By Roger Costa
As Fall is right around the corner, bringing the most celebrated Festivals and the most important films of the year, it’s time for a balance. Especially after seeing already 235 new films (released commercially, in theaters, on VOD, and on local Festivals). While we wait for the blockbusters and big Award-contenders, hoping movie theaters can finally re-open, Here are my Top Picks so far:
1- THE TRUTH
Japanese master Hirokazu Koreeda continues to enchant with his usual sensibility and honesty on the depictions of family relationships. Through deeply compassionate and naturalistic lenses, the unique auteur, examines reasons and values of members of an estranged family. In a magnificent, unforgettable, attachable scenario, we meet a famous, selfish, aging French actress, her overwhelmed daughter who’s visiting from the US, along with rehab husband and angelical child. They make you feel a part of the family, an essential element in each one’s personal quest, and everything that comes along.
2- YOUNG AHMED
Masters of Neo-realism, the Dardenne Brothers won the coveted Cannes’ Best Director Award for this suspenseful depiction of dysfunctional teenhood and terrorism inclinations. Following the routine of a fanatic Muslim boy, which includes long prayers and preparations to exterminate his “impure” teacher, the pair created a triumphant character study, a masterly crafted thriller about precocious violence and fanaticism, but mostly, (and thankfully) a celebration of compassion and forgiveness.
3- HOUSE OF HUMMINGBIRD
As she observes the transformations around her, inside her home, in school, and in society, an ambiguous, bisexual teen girl struggles to find the right tune for herself, as she experiences alliances and disappointment at equal levels. A stunningly crafted directorial debut, South Korean emerging filmmaker Bora Kim conceived a delicate, intense, deeply moving homage to adolescence, first love and family virtues.
4- FATHER, SOLDIER, SON + THE PAINTER & THE THIEF
Two mesmerizing documentaries, about the human condition and the ability to overcome tragedies. Through personal journeys, involving art, the process of creating it and struggling to succeed, friendship, vices, and patriotism, manhood and fatherhood, these two alarming films are powerful humanitarian statements. Two strong lessons of solidarity.
5- THE TRAITOR
A sensational Mafia epic spanning decades in the life of Tommaso Buscetta, one of Cosa Nostra’s Mafia organization most prolific associates, Marco Bellocchio’s stunning drama exposes the consequences of the criminal activities with intensity and preciseness. Delivering a powerful performance by Pierfrancesco Favino, the film is a detailed, ultra violent and well-structured character study, challenged by moral values, principles, family bond, a strong romance and greed. It narrates the fame, glory and decline of Buscetta, the first informant responsible to dismantle the crime organization. Explosive and seductive, it’s a mesmerizing take on the genre.
The most celebrated Brazilian film in years, Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles’ hallucinating and politically-charged western is a mind-bending exploration on the country’s inner issues. Smart and irreverent, the film brings together a bunch of eccentric figures, residents of the town of the title, ready for a brutal battle involving a water crisis and the mayor pursuing re-election. Among the metaphorical circus for this “soon-to-come” war, there are foreign and internal terrorists, social workers and doctors, a corrupt mayor, hookers, and others dealing with political divisions. Inventive and intensely violent, it’s an efficient portrait of a humble community forced to battle enemy forces.
7- SORRY WE MISSED YOU
A father arrives home, exhausted, drained after a 16-hour shift work, humiliated by his boss, pressured by his competitors, and smitten by unjust policies, just to find more tempest under his own roof. A master of storytelling with focus on the struggles of the British struggling communities, 84-year-old director Ken Loach’s new drama observes the stirred emotions of a family dealing with economic despair and miscommunication. Heartbreaking, naturally absorbing and perfectly convincing, Loach continues to be one of our greatest filmmakers with this powerful meditation on the strength of family resilience.
A heart rendering true story about spiritual and social transformation of a young KKK leader who finds shelter at a black pastor’s home, as he struggles to leave his brutal, racially-inflicted past. Filled with moving performances from Garrett Hedlund, Forest Whitaker and Andrea Riseborough, director Andrew Heckler’s directorial debut is a shocking and timely account on racial issues in America as well as an inspirational testimony of faith, determination and redemption.
9- THE SURROGATE + STRAIGHT UP + NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS
Three indies stirring up controversy with delicate issues, involving mature material such as fertilization, abortion, gay marriage, gay conversion, and other provocative themes. These smart, inventive and observational Millennials quests, brilliantly deliver their message of equality and freedom for all, marking a new era for these promising filmmakers.
10- SOUTH MOUNTAIN
A great dramatic surprise, award-winning director Hilary Brougher’s SXSW Grand Jury Award nominee, follows the emotional troubles of a woman (and her daughters) caught up on the consequences of a marital affair. Talia Balsam gives a ravishing performance as Lila, a remarkable portrait of desperation and hopelessness, as well as early signals of madness. Brougher conducts the material with extreme sensibility, candor and honesty.
STAY HEALTHY AND WELL EVERYONE !!!