directed by Sebastian Lelío
The Chilean entry to the 2014 Oscars. Paulina García deservedly won best actress at the Berlinale for her courageous performance as a divorced woman navigating through the perils of midlife. It's a crowd pleasing film, receiving the loudest and longest ovation I've heard this year, but one which balances all the drama and emotion in a thoughtful and unforced manner. There's also a wonderful use of music throughout.
The Lunchbox (Dabba)
directed by Ritesh Batra
A sweet and charming little romantic tale from first time director Ritesh Batra set amongst the nonstop hustle and bustle of modern day Mumbai. Greatly enjoyable for the simple way that the story develops and then unfolds with humor and emotion without resorting to melodrama. A word of advice, do not watch this film with an empty stomach.
directed by John Curran
The true story of Robyn Davidson's 2700km solo trek across the Australian desert. Beautifully shot, as you would expect a film set in the outback to be. It also further cements Mia Wasikowska as one of the true talents of her generation. Though it never quite manages to convey the degree of physical challenge and danger she faced on her walk. You get the impression that dealing with people was more difficult than dealing with nature. Perhaps that was the point.
directed by Louise Archambault
Canada's submission to the 2014 Academy Awards, winner of the Audience Award at Locarno. The coming of age story of a young woman with Williams Syndrome. A feel-good drama with documentary aspects (most of the cast including lead Gabrielle Marion-Rivard are non-pros playing a version of themselves). Strong use of music, and mostly avoids being too sentimental or sympathy seeking, but still feels a little too politically correct to be true.
The Venice Syndrome
directed by Andreas Pichler
A sobering documentary seen through the eyes of Venice's quickly dwindling remaining residents that strips away all the romance and glamour to show a side of the city that tourists are unaware of. It shows how the natives have been priced out of real estate by investors, and how the once great city is now just a glorified amusement park. Shots of imposing cruise-liners dominating the frame underscore how hundreds of years of history and culture have been completely and irreversibly overshadowed by commerce and tourism.
directed by Stephanie Spray & Pacho Velez
Produced by Lucien Castiang-Taylor and Véréna Paravel, the duo responsible for Leviathan. Like that film, this is another unique and challenging experimental documentary that caused the most walkouts of the festival. The entire film consists of real-time still camera shots inside a cable car carrying passengers (who seem unaware they are being filmed) up and down the mountainous location of Nepal's Manakamana Temple. Depending on the viewer this will either be infinitely fascinating or hopelessly boring.
directed by Lisa Langseth
Soon to be household name Alicia Vikander displays incredible range in this drama about a group of strangers who take an unconventional approach to dealing with their individual traumas, running from their troubled lives by checking into different hotels and pretending they are someone else. It's very funny at times and tragically sad at others, but even an amazing lead performance can't overcome what you know deep down is a ridiculous and unbelievable story.
directed by Marteinn Thórsson
Winner of best actor at Karlovy Vary. A dark dark comedy with intense and frantic visuals made to match the perpetual inebriation and crazed raw debauchery engaged by the thoroughly unlikable yet amusingly watchable protagonist. Ólafur Darri Ólafsson fills the role perfectly, but whatever political message the director intended is lost in all the drunken chaos and confusion.
The Oxbow Cure
directed by Yonah Lewis & Calvin Thomas
A quietly simple yet utterly entrancing story of a woman who retreats to a winter cottage to deal with a debilitating illness in isolation. Slow paced, minimal and almost entirely dialogue free, with evocative visuals that recall the style of Phillippe Grandrieux with just a touch of early Cronenberg, this is wonderfully mesmerizing cinema. The first independent film from English Canada I've been impressed with in a long while.
Vojta Lavička: Ups and Downs
directed by Helena Třeštíková
Directed by Helena Třeštíková, who is known in her home country for documentaries that follow their subjects over several years. This one recounts the past 16 years in the life of Romany musician and television host Vojta Lavička. It's an interesting approach, but its presented entirely from the words and perspective of Lavička who has the vibe of a good storyteller, one who may or may not be telling the truth at any given time. The many musical interludes are what make this worth seeing, especially touching are moments of him playing the violin with his young son.