Sunday 31 May 2020

At Gunpoint - Remembering Marshal Tito in person and on film - John Baxter recalls the world premiere of THE BATTLE OF THE RIVER NERETVA (Veljko Bulajić, Yugoslavia, 1969)

A Bridge Too Bad.   

      I’ve only once been forced to watch a film at gunpoint.

      It took place in the early seventies, in what was then Yugoslavia; specifically Croatia, where firearms were soon to be commonplace. At the time, however, life was good along the Dalmatian coast and even better in Pula’s Roman amphitheatre (above) during the annual Pula Film Festival. 


A good crowd, including a dozen film journalists, had gathered under the stars to watch Bitka na Neretvi or Battle of the River Neretva, climax of that year’s event. This three-hour saga celebrated the greatest wartime achievement of Croatia’s finest son, former Communist partisan and now president of his country, Marshal Josip Broz Tito.  

In fact, we were there less to see the film than Tito himself, making a rare foray away from his private island. As a bonus, his guests were Italian cinema’s uncrowned king and queen, producer Carlo Ponti and his wife Sophia Loren. 

Truth to tell, none of we critics perched uncomfortably on the slatted garden-type wooden benches expected to see the whole film. Having gawked at the Strong Man of the Balkans, we intended to slip away for a more agreeable evening in town.

Loren, Ponti
The official party swept in only half an hour late. A surprisingly short Tito led the way in an ice-cream uniform festooned with gold braid, accompanied by the roly-poly Ponti, with a queenly Sophia, a good head taller than both men, on his arm. As the applause died and the title music blared, we rose and inched our way towards the aisle.

But the first to arrive at end of the row found himself facing a young but determined soldier with a well-worn but no doubt serviceable machine gun. None of us knew Croatian and he spoke no English, nor did he need to. His weapon was eloquent. Much waving of press cards and passports had no effect. Nobody, it seems, walked out on the Marshal’s movie – which, with no alternative, we settled down to watch.

From the start, the film breathed the sense of laboured compromise that characterises co-productions. Josef von Sternberg, who’d tried epics with The Scarlet Empress and an aborted version of Robert Graves’s I, Claudius, once said of a screenplay produced in the same spirit “Not only had everyone had his finger in the pie. A number of them had immersed various parts of their anatomy in it.” He could add Bitka na Neretvi to his list.

You could, however, sympathise with this film’s committee of screenwriters. Wartime Balkan politics were intricate, with various groups jostling for power; the Serb separatist Ustashi, the Fascist Chetniks, Tito’s Communists, not to mention the Germans and Italians, some of whom, like Franco Nero’s tank commander, confused things still more by switching sides.

The film was produced and partly written in Rome, and cast from that Foreign Legion of actors who drifted from Paris to Vienna to London, ready at a moment’s notice to don a Roman toga, Nazi uniform or Regency court dress. Any of them could have played these characters but the roulette wheel of chance gave us Americans Orson Welles and Yul Brynner (left), Russian Sergei Bondarchuk, Germans Curd Jurgens and Hardy Kruger, Italian Franco Nero,  and – the only actual Yugoslavs among the leads – Milena Dravic and Sylva Koscina.
For regular screenings in the ampitheatre, translations are transmitted to earphones from caravans behind us. Tonight, however, they are replaced by the dais where Tito and his guests sit enthronedIgnorant of Croatian, we flounder on an ocean of language. Jurgens and Kruger play Nazi officers. Welles, fitted with an unfortunate toupee and housed in a tent-like double-breasted suit, impersonates a Chetnik senator – effectively, it seems, since his appearance triggers a barrage of hisses. Sergei Bondarchuk, included to guarantee the Russian audience, (and who, as the director of the majestic Waterloo, could, like Welles, have managed this farrago with greater skill and authority than the committee of Croats in charge), is a loud-mouthed partisan. As the only performer of undiluted British stock, Scots actor Anthony Dawson naturally plays an Italian.
DOP Tomislav Pinter, Orson Welles

Tito himself doesn’t appear in the film. Instead, like Christ in a religious epiche’s shown as a shadow or a distant heroic silhouetteAccording to gossip around the bars, he wanted Kirk Douglas to play him and, when Kirk declined, decided nobody else would do. 

Elements of the Yugoslav army in Wehrmacht grey pour over a hill, preceded by an artillery barrage that, if real, would have ended the war right there. Yul Brynner, ordered to deny Curd Jurgens’ army a means of crossing the Neretva, mines the bridge and blows it to hell. The audience roars. But wait! The Nazis are not on the other side of the river at all, but up the partisans’ rear. Fortunately, Yul has done such a poor job that his people can inch across the tottering bridge before he blows it up again.

After more tank battles, Sylva Koscina (right) comes to an unpleasant, albeit interestingly-directed end in an old graveyard, amid leaning wooden crosses. Anthony Dawson takes the Coward’s Way Out with a mini-pistol hidden in his boot. Orson, shot, doesn’t so much expire as deflate, like a punctured beach ball. The audience cheers again.

The credits start to roll. Now can we leave? Apparently not. Only when Tito and his guests depart will the soldiers lay down their arms. 

A year later, back in London, an editor friend called.

“You go to these film festivals,” he said. “Ever heard of a thing called...” He paused to consult the label on the can. “Bitka na...” 

“...Neretvi,” I supplied. “Yes, I know it. Why?”

He had been tasked with cutting it down for the US drive-in market.

“There’s Orson Welles with a bad haircut,” he said, “and Yul Brynner, but there doesn’t seem to be a star. I can’t make sense of it.”

“You never will,” I said. “The tank battles aren’t bad though.”

A 102-minute version did emerge with a new Bernard Herrmann score. To show Communist solidarity, Pablo Picasso contributed a poster (left). The edited version, long on battles, short on characterisation, is, on the intricacies of Balkan politics, happily opaque. Given the carnage that followed Tito’s demise in 1980, my memory of that young soldier with his machine gun seemed a shadow of things to come.

Saturday 30 May 2020

Plague Times Diary (34) - Ben Cho comes up with A Trashy Defence of Prime Video

If you’re in Australia you’re not exactly starving for choice when it comes to movie streaming services: there’s Netflix, Stan, Disney Plus, Foxtel, you can watch stuff on SBS On Demand, Tubi (with ads) and there’s now a service called Binge (their website boasts they have a “huge” catalogue of films). Sadly I’m yet to find all those all those classic Rank movies I binged on late night ABC when I was younger showing up on iView (any suggestions?). 

Just because we’ve got a lot of options to stream movies doesn’t necessarily mean access to many movies from around the world is getting better (try finding many recent Hong Sang-soo films on these services) but that’s a different blog post altogether. We are at least improving access with these streaming services to many films I didn’t think would be easily seen in Australia outside of the festival circuit: I recently saw Carlos Reygadas’ Our Time (I reviewed this on a recent Film Alert post), Joao Pedro Rodrigues’ superb The Ornithologist, four Suzuki Seijuns, Ryusuke Hamaguchi's Asako I & II and Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives all show up on Stan for instance. 

One streaming service I didn’t mention from the above list is Amazon Prime Video and regardless of what you think of Amazon’s business practices or their treatment of their own staff, I want to focus on the streaming service available with a Prime subscription. If, like me, you tend to do a reasonable amount of grocery and consumer shopping with Amazon then the annual Prime fee pays itself off pretty quickly in shipping savings so having their streaming services for music and movies/TV is just an added bonus given the main reason I subscribed was to take advantage of the free shipping offers over $39 for Australian warehouse items and $49 for American warehouse items (full disclosure: although this paragraph probably reads like a disgusting advertisement for Amazon I can assure you I’m getting no special treatment for writing that). 

When I logged in to the Prime Video app on my phone I was a little surprised by some of the titles available: Lars von Trier’s recent serial killer shocker The House That Jack Built, Cronenberg’s Naked LunchDogs in Space, Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don QuixoteCinderfellaArtists and ModelsBird of Paradise, the recently released Diego Maradona doco, John Carpenter’s Memoirs of an Invisible ManThe Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, Alex Ross Perry’s Her Smell, and on and on I could go. They don’t have the kind of prestigious festival fare Stan is releasing and they don’t have a huge amount of original content like Netflix (the “Amazon Originals” include the Suspiria remake, Chi-Raq, Beautiful Boy, Peterloo, Anna and Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot to name a few) but what really got my attention was the sheer amount of genre cinema available on offer. 

There must have been some sort of deal brokered with either Celestial Pictures or 88 Films because many of the Shaw Brothers kung-fu and horror titles are now available to watch on Prime Video but, purists be warned, some only have English-dubs. I was pleased to see Ho Meng-hua’s trashily brilliant Malaysian-set monster movie The Oily Maniac available in Mandarin with English subtitles but alas, his Mighty Peking Man and Black Magic are available with English dub only. From one of the Shaw studio’s best filmmakers Liu Chia-liang (Lau Kar-leung) there’s The Lady is The Boss, the masterpiece 36th Chamber of Shaolin (sorry, English dub only), Executioners from Shaolin (English dub only), Eight Diagram Pole Fighter (English dub only) and Shaolin Mantis (English dub only). There’s also a bunch of titles from Chang Cheh and Chu Yuan too. 

On the topic of Asian cinema, anime fans will be pleased to see Oshii Mamoru’s Ghost in the Shell 2.0 available and there’s Sion Sono’s Amazon Original series Tokyo Vampire Hotel. 

Horror seems to be a strong point of Prime Video with recent films like Midsommar (the standard cut), Child’s Play, Ma, Overlord, Escape Room and The Babadook all available. At least five of the Leprechaun series are online (Australian filmmaker Brian Trenchard-Smith directed a couple of them), parts two to seven of the Friday the 13th series are there, the first three parts of the Scream movies and Hellraiser 2 and can also be found. I should also note a trilogy of films I greatly enjoyed in my youth and influenced my relationship with the boys in blue ever since: William Lustig’s Maniac Cop trilogy, a series of films which makes you question whether you really should be so deferential to anyone who flashes a badge and says they are police. 

Some of the more intriguing genre movies available include Stuart Gordon’s Dagon, an icky adaptation of a HP Lovecraft short story; Chopping Mall, a fun thriller about a group of young people being chased around a locked down shopping mall by murderous security robots which is actually better than it reads (and stars Barbara Crampton who has appeared in a few Stuart Gordon films); Lucio Fulci’s Voices from Beyond, Silver Saddle and Touch of Death; Jack Hill’s Spider Baby; Curt Siodmak’s Bride of the Gorilla; Ruggero Deodato’s Live Like a Cop Die Like a Man and Body Count; and Umberto Lenzi’s Nightmare Beach and Nightmare City

I could go on and on but ultimately Prime Video is a surprising feast of genre flicks and their library in this arena is just as strong as other major services. Is it worth it as a standalone service like Netflix? That’s debatable, but if you’re thinking of subbing to Prime for the deals and shipping freebies then this is a great bonus to dive into kung fu kicks and bloody massacres. ​

How to MAGA (2) - MAKE (the) ABC GREAT AGAIN - Barrie Pattison's list of J Arthur Rank rarities that should be re-screened

Editor's Note: Cinephile Ben Cho recently posted (click here to find the post) a plea for the ABC to resume showing its  held in perpetuity J Arthur Rank film library. It used to be the staple of late night viewing but has now disappeared.

Sydney's supercinephile Barrie Pattison was asked to send in a list of the rarities in the Rank library. He mentioned in response that he did a two or three part piece on the Library in Cinema Papers all those years back. While Cinema Papers is online courtesy of the University of Wollongong I defy anyone to track down Barrie's article from the online info available. 

Let's move on. Here's his list. 

King Solomon's Mines (Robert Stevenson, 1937) pick of the batch,

Heat Wave nice Ruritanian musical comedy, 

The Phantom Light best early Michael Powell

Foreign Affaires  best Tom Walls & Ralph Lynn

Jew Suss

The Camels Are Coming & Falling for You both OK Jack Hulbert

Britania of Billingsgate shows film making

The Fire Raisers more Michael Powell

A Song for You first British use of play back, 

The Lamp Still Burns Maurice Elvey's thing about nurses at play.

Friday 29 May 2020

At the Online Sydney Film Festival - Martha Ansara urges you to see WOMEN OF STEEL (Robynne Murphy, Australia, 2020)

Martha Ansara writes: Women of Steel  was over ten years in the making and funded entirely by over 500 donations (thank you so much for yours).

I’m flat out trying to take advantage of the great opportunity presented through its selection by the Sydney Film Festival as a finalist for the Doco Award. The film will be online day and night June 10-21 and anyone in Australia can buy a ticket:if you just click here  

We’ve worked so hard to get the money and then give the film some of the strength that drama naturally has and is so difficult to create within a documentary. But now we can reveal that...Women of Steel  has action, strong characters, humour, emotional downs as well as ups, etc — and yet is all “true”.

Anyhow, as you can imagine, I’m working day and night to try to get the tickets sold — So — typically — I’m hoping that you could add a personal message to the info below and email it it to people you think might be interested.

The SFF has sent EPK and images for the film HERE  in case you want to write a story about the making of WOMEN OF STEEL — an epic almost equal to the campaign which is the film’s subject. And if you do write anything,  please mention that there are 9 more docos in the comp worth seeing too.

Thanks for anything you can do,


Editor's Note: I am one of the more than 500 investors in this major new Australian documentary.

Thursday 28 May 2020

Streaming (free with advertisements) on SBS On Demand 10 June - 10 July - Highlights from past Sydney Film Festivals selected by Nashen Moodley

Sydney Film Festival has partnered with Australia’s most distinctive streaming service SBS On Demand to present Sydney Film Festival Selects. Curated by Sydney Film Festival Director Nashen Moodley, the movie collection features 40 of his all-time favourite Sydney Film Festival titles for Australians to binge, anytime, anywhere, for free, from 10 June to 10 July. (The list is sort of in alphabetical order) 

2017, Chile, Spanish
Sebastian Lelio’s Best Foreign Language Oscar winner. Daniela Vega is unforgettable as Marina, a young transwoman and aspiring singer, in love with a man 20 years her senior, who faces suspicion and bigotry from his family when she loses her beloved. 
Stars Daniela Vega, Francisco Reyes, Luis Gnecco
Directed by Sebastian Lelio

2010, France, Farsi
Asghar Farhadi’s first Best Foreign Language Oscar winner weaves a wider metaphor into an engrossing domestic dispute. A married couple are faced with a difficult decision – to improve the life of their child by moving to another country or to stay in Iran and look after a deteriorating parent who has Alzheimer’s disease.
Stars Payman Maadi, Leila Hatami, Sareh Bayat
Directed by Asghar Farhadi

2016, Australia, English
Meet Ali, the charming son of a Muslim cleric who, despite the best of intentions, just can’t seem to make the right life choices. Ali dreams big – he wants to be with the girl he loves, but he’s been promised to another girl at his father’s mosque. He wants to be the great doctor that the community expects him to be, but he doesn’t get the marks. And above all, he wants to make his father proud – really proud. So what will Ali do to live up to the impossible expectations? He must fake it, because as the son of the cleric, he doesn’t have a choice. It’s one bad decision after another as Ali’s wayward quest to please his father spirals out of control, with cataclysmic consequences.
Stars Osamah Sami, Helana Sawires, Don Hany
Directed by Jeffrey Walker

Five Faves: 'Ali's Wedding' director Jeffrey Walker picks what to watch in isolation
Need some help deciding what to watch while you're stuck at home? We ask Australian directors, whose films are streaming at SBS On Demand, for five movie recommendations.

2012, France, French
Director Michael Haneke's heartbreaking film starring Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuelle Riva and Isabelle Huppert, won the Palme d'Or in 2012. Georges and Anne are cultivated, retired music teachers. Their daughter lives in Britain with her family. When Anne has a stroke, George and his daughter's love for their mother is tested by her decline.
Stars Jean-Louis Trintignant, Emmanuele Riva
Directed by Michael Haneke

2009, United Kingdom, English
Jenny is a bright young girl on the cusp of her 17th birthday who finds herself in a whirlwind romance with a much older David. Once she sees the lifestyle David can provide, one she never imagined might so easily be hers, she is hooked. Thoughts of prep school and one day attending Oxford fly out the window. Nominated for three Oscars in 2010.
Stars Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard
Directed by Lone Scherfig

2010, New Zealand, English
Eleven-year-old Boy lives on a New Zealand farm with his gran, a goat and his younger brother. Shortly after Gran leaves for a week, Boy's father (Thor director Taika Waititi) appears out of the blue. Having imagined someone to admire, Boy comes face to face with an incompetent hoodlum who has returned only to find a bag of money.
Stars James Rolleston, Taika Waititi
Directed by Taika Waititi

2015, Thailand, Thai
Lonely housewife Jenjira volunteers at a makeshift hospital for soldiers suffering from a mysterious bout of narcolepsy. When one of her bedridden charges captures her attention, she enlists a medium to commune with his sleeping spirit. In a hallucinatory bond between the two women, the pain of times gone by combines with the reality of the present. By the director of Palme d'Or winner Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, comes this meditative and mythic rumination on the state of his nation, infused with his childhood memories and enacted with his trademark serenity and patience.
Stars Jenjira Pongpas, Banlop Lomni
Directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul

2016, USA, English
Laura Dern, Kristen Stewart, Michelle Williams and Lily Gladstone star as four women striving to forge their own paths amidst the wide-open plains of the American Northwest. Laura (Dern) is a lawyer who finds herself contending with both office sexism and a hostage situation. Gina (Williams) is a wife and mother whose determination to build her dream home puts her at odds with the men in her life. And Beth (Stewart) is a young law student who forms an ambiguous bond with a lonely ranch hand (radiant newcomer Lily Gladstone). As their stories intersect in subtle but powerful ways, a portrait emerges of flawed yet strong-willed individuals in the process of defining themselves.
Stars Laura Dern, Kristen Stewart, Michelle Williams
Directed by Kelly Reichardt

2014, India, Marathi
A sewage worker's dead body is found inside a manhole in Mumbai. An ageing folk singer is arrested and accused of performing an inflammatory song, which may have incited the worker to commit suicide. The trial unfolds in a lower court, and the lawyers and judge are observed in their personal lives beyond the theatre of the courtroom.
Stars Vira Sathidar, Vivek Gomber, Geeranjali Kulkarni, Pradeep Joshi, Usha Bane, Shirish Pawar
Directed by Chaitanya Tamhane

2012, USA, English
Frances (Greta Gerwig) lives in New York, but she doesn't really have an apartment. Frances is an apprentice for a dance company, but she is not really a dancer. Frances has a best friend named Sophie, but they aren't really speaking anymore. Frances wants so much more than she has but lives her life with unaccountable joy and lightness. A modern comic fable that explores New York, friendship, class, ambition, failure and redemption.
Stars Greta Gerwig, Adam Driver
Directed by Noah Baumbach

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2018, Belgium, Flemish
Determined 15-year-old Lara is committed to becoming a professional ballerina. With the support of her father, she throws herself into this quest for the absolute at a new school. Lara's adolescent frustrations and impatience are heightened as she realises her body does not bend so easily to the strict discipline because she was born a boy.
Stars Victor Polster, Arieh Worthalter, Oliver Bodart
Directed by Lukas Dhont

2010, Canada, French Canadian
Francis and Marie have it all: youth, good looks and a best friendship that is indestructible. That is, until the night they both meet a beautiful young man named Nicolas at a dinner party, and instantly fall for him. A casual crush turns into an emotional obsession for them both, and as they pursue him with dinners, parties and trips to the countryside, their friendship falls apart. This touching and hilarious film about young love and friendship is the second feature from maverick young writer/director Xavier Dolan.

Stars Xavier Dolan, Monia Chokri
Directed by Xavier Dolan

2002, Australia, English
When psychiatrist Dr Valerie Somers disappears, Homicide Detective Leon Zat and his partner Claudia attempt to solve the mystery of her absence. As they investigate, a complex web of love, sex and deceit emerges, drawing in four related couples whose various partners are distrustful and suspicious about each other's involvement. 
Stars Anthony LaPaglia, Geoffrey Rush, Barbara Hershey, Kerry Armstrong
Directed by Ray Lawrence

2018, USA, English
A father and his 13-year-old daughter are living a bucolic existence in a vast urban park in Portland, Oregon when a small mistake derails their lives forever. Based on the novel My Abandonment by Peter Rock.
Stars Thomasin McKenzie, Ben Foster, Jeff Kober
Directed by Debra Granik

2008, Sweden, Swedish
Twelve-year-old Oskar is bullied at school and at home tends to retreat into his own violent fantasies. Oskar's life changes when he makes friends with the mysterious and unkempt 12-year-old Eli. However, when locals start falling victim to a series of gruesome murders, many drained of their blood, Oskar starts to realise that Eli might just be exactly what she seems.
Stars Kare Hedebrant, Lina Leandersson
Directed by Tomas Alfredson

2015, France, Turkish
Early summer in a village in Northern Turkey. Five free-spirited teenage sisters splash about on the beach with their male classmates. Though their games are merely innocent fun, a neighbour passes by and reports what she considers to be illicit behaviour to the girls' family. The family overreacts, removing all 'instruments of corruption', like cell phones and computers, and essentially imprisoning the girls, subjecting them to endless lessons in housework in preparation for them to become brides. As the eldest sisters are married off, the younger ones bond together to avoid the same fate. The fierce love between them empowers them to rebel and chase a future where they can determine their own lives in Deniz Gamze Ergüven's debut, a powerful portrait of female empowerment.
Stars Gunes Sensoy, Doga Zeynep Doguslu
Directed by Deniz Gamze Ergüven 

2016, France, English
After losing his mother, a young boy is befriended by a police officer and sent to a foster home with other orphans his age. With the help of his new friends, he begins to trust and love again.
Stars Will Forte, Ellen Page, Nick Offerman
Directed by Claude Barras

2013, Palestine, Arabic
A young Palestinian freedom fighter agrees to work as an informant after he's tricked into an admission of guilt by association in the wake of an Israeli soldier's killing. Oscar-nominated in 2014 for Best Foreign Language Film.
Stars Adam Bakri, Leem Lubany
Directed by Hany Abu-Assad

2018, France, English
The saying goes that 'Good Kenyan girls become good Kenyan wives', but Kena and Ziki long for something more. Despite the political rivalry between their families, the girls resist and remain close friends, supporting each other to pursue their dreams in a conservative society. When love blossoms between them, the two girls will be forced to choose between happiness and safety.
Stars Samantha Mugatsia, Sheila Munyiva, Jimmi Gathu, Nini Wacera
Directed by Wanuri Kahio

2018, Australia, English
A documentary that tells the epic life story of Freda Glynn, 78-year-old Kaytetye woman, stills photographer, co-founder of the Central Australian Aboriginal Media Association (CAAMA), and Imparja TV, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, radical, pacifist, grumpy old woman, who in equal measure loves the limelight and total privacy. Part-biopic, part-social history, it details the life of a woman born beneath a tree north of Alice Springs in 1939, her childhood living under the Aboriginal Protection policies and the complex impact this had on her life.
Directed by Erica Glynn

2017, Poland, Polish
Duszejko, an eccentric retired construction engineer, an astrologist and a vegetarian, lives in a small mountain village on the Czech-Polish border. One day her beloved dogs disappear. A few months later she discovers the dead body of her neighbour, a poacher. The only traces leading to the mysterious death are those of roe deer hooves around the house. As time goes by, more grisly killings are discovered. The victims, all hunters, belonged to the local elite. The police investigation proves ineffective. Duszejko has her own theory: all murders were committed by wild animals.
Stars Agnieszka Mandat, Wiktor Zborowski, Jakub Gierszal
Directed by Agnieszka Holland

2018, Australia, English
Milena travels to a remote opal mining community to see her estranged, ill father. Lost and alone, she falls into his bewildering world, where men escape society and share ideals of freedom. Soon, he doesn't want her to leave. Stuck in time, father and daughter try to mend their fractured bond, but their connection is fragile, like the strange, colourful gems he digs up from the Earth.
Stars Kate Cheel, Justin Courtin
Directed by Alena Lodkina

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2015, Australia, English
Newcomers to the remote Australian desert town of Nathgari, Catherine and Matthew Parker's lives are flung into crisis when they discover their two teenage kids, Tommy and Lily, have mysteriously disappeared just before a massive dust storm hits. With Nathgari eerily smothered in red dust and darkness, the townsfolk join the search led by local cop, David Rae. It soon becomes apparent that something terrible may have happened to the children. Suspicion is cast, rumours spread and the town begins to turn against the Parkers.
Stars Nicole Kidman, Joseph Fiennes, Hugo Weaving
Directed by Kim Farrant

2015, USA, English
It's Christmas Eve in Tinseltown and Sin-Dee is back on the block. Upon hearing that her pimp boyfriend hasn't been faithful during the 28 days she was locked up, the working girl and her best friend, Alexandra, embark on a mission to get to the bottom of the scandalous rumour. Their rip-roaring odyssey leads them through various subcultures of Los Angeles, including an Armenian family dealing with their own repercussions of infidelity. A decidedly modern Christmas tale told on the streets of L.A. bursting with energy and style by director Sean Baker (The Florida Project).
Stars Kitana Kiki Rodriguez, Mya Taylor
Directed by Sean Baker

2017, Australia, English
Polly's dreams of success as an actor are ruined when her identical twin sister, Amy, catapults to international stardom.
Stars Alice Foulcher, Isabel Lucas, Janine Watson
Directed by Gregory Erstein

2007, Israel, Hebrew
A band comprised of members of the Egyptian police force head to Israel to play at the inaugural ceremony of an Arab cultural centre, only to find themselves stranded, penniless and still wearing their sky-blue uniforms in the middle of nowhere. Winner of three awards at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival. 
Stars Sasson Gabai, Ronit Elkabetz
Directed by Eran Kolirin

2018, New Zealand, English
Fifteen years ago, Mel (Madeleine Sami) and Jen (Jackie van Beek) discovered they were being two-timed by the same man. Bitter and cynical they became fast friends and formed The Breaker Upperers, a small-time business breaking up couples for cash. Now they're in their late thirties and business is booming. They're a platonic, co-dependent couple who keep their cynicism alive by not getting emotionally involved with anybody else. But when they run into an old victim, Mel develops a conscience and their friendship is truly put to the test.
Stars Jackie Van Beek, Madeleine Sami, Celia Pacquola
Directed by Jackie Van Beek

2012, Belgium, Flemish
This 2012 Belgian drama was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy Awards, won Best Foreign Film at the 39th Cesar Awards and won the 2013 Lux Prize. Elise and Didier fall in love at first sight, in spite of their differences. He talks, she listens. He's a romantic atheist, she's a religious realist. When their daughter becomes seriously ill, their love is put on trial.
Stars Veerle Baetens, Johan Heldenbergh, Nell Cattrysse
Directed by Felix Van Groeningen

2018, Denmark, Danish
Alarm dispatcher and former police officer, Asger Holm, answers an emergency call from a kidnapped woman. When the call is suddenly disconnected, the search for the woman and her kidnapper begins. With the phone as his only tool, Asger enters a race against time to save the endangered woman. But soon he realises that he is dealing with a crime that is far bigger than he first thought.
Stars Jakob Cedergren, Johan Olsen
Directed by Gustav Moeller

2013, India, Hindi
The late, great Irrfan Khan stars in this gem about Mumbai's famously efficient lunchbox delivery system. A meal made by an unhappy young housewife (Nimrat Kaur) mistakenly lands in the hands of a widower (Irrfan Khan). After realising the mix-up, the strangers begin to communicate through a series of letters, revealing a little more of themselves each time.
Stars Irrfan Khan, Nimrat Kaur, Nawazuddin Siddiqui
Directed by Ritesh Batra

2017, Finland, Finnish
Set against the current refugee crisis, this bittersweet comedy follows two people searching for a place to call home. Displaced Syrian Khaled lands in Helsinki as a stowaway; meanwhile, middle-aged salesman Wikstram leaves behind his wife and job and buys a conspicuously unprofitable seafood restaurant. After Khaled is denied asylum, he decides not to return to Aleppo – and the paths of the two men cross fortuitously.
Stars Ville Virtanen, Kati Outinen, Tommi Eronen
Directed by Aki Kaurismaki

2016, Japan, No Dialogue
Produced by Studio Ghibli, The Red Turtle is a 2016 animated fantasy film about a stranded castaway who reflects on what’s most important in life: companionship, love, family and the stewardship of nature. The film has no dialogue and was nominated for Best Animated Feature Film at the 89th Academy Awards. 
Directed by Michael Dudok De Wit

2014, Australia/Thailand/Laos, Lao
A boy who is believed to bring bad luck to everyone around him leads his family and two new friends through Laos to find a new home. After a calamity-filled journey through a land scarred by the legacy of war, to prove he's not bad luck he builds a giant rocket to enter the most exciting and dangerous competition of the year: the Rocket Festival.
Stars Sitthiphon Disamoe, Loungnam Kaosainam
Directed by Kim Mordaunt

Winner of the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, The Square is a merciless satire of modern art, hypocrisy and fragile male ego. Christian is the respected curator of a contemporary art museum, a divorced but devoted father of two who drives an electric car and supports good causes. His next show is The Square, an installation which invites passersby to altruism, reminding them of their role as responsible fellow human beings. But disaster strikes when Christian's phone is stolen, his new performance art piece turns dangerously awry, and his marketing campaign goes viral for all the wrong reasons. As Christian desperately tries to hold onto his own ego while his comfortable life spirals out of control, his good intentions are increasingly abandoned, with hilarious results. 
Stars Claes Bang, Elisabeth Moss, Dominic West
Directed by Ruben Ostlund

2015, USA, English
Confined in an apartment from a New York housing project, the six Angulo brothers learned everything they know about the world through watching films and spend their time re-enacting their favourite movies with intricate homemade costumes.
Directed by Crystal Moselle 

2016, Germany, German
Winfried doesn’t see much of his daughter, Ines. He decides to surprise her with a visit but it’s an awkward move because Ines is working on an important project as a corporate strategist in Bucharest. The geographical change doesn’t help the two see more eye to eye. Practical joker Winfried loves to annoy his daughter with corny pranks. What’s worse are his little jabs at her routine lifestyle of long meetings, hotel bars and performance reports. Father and daughter reach an impasse, and Winfried agrees to return home to Germany. Enter flashy ‘Toni Erdmann’, Winfried’s smooth-talking alter ego. Disguised in a tacky suit, weird wig and even weirder fake teeth, Toni barges into Ines’ professional life, claiming to be her CEO’s life coach. As Toni, Winfried is bolder and doesn’t hold back, but Ines meets the challenge. The harder they push, the closer they become. In all the madness, Ines begins to understand that her eccentric father might deserve some place in her life after all.
Stars Sandra Huller, Peter Simonische
Directed by Maren Ade

2014, Belgium, French
In her Academy-award nominated role, Marion Cotillard stars as Sandra, a young woman assisted by her husband, who has only one weekend to convince her colleagues to give up their much-needed bonuses so that she can keep her job.
Stars Marion Cotillard
Directed by Luc Dardenne

2012, Saudi Arabia, Arabic
A snapshot of modern Saudi Arabia following the story of fun-loving, entrepreneurial and rebellious 10-year-old girl Wadjda, who is determined to fight for her dreams, which include saving enough money to buy a bicycle, so she can race her friend Abdullah. Wadjda lives at home with her parents, who are loving if a little distracted. Her father isn't around much, and her mother is convinced he's busy looking for a second wife. The story is tailored to highlight the pressures and difficulties faced by women in Saudi Arabia, with a rare glimpse into the lives of women behind closed doors and the warm relationships between mothers and daughters.
Stars Reem Abdullah, Waad Mohammed, Abdullrahman Al Gohani
Directed by Haifaa Al Mansour

2014, Turkey, Turkish
In Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Palme d'Or winner, Aydin, a former actor, runs a small hotel in central Anatolia with his young wife Nihal with whom he has a stormy relationship and his sister Necla who is suffering from her recent divorce. In winter as the snow begins to fall, the hotel turns into a shelter, but also an inescapable place that fuels their animosities.
Stars Haluk Bilginer, Melisa Sozen, Demet Akbag
Directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan

2018, France, Icelandic
A charming and topical film from Benedikt Erlingsson (Of Horses and MenWoman At War is a quirky, heroic tale set in our world of imminent threat – the tale of an unlikely David taking on the Goliath of industry, one electricity pylon at a time. Halla is a 50-year-old independent woman, a respected choir leader who lives a mysterious double life. Known to the public only by her alias 'The Mountain Woman', Halla is a passionate environmental activist, secretly waging a one-woman war on the local aluminium industry and risking everything to conserve the pristine Icelandic highlands she loves. But as her actions grow bolder and her legend grows, an unexpected letter changes everything – her application to adopt a child has finally been accepted and there is a little girl waiting for her in Ukraine. Before she can fulfil her dream of becoming a mother, Halla plots an attack to deal the mining companies one final crippling blow. 
Stars Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir, Jóhann Sigurðarson, Juan Camillo Roman Estrada
Directed by Benedikt Erlingsson