Film Hub Members’ Top Films of 2020

I don’t think anyone could argue that this has been a very strange and challenging year for all of us and it certainly has been for Cinema. With cinemas closed we have seen distribution models adapting to a new normal, releasing films online instead of the big screen and more and more people have engaged with online film screenings.

Cinema has, however, encountered and survived many threats and set-backs in the past and we have no doubt it will weather the storm of Covid-19, with audiences continuing to return to the hallowed space of the cinema auditorium.

And what do we do there, but watch the best films the world has to offer!  Before we wave a grateful farewell to 2020, let’s take a moment to reflect on the films that have made the biggest impact on us this year with our Film Hub Member’s Top 18 films of 2020.

1. Portrait of a Lady on Fire

PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE

Dir: Céline Sciamma | France 2020

Céline Sciamma’s striking fourth feature is an exquisite tale of female desire, hidden love, art, and the gaze.

One of the most acclaimed films of the year (it won Best Screenplay and the Queer Palm at Cannes), this is a stunning look at what we can create, how we can live, and who we can love.

Not just the best film of 2020 but perhaps THE best film: sublimely beautiful, profound and exquisite.

  • Holly Tarquini, FilmBath

 

I’m not usually a big fan of period dramas but I really connected with the emotional arc of this story of love and repression, which looks and feels out of this world but also manages to be quietly radical in its gender and class politics.

  • Maddy Probst, Film Hub South West

2. Parasite

PARASITE

Dir: Bong Joon Ho | South Korea

Parasite is what happens when the have-nots have their day. A deliciously fun poisoned cocktail of dark humour, social satire and perfect set pieces, this gripping thriller is a sensational experience that keeps surprising to its last drop.

 

Funny, thrilling, dripping in satire – totally deserving of its critical and box office success.

  • Timon Singh, Film Hub South West

 

The most beautifully and precisely constructed film since Hitchcock which reveals its secrets to thrilling effect whilst also having a topical social/political message.

  • Mark Cosgrove, Watershed

3. Rocks

ROCKS

Dir: Sarah Gavron | UK

Uniquely crafted by a majority female creative team in collaboration with mostly first-time actors, Rocks is a vibrant and engaging portrait of girlhood, resilience and growing up in London.

 

A funny, sad, sly film that draws you in immediately and then breaks your heart. Outstanding in every way.

  • Anna Navas, Plymouth Arts Cinema

= 4:

SAINT MAUD

Dir: Rose Glass | UK

A pious nurse becomes dangerously obsessed with saving her dying patient’s soul in British writer-director Rose Glass’s superb debut; a darkly humorous, insidiously creepy, gothic-tinged psychological horror that has won rave reviews following its screenings at Toronto and the BFI London Film Festival.

Rose Glass’ debut throws everything into the heady horror-inflected mix of religion and loneliness. Perhaps that last aspect took me most by surprise when the pious lead found herself alienated for her beliefs and her past. It does an excellent job of joining the dots between the fanaticism and compassion.

  • Neil Ramjee, Moviola

 

 

AND THEN WE DANCED

Dir: Levan Akin | Sweden | Georgia | France

This award-winning Georgia-set drama (one of the most talked about films at Cannes) explores the possibilities of love, cultural identity, sexuality and self-expression within a repressively anti-LGBTQ+ society. Led by outstanding performances and energetic choreography, it is a devastating tale of love and liberation – something worth celebrating.

Beautiful, gentle and moving

  • Rebecca Ballard, Queer Vision

 

I absolutely fell in love with the world within, the characters, the music, the dance in this film. If you’re looking for love, beauty and a touch of heartbreak – it’s a must see.

  • Tiffany Holmes, Film Hub South West

JOJO RABBIT

Dir: Taika Waititi | New Zealand

Writer/director Taika Waititi (Thor: Ragnarok, Hunt for the Wilderpeople) brings his signature irreverent comedy to this smart anti-hate World War II satire, winner of the Audience Award at TIFF.

Tackling the ludicrousness of racism and nationalism head on, Waititi has crafted an audacious black comedy (drawing on his own Jewish heritage and his experiences growing up surrounded by prejudice) that, besides clearly being very timely, also boasts great emotional depth and tenderness.

 

Even if 2020 had been a year of typical film release numbers, JOJO RABBIT still would be on my Top 5 list. Taika Waititi satirised Hitler with a pitch-perfect cast and a terrific balance of black humour and pathos. Sam Rockwell’s Captain K and young Archie Yates as Yorki are two of the reasons I’ve watched this film at least seven or eight times.

  • Donna Anton, Hayle Film Club

TALKING ABOUT TREES

Dir: Suhaib Gasmelbari | France | Sudan | Chad | Germany | Qatar

Four Sudanese filmmakers (retired, but not through their own choice) embark on a heroic adventure to revive a cinema in a country under an oppressive regime in this powerful documentary by director Suhaib Gasmelbari.

In a year which has seen cinemas close across the globe, there’s nothing like getting some perspective on our current plight. This documentary about four Sudanese directors, determined to revive a cinema in a country where cinemas have been shut for decades is such an important reminder about the value, both cultural and political, of being able to see something on the big screen!

  • Maddy Probst, Film Hub South West

 

 

 

 

= 5

CLEMENCY

Dir: Chinonye Chukwu | USA

Writer-director Chinonye Chukwu’s critically acclaimed film follows a prison warden (Alfre Woodard) whose world is upended by the fate of death-row inmates.

Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival 2019, Clemency is a radically empathic look at life inside death row, brought to life by Alfre Woodard’s performance-of-a-lifetime alongside Aldis Hodge, Wendell Pierce and Richard Schiff.

 

A HIDDEN LIFE

Dir: Terrence Malik | USA | Canada

Based on the true story of Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian farmer who refused to join the army during World War II, Terrence Malick’s latest is a spiritual epic on convictions in times of crisis.

Ambitious and visually absorbing, A Hidden Life debuted at Cannes to rave reviews with many hailing the film as Malick’s greatest achievement since his award-winning The Tree of Life – deconstructing religion and nationalism to present a defiant portrait of faith in crisis.

Terence Malick was in danger of disappearing up his own astral plane in his recent films but A Hidden Life – anchored by a real life drama – demonstrated how he is still pushing the language of filmmaking to startling and stunning effect.

  • Mark Cosgrove, Watershed

 

I found A HIDDEN LIFE so mesmerising after seeing it in preview — I was awestruck and emotionally moved by both cinematography and soundtrack — that I went all the way to Exeter just to see it a second time on a big screen.

  • Donna Anton, Hayle Film Club

POSSESSOR

Dir: Brandon Cronenberg | Canada | UK
From the visionary mind of writer/director Brandon Cronenberg, POSSESSOR is an arresting sci-fi thriller about elite, corporate assassin Tasya Vos. Using brain-implant technology, Vos takes control of other people’s bodies to execute high profile targets. As she sinks deeper into her latest assignment Vos becomes trapped inside a mind that threatens to obliterate her.
Forget Christopher Nolan’s over-egged wicked web of confusion, Brandon Cronenberg’s second feature is the head**** you only need to watch once to understand. Andrea Riseborough continues to prove her range in this body horror that pulls no punches, and yet transforms into a statement on duty and memory.
  • Neil Ramjee, Moviola
SciFi, the genre of ideas which is so often starved of good ideas, gets a blessing with a picture you can’t tear your eyes from. Brandon Cronenburg hits his stride and Andrea Riseborough has become a gold standard signifier for Horror. If she’s in it, it’s good.
  • Oliver Treasure-Smith, Curzon Cinema & Arts

QUEEN & SLIM

Dir: Melina Matsoukas | USA

This stylish love story is the feature film directorial debut from Melina Matsoukas (Insecure, Beyoncé’s Formation) as well as the feature screenwriting debut of Lena Waithe (Master of None, The Chi).

A powerful, consciousness-raising tale of love that confronts the staggering human toll of systemic racism, continued police brutality towards African-Americans, and the life-shattering price of violence.

There is so much heart in this movie. As well as hitting all the thrills and dark comedy of a great crime film, this film breaks your heart for the eponymous leads in this brilliant, timely tale.

  • Oliver Treasure-Smith, Curzon Cinema & Arts

THE LIGHTHOUSE

Dir: Robert Eggers | Canada | USA

This psychological thriller from Robert Eggers (The Witch) follows the slow descent into madness of two lighthouse keepers (Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson) on a remote New England island at the turn of the 19th century.

The first film to pick me up, slap me around the face and throw me back into my seat – quite brilliant performances and original filmmaking.

  • Mark Cosgrove, Watershed

1917

Dir: Sam Mendes | UK | USA

Award-winning director Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Spectre) teams up with renowned cinematographer Roger Deakins (Blade Runner 2049, Sicario, Skyfall) for this elaboratively choreographed WWI drama.

Should certainly get a mention in despatches.

  • Malisa Sledmere, No.6 Cinema

A full on cinematic experience

  • Claire Marshall, C Fylm / Carn to Cove, Cornwall

LITTLE WOMEN

Dir: Greta Gerwig | USA

Writer/director Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) returns with a fresh interpretation of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved 1868 novel, the Civil War era story of the March sisters, four young women each determined to live life on their own terms – and the result is extraordinary.

I LOVE Gerwig and Florence Pugh’s fresh take on Amy, especially the way it makes us challenge our own internalised (taught) misogyny which values the boyish ways of Jo over the feminine style of Amy.

  • Holly Tarquini, FilmBath

DA 5 BLOODS

Dir: Spike Lee | USA

Fierce energy and ambition course through Da 5 Bloods, coming together to fuel one of Spike Lee’s most urgent and impactful films.

Not quite Blackkklansman-level Spike Lee but a wonderful war film/thriller about racism/living with the consequences of our actions/grief and so much more.

  • Timon Singh, Film Hub South West

 

Great storytelling and fabulous performances. Loved it.

  • Claire Marshall, C Fylm / Carn to Cove, Cornwall

NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS

Dir: Elisa Hittman | USA

Written and directed by Eliza Hittman, Never Rarely Sometimes Always is an intimate portrayal of two teenage girls in rural Pennsylvania. Faced with an unintended pregnancy and a lack of local support, Autumn (Sidney Flanigan) and her cousin Skylar (Talia Ryder) embark across state lines to New York City on a fraught journey of friendship, bravery and compassion.

Eliza Hittman’s third film (following IT FELT LIKE LOVE and BEACH RATS) this is a highly acclaimed and powerful film that affirms Hittman as one of the most exciting new American cinematic voices.

SYSTEM CRASHER

Dir: Nora Fingscheidt | Germany

The debut feature from German director Nora Fingscheidt, System Crasher is a powerful drama about a troubled nine year-old girl caught in an overstretched social welfare system. Driven by a powerhouse performance from Helena Zengel as the young Benni, the film was a highlight of the Berlin International Film Festival in February this year, winning the Silver Bear Alfred Bauer prize which recognises films that “opens new perspectives on cinematic art”.

For Helena Zengel’s performance alone this film is a stand-out.

  • Anna Navas, Plymouth Arts Cinema

THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD

Dir: Armando Iannucci | UK | USA

Master satirist (and avid Dickens fan) Armando Iannucci (The Thick of It, In The Loop, The Death of Stalin) brings David Copperfield fizzing to life with this gloriously frenetic, hilarious adaptation.

With a stunning supporting cast including Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, Peter Capaldi, Benedict Wong, Gwendoline Christie and Ben Whishaw, a whip-smart script and visual surprises (walls literally fall away to make room for flashbacks), this is a hugely compassionate, funny and optimistic film – a Dickens reworking unlike any you have ever seen.

Was just plain fun all around and a bit bonkers too. Iannucci’s style brought a welcome freshness to Dickens.

  • Donna Anton, Hayle Film Club

These films have been voted for by our Members in the South West –  thanks to everyone who shared their lists with us! There were many more great films that were included in the long list so if you want further ideas for what to catch up on over the holidays, check out the long list here.

Happy holidays everyone and here’s to many more great films in 2021.

 

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