It’s nearly time to raise a glass to the end of another year and to start to look forward to what 2020 has to offer.
But before we do, in Film Hub tradition we are rounding up 2019 with a look back on the films that have most impressed, inspired, moved and entertained our members in the South West this year.
We have listed the top 15 films of 2019 as voted for by our members and were delighted to see Mark Jenkin’s grainy monochrome Cornish fishing village drama, Bait (which we supported to screen at venues across the South West) take the top position alongside Nadine Labaki’s astonishing Lebanese drama, Capernaum.
Dir: Mark Jenkin | UK
Stunningly shot on a vintage 16mm camera using monochrome Kodak stock, this timely and funny yet poignant tale gets right to the heart of a Cornish community facing an unwelcome change. It tells a stark story rooted in local culture and community, and how these marginal places are facing up to a changing world.
Bait comes into its own through a near-perfect marriage of visual brio and thunderous drama, helped no end by Rowe’s stone-faced commitment to the role. Couple this with an awkwardly stilted, but fitting, post-dubbing, Bait brings a fresh shot in the arm to British filmmaking of a pioneering mash-up style that feels anything but superfluous.
-Neil Ramjee, Moviola
Dir: Nadine Labaki | Lebanon
Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes (and nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars®), this heartbreaking and defiant film tells the story of a poverty stricken Lebanese boy who sues his parents for the crime of giving him life.
I remain astonished at how Nadine Labaki coaxed convincing performances from a cast primarily of non-actor Syrian refugees. A chaotic mix of social-reality and allegory, I thought it was the most powerful and moving film of the year.
Donna Anton, Hayle Film Club
Blew me away, in every way: the performances of the kids, the story and the setting, just spot on
Anna Navas, Plymouth Arts Cinema
WOMAN AT WAR
Dir: Benedikt Erlingsson | Iceland
Benedikt Erlingsson follows up his 2013 hit Of Horses and Men with this warm-hearted and utterly unique look at an Icelandic eco-warrior juggling environmental action and foster motherhood.
A female hero of epic proportion. Elegant, prescient and a fabulous, strong female lead.
Malisa Sledmere, No.6 Cinema
PAIN AND GLORY
Dir: Pedro Almodóvar | Spain/France
Pedro Almodóvar returns with a soulful semi-autobiographical story about an ageing film director reflecting on his personal and professional past.
Painful and joyous reflections on a life lived – the power of cinema, storytelling, creativity and relationships. Richly told. One of my top Almodovar movies
Annie Menter, Afrika Eye
Dir: Yorgos Lanthimos | Ireland/UK/USA
The Favourite sees Yorgos Lanthimos balancing a period setting against rich, timely subtext – and getting roundly stellar performances from his well-chosen stars. A darkly funny court comedy starring Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz as rivals vying for the affection of Queen Anne (Olivia Colman).
I loved this pitch-black satire featuring a superb trio of female leads, a brilliant and deliriously bonkers script, outrageous costumes and gorgeous sets, all of which created sympathy for a queen deranged by the loss of 17 children.
Donna Anton, Hayle Film Club
SO LONG MY SON
Dir: Wang Xiaoshuai | China
Pioneering director Wang Xiaoshuai (Beijing Bicycle) returns with this magnificent, wrenching drama – an epic family saga spanning three decades that charts the collective damage, trauma and emotional history of China’s one-child policy and the Cultural Revolution.
What a privilege to dive into three decades of China’s political and social history through the lives of these two couples. I was completely gripped by this gorgeous, poignant masterpiece; time flew despite the 3hours+ running time
Maddy Probst, Film Hub South West & Watershed
Dir: Claire Denis | UK/France/Germany/Poland
Claire Denis makes her English language debut with this strange, sexual and totally surreal sorta-sci-fi starring Robert Pattinson as a criminal on a mysterious space mission.
It operates on the level of the symbolic to such an extent you are kind of free floating as a spectator. Such a throw back to high-modernism it’s like Denis never saw another Sci-Fi after a 2001/Solaris double-bill she caught in about 73
Dario Llinares, The Cinematologists
Dir: Waad Al-Kateab, Edward Watts
Winner of the Best Documentary prize at Cannes, this intimate, visceral film tells the story of one woman’s journey through love, motherhood, war and survival during five years of the Syrian conflict.
Everyone over 16 should have to watch For Sama, one of the most remarkable films I have ever seen
Holly Tarquini, FilmBath
Dir: Alejandro Landes | Colombia /Argentina /Netherlands /Germany /Sweden/Uruguay /USA/Switzerland/Denmark
Chaos reigns amongst a wild troupe of teenage bandits who have rituals, guns and a panic stricken hostage in this tense and deeply unhinged thriller from Colombian filmmaker Alejandro Landes.
An unconventional dive into the world of child soldiers. While the narrative leaves its purse strings open, the visuals are considered & feel invigoratingly fresh. The young cast are staggeringly natural & Mica Levi’s score never fails to grab your attention
Neil Ramjee, Moviola
Dir: Todd Phillips
Shocking in its originality and intensity, Todd Phillips’ standalone origin story of the iconic arch-nemesis demands to be seen if only for Joaquin Phoenix’s unsettling and mesmerisingly physical portrayal of the villain we thought we knew – one of this year’s best performances.
I loved this film….Joaquin is sublime, you see his mental pain through every sinew of his physical self. I have’t seen anything Batman related since the ’60’s when Adam West was defending Gotham City, my interest is now piqued.
Malisa Sledmere, No. 6 Cinema
Dir: Ari Aster | United States/Sweden/Hungary
Ari Aster is one of the few big directors yet to have been snapped up by a franchise or remake film and long may it continue. This twisted but emotionally intelligent folk-horror builds on his already brilliant Hereditary from last year. I came away from this film firmly pro cult.
Oliver Treasure-Smith, Curzon Clevedon
Dir: Lee Chang-dong | South Korea / Japan
South Korean master Lee Chang-dong follows up 2010’s Poetry with this sublime mystery thriller of obsessive love adapted from a short story by Haruki Murakami.
ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD
Dir: Quentin Tarantino | USA/UK/China
Quentin Tarantino’s ninth feature film is a story that takes place in Los Angeles in 1969, at the height of hippy Hollywood. The two lead characters are Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio), former star of a western TV series, and his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). Both are struggling to make it in a Hollywood they don’t recognize anymore. But Rick has a very famous next-door neighbour…Sharon Tate.
Thrillingly unrestrained yet solidly crafted, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood tempers Tarantino’s provocative impulses with the clarity of a mature filmmaker’s vision.
Tarantino made me nostalgic for the 1960s America of my youth, proved that Brad Pitt is the most underrated actor of our time, reminded with Leonardo DiCaprio that only great actors can convincingly play terrible ones, and evoked a poignant performance from Margot Robbie as Sharon Tate. I nearly fell off my seat laughing during the finale.
Dir: Todd Douglas Miller | USA
An unmissable cinematic experience fifty years in the making, featuring out of this world, never seen before footage from the 1969 moon landing.
Extraordinarily mesmerising and reminds once again that we have more computing power in our phones than in the mainframe computers that made the moon landing possible.
BIRDS OF PASSAGE
Dir: Cristina Gallego, Ciro Guerra
Following up on the promise shown in his 2015 hit Embrace of The Serpent, director Ciro Guerra takes on the mob epic in his latest tale about indigenous traditions and the corrupting forces of wealth and power, set against the backdrop of the Colombian marijuana boom of the 1970s.
This film stunned our audience at Purbeck Film Festival this year!
Woody Harding, Purbeck Film Festival
"The first professional trip out of Bristol since March last year was to London to catch up on films. I have been eager to re-engage with festivals; so decided London Film Festival would be my first tentative re-emerging steps."
Films, stories and music from more than a dozen countries and the premiere of its own first self-made film will be on offer when Afrika Eye - the South West’s biggest festival of African cinema and culture – returns to venues across Bristol and beyond from November 8th to 16th.
We invite all our Members to join our 2021 Annual Members Forum. We want to hear what is and isn’t working, explore your ideas for the future of the Hub and wider BFI Film Audience Network