinemas in 2020: an ambitious and epic Italian film about the Sicilian Mafia, a good Italian answer to the unforgettable Hollywood gangster movies like The Godfather-trilogy, the marvellous works of Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese and Brian De Palma. This film is a tense courtroom drama about the Maxi Trial, the largest anti-Mafia trial in history, focusing on the life of Tommaso Buscetta (Pierfrancesco Favino), the first mob boss who testified against the Cosa Nostra.
It Must Be Heaven (Elia Suleiman, 2019)
The Palestinian auteur’s meta-movie also got to Hungarian cinemas this year, and it is as cinematic and visual as a comedy can get: Suleiman - who plays pretty much himself, or at least a likeminded Palestinian director - hardly speaks, instead he follows the footsteps of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, and Jacques Tati, creates a modern silent film in which the humour comes from motion, from poetic images. The title of the film refers to his character moving from Nazareth to Paris and then to New York City in hopes of having his movie funded, but none of those cities is “Heaven on Earth” for him either.
Uncut Gems (Josh and Benny Safdie, 2019) / The Devil All The Time (Antonio Campos, 2020)
Uncut Gems premiered in the last days of December 2019, but I saw it this year. After Good Time with Robert Pattinson in 2017, this movie once again is a daring, raw and authentic indie crime thriller from the Safdie brothers with great acting from Adam Sandler (and even retired NBA star Kevin Garnett isn’t too bad). If I had to pick a movie that premiered in 2020 in Hungary, I would go with an other Netflix production, The Devil All The Time. It has a bit too much of voiceover narration (you can tell it is based on a novel), but this is the best Tarantino movie not made by him.
My favourite Hungarian film from 2020:
Final Report (Zárójelentés) by István Szabó, 2020
Luckily Felkészülés meghatározatlan ideig tartó együttlétre has a good recognition, so I decided to write about a film that is maybe a bit underrated (even by Hungarian critics in my opinion). This film is written and directed by István Szabó, one of our most renowned directors, whose 1981 film, Mephisto won an Oscar as the best foreign film. For this movie, he reunited with his favourite actor, Klaus Maria Brandauer, the star of Mephisto, Colonel Redl and Hanussen. Directing once again after an 8-year hiatus, this is probably the last film of Szabó’s oeuvre (hence the title), although I hope the 82 years young director won’t retire permanently. The movie is about a Budapest-based doctor who retires and returns to his hometown for his final years, but the autobiographical subtext is Szabó addressing his successful career in the Eastern Bloc decades and his activity as an informant of the regime's secret police.
Arman Fatić (Bosnia and Herzegovina, film critic of "Duart")
- Minotaur (Zulfikar Filnadra, 2020)
09- Birthday After the Apocalypse (Farah Hasanbegović, 2020)
- Berlin Alexanderplatz (Burhan Qurbani, 2020)
- The Metamorphosis of Birds (Catarina Vasconcelos, 2020)
- Irradiated (Rithy Panh, 2020)
- Uppercase Print (Radu Jude, 2020)
- Radiograph of a Family (Firouzeh Khosrovani, 2020)
- I’m Thinking of Ending Things (Charlie Kaufman, 2020)
- Quo Vadis Aida (Jasmila Žbanić, 2020)
- There Is No Evil (Mohammad Rasoulof, 2020)
Quo Vadis Aida by Jasmila Žbanić
Žbanić with her latest feature "Quo Vadis Aida" manages to capture the historical essence of Srebrenica genocide, that is simultaneously really hard to watch but as well needed to be seen. Choosing to tell a story from a perspective of female protagonist working for UN forces, that is in the same time in a privileged position to her people and repressed by the European officials truly engages the audience in the story. Probably the most important and significant feature of the films is the scenes that parallel each other in the distances of several decades. Seeing the same places with different contexts awakes the feeling of angst and pain in the chest and it is hard to stay emotionless to them.
While staying as objective as possible to the archival footage sources, that inspired scenes and dialogues and literary background (book "Under the UN flag" by Hasan Nuhanović) Žbanić is free enough to respectfully shape the story for the film language that simultaneously fits all rules and expectations of European film, but then again doesn't end up in dwelling and sorrows but actually pushes viewers to think and ask questions regarding the 90's war in Bosnia and society that arose from it.
Overall, it is the best film by Žbanić so far, that is quite important to be seen in the region of Ex Yugoslavia but than again, hopefully, will get a chance to be noticed, viewed and understood worldwide for its richness and true-like nature of the harsh and heavy story of the biggest crime that happened on European soil in late 20th century.
Teymur Hajiyev (Azerbaijan, director of "Towards Evening")
Top 5 short films (watched in 2020)
"Rubber Coated Steel" (2016) by Lawrence Abu Hamdan
"La Cartographer" (2018) by Nathan Douglas
"The Chicken" (2020) by Neo Sora
"I Am Afraid to Forget Your Face" (2020) by Sameh Alaa
"Forastera" (2020) by Lucía Aleñar Iglesias
Top feature-length films (watched in 2020)
Mysterious Object at Noon (2000) by Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Mekong Hotel (2012) by Apichatpong Weerasethakul
The Other Side of the Wind (2018) by Orson Welles
Suburban Birds (2018) by Qiu Sheng
An Elephant Sitting Still (2018) by Hu Bo
Vitalina Varela (2020) by Pedro Costa
Four nights with Anna (2008) by Jerzy Skolimowski
Deep End (1970) by Jerzy Skolimowski
White Noise (2019) by Antoine d'Agata
Gobelin (not yet released) by Rinat Bek
Favourite film from Azerbaijan (watched in 2020)
In Between Dying (2020) by Hilal Baydarov
Mariana Hristova (Bulgaria & Spain, film critic)
A narrow and uneven (nor 10 neither 5) personal list of the films that impressed me and
left traces in my cinematic memory throughout this difficult year; probably the one in
which I saw the least films since I started the following cinema professionally. Three of them
I managed to watch in cinema theatres thanks to the brave live event organizers of the
goEast Symposium (Frankfurt am Mein in late July), the Xcèntric experimental film
archive at CCCB (Barcelona) and the film distribution network in Spain. The rest are
bits from film festivals I tried to follow online with doubtful success, mostly Eastern
1.My Morning Laughter/ Moj jutarni smeh (Serbia, 2020, dir. Marko Djordjevic): a
strikingly honest debut portraying sensitive young adults in post-war Serbia whose
traumatized and overprotecting parents are not letting them grow up. Stands out with
the memorable last film performance by beloved and mourned Serbian actor Nebojsa Glogovac who passed away on 2018, and probably the most authentic and moving erotic scene in a contemporary Balkan film (watched at the goEast online edition)
2.Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time/ Felkészülés
meghatározatlan ideig tartó együttlétre (Hungary, 2020, dir. Lili Horvát): an
the obsessive film featuring an obsessive love-at-first-sight story. Depicts in a highly
subjective manner the main character’s inner world by exploring her emotional shakings and intimacy cravings. No price is too high for achieving togetherness, is the message, and it feels particularly relevant in the “new normality” where connecting with a soulmate seems to be already a matter of life and death (watched at the Thessaloniki International Film Festival online edition)
3.Decay/ Raspad (USA/Soviet Union, 1990, dir. Mikhail Belikov): a spontaneous, emotional, sore and somewhat angry reflection on the Chernobyl tragedy and the overall Soviet project failure. Fierce political criticism bursts out on the background of documentary authenticity and allegorical implications. All devoted fans of the HBO’s Chernobyl mini-series should watch it and think twice (watched at the goEast Symposium, digitally restored version)
4.I diari di Angela – Noi due cineaste (Yervant Gianikian & Angela Ricci Lucchi, 2018): a beautiful and inspiring self-portrait in two parts of the experimental filmmaker's couple Yervant Gianikian & Angela Ricci Lucchi made by Yervant after Angela’s pass away in 2018, however, based on her diaries. The first part is particularly interesting: video chronicles following their trips around the world after
rare archival materials mingle up with the poetry of their everyday enlightening
communication. Work, art and life presented as a never-ending cycle by a film which
overcomes the physical death by one of its authors (watched at the Xcèntric experimental film archive in Barcelona);
5.Zana (2019, Kosovo/ Albania, dir. Antoneta Kastrati): after so many screens
interpretations on war devastations on-screen in international and particularly Balkan
cinema, Antoneta Kastrati still managed to find an original way to approach this difficult topic. The war trauma is presented as a recurring surrealist nightmare in suspense-driven sequences while the creepy atmosphere is backed by authentic folklore motifs. A staggering film on the unconscious drives in grief, caused by insurmountable loss (watched at the Sarajevo Film Festival online edition)
- The Brilliant Biograph: Earliest Moving Images of Europe (1897-1902; restored compilation by Frank Roumen and EYE Film Institute premiered in 2020): my sixth choice is not exactly a film but a bunch of silent moving images with more of an archival than an artistic value; an extraordinary compilation of films from the very first years of cinema which boldly reminds us the cinematograph’s core function: to capture time. The selection presents recently digitized copies from the largest existing collection of 68mm Mutoscope and Biograph films surviving in the world and provides a journey through a fast-changing Western Europe in times of modernization. Images from Eastern and Central Europe are basically missing, a reason for which I find the compilation title Earliest Moving Images of Europe slightly inappropriate, as what we see on screen is representative for Western Europe only. In any case, the possibility of observing pulsating life from 120 years ago is mind-blowing. (watched at the Pordenone Silent Film Festival online edition);
Best Bulgarian film: German Lessons/ Уроци по немски (Bulgaria/ Germany, 2020, dir. Pavel Vesnakov): this long-waited feature debut by Bulgaria’s most promising short filmmaker is a multi-layered portrait of one of the post-socialist lost generationс through the very personal story of a 50-years old desperate man freshly out of prison who is about to emigrate to Germany with some vague second-chance illusions to catch up with missed opportunities. Julian Vergov’s exceptional performance in the main role has been already noticed at the Cairo International Film Festival but the applauses for German Lessons, I believe, are yet to come (watched online via a private link)
Best Spanish film: The Human Voice (Spain, 2020, dir, Pedro Almodovar): Almodovar´s more than 20 years long flirting with Jean Cocteau’s monodrama finally results in a visually and verbally explosive one-woman-show portrait of love loss – an act compared to which death seems to be way less frightening. Created in the midst of the pandemic, this free interpretation of the famous text reverberates as an ode to the human connection as an irreplaceable need (watched at a regular cinema theatre in Barcelona, Spain)
Weronika Jurkiewicz (Poland / America, director of "The Vibrant Village")
I must confess the pandemic has definitely had an impact on my viewing habits. I've been craving way more comfort than usual, so my 2020 top selection is definitely a reflection of that.
Avatar: The Last Airbender (Michael Dante DiMartino, Bryan Konietzko, 2005)
A classic that I finally caught upon. Usually, I am not the one for feel-good narratives, but I must admit that I did find solace in knowing that the "good" will always win, especially in the context of current affairs. I have also been incredibly impressed by how emotionally sophisticated the show's writing is.
My Neighbor Totoro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1988)
Another classic and another warm, but an emotionally complex film which needs no introduction. I have actually seen all of Studio Ghibli's films during the pandemic. They have really helped me cope with these disturbing times.
Merry Christmas, Yiwu (Mladen Kovačević, 2020)
Screened at Sarajevo Film Festival, Merry Christmas, Yiwu offers a beautiful and subtle commentary on global consumerism and a complex portrayal of contemporary China. Mosaic structure, observational approach and wonderful cinematography invite the viewers into this intricate world.
Again Once Again (Romina Paula, 2019)
A Mubi finds, Again Once Again is a beautifully subtle and deeply personal film by Argentinian playwright Romina Paula. Picking on the hardships of reestablishing one's identity after childbirth, the film is a multi-layered meditation on womanhood, sexuality and family ties.
Egg (Martina Scarpelli, 2019) https://vimeo.com/373368812
Animated short documentary Egg deals with the subject of anorexia in the most visually striking and deeply touching way. A definite must-watch!
My Crush was a Superstar (Chloé Galibert-Laîné, Kevin B. Lee, 2017)
I saw My Crush was a Superstar as part of a Masterclass offered during the London's Open City Documentary Festival which I was able to attend because the event moved online. Given how, during the pandemic, the laptop's screen became a portal into the outside world in an even more extensive way than before, the desktop documentary format offers in and of itself an interesting commentary on the current times.
As for my favourite Polish pick from 2020: I have actually seen so many incredible Polish documentaries this year, but one that absolutely stole my heart was Sisters (https://ninateka.pl/film/siostry-michal-hytros-1) by Michał Hytroś. It is a touching and incredibly funny portrait of life in the cloistered monastery near Cracow.
Sona Karapoghosyan (Armenia, film critic and project manager at Golden Apricot International Film Festival)
- Nasir, Arun Karthick, 2020
- For the time being, Salka Tiziana, 2020
- Happy Old year, Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit, 2019
- Balloon, Pema Tseden, 2019
- It's not a burial, it's a resurrection, Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, 2019
- My Mexican Bretzel, Nuria Giménez, 2019
- Prayer for a lost mitten, Jean-François Lesage, 2020
- None of your business, Kamran Heidari, 2019
- The woman who ran, Sang-soo Hong, 2020
- The metamorphoses of birds, Catarina Vasconcelos, 2020
As for the best Armenian film of this year, I would choose TWIST by Ovsanna Shekoyan, 2020.
Jannis Lenz (Austria, director of "Battlefield")
- Late Spring ( Ozu Yasujiro, 1949)
Because there was seldom the opportunity to go to the cinema, I mainly looked through the works of my favourite directors to fill in gaps and rediscover classics that I had already seen. So also in this case. I'm a big admirer of Ozu's art, and Late Spring is one of my favourite films about it.
2.Isadoras children (Damien Manivel, 2019)
A beautifully made film, so calm and precisely for that reason so intense. I was very impressed with how Damien Manivel sensitively connects the fates of three very different women with a dance performance and thus turns their pain and loss into something universal that has to be expressed.
3.About Endlessness (Roy Andersson, 2020)
One of the few films that I got to see in the cinema this year. It is simply exhilarating every time I get inspiration from Andersson's bizarre, lovingly designed situations and figures.
- Tatjana (Aki Kaurismäki, 1994)
The only film by Kaurismäki that I hadn't seen before. I have not been disappointed.
5.Another Round ( Thomas Vinterberg, 2020)
A gripping social study that, in the best sense of the word, refuses to provide simplified answers or to become moral.
- How to disappear (Total Refusal, 2020)
Analytical and poetic at the same time, this film impressed me in its complex, but at the same time very accessible form.
- Blissfully yours ( Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2002)
Every time I watch this film it is as if I disappeared with the protagonists on their excursion into the forest into another world in which time and space follow completely different rules. This deceleration, the simplicity and intensity of the last few minutes of the film have burned themselves deeply into my mind.
- Tale of cinema ( Hong- Sang soo, 2005)
The film surprised me in such an elegant way that I thought about the construction long after watching it and talked a lot with colleagues about it.
9.Trouble with being born (Sandra Wollner, 2020)
This courageously staged film does not provoke, as is so often the case, by explicitly depicting violence or sexuality, but rather by asking uncomfortable, but definitely relevant questions that many people do not seem to want to deal with.
- I' m thinking of ending things ( Charlie Kaufman, 2020)
A film like a strange, masterfully interwoven dream, in which you don't know whether you want to continue dreaming or wake up and which occupied me for a long time afterwards, both in terms of content and form.
Thomas Logoreci (Albania, film critic and director of "Bota")
Like the rest of the world this year, collective moviegoing pretty much ceased to exist in Tirana, Albania. As a festival selector, I got to see innumerable documentaries on a monitor in the safety of my apartment. Maybe the cold slab of reality was the reason I selected only docs for my top ten list. Regardless, all of these intense movie experiences briefly took me from of the sustained gloom that defined 2020.
During the lockdown, we lost one of our most popular actor/directors, Rikard Ljarja. In the 1960s when Albania was a Marxist nation, its superpower ally was China. At the time of China's Cultural Revolution, the only foreign movies that could be shown were from Albania.
In 1967, Rikard starred in a film seen by millions of Chinese moviegoers, a black and white drama titled Ngadhnjim mbi vdekjen (Victory Over Death). Late last year (2019), I and my partner, Iris Elezi, and our cinematheque honoured Rikard with a theatrical 35mm screening of a film he wrote and directed that had been banned during the Albanian dictatorship, Sketerre 43! (Hell 43) (1981).
No one but his immediate family could attend Rikard Ljarja's funeral. But the day after Rikard died, a crowd, safely distanced, stood outside the apartment block where he lived, as his coffin was brought down. As the hearse drove away, the now elderly craftspeople who made our films and cinema enthusiasts broke into applause. Thinking about this moment, I have some hope that the flicker of images will somehow prevail, here in Albania, and around the world.
In alphabetical order:
- Andrey Tarkovsky. A Cinema Prayer (Andrey A. Tarkovsky) (2019)
- Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets (Bill Ross IV, Turner Ross) (2020)
- Campo de Mayo (Corporate Accountability, Jonathan Perel, 2020)
- Coup 53 (Taghi Amirani) (2019)
- Iesirea trenurilor din gara (The Exit of the Trains, Adrian Cioflanca, Radu Jude, 2020)
- Grève ou crève (Strike or Die, Jonathan Rescigno, 2020)
- Il Varco - Once More into the Breach (Michele Manzolini, Federico Ferrone) (2019)
- Pino (Walter Fasano) (2020)
- The Viewing Booth (Ra'anan Alexandrowicz) (2019)
- Wake Up on Mars (Dea Gjinovci) (2020)
Anuj Malhotra (India, film critic)
I do have a list of films for you but I may struggle to write extensively on each of these due to a paucity of time, as well as the general circumstance of my life right now. As such, I have placed these in distinct groups, organised through ideology or artistic aim, and will invite your reader to draw the connections between the basis of the titles the headline text for each.
In a region (in any region), its myths percolate into the ordinary, day to day, existence; and existence in itself nurtures and feeds its larger mythology.
- Cenote (Kaori Oda, 2019)
- Birha (Ekta Mittal, 2019)
- Escape from the 'Liberty' Cinema (Wojciech Marczewski, 1190)
Its own thing, really - a war film that nonetheless infects the event with drastic comedy. This, however, and surprisingly, does not diminish the effects of the violence, but actually elevates it to the point of ridiculous terror.
- The Big Parade (King Vidor, 1925)
The camera charts its own, autonomous trajectories; on occasion, bodies rebel, and another, conform. In general, it is the camera that acts upon the bodies and renders them geometric, multi-dimensional, or simply, an object.
- Contactos (Paulino Viota, 1970)
- Atman (Toshio Matsumoto, 1975)
- Jumping (Osamu Tezuka, 1982)
A woman lies in wait of an impossible object; nursing her own tenderness, fortifying herself against the apocalypse of her soul.
- The Portrait of Ga, Aerial (Margarait Tait)
- Vitalina Varela (Pedro Costa, 2019)
Their faith failed them, after all - why wait for redemption if nookie is available more easily?
- First Reformed (Paul Schrader, 2017)
- Uncut Gems (Safdie Brothers, 2019)
Firuza Mammadova (Azerbaijan, subtitler of Azerbaijani cinema)
- Dangal (Nitesh Tiwari, 2016)
Aamir Khan is a creative actor and always work in different styles with ideas. Since I was aware of his talent from his "Three idiots" my expectations were high and I did not regret at all. I have also experienced discrimination against women in my country when I was younger, therefore I really enjoyed watching the film based on a true story. It instils endurance and resistance in everyone irrespective of their gender.
- Papillon (Michael Noer, 2017)
The film is about two prisoners who were sentenced to life imprisonment in French Guyana. The story is about friendship and survival which lures me after watching the magnificent film "Shawshank Redemption".
- Miracle in Cell No. 7 (Mehmet Ada Öztekin, 2019)
It was one of the best drama movies I've ever seen and watched with tears. Although it is an adaptation, the actors have performed perfectly, and this is a movie with a very good cast that should not be ignored. Also, the music used was as good as the movie. Acting, music everything was perfect.
- Adrift (Baltasar Kormákur, 2018)
It was a very good movie with pretty striking scenes. It also surprised with its finale. The fact that the film is based on the true story also affected my opinions. I would recommend the film asserting it is underrated.
- Jojo Rabbit (Taika Waititi, 2019)
In a word, Legend. It was really enjoyable to see the events through the eyes of a child who grew up in Nazi Germany and to experience the Germany of that time. A film reveals that racism is actually something taught to us by thick-headed men, that being free, more importantly, being human is possible when we overcome these patterns and gain our own perspective. I also loved the quotes at the end.
“Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final.”
6.The Stoning of Soraya (Joel Ransom, 2008)
It is a perfect movie, the events should be seen as a criticism of all totalitarian systems, not just as criticism of sharia. In most cultures, women and the weak are in the same situation. Sure, to stone a person is extremely painful.
7.The Invisible Man (Leigh Whannell, 2020)
Although it has a small cast, the script and editing are very good. The movie gives the audience excitement and tension from the first minute.
- Marriage story (Noah Baumbach, 2019)
Let's start at the end. The movie ended as it should be. Although the thought of "I wish they did not break up" is influential throughout the viewing, at the end you think "That it is better". The script was meticulously written; showing their quality without skipping players. It is a movie where you can find many pieces of yourself. Highly recommended!
- To Kill a Mockingbird (Robert Mulligan, 1962)
It's impossible not to appreciate the film for its bold plot and humanitarian approach. The view of justice from the children's window... Very nice ... The movie touches an important issue with a very cute and sympathetic point of view. It is useful to read his book first. It was one of the most impressive books I have read in my life.
- The Irishman (Martin Scorsese, 2019)
Great acting, very good cinematography. If a TikTok video was shot with this cast, I'd even watch it!“If I said it once, I said it a thousand times, I don't care they're Irish. I don't care they're Catholic. If there's one person you can't trust in this life, it's millionaires' kids.”- The quote impressed me deeply.
When it comes to the Azerbaijani cinema, I would show this film as my beloved one in 2020:
“Daxildəki Ada” (An Island within) (Rüfət Həsənov, 2020)
Petra Meterc (Slovenia, film critic and literary translator)
- The end will be spectacular (Ersin Çelik, 2019)
- Never rarely sometimes always (Eliza Hittman, 2020)
- Gagarine (Fanny Liatard, Jérémy Trouilh, 2020)
- Kill it and leave this town (Mariusz Wilczyński, 2020)
- I've lost my body (Jérémy Clapin, 2019)
- Little Axe: Lovers Rock (Steve McQueen, 2020)
- First Cow (Kelly Reichardt, 2019)
- This is not a burial, it's a resurrection (Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, 2019)
- The Assistant (Kitty Green, 2019)
- The Orphanage (Shahrbanoo Sadat, 2019)
Ivan Milosavljevic (Serbia, director of "Prava granica")
This year is special in many ways, mostly because of the global pandemic. It caused that we watch films more on small screens at homes than in the cinemas and at the festivals. However, I managed to watch around the same number of films as before, even though I have been at a few festivals only.
Here is a list of my favourite films watched in 2020.
Y Tu Mamá También (Alfonso Cuarón, 2004)
Love, Death & Robots (Tim Miller, 2019)
Parasite (Bong Joon Ho, 2019)
The Machinist (Brad Anderson, 2004)
Honeyland (Tamara Kotevska, Ljubomir Stefanov 2019)
Regarding my favourite Serbian film in 2020, I chose “My Morning Laughter” by Marko Đorđević.
Moe Myat May ZarChi (Myanmar, director of "Her Mirrors")
- 3 Women (Robert Altman, 1977)
- Vagabond (Agnes Varda, 1985)
- The Dance of Reality (Alejandro Jodowrosky, 2013)
- Woman In The Dunes (Hiroshi Teshigahara, 1964)
- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)
- The 400 Blows (Francois Truffaut, 1959)
- Mon Oncle (Jacques Tati, 1958)
- Daisies (Vera Chytilova, 1966)
- Mystery Train (Jim Jarmusch, 1989)
- Emerald Jungle/ Mya Ga Naing (Maung Tin Maung, 1934)
Ines Mrenica (Bosnia and Herzegovina, film critic)
- I’m Thinking of Ending Things (Charlie Kaufman, 2020)
2020 American psychological horror film is the weirdest cinematic experience of the year but also the most strange film experience of all time. Unusual dimension of the story and 2 and a half hours of Kaufman’s abstraction is underlined by a great cast, Jessie Buckley, Jesse Plemons and Toni Collette. Never such a story has been written about the meaning of life and time lapse, ageing and pursuit for happiness.
- The Platform (Galder Gazdelu-Urrutia, 2019)
The Spanish horror movie is a story about vertical prison with one cell per level and two people per cell. Only one food platform and two minutes per day to feed. An endless nightmare trapped in The Hole is a metaphor about collapsing capitalism as Karl Marx predicted in his “Capital”. Enough food and resources for all but human nature, greed and pathological selfishness lead to disaster.
- Cadaver (Jarand Herdal, 2020)
Norwegian dystopian movie takes us in the starving aftermath of a nuclear disaster, where a family of three attends a charitable event at a hotel, which takes a dark turn when people start to disappear. In a staged performance they get a warm meal but suddenly become meat (cadavers) in a basement butchery that feeds “actors” and the stuff from the “hotel”. A sort of Orwellian nightmare combined with Blade Runner and a future that the world is heading for.
- Exile (Visar Morina, 2020)
This year Sarajevo Film Festival winner is German movie “Exile”, the story about the chemical engineer of foreign origin who feels discriminated and bullies at work, plunging him into identity crisis and paranoia. The film depicts the psychology of Balkan people in pursuit of happiness in Western Europe and sort of hidden racism they cope with.
- Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
Never fading Hitchcock’s classic is one of the best movies of all time. I watched it many times but this year is completely new pandemic circumstances. A former police detective juggles wrestling with his personal demons and becoming obsessed with a hauntingly beautiful woman and everything happens because his weakness which is suffering from vertigo when he is facing hight. One is for sure, movies in such decor will never look like that any more.
Myat Noe (Myanmar, film critic)
To The End of the Earth (2019, K. Kurosawa)
- Tender, funny, sad, touching travelogue about a TV travel program host and her discovery to contentment and self-realization set in Uzbekistan. (a bit condescending and dismissive when it comes to that country's systems, maybe to gain the favour of Uzbek censor?) But the film works well overall in its portrait of its protagonist and her inner journey. The last scene ends in a musical moment, reminiscing the opening scene of Sound of Music. Some might find it cheesy but, sometimes, you just want to enjoy and immerse in the joy of existence. We all need that this year!
Swallow (2019, Carlo Mirabella Davis)
- The harrowing acting of Elizabeth Marvel alone carries this film that is sometimes hard to watch without feeling your throat and giving it a pause. And I am glad that the director did not settle for blood and gore and, chose instead to explore the main character with a serious problem and her transformation.
The Lodge (2020, Veronika Franz)
- While most people are praising Relic, my pick goes to another harrowing film carried by the sheer, devastating acting of its lead actress (Riley Keough). This one is a slow-burn psychological horror that is successful in luring the viewers into the dark and confused labyrinth of another highly distrubed female protagonist.
His House (2020, Remi Weekes)
- Horror film that explores the issue of real humanities issues happening in war-torn Africa, focusing on the Sudanese refugee couple who arrive in the UK. The real horror actually lies in what human beings are capable of doing in the name of survival instead of a ghost.
Monos (2019, Alejandro Landes)
- A Columbian offering, centring on a gang of child soldiers from an armed insurgent group. Like "Lord of the Flies", it explores the issue of innocence loss in a world where children are forced to grow up fast and where dog-eat-dog mentality is the survival issue. Stunning landscapes ranging from misty freezing mountains to sweltering jungles. The absurdity of war has never been more absurd in the eyes of these children.
Sputnik (2020, Egor Abramenko)
- As a genre film, this Russian thriller about a doctor who discovers a sordid secret in a Soviet secret lab may be just OK. But the concept is wicked and to reveal is a spoiler. So just sit back, relax, and hold your dinner!
La Llorona (2019, Jayro Bustamante)
- Forget the crappy Hollywood's tale about the crying woman spirit who preys on the children. This Guatemalan chiller horror goes deep inside the guilty conscience. Focusing on the unrepented members of the ex-general who ordered genocide and his family members, the film treats these horrible people in a very human and normal way, thereby opening up their corrupted souls even more. Of course, the supernatural occurrence of the crying woman in their household is about to dig up the guilt and hidden horrors while they are literally trapped inside their stately mansion due to surrounding protesters while their souls are trapped in denial of guilt.
Bad Education (2019, Cory Finley)
- A HBO original. The real story about a school principal who embezzled public funds exposed by a school journalist. The pace is brisk. The plot is nicely structured. It is one of those simply made non-flashy films that just get every note right. And Hugh Jackman is once again able to show his versatility, having stepping out of Wolverine franchises.
A Sun ( 2019, Chung Mong Hong)
- One of those increasingly rare family dramas that grapple with the issue of loss and grief that beautifully portrays ordinary people's dealing with the extraordinary emotional burden. A bit too long but every moment is a tender exploration of what we are all familiar with in our own families.
Mank (2020, David Fincher)
- OK, I have not watched it yet as the time of writing. But I am sure I will love it. LOL (Besides, I have run out of favourites since I get to watch so little films this year)
Now for the Burmese film. OK, we haven't had any new theatrical Burmese film since April thanks to Covid. So I will have to choose from this year's Wathann.
Burn Boys (Dir: Kaung Myat Thu Kyaw)
- wild, experimental, totally free from the restraint of conventional narratives while not pretentious and trying hard to be artsy like most indie films. The over-the-top Kabuki like acting of the father and the stiff deadpan faces of the twin sons collide deliciously in this story about an uneasy reunion of the father and his estranged twin sons.
Raluca Nagy (Romania, novelist of "Un cal într-o mare de rebede")
Domains (Natsuka Kusano, 2019): liked the concept, so different from any other film I have seen recently; it stayed in my mind long time after I watched it.
Family romance LLC (Werner Herzog, 2019): another one of the classic Japan stories that could seem awkward for the outside world, but I loved Herzog’s particular sensibility and approach.
Eric Rohmer series on Mubi: even though a bit “cheesy”, I loved the feel-good atmosphere throughout all these films, could not stop watching them. Crazy how even when there is drama or situations that do not necessarily feel good-ish, the overall sentiment is of joy and nostalgia. I even started wearing pastel-coloured clothes like the ones from that era 😊
Marriage story (Noah Baumbach, 2019): the one film I approached with suspicion, not a big fan of Scarlett Johansson, but boy did she act well! Finally! 😊
Knives out (Rian Johnson, 2019): I laughed a lot, very smart plot, can see why it got an Oscar nomination for that.
Favourite film from my country: Toto and his sisters / Felicia înainte de toate – probably Felicia more, I could relate to stories of returning to my home country as someone who lives abroad…
Héctor Oyarzún (Chile, film critic)
The Year of the Discovery (Luis López Carrasco, 2020)
Isabella (Matías Piñeiro, 2020)
Danses macabres, Skeletons and, Others Fantasies (Rita Azevedo Gomes, Pierre Léon and Jean Louis Schefer, 2019)
One in a Thousand (Clarisa Navas, 2020)
Red Post on Escher Street (Sion Sono, 2020)
First Cow (Kelly Reichardt, 2019)
The Physics of Sorrow (Theodore Ushev, 2019)
The Woman Who Ran (Hong Sang-soo, 2020)
Something to Remember (Niki Lindroth von Bahr, 2019)
Wolfwalkers (Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart, 2020)
Chilean film: The Mole Agent (Maite Alberdi, 2020)
I don't know how different this list could have been in a "normal" year, but I have to say that the possibility of "attending" (we are using a lot of quotation marks this year too) Annecy was important for me. I didn't enjoy the whole selection, but the possibility of visiting the latest works by Theodore Ushev and Niki Lindroth von Bahr was one of my personal highlights. Ushev's film is an animated masterpiece and Lindroth von Bahr is still pushing one of the weirdest and special senses of humour I know. Some of my other favourites came from filmmakers that I already love (Sang-soo, Reichardt, Piñeiro), so I would like to highlight the surprise of getting to know Navas and López Carrasco, two filmmakers that I will be following closely from now on.
My Chilean pick was not very hard to make, but I have to recognize that this year I didn't see as much chileans films as I wanted. This Festival binge-watching combined with the teleworking made me watch a lot of the "famous" names first, which is something I kind of regret now. Anyway, Alberdi's work is a great example of the way she can work as an "undercover" filmmaker, hiding a film inside another one. It is something she has made since The Lifeguard (2011), but now it is even more evident (and funny) since she is making a "spy film".
Yoana Pavlova (Bulgaria / France, film critic, researcher and founder of Festivalists.com
It was a tough year for France. Apart from the COVID-19 crisis, in 2020 there were also terrorist attacks, natural disasters, heated debates around a new police security bill, violent protests, plus the death of many significant public figures from the world of politics and culture. True to his “youthful” and “communicative” style, Emmanuel Macron was very much (audio)visible, and not only in the news but also thanks to his own social media channels. Due to the frequency with which he had to “tune in” in the most difficult periods of the year, he turned into a YouTube star in his own right. With Macron's experience in amateur theatre, painstakingly polished rhetoric, and carefully calculated PR, these videos were supposed to be a plea for perfection. Part TV drama, part live performance, part textbook etiquette, Macron's public speeches aimed to be exemplary in every sense, yet the pandemic hyperreality and entropy's intrusion turned them into a cinema at its most thrilling.
#1 Yesterday morning, I tested positive for COVID-19. (Posted on December 18th)
The most unique entry in this list, both in terms of aesthetics and execution. This short appeared a day after world media outlets announced the news of Macron's COVID-19 infection. The handheld mobile camera and the spontaneity with which the French president, already in isolation, addresses the outer world are somehow touching. What opens with a hint of found-footage horror quickly turns into melodrama, so with the casual mise-en-scène and the emotional undertones considered, it is a natural favourite. Besides, it was a surprise “vlog,” and through it, Macron promised to post daily audiovisual updates on his condition, which did not in fact happen... but well, this is a recurrent motif in his cinematic universe.
#2 Entretien exclusif: Emmanuel Macron répond à Brut (posted on December 4th)
Brut was launched as a media project four years ago, in 2016, and exclusively in video format. In the beginning of December, Macron was cross-examined, live, by three journalists in their office, while questions and comments stormed in from various social media channels. Going on for more than two hours, this full-length independent drama has a masterful montage with action-packed rhythm. The French president demonstrates his impressive range as an actor, proving he can be both didactic and easygoing, with a disarming smile flashing here and there. As we all know, French cinema tends to be too chatty, yet I can assure you that this interview can compete with the best from the Hollywood political thriller (and judging from the reactions afterwards, the outcome was 100% rotten tomatoes).
#3 Adresse aux Français (posted on March 12th)
This is the first entry that set the tone of our shared 2020 dystopian canon, and I admit being sentimentally attached to it. The good-cop-Macron trope is peaking here, with the president calmly summing up well-known facts, telling everyone to wash their hands, and that everything will turn out fine at the end. Screenshots with the live-transcript were quickly immortalized as memes, whereas serious media analyzed his peculiar style of expression mingling old-school phrasing with corporate lingo. Merely half an hour, being watched in real-time the video did feel like a full-length movie for its parlance gravity.
#4 Adresse aux Français (posted on March 16th)
Broadcast only four days after #3 and a sequel of sorts, this video in fact inaugurates the first lockdown, in the spring of 2020. The sole blockbuster in this selection, as it went beyond the 1 million view mark. In the aftermath of the local elections from March 15th, this address put in circulation the bad-cop Macron, the one who waves a finger at those who do not obey at the rules he imposed just a couple of days earlier. Except for its tone, the video is not much different from the one on March 12th, yet the two complement each other. Still, reliving similar motifs and gestures with a slightly different mood granted the audience some critical distance from the material.
#5 French President Emmanuel Macron Press Conference in Beirut on 6/8/2020 following Beirut Port Blast (posted on August 6th, via LBCI Lebanon)
Hands down, the Beirut explosion from August 4th was among the most dramatic events from the past year, and to everyone's surprise, Macron ended up on the spot shortly after, as a deus ex machina in a disaster movie. There he flourished two of his favourite roles: the determined politician (stylish dark-blue suit, strength of character, terse diction) and the white-shirt-rolled-sleeves guy in the crowd who is approachable and listening. If you need more of the latter, I would recommend this short [Le Liban n’est pas seul. - posted on August 10th, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRwoWpf48Vs] from Macron's own YouTube page. What is really interesting to observe in this intense international coproduction that happened to be his press conference, though, is the postcolonial dynamics. The slightly shaky camera, the “non-French” semiotical frame of the president's face, the myriad of female voices with various accents yet all pressing for actual answers make this audiovisual work truly gripping, and only accentuate the controlled reality in which Macron's public image prevails on home soil.
#6 Déclaration après l’attaque terroriste de Conflans-Sainte-Honorine. (Posted on October 16th)
France has had its taste of radical Islamism in the past couple of years, and yet the beheading of a school teacher in October 2020 was a truly dark episode. Shot on the spot in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine, this video is short yet striking with its nocturnal setting. In the background: the “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” sign, visible on every school's facade in France. In front: Macron in a dark-blue coat, surrounded by people who do not look like officials, all of them keeping “social distance” with the president, as prescribed, so he can be in the centre. As he takes off his black face mask, only to spend the next minutes squeezing it in his palm, the bad-cop character is back. A “battle” is being mentioned, as well as an arcane “they,” and in line with the psychological thriller vibe, the palette is bleak. Still, as it is the case with French films about teenagers, there is a pinch of humour even in the dismal moments, with one colorful personage with fogging glasses behind.
#7 REPLAY - À Nice, Emmanuel Macron dénonce "une attaque terroriste islamiste" (posted October 29th, via France24)
Merely two weeks after the Conflans-Sainte-Honorine accident, a new attack happened in Nice, however, this 5-minute video differs from #6 in several regards. The president is again surrounded by other people, this time 100% men actually, and with identical suits plus one uniform, all tightly squeezed in the frame. It is daytime, but the atmosphere is utterly “catholic,” and this is a word Macron repeats several times, especially given the circumstances of the attack, and the fact it took place shortly before All Saints' Day. Even if talking to a crowd of journalists, on this occasion the president looks straight into the camera, speaking slowly and solemnly. A bird croaks not far away, as if on cue to underline the gothic vibe.
#8 COVID-19: Suivez mon interview. (posted on October 14th)
At a moment when the second COVID-19 wave was clearly on the rise in France, Macron opted for a slightly different format for a public announcement, so the nation can swallow the bitter pill of new curfew measures. With two well-known and high-profile journalists as “opponents” (in stylish dark suits) the usual monologue takes form of a parley. Nowhere close to the zest of #2 or #5, the president easily reins dialectically, only to convey the good old “It is what it is.” The split-screen is an interesting innovation visually, yet it is actually the choreography of sign-language interpreters that adds a comedy layer, as a counterpoint to the staged demagogy.
#9 Adresse aux Français (posted on October 28th)
On October 28th, 2020, Macron appeared once more live to announce a second lockdown. This time he is even more cogent, speaking also with his eyes and his hands, because it is not just about the pandemic – all recent events considered, his discourse has a deep political subtext as well. The middle-manager mode is fully on, with detailed infographics being flashed on the screen. The president needs to sell various ideas, each potentially unacceptable to a wide range of society. Part online marketing, part instructional video, the drama arises within the context of serialization.
#10 Vœux 2021 aux Français. (Posted on December 31st)
Every year on December 31st, at 20:00h, the French president addresses the nation in a live broadcast. In 2020, naturally, it was important to hear the official recap, and even more – to see Macron who seemed to have recovered from the virus. The usual mise-en-scène with the presidential desk is gone, replaced by a cosy corner of the Élysée Palace with a chimney and pleasant contemporary furniture. The “ordinary people” he mentions in the uplifting middle part can easily make you think of the classic Balkan curse “may your house be on CNN,” however the declamation serves its purpose to inject the “positive” spirit re the upcoming vaccination and lessons well learned. As the pulsation of Macron's last words fades out and he looks into the second, more distant camera, there is a dash of fatigue, and something vaguely Sarkozyan in this lonely figure, like a post-credit Marvel scene.
Maja Prelog (Slovenia, director of "2045")
The Rabbit hunt (2017), Patrick Bresnan
Short&sweet authentic docu got me thinking how some things are rooted forever deep in our souls.
América (2018), Eric Stoll&Chase Whiteside
A documentary about the relationship between grandmother and grandson in Latin America. It's sad so that it makes you laugh and funny so that it makes you cry.
The Earth Is Blue As An Orange (2020), Iryna Tsilyk
Family drama about making a movie at the forefront of Ukrainian war right now. Not at all pathetic nor moralizing but true and involving story of turning helplessness into empowerment.
Space Dogs (2019), Elsa Kremser&Levin Peter
Pretty spaced out story grounded in the perspective of dogs. I like it because for once everything doesn't revolve around human.
I'm No Longer Here (2019), Fernando Frías
It was the "WTF" moment at first but then film sucked me in by its passive narrative which takes you through a life of subculture in Monterrey. They can take away your freedom but they can never take away your passion.
Must mention and recommend all 5 seasons of Samurai Jack, series I love dearly.
Fav Slovenian film I saw this year:
The End (2016), Vid Hanjšek
A witty story about death, with one of the best characters in history of Slovenian film. It's so painfully true Slovenian but so beautifully universal.
Pablo Roldán (Colombia, film critic of "Cero en conducta")
Best 2020 movies:
I didn't get the chance to see many new films. For example, I have yet to see Paul Vecchiali's Un soupçon d’amour, Luis Lopez Carrasco's The Year of the Discovery, Frederick Wiseman's City Hall, Claire Simon's The Grocer's Son, the Mayor, the Village and the World, Paula Gaitán's Light in the Tropics, Alfonso Amador's Camagroga, or Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel's Notes From the Underworld. However, the few films I've chosen are all strikingly beautiful, bold, passionate, and provocative. It's hard to imagine a higher level of greatness. Despite what one might think it was a good year for cinema and for the movies that really matter.
* Days, directed by Tsai Ming-Liang
* Le Sel des larmes (The Salt of Tears), directed by Philippe Garrel
* First Cow, directed by Kelly Reichardt
*Atarrabi & Mikelats, directed by Eugène Green
*Blue Eyes and Colorful My Dress, directed by Polina Gumiela
*Gorria (Red), directed by Maddi Barber (short film)
*Richard Jewell, directed by Clint Eastwood
*Fauna, directed by Nicolás Pereda
*Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets, directed by Turner Ross, Bill Ross IV
*Cartas de una fanática de Whistler a un fanático de Conrad, directed by Claudia Carreño (https://letterboxd.com/film/cartas-de-una-fanatica-de-whistler-a-un-fanatico-de-conrad/)
*All the Dead Ones, directed by Marco Dutra and Caetano Gotardo + Sertânia, directed by Geraldo Sarno (https://letterboxd.com/film/sertania/)
*The Works and Days (of Tayoko Shiojiri in the Shiotani Basin), directed by C.W. Winter, Anders Edström
As for Colombian films:
* Los conductos, directed by Camilo Restrepo
*Como el cielo después de llover, directed by Mercedes Gaviria
*Tantas almas, directed by Nicolás Rincón Guille
Anna Szöllősi (Hungary, director of "Helfer")
1.Idiot Prayer: Nick Cave Alone at Alexandra Palace (Nick Cave, 2020)
I already had my tickets to his Budapest concert, which would have occurred this year. Watching this concert film was a very emotional experience.
2.Joker (Todd Phillips, 2019)
Most probably I won’t have to introduce this film to many people. Amazing movie, with a very important topic, very well written screenplay and Joaquin Phoenix is brilliant.
3.Free Solo (Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin, 2018)
A beautiful documentary about rock climber Alex Honnold’s free solo climb of El Capitan, with
4.Where Does a Body End? (Marco Porsia, 2019)
Pretty good documentary about the band called „Swans”. I am a bit biased on this one since they are one of my favourite bands, and also because this was the last film that I saw in the cinema, right before the lockdown.
5.High Fidelity (Stephen Frears, 2000)
I cheated here because I have already seen this movie about 15 years ago. It is about a guy called Rob, a record store owner, who recounts his top five breakups. During the lockdown I picked up a new hobby and I started collecting vinyl records. Even thought this film is far from being flawless, to me it is
very enjoyable to watch. It’s simple really fun to see the characters enthusiasm for music and the record culture.
Favorite Hungarian movie watched in 2020:
Szerelempatak (Sós Ágnes, 2013)
Beautiful documentary about elderly men and women from Hungarian speaking Transylvania
telling stories about their younger years, their love and sexual lives. Very thought-provoking film, full of humanity and with beautiful scenery.
Kostis Theodosopoulos (Greece, director of "Rouge")
Best greek film 2020: Digger (Georgis Grigorakis, 2020)
Top 5 list
I'm Thinking of Ending Things (Charlie Kaufman, 2020)
Josep (Aurel, 2020)
Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets (Bill Ross IV, Turner Ross, 2020)
This Is Not a Burial, It's a Resurrection (Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, 2019)
In a Whisper (Patricia Pérez Fernández, Heidi Hassan, 2019)
Tettyo, you are doing a wonderful job! Please, keep it up, because cinema will prevail!
Viet Vu (Vietnam / Belgium, director of "An Act of Affection")
- The Works and Days (of Tayoko Shiojiri in the Shiotani Basin), 2020, Anders Edström, C.W. Winter
I watched this film in the section of Encounters at Berlinale. This film is a fantastic combination of Ozu, Bresson and soap opera.
- Vitalina, 2020, Pedro Costa
Again, this film is a culmination of Pedro Costa career. As a student in António Reis school, he was taught to “look the rock just as a rock first”. However, with this film, we truly see a transcendental spirit beyond the frame.
- Los conductos, 2020, Camilo Restrepo
Again a film under the spirit of Robert Bresson combined with magical realism that comes from Colombian cinema. I watched at Berlinale 2020.
- Two Years at Sea, 2011, Ben Rivers
A chant of joy and happiness. I watched this film during my lockdown under covid situation in Budapest, Hungary. The film really stayed with me on its way of transcending joys through a world of objects and sounds. His favourite short films by Ben as Things (2014) and Ah, Liberty are also the culmination of the voyage over sounds and images.
- Tulpan, Sergey Dvortsevoy, 2008
I loved this film because of the beautiful long takes that internalize the nostalgia for a passing era of Kazakhstan.
- My Winnipeg, 2006, Guy Maddin
Lots of poetic images and beautiful style of cutting. I love the way Guy cuts his documentaries into fragmented mashes of fictionalized memories, dreams, and melodramas. “How you misremember things are more important than what truly happened”, Guy said.
7, Stranger than Paradise, 1984, Jim Jarmusch
I watched it inside the classic program at Locarno. The film is introduced by filmmaker Marí Alessandrini with beautiful words as follows: “A monochromatic road movie that advances in the mist, discovering that in "The American dream" for Willie, Eva & Eddie there is nothing to discover”.
- Perfumed Nightmare, 1977, Kidlat Tahimik
This is a gem about decolonization from one of the most modern artists in South East Asia.
- Trás-os-Montes, 1976, António Reis and Margarida Cordeiro
One of the most beautiful docufiction movies by the Portuguese master. I watched this film and I lived in Portugal nearly at the same time, which helped me experience the Portuguese souls through the film. The concept of “being far” between two cuts make me really amazed.
- The Round-Up, 1965, Miklós Jancsó
One of the most shockingly beautiful film by the master of long takes. In “Jancsó country”, there only exists the oppressors and the oppressed and they change roles constantly. I learnt from Miklós how to be political by aesthetic choice.
The favourite Belgian movie is Hellhole (2019)
This is one of the most recent authentic film with stylish camera and sound work that show how Brussels as a crossroad of Europe nowadays is. Lots of long 360-degree tracking shots stylishly revolve just around one metro entrance or around a modern house. Those shots internalize the estrangement of this multi-language and highly international city where their characters reside inside.
The favourite Vietnamese movie is The Tree House (2019)
This is a very delicate movie from a young Vietnamese filmmaker – Truong Minh Quy – which I would surely love to watch again.
Varga Zoltán (Hungary, freelancer film historian)
It Must Be Heaven (Elia Suleiman, 2019)
An almost entirely plotless film centred on the travels and especially the contemplations of Palestinian director Elia Suleiman (who “plays” himself) around various places in the globe. Although somehow the films deal with geopolitical questions as well, its charm is definitely lies in its dreamy atmosphere. Suleiman as a character seems like a not too distant relative of Buster Keaton, and Suleiman as a director recreates the modernism of Jacques Tati (especially the modernism of Playtime) with long shots where the spectator has to find what she or he wants to see and pay attention to. Twenty years ago, the doyen of Hungarian film critics, Bikácsy Gergely wrote about Otar Iosseliani’s somewhat similar film, Farewell, Home Sweet Home, that he understands those who are bored watching Iosseliani’s film, but he understands those viewers a lot more who don’t want to see any bombastic and spectacular movie after seeing Iosseliani’s quite work. The same can be said about It Must Be Heaven.
The Hunt (Craig Zobel, 2020)
What it firstly seemed to be just a more violent variation of the theme of the manhunt – in the tradition established by The Most Dangerous Game –, gradually became a political satire that has at least two great surprises on its sleeve. To name them would be spoilers, but thanks to them, the film is really memorable; yet otherwise, it also works well as a decent action thriller with plenty of black humour.
The Lighthouse (Robert Eggers, 2019)
One of the most daring films I can recall lately, considering how different inspirations can be found in that. It looks like The Shining meets Tarr Béla’s unique film style. It also seems like a mixture of Lovecraftian themes, mythological elements, and Beckett-like absurdist plays. It even also has very strong connections to the theme of doppelgänger, on one hand from the point of view of Expressionist cinema, and on the other hand from the generic conventions of psycho-thrillers. And the most surprising, these inspirations are more or less blended together successfully! The words of Polonius from Hamlet exactly fit The Lighthouse: “Though this be madness, yet there is method in it”. The black and white photography is marvellous, the two actors – the always excellent Willem Dafoe and the more and more worthwhile Robert Pattinson – are perfect, and the sound design is especially weird, unsettling and mesmerizing.
Themroc (Claude Faraldo, 1973)
Though it is similarly apocalyptic like Godard’s Week-end, hilariously absurd like Buñuel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, parabolical like Pasolini’s Theorem, and deliciously provocative like Ferreri’s Dillinger is Dead, Claude Faraldo’s most peculiar movie, Themroc does not belong to the well-known European modernist art movies. Well, it should be. Michel Piccoli plays the title character in this basically speechless film: Themroc, a factory worker starts a new life when he destroys his flat and becomes a modern day caveman, gathering around him a kind of a communa. Absurdist comedy at is best – or at its darkest.
The King of Marvin Gardens (Bob Rafelson, 1972)
One of the forgotten gems of the era of the so-called Hollywood Renaissance, it is much less known than the director’s and Jack Nicholson’s other film they made together Five Easy Pieces. Bob Rafelson’s film is about a pair of brothers, both of them are losers in their own way; one of them does not will to face with reality, with his own limits, the other one basically retired to his own inner world. The relationship of the brothers is complicated with the problems of one of them’s wife and the presence of her stepdaughter. The astonishing effect of The King of Marvin Gardens is partly the result of the players, all of them are great: Jack Nicholson can never be seen more modest as the quiet brother, while Bruce Dern is the exact opposite, he is harsh, energetic, and eccentric (these qualities obviously we used to link to Nicholson). Ellen Burstyn, just before The Exorcist-fame, is equally great as the mentally unbalanced wife. The other major asset of the film is its photography, thanks to Hungarian émigré Kovács László (earlier he photographed Easy Rider, later Ghostbusters as well). Kovács’s deep-focus photography and chiaroscuro lighting have its own life in the film, emphasizing the emptiness of abandoned places which visually echoes the loneliness of the characters.
best of Hungary, 2020:
Dűne / Dune (Ulrich Gábor, 2020)
One of the most prolific animation directors of contemporary Hungary, Ulrich Gábor (who lives and works in Kecskemét) has made – with the contribution of sound designer Chris Allan Tod – a little gem which has already been invited to more than a dozen animated film festivals around the world. Dűne is based on a dream, or more precise, on a nightmare. The imagery and the sound are built as exact opposites: while we see only hundreds of slowly moving grass in black and white, the sound is filled with very diverse noises, which are gradually becomes more and more ominous. And then, something happens..., but I would not like to spoiler it. Ulrich’s Dűne clearly shows that the effect of a film does not depends on its length: his film is only 3 and a half minutes long, yet its haunting effect lasts so much longer.
Veronika Zakonjšek (Slovenia, film critic)
- First Cow (Kelly Reichardt, 2019)
A beautiful ode to friendship, set in 1820s Oregon, when the harsh reality of America’s early-stage capitalism and transcontinental trade started to affect every pore of one’s life. It’s a quiet and gentle film about love, loyalty and struggle for existence in a world already divided by social inequalities, but it’s also a western, addressing the questions of solidarity and barbarism on the American frontier.
- Paths of Glory (Stanley Kubrick, 1957)
During the summer’s short cutback to milder health restrictions, I had the privilege of seeing this anti-war masterpiece on the screen of Slovenian Cinematheque. Watching it during the pandemic, with a mask on my face and a safe distance away from other audience members, while the fascist government with strong military appetites was on the rise in my country, made this one of the most powerful viewing experiences of the year.
- Vitalina Varela (Pedro Costa, 2019)
Costa’s cinema of the dispossessed has always been a world of its own. And while it may have been years since the impoverished Fontaínhas shantytown in Portugal’s capital was demolished, he continues to portray the marginalised, immigrant souls who came to Lisbon from its former colony island Cape Verde. Vitalina is a film about faith, grief, silent suffering, unfulfilled dreams and defiant resilience.
- Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Eliza Hittman, 2020)
A coming-of-age story about female friendship and the secret journeys we take when society doesn’t allow us to have control over our bodies. It’s a film about a girl’s pain, unspoken burden and loneliness.
- This Is Not a Burial, It's a Resurrection (Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, 2019)
A dreamy, mythical avant-garde film from the Southern African kingdom of Lesotho, delicately presenting the ecological and spiritual concerns of the land where the earthly naturalism and tribal ancestry collide with urbanization and exploitation of nature’s resources. It’s a poetic tale, full of symbolisms and striking visuals that seamlessly flow through the film’s earthbound moments, as well as its smooth transitions into the realm of magical realism.
- The Fever (Maya Da-Rin, 2019)
A heart-breaking, multi-layered tale about Brazil’s indigenous peoples and their increasing inner conflict as they abandon their native rainforest to settle closer to the city. It’s a film about longing for a place, pure and untouched by modern civilisation.
- A Yellow Animal (Felipe Bragança, 2020)
A transcontinental odyssey about seeking one’s identity through the labyrinths of colonial history, moral flexibility, ethnic conflicts, blissful ignorance, and the insatiable greed of the human race. The film playfully mixes farce and magical realism as it moves from Brazil to Mozambique, Portugal, and Brazil again – but this time a severely different one, a country already under Bolsonaro’s rule.
- The Assistant (Kitty Green, 2019)
The film about a single workday of a young assistant as she performs monotonous office tasks. Yet there’s always something darker looming just outside the frame: a mysterious, unseen presence of workplace harassment and abuse. It’s a film about silence, compliance and the moral dilemma of either keeping one’s integrity or keeping one’s job.
- Exile (Visar Morina, 2020)
An anxiety-filled thriller about daily microaggressions ingrained in Western racism and intolerance towards the “Other”. But the subversiveness of Visar Morina’s film makes the Kosovo-born immigrant living in suburban Germany just as much a victim of his own insecurities, as of the prejudices with which society perceives him. To the point that the line between his victimhood, and self-induced paranoia, internalised xenophobia and self-pity becomes blurred beyond recognition.
- Vesna Goodbye (Sara Kern, 2020)
It has been a devastating year for Slovenian cinema: both in terms of cultural politics currently taking place, and in terms of small number of films which got released during the pandemic. A rare standout was therefore Sara Kern’s short film Vesna Goodbye, shot and co-produced in Australia where the director, otherwise a Slovene, currently resides. It’s a delicate film about two teenage sisters who suddenly find themselves worlds apart, unable to communicate and understand what each of them is experiencing. A powerful look at how sometimes those closest to us remain the biggest mysteries.
Donart Zymberi (Kosovo, director of "Bzzz")
To start, so far I've watched 167 films this year. Some of them masterpieces. Some good. Some average. Some bad. This was a pretty special year in film for me because it was also the year I started making my own short films. One drawback from this list is that I have not included a lot of films released in 2020, mainly because I haven't watched as much as I would've wished or as I normally do, the reason for this being the pandemic. I usually like to go to theatres for new releases, and this year except for Nolan's Tenet and a few others I haven't been able to attend the cinema as much.
Juliet of the Spirits (Federico Fellini, 1965)
Four Nights of a Dreamer (Robert Bresson, 1971)
In the Realm of the Senses (Nagisa Oshima, 1976)
Koyaanisqatsi (Godfrey Reggio, 1982)
Blood Simple (Coen Brothers, 1984)
The Element of Crime (Lars Von Trier, 1984)
Terrorizers (Edward Yang, 1986)
A Ghost Story (David Lowery, 2017)
Tenet (Christopher Nolan, 2020)
Exile (Visar Morina, 2020)
My entry from my country, Kosovo, is Visar Morina's Exile, which won the top prize at the Sarajevo Film Festival and is Kosovo's entry for the Academy Awards. Another Kosovan film I'm looking forward to seeing is Blerta Basholli's Hive, which has been nominated in Sundance. But that's for another year and perhaps another entry...