BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR (France/2013/180 minutes)
Based on the graphic novel Blue Angel by Julie Maroh, director Abdellatif Kechiche’s film won the Palme d'Or at Cannes and also rendered the festival’s top prizes to the director and its lead stars Lea Seydoux and newcomer Adele Exarchapolous.
CLOSED CURTAIN (Iran/2013/106 minutes)
Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi’s follow up to the brilliant This is not a film won the Silver Bear for the best script at this year’s Berlin Film Festival. Much like Panahi’s previous film, Closed Curtain was shot secretly in and around his own apartment seeing as the filmmaker has been under house arrest and has been banned from making films.
THE PAST (France-Iran/2013/130 minutes)
Asghar Farhadi stormed to limelight last year with the terrific A Separation, and the Oscar gave him an opportunity to flex his dramatic muscles outside his home country. The Past is set in France but contains the familiar themes of relationship dynamics, troubled marriage and a tragic mystery as seen in all his previous work.
A TOUCH OF SIN (China/2013/135 minutes)
Perhaps the most important film of the year, A Touch of Sin satirizes the social and economic handicap China faces in the modern world. The film was nominated for the Palme d'Or at Cannes this year and the director Jia Zhangke scored the Best Screenplay trophy at the fest.
SHIELD OF STRAW (Japan/2013/125 minutes)
Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike is the master of controversial violent dramas and his new film promises exactly that – a busload of visceral risqué thrills. The film was nominated for the Palme d'Or at Cannes and has received extremely polarizing reviews, meaning either you’ll love the film or hate it, no middle ground.
THE ROCKET (Australia/2013/96 minutes)
Kim Mordaunt’s film has garned universal acclaim and is Australia’s entry to the Oscars this year.
THE GREAT BEAUTY (Italy/2013/142 minutes)
Paolo Sorrentino’s latest chronicles an ageing writer on the verge of a breakdown - the film was nominated for the Palme d'Or at Cannes and is Italy’s submission to the Academy awards this year.
WAJMA (Afghanistan/2013/85 minutes)
Afghanistan’s Oscar entry is an interesting film that sheds light on modern relationships in the country – a topic that has seldom been covered in cinema.
KILLER TOON (South Korea/2013/104 minutes)
This South Korean horror film was a gigantic critical and commercial hit, and it’d be futile to attend a film festival that doesn’t have a fun violent Korean movie.
HELI (Mexico/2013/105 minutes)
Mexico’s Oscar submission scored some highly contrasting reviews for its bleak tone and raw depressing message. Polarising reviews can mean one thing – that it’ll be an interesting watch.
ILO ILO (Singapore/2013/99 minutes)
Director Anthony Chen’s Chinese Sinagporean comedy came out of nowhere and bagged the Camera d'Or at Cannes. It’s one of few feel good movies to watch at the fest – and it’d probably be a welcome change.
KATIYABAAZ (India/2013/84 minutes)
Fahad Mustafa’s film follows two individuals who try to solve the severe power shortage in Kanpur – one, a power supply head honcho and the other who illegally routes cables and steals electricity.
QISSA (India/2013/109 minutes)
Anup Singh’s film has a terrific cast of Irrfan, Tisca Chopra, Tillotama Shome and Rasika Dugal andan equally terrific plot – a man who faces eviction during partition is forced to raise his daughter as a son. Qissa won the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema Award at TIFF.
THE ACT OF KILLING (Denmark/2013/159 minutes)
This stunning documentary focuses on one proud Indonesian executioner who agrees to enact the killings in a faux film about the genocide, and slowly begins to realize the horrors he’s committed.
MOOD INDIGO (France/2013/95 minutes)
Michel Gondry’s return to trippy French dramedies has the lovely Audrey Taotou and Gondry’s trademark flair for the bizarre, impossible visuals.
BEKAS (Sweden/2013/97 minutes)
Karzan Kader’s film finds humor in devastation as it chronicles two kids in 1990 Saddam Hussein plundered Iraq who want to travel across to America and hang out with Superman.
THE MISSING PICTURE (Cambodia/2013/90 minutes)
Rithy Panh’s film grabbed the Un Certain Regard prize at Cannes – it’s a biographical account of the filmmaker’s time in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge administration. A bit like The Act of Killing, the central character reflects back on the violence and atrocities by recreating events that transpired during that time.
DON JON (USA/2013/90 minutes)
Joseph Gordon Levitt became an international star and internet sensation but apparently he wasn’t happy with just that – he’s turned to direction with a modern take on Don Juan, with Scarlett Johansson in the lead.
SHORT TERM 12 (USA/2013/97 minutes)
Starring Brie Larson in her breakout role, Destin Daniel Creton’s comedy-drama has been making a lot of noise ever since it premiered at the SXSW film festival earlier this year and has since scored some insanely positive reviews.
INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS (USA/2013/105 minutes)
It’s the Coen Brothers’ new film - that is reason enough to line up and camp outside the movie hall for the screening.
(First published in DNA)
(First published in DNA)