The 10 Films That Made The Biggest Impact At The 2011 Film Festivals
I think it’s fair to say that accessibility within world cinema is greatly reliant upon international film festivals. For a short period of time – annually, and often for around two weeks – cities across the world play host to a plethora of films, hand-picked from across the globe. Many of the films are only distributed at festivals, and aren’t credited with a general release in many countries, meaning that for many fans of world cinema, the yearly festivals can often be the only opportunity available to see such features on the big-screen.
With an abundance of film festivals, ranging from the esteemed Cannes, to the likes of Cairo, Kuala Lumpur, or even the Bring Your Festival in India, where spectators and filmmakers are encouraged to bring along their own work to exhibit, it would appear that there are more opportunities than ever available to filmmakers from around the world to show off their work – and here are the top ten films that have made the biggest impact at film festivals over the course of the past calendar year (2011), on both judges and fans alike.
Set over the course of one night, Once Upon A Time In Anatolia follows a team of police investigators searching for the body of a recently murdered man. This contemplative production, audacious in its approach, boasts a sharp and witty script, and when combined with the gentle, intensity of the night, makes for a thrilling watch.
Picking up the prestigious Grand Prix award (albeit shared with The Kid With A Bike) at the Cannes Film Festival, Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Once Upon A Time In Anatolia is a pensive, meditative thriller hailing from Turkey. As well as securing the Cannes second ranked prize for Best Film, the feature was also considered for the Palme d’Or, losing out to Terrence Malick’s The Tree Of Life. Having been released in Turkish cinemas in late September, Once Upon A Time In Anatolia is also the nation’s submission for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 84th Academy Awards, with a nomination spot likely.
The feature was also shown at this autumn’s BFI London Film Festival, where it was selected as a critic’s choice by Time Out magazine, which also awarded Ceylan’s tour de force with a five star review.
Already a success in Italy, picking up the nation’s Golden Globe for Best Film, Nanni Moretti’s satirical offering, We Have A Pope, has also been a success worldwide, following triumphant showings in both London and Cannes, and earning a nomination for the Palme d’Or at the latter.
Taking a wry look into the Vatican, Moretti, who has a leading role within the film as the Pope’s therapist Dr. Brezzi, explores the more personal aspects to the electing of a new Pope, focusing on Cardinal Melville (Michel Piccoli), seemingly disillusioned with life and who, despite being elected into the role by his fellow Cardinals, is certainly not yet ready to become the leader of the Catholic Church, as he proceeds to disappear for a short while – successfully combining comedy with poignancy.
Despite not winning any awards at any of the more reputable festivals this year, Markus Schleinzer’s harrowing production is bound to be a film that remains in the memory for a long time.
Set in Austria, it features the lonely and sadistic Michael (Michael Fuith), who has a 10-year-old boy locked in his basement. Despite seeming ordinary to his friends, family and neighbours, he bears a merciless secret, explored affectively and disturbingly in this compelling drama.
Nominated for the Sutherland Trophy at the London Film Festival, an award given to the director presenting just their debut, or second feature film, Michael was also a hit in its own nation, as the recipient of the Best Feature award at Viennale, a film festival taking place in Vienna, Austria.
The Artist is arguably the film to have made the biggest impact of all at this year’s film festivals. Hotly tipped for a nomination for Best Picture at next years Academy Awards, Michel Hazanavicius’ silent film has been extremely well-received by critics over the past year, impressing audiences at a variety of festivals in which the film was presented.
Despite being of French origin, the film is set in Hollywood in 1927, following silent movie star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin), who is struggling to come to terms with the introduction of sound in cinema, fearing for his career and livelihood.
Dujardin picked up the Best Actor award at Cannes, where the feature was also considered for a Palme d’Or. The Artist also won the Audience Award for Best Film at San Sebastián, and was in the running for Best Film at the London Film Festival.
Oh, and Uggy, the terrier, was rewarded with the relatively prestigious Palme Dog award at Cannes, for a somewhat revolutionary performance in this quaint production.
Although featuring Hollywood stars such as Sean Penn and Frances McDormand, this Paolo Sorrentino feature is in fact an Italian production, with its elements of European cinema detectable, combining an innate peculiarity with all out whimsicality.
Penn plays Cheyenne, a retired rock star, resembling a mixture of Ozzy Osbourne and The Cure’s Robert Smith, complete with the voice of Michael Jackson. It’s an entertaining and compelling tale, and was rewarded for its efforts with a Palme d’Or nomination at Cannes. Despite missing out on the foremost prize, This Must Be The Place didn’t leave the South of France empty handed, picking up the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury.
Having been aired at the London Film Festival, This Must Be The Place returned to the capital, as it opened this winters UK Jewish Film Festival, as Sorrentino’s film seems equally as appealing to both world cinema fans and those a little more inclined to see mainstream productions.
Unfortunately, A Separation wasn’t presented at the London Film Festival this year; instead, it was at a host of other international festivals where Asghar Farhadi’s film brought in the plaudits. Centring on married couple Nader (Peyman Moaadi) and Simin (Leila Hatami), the pair are faced with a complex decision, where they must decide between moving away from Iran and seek a better future for their child, or to stay and care for a deteriorating parent, suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Farhadi’s greatest success came at the highly-celebrated Berlin Film Festival, where it was awarded with the Golden Bear, given to the best film at the festival. It also won the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury in Berlin, as well as the Silver Bear awards for Best Actor and Best Actress.
A Separation had further success in Durban, South Africa also, collecting the Best Film award, as well as Best Screenplay. And having made quite the impact in Europe and Africa, it then proceeded to pick up the top gongs at both the Sydney and Melbourne film festivals in Australia.
Submitted as Iran’s entry for Best Foreign Language Film at next years Oscars, it certainly has a strong chance of success, as, alongside Once Upon A Time In Anatolia, it proves to be a good year for Middle Eastern cinema.
Based on the Faust legend and its literary adaptations, Aleksandr Sokurov’s latest version of the man who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for his knowledge has received much acclaim worldwide.
This Russian production (although the dialogue is in German) was nominated for Best Film at the London Film Festival. However, it was in Venice where this picture was most well-received.
Considered to be one of the top three most important and revered film festivals alongside Berlin and Cannes, the jury at Venice awarded Sokurov’s feature with its grandest prize – the Golden Lion for best film.
Featuring at a host of film festivals, such as Toronto, Amsterdam and San Sebastián, it was at the most prestigious of them all where Las Acacias gained the majority of its success: Cannes.
Pablo Giorgelli’s debut feature focuses on Rubén (Germán de Silva), a lonely truck driver who befriends hitchhiker Jacinta (Hebe Duarte), travelling to Buenos Aires with her 8-month-old daughter.
A Time Out critics’ choice for the London Film Festival, Las Acacias also won the Sutherland Trophy, an award given out to the most original and imaginative piece of cinematography by a debut filmmaker.
At Cannes, it was a triple winner, collecting the Caméra d’Or, another prize given to the best debut feature film. Its other two awards, although relatively smaller, were the ACID prize, and Young Critics Award.
As Snowtown prepares for its general release in the UK, its most recent visit to Britain was a rather successful one, making a very prominent impression at the BFI London Film Festival.
Justin Kurzel’s debut production depicts the disturbing relationship between Jamie (Lucas Pittaway) and notorious Australian serial killer John Bunting (Daniel Henshall). Inspired by real events, Snowtown is an affecting and desolate production, proving to be yet another gritty and compelling drama hailing from Australia, following on from the successful Animal Kingdom.
In London, it was considered for the Sutherland Award, whereas in its hometown it was victorious, picking up the Audience Award at the Adelaide Film Festival.
Its greatest achievement from the year’s touring of the international film festivals came in the form of a President’s Special Mention at Cannes.
The Dardenne brothers, Jean-Pierre and Luc, are two of the most celebrated contemporary European directors, and their latest feature, The Kid With A Bike, has been critically acclaimed at a host of film festivals this year.
Thomas Doret plays Cyril, a young boy abandoned by his father and left in a state-run children’s home. However, a good-natured local hairdresser takes Cyril in on weekends, as the young boy is determined to reconnect with his father and go back to the way things were.
Adhering to the typically naturalistic style of the Dardenne brothers’ work, The Kid With A Bike, alongside Once Upon A Time In Anatolia, won the highly-prestigious Grand Prix award for Best Film at Cannes Film Festival, the second ranked award after the Palme d’Or, for which the film was also considered. The film was also nominated for Best Film in London.
Having been out on general release in Belgium, France and Italy since May, it isn’t until early 2012 when this film will receive a wider release across Europe, allowing for a vaster array of world cinema fans to appreciate this absorbing piece of filmmaking.
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