A SUMMARY OF THE THIRD SET OF FILMS THAT WE'VE WATCHED
OCTOBER 18, 2022
(Pakistan, Belgium, Netherlands)
We've now had the opportunity to dive into half of the International Feature submissions and these set of 15 films are some of the best films we've watched this year. Here are the latest 15 submissions:
These three films touched us immensely. They made us cry, a lot. They're all superb, breathtaking, fantastic pieces of work. They're the films that keep you awake at night. And weeks after watching them they're still on our minds.
Leading the group is the film from Belgium called Close. Director Lukas Dhont has created a portrait of grief and loss. And the necessity to somehow move on. It is about two best friends who are inseparable. They do everything together. They're one and the same. But when school begins their friendship takes an unexpected turn for the worse. As students begin to question their friendship as being "too close" it begins to wedge a gap in their once unbreakable friendship. The film is raw. It's a rollercoaster of emotions. It's a story of a friendship that could be something more, as the two boys stumble into manhood.
Joyland is another film filled with raw emotions. And the film is a breakthrough for Pakistan. We're so proud that they've submitted this film. Joyland is about a married man who ends up getting a job as a background dancer for a trans woman. He is immediately drawn to her and it awakens something inside him. This begins his journey into self-acceptance but it has devastating consequences for everyone around him. At its heart, the story is about accepting the unknown, and reveling in its discovery. The music, the ensemble, the story. Simply one of the best of the year.
The film from Netherlands took us by complete surprise. Narcosis is a moving universal story about life, love and loss. The film focuses on a family of four: a loving married couple and their two kids. When an unexpected death occurs in the family, they're forced to deal with intense grief. How can a family possibly move on with their lives when something so shocking occurs? Without ever having the chance to say goodbye? Narcosis draws you in from the opening shot to the final perfect ending. What a film!
(Jordan - Farha)
Farha and The Happiest Man in the World both deal with two genocides that still have devastating effects on everyone impacted by these tragic events.
Farha, submitted by Jordan, deals head on with the tragic events of Al-Nabka. It focuses solely on a young girl who ends up being locked up in her cellar, while her father, and everyone she knows is forced to flee or fight for survival. The film is composed, focused, brave and powerful. It's agonizingly realistic. The way its filmed is unique, confined and extremely personal. The fact that the Palestinian struggle is still occurring today makes this film even more impactful.
North Macedonia's The Happiest Man in the World deals with the aftermath of the Bosnian genocide that occurred in the 1990s. Two people, Zoran and Asja, meet up during a speed dating event in the present time but one person has an ulterior motive for being there. Zoran wants to meet Asja because during the war, he was a part of the Army of the Republika Srpska. She was his first victim. And he wants forgiveness. The entire film takes place in one day. It's a beautiful, reflective, tragic, and extremely thought-provoking film about understanding and letting go.
(Dominican Republic - Bantu Mama)
In Bantu Mama and Nostalgia, the two lead actors are missing their childhood homes.
The film Bantu Mama, by Dominican Republic, is a film about finding help in the most unexpected places. Led by the brilliant Clarisse Albrecht, the film focuses on a young woman who gets a second chance in life. After being arrested for smuggling drugs at an airport, she is able to escape from the police and she finds refuge with a family of three adolescents. This lovely film is sparse on dialogue but filled with heart and soul. As the young woman gets the opportunity to start fresh, she dreams about heading back to West Africa to re-start her life.
The film from Italy, Nostalgia, is about a man who had to flee his home of Naples after a horrible incident with his best friend. He ends up starting a new life in Cairo but when his mother becomes seriously ill, he heads back to his hometown after being away for 30 years. Once back in his neighbourhood, he begins to feel like he's where he belongs. The sounds and sights of the city brings back fond memories of his childhood. And he doesn't want to leave again.
(Poland - EO)
One of the most unique films of the year is Poland's submission called EO. The entire film, from start to finish, is focused on a donkey. It follows him along his journey as he's passed from owner to owner and is moved from place to place. Led by an incredible cinematography and a powerful score, this film is a true immersive experience. It's at times frightening, funny, sad, and heartwarming. It makes you feel. And the ending of the film will never be forgotten.
(Palestine - Mediterranean Fever)
The films from Palestine and Bulgaria both touch on difficult topics about despondency and humanity.
Mediterranean Fever, the submission from Palestine, is a film about depression. And it focuses on a man who's married and has a family. Even the most mundane tasks like getting out of bed is difficult for him. He doesn't feel like socializing and he rarely leaves his home. When a new neighbour moves in next door, it sparks a newfound curiosity within himself and it re-energizes him. Suddenly he's more active and he wants to talk to this new neighbour. He wants to do activities with him. Will this help with his depression? It's a fantastic black comedy with hard-hitting themes. And it has one of the most original screenplays of the season.
Bulgaria's In the Heart of the Machine focuses on a group of men who're in a high security prison. When a bird is found trapped inside one of the machines during a workshop session, the lives of all the men inside that room changes in an instant. The film focuses on fate and humanity. And wanting to feel human, even if it's just for one day.
(Brazil - Mars One)
Mars One and Missing Home both focus on family, about their children, and about pursuing ones passions.
Mars One, the film from Brazil, is a strikingly beautiful film about following ones dreams when all odds are against you. The film focuses solely on a family of four as they each pursue their goals towards a better life. We see them during their happy times and we see them at their worst. As the crisis in Brazil increases, the film is a joyful celebration of maintaining optimism and living life to the fullest. It's a touching, refreshing, delicately told film about being a family. And it's one of the best films of the year.
Indonesia's Missing Home is about two parents who haven't seen their three sons in over three years. The three sons refuse to come back home because their father disagrees with their life's choices. With a special occasion coming up, the two parents decide to trick their kids into pretending they're having a divorce to make them come back home. The film is funny, but slowly builds into a darker tone as more secrets are revealed. It's a gentle reminder to allow your children to pick their own paths in life, even if it contradicts with what you believe in.
Now of these 15 films, there’s a chance that perhaps three of them will make the shortlist. If we had to pick three, and this is solely based on who we think will be nominated, we would single out the following:
Close - After its debut at the Cannes Film Festival, the Belgium film became an instant favourite and its an easy pick as a frontrunner. Director Lukas Dhont has been getting a lot of buzz lately and it feels like the right time for him to get rewarded. The film already has an impressive score of 83 on Metacritic. And it's been picked up by A24. The film has done the entire festival circuit and everyone knows about it. And to top it all, it's definitely one of the best films of the year, if not the best.
Joyland - Pakistan has never been nominated before for an Oscar. It's actually never been shortlisted before either. But this is the year for a major breakthrough. The film is one of the highest rated movies on Letterboxd. It has a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Mahala Yousafzai has joined as an executive producer. It has one of the best ensembles of the year. And it's one of the most moving, and important, films of the year.
EO - This was a tough one for the third choice as there were so many amazing films to choose from, but we feel like EO has a slight edge. Poland is always a contender to making the shortlist. The film is directed by Jerzy Skolimowski whose had a career since 1960. It's been picked up by Janus and it's playing at nearly every film festival. It won some awards at the Cannes Film Festival and the film will standout. The message behind the film is super important and relevant to what's happening in the world right now.
(We also feel that Mars One and Narcosis have a chance to be shortlisted as well. Both films are incredible. But neither film has been playing the Fall festival scene in North America. We're always looking for the "underdog" and the film that might surprise once the shortlisted films are announced and these two films are definitely contenders.)
We're now 1/2 done, so let's see what the next set of films have to bring. We will be watching Argentina, 1985, All Quiet on the Western Front, Bardo and more very soon.