Time flies by! DMovies was launched in February 2016 and since then our team watched seen hundreds of dirty and thought-provoking films from every corner of the planet. We have published nearly 250 films reviews, plus a number of articles, many professional profiles and organised screenings across the UK.
Now we decided to cherry-pick the 10 best gems of the year, so that you don’t have to do it. They are listed below in no specific order. These films have challenged conventions, stereotypes, held a mirror to communities and individuals. That because at DMovies we believe that cinema is far more than a mere entertainment. It’s a powerful weapon that can bring about positive change!
While 2016 was a annus horribilis with the rise of the far-right in Europe, the Great Trumptator and even a coup d’état in Brazil, at least there was no shortage of dirty and subversive, creative minds in the cinema world. And there is plenty of hope for 2017!
These masterpieces will force audiences face their own fears and demons, and the outcome isn’t always rosy. It often leaves audiences shaky and scarred, with a rancid taste in the mouth and a rank and offensive odour everywhere. It’s like a spiritual cleansing, a sensorial exorcism. You become a dirty person. So buckle up and read on, watch the films you haven seen yet and get set for an yet filthier 2017, with plenty of innovative and provocative movies to follow!
1. Aquarius (Kleber Mendonça Filho)
The largest country in Latin American is mosaic of cultures and races, but also of conflicts and paradoxes. Kleber Mendonça Filho’s latest film has come to epitomise those in the shape of the Clara, an obstinate and tenacious woman probably in her 60s, mother to three children and several grandchildren. She lives in a building named Aquarius, in the Brazilian city of Recife.
Aquarius premiered in Cannes earlier this year, where the actors held signs after the screening denouncing the recent coup d’état in Brazil. The illegitimate Brazilian government retaliated by giving the film an adult certificate and also by not submitting it to the Oscars. Several Brazilian filmmakers – including Gabriel Mascaro, Eliane Caffé and Aly Muritiba – demonstrated solidarity with Mendonça Filho by withdrawing their films from the competition. Aquarius – already a symbol of physical and emotional resilience – has since also become a symbol of political resistance.
2. I, Daniel Blake (Ken Loach)
The dramatic vigour of the movie lies in the absurdities that benefit claimants have to face, supported by cogent and astute performances. Both the filmmaker and the actors and in sync with the plight of the people they depict. The film is also a reminder that a honest and trustworthy person could eventually stumble into such horrible predicament, and so we should always exercise solidarity.
I, Daniel Blake is a tearjerker, but not because it relies on forlumaic devices – such as melodramatic music, plot ruses and unexpected twists. Ir is not exploitative and it never evokes extravagant emotions. The film is so effective because it’s is extremely accurate in its realism, a quality virtually absent in the British mainstream media and cinema. While the story is fictional, the plot is entirely based on real horror stories from people on benefits interviewed by Ken Loach and his long-time scripwriter Paul Laverty.
3. The Greasy Strangler (Jim Hosking)
The Greasy Strangler tastes different to all the other films in the kitchen of Sundance programming director Trevor Groth. It is like giving cinema-goers a messy bowl of jelly instead of popcorn or M&M’s. It is an unpretentious and puerile new flavour and experience.
British director Jim Hosking and scriptwriter Toby Harvard took very high risks sending their first feature to Sundance in the US. First, they are not American Indies; they are also not famous. The Greasy Strangler, a story about a greedy clumsy dad and his alike maladjusted son, was on six screening rooms in last January at the original Sundance Film Festival, a relatively low tally given the dimensions of the event.
The film is also píctured at the top of the article.
4. Gimme Danger (Jim Jarmusch)
Gimme Danger is not only a love letter to The Stooges, but also a fine piece of art. A collage. Jarmusch breaks the rules of rocumentary genre by throwing in fragments of films illustrating Pop’s memories of his early years in Detroit and his first gigs. Don’t expect mere archive footages explaining the musical, cultural, political and historical context in which The Stooges emerged.
Indeed he was the first rock artist to ignore the fourth wall, the space which separates a performer from an audience. He invented stage diving. He invited the audience to go on stage while he would be down, singing and enjoying himself. Iggy Pop is the terror of security guards.
5. The Killing$ of Tony Blair (George Galloway)
The Killing$ of Tony Blair reveals how a single politician destroyed Iraq, destabilised the Middle East and imploded the foundations of his own Labour Party at home. At times the film has traces of Michael Moore, with colourful charts and maps and some banter. At one point, Galloway knocks at Tony Blair’s door to no avail, similarly to what the American documentarist does to the subjects of his films. Overall, however, the British film has a much more serious tone. Perhaps that’s because Galloway is an insider (he was an MP until last year) and the film was crowdfunded by 5,000 pundits in the UK, ensuring that it remains less jaunty and whimsical.
It is unfair to describe The Killing$ of Tony Blair as one-sided and sanctimonious, as some of the British media have. In reality, the film is a very urgent statement against the media bias and political spin that drive most successful politicians in this country, New Labour and Tory.
Crosscurrent tells the story of young captain Gao Chun (Qin Hao), who steers his boat overloaded with fish up the Yangtze river. He is been in charge of delivering the commercial cargo in exchange for for a reasonable sum of money. Along his journey, he meets the magic figure of a woman over and over, and she seems to become younger the closer he gets to the source of the river.
The cinematography is breathtaking, just like the pollution that is taking over China. It is also one of the most beautiful and spectacular films in the history of cinema, a true masterpiece. Each take in the film is carefully balanced and crafted, like a Michelangelo painting. Despite its nostalgic and stoic tone, Crosscurrent is a film about reconciliation with irreversible changes. Upon reaching the source of the Yangtze, Chun realises that time cannot be turned around. There is no doubt that the new Yangtze is oddly fascinating – perhaps because it is so dirty, precarious and nostalgic.
7. Vita Activa: The Spirit of Hannah Arendt (Ada Ushpitz)
Hannah Arendt’s work remains as urgent today as it did more than 40 years ago, when the controversial Jewish-German philosopher died in her post-war home in New York. Much of the Jewish establishment on both sides of the Atlantic has consistently dismissed Arendt’s opinions for her alleged leniency of the crimes committed by the Nazis on her own people, and for her apparent forgiveness of the Holocaust.
Despite more than two hours of duration and the complex philosophical content, Vita Activa: The Spirit of Hannah Arendt is an effective and digestible film. It is riveting and comprehensible even for those who never heard of Arendt before.
In a remote and cold coastal town in Chile – presumably in the far south of the country – Sister Monica dwells with four priests who have retired from church and society because they have committed crimes. Three of them, all of them homosexuals, abused children, while the fourth one snatched babies from teenage mothers and handed them to the wealthy. The “club” is a purgatory for erring priests.
The Club is a film painful and excruciating to watch not because it was poorly made, but because of the graphic detail, mostly in the dialogues. The retired, ageing priests are forced to confess their crimes to a younger priest sent by the Vatican. In addition, a victim of another molesting priest consistently haunts them by shouting out his clear-crystal memories at their windows. His abuser committed was meant to live at the home, too, but he committed suicide upon arrival at the beginning of the movie. Perhaps the most vividly shocking film of the year.
9. Sworn Virgin (Laura Bispuri)
Hana (Alba Rohrwacher) lives with her sister Lila (Flonja Kodheli) and their parents in the remote mountains of Albania. Lila then escapes to the West in the hope of a better life, leaving Hana to care for her parents. Hana then decides to become Mark so that she can perform the family duties that only a man is allowed to carry out (such as handling a shotgun and hunting), according to strict social rules. She undergoes a conversion ritual, cuts her hair and begins to wear male clothes, all with the full consent and support of her parents as well as the rest of the community.
Italian director Laura Bispuri and editors Carlotta Cristiani and Jacopo Quadri (click here for his dirty profile) crafted a convincing tale that is both visually attractive and emotionally gripping. The snowy mountains of rural Albania are contrasted with the multi-coloured and fast-paced urban life in Italy. Rohrmacher’s performance as both Mark and Hana is superb, and she quietly yet effectively conveys a vast array of complex feelings.
10. Where to Invade Next (Michael Moore)
Our last film on the last is from the prescient (he anticipated Trump’s unlikely victory) and controversial American documentarist Michael Moore. This time he “invades” nine foreign countries and claims the best aspects of their living so that they can be incorporated into the United States. He goes to eight European countries and Tunisia.
It is impossible to dismiss the importance of the United States in the world, and many positive values imbued in the American constitution and the American dream. Likewise with Michael Moore, it is impossible to deny his importance to world cinema, despite his foolish and misleading shenanigans.