For Sama: A harrowing and intimate account of the siege of Aleppo by Syrian citizen-journalist Waad al-Kataeb is more than just a documentary — it is a testimony of the triumph of the human spirit, and also its apathy. While Aleppo burned and crumbled, the world watched and did nothing. Using a hand-held camera, she chronicles the beginning of the Syrian resistance against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011, which then turns into a civil war, as well as events in her own life — her journey as an activist, falling in love in the time of war, and finally, the birth of her daughter, Sama, for whom this film has been made.
Deerskin: Georges is the funniest serial killer you’ll ever meet. In Quentin Dupieux’s surrealist comedy, Le Daim (Deerskin), he is played by Jean Dujardin (The Artist), a man who buys a cowboy-style deerskin jacket and desires to be the only man with a jacket in the world. He’s not at all surprised when his jacket informs him that he too wishes to be the only jacket in the world. What follows is a rib-tickling killing spree that gratifies and horrifies in equal measure; but Georges’ charming narcissism makes murder look like so much fun.
Honey Boy: Right from the beginning, Honey Boy cuts right through, wasting no time in devastating the audience with its tale of a violent and emotionally abusive father-son relationship. Written by Shia LeBouf, who based it on his childhood, and also plays father to Noah Jupe’s character, the film explores all the ways in which addiction passes down generations and lingers on like a cancer that destroys every single feeling — except pain.
Marriage Story: Noah Baumbach’s funny and bittersweet examination of the end of a marriage is the kind of film that stays with you long after the lights come back on — and it’s mostly because of Adam Driver’s luminescent performance as a theatre director and young father whose divorce to an actor, played by Scarlet Johansson, is turning out to be more absurd than he’d ever imagined.
The Kingmaker: Lauren Greenfield’s documentary about the life and times of Imelda Marcos, and the rise, fall and return to political power of the Marcos family in Philippines is gripping, hilarious, and shocking all at once. It serves as a primer, a history lesson about all the ways in which politics, avarice and power work.
Port Authority: New York City’s busiest bus terminal is where Wye (Leyna Bloom) and Paul (Fionn Whitehead) lock eyes for the first time, drawn to each other in ways they can’t quite explain. A troubled young man, he’s selling ‘white boy realness’ while she’s carving a place for herself in the city’s kiki-vogueing scene with her trans brothers and sisters. This romance directed by Danielle Lessowitz is fresh, heartwarming and fabulous.
Bacarau: The film is a Brazilian stand-off between the inhabitants of the village of Bacarau and everybody else who’s out to get them — whether it’s the mayor, a local politician, trigger-happy Americans hunting people for sport. Combining traditional and modern storytelling, with dollops of humour and well-deserved violence, Bacarau is nothing short of a wild ride.
Atlantics: With the city and the sea as backdrop, Mati Diop’s seductive film is part social commentary, and part ghost tale. When Ada (the absolutely stunning Mama Sané) learns that her lover Souleiman decided to leave Senegal to seek refuge in Spain, she is heartbroken; when she learns that he and his friends drowned in the sea, she is ready to give up. But somebody has seen Souleiman recently, she cannot rest now. At the heart of it, Atlantics is a love story, but one that tells us more about what happens when someone else’s selfishness and greed tears our worlds apart.