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The 15 Most Overlooked Films of The Last 5 Years

30 March 2015 | Features, Film Lists | by Ian Cahoon

Post Tenebras Lux

World cinema has seen an increasingly great number of overlooked and smaller features work its way onto the market over the past five years due to booming cinematic movements around the world, help of a stronger online presence both in the ability to showcase and discuss these features, and cheaper ways of making films.

The hype and technology afforded filmmakers all over the world has grown exponentially as people become ever more interactive and connected to cinematic movements and styles outside the mainstream. The following are 15 films that are truly some of the best and most overlooked films of the decade so far and almost all of them are readily available for viewers in North America.

Writer’s Notes:

A. With the exceptions of Aramaki and Like Someone In Love, the first time the author viewed every film included below was in a theatrical setting which ultimately developed a different experience and bias for me than viewing these films in a home or non-theatrical setting so an exploration of these films under different initial viewing circumstances could be an interesting counterpoint to this list.

B. The author is also painstakingly aware of the fact that there are no female directors included in this list, something that very much disconcerts me but is ultimately what happened when narrowing down the features.

Directors such as Jane Campion, Claire Danes, Dietrich Bruggerman, Catherine Breillat, and ZeresaneyMehari among many others have been creating exemplary cinematic achievements throughout this decade and every other during cinemas history.

 

1. A Touch of Sin by Jia Zhangke (2013, China)

un-toque-de-violencia-a-touch-of-sin-stills-da-hai-jiang-wu

Jia Zhangke’s multifaceted rumination on the root of crime and various circumstances that can lead to criminal activity in modern day mainland China is a poignant and concise epic.

Spanning four separate stories entirely unrelated to one another except for one passing instance of geographical similarity, A Touch of Sin creates an expansive exploration of the cause of crime as well as the moral and ideological implications of violence and law breaking across it’s 2-plus hour running time. – Available on Netflix Instant Streaming

 

2. Aramaki by Isamu Hirabayashi (2010, Japan)

aramaki

Isamu Hirabayashi is one of the great cinema artists to emerge in the 2000’s. Originally a graphic designer for an advertising company, he quit his job in order to work in film. His short film Aramaki is a single 25-minute static shot of a man arriving deep in the woods to do his preparations before committing suicide.

The individual creates a Zen rock tower, covers himself in an animal pelt, among other things before going off to die. Hirabayashi allows his camera to patiently analyze the individuals’ highly eccentric actions as he seemingly attempts to reacquaint himself with nature and ultimately give himself back to the very sustenance that afforded him life. – Available on YouTube (along with a number of Hirabayashi’s other works)

 

3. Boxing Gym by Frederick Wiseman (2010, USA)

Boxing Gym

One of the best documentaries of the past five years just so happens to be directed by one of the masters of the American documentary, Frederick Wiseman (Titicut Follies). The film explores the ins-and-outs of a boxing gym in Austin, Texas. Wiseman focuses on the training regiments and mental and physical drive of clients from all walks of life on their way to achieving personal goals.

Whether it be to get back in shape, become the prize fighting champion, or help learn a combative sport for safety and stimulation outside of work, Wisemans camera examines the multifaceted dimensions of various Americans and the implications of exercise and routine training.

 

4. Hard to Be A God by Alexei German (2014, Russia)

Hard to Be A God

Hard to Be A God is the posthumous swan song of Russian director Alexei German, a name prolific in his native country but unfortunately far more obscure overseas here in America. Based on a Russian novel of the same name by authors Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, the film follows a group of scientists sent to the planet Arkanar in order to help them advance as a society out of their own medieval times.

The stark black and white photography coupled with what might be the most viscerally queasy and down right disgusting mis-en-scene and set design make Hard to Be A God is one of the most visually unsettling movies in a long time, maybe ever. It is also a life-affirming movie of monumental measure and one that saw German spending most of his adult life attempting to realize.

 

5. Horse Money by Pedro Costa (2014, Portugal)

Horse Money

IMDb has Horse Money listed as a documentary (as of March 2015), an interesting an often fairly true representation of Pedro Costa’s work examining the marginalized people of Portugal, specifically those that are residents of the Fontainhas ghetto in Lisbon.

In fact, Horse Money is not a documentary but an examination of a recurring character from Costa’s last film Colossal Youth, Ventura. A mid-70’s Cape Verdean immigrant, Ventura serves as the polemical basis of the films free floating narrative, focusing more on flashbacks and a detailed series of vignettes the ultimately examine how the military of Portuguese government are viewed in the eyes of those living in the slums rather than a traditional three-act structure.

Horse Money is one of the most irreverent films of the past five years (one could effectively make the argument that it is based more in the ideology and narrative structure of still photography rather than the cinema at times) but is also a truly confounding and exploratory work of cinema.

 

6. I Wish by Hirokazu Koreeda (2011, Japan)

I Wish

Modern Japanese master HirokazuKoreeda’s two films released in the past 5 years, 2011’s I Wish and 2013’s Like Father, Like Son both deal with the separation of immediate family members (specifically those of adolescent males) and the effect that these circumstances have on parental relations as well as those of the children themselves.

I Wish tells the story of two brothers who become separated due to their parents divorce. The older brother Kohichi and younger brother Ryunosuke are played by real life brothers Kohki and OhshiroMaeda, who both deliver highly nuanced and impressive performances as they discover the sense of longing to be back together and the magical possibilities that might allow them to see each other.

When Ohshiro begins to believe that the new bullet train service will allow the two brothers to become reunited the film becomes an effective examination of the relation between siblings and the uninhibited power of childhood wonder and imagination. – Available on Netflix Instant Streaming

 

7. Leviathan by Lucien Castaing-Taylor and VerenaParavel (2012, USA)

Leviathan

Made by the Sensory Ethnography Lab at Harvard University, Leviathan is one of the very best documentaries of the past five years as well as giving this writer the single most interesting theatrical experience of that same time period.

An experimental exercise in what many would label as “pure cinema”, Leviathan examines long stretches of time aboard of commercial fishing vessel off the coast of Massachusetts. Utilizing the versatility of GoPro equipment Castaing-Taylor and Paravel allow the viewer to become fully immersed the tedious routines of fisherman and ponder on the expectation of the moving image along with the dangers and implications of life aboard a fishing vessel.

The film even further pushes the expectations and boundries of documentary structure by having an extended shot of a camera attached to a seagull as it dives in and out of the ocean and circles around the vessel, one of the very best shots of recent years. – Available on Netflix Instant Streaming

 

 

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  • Danny Ogle

    Surely the MOST overlooked films would have been overlooked by even this list. woah

    • Carson

      All of these ‘underrated’, ‘…you probably haven’t seen’, ‘obscure’ lists immediately date themselves. It’s clickbait but it doesn’t mean the movies are bad, and in fairness a lot of the movies on this list are fantastic diamonds in the rough.

  • Ramiro Rivera

    México is in North America.

  • Nacho Mancilla

    México is NOT, on either central or south America, is part of North, too.

    • panke108

      Yeah I think he meant Latin America?

  • Col

    For future reference, please look up the meaning of “painstaking”. “The author is also painstakingly aware…” is incorrect.

  • As much as I love this list, I don’t think it consists of overlooked films. On the contrary, many of these films were largely talked about in recent years. Many of them received big prizes at Cannes (Anatolia, Touch of Sin, Uncle Bonmee), featured in many year-end top ten lists from respectable sources and even ranked well in Sight and Sound’s ranking of the best films of all time (Uncle Boonmee at #202, Turin Horse at #235).
    A more appropriate title for this list would be “15 essential films of the last decade that went under the radar” or something. Also, Mexico is in North America, as others have pointed out.

    • box office poison

      i agree. every one of these films were highly regarded by film critics, festivals and cinephiles. but they’re just too difficult to market for a mass audience. there’s just no chance a distributor is willing to spend a lot of money for something like norte or boonmee to advertise when it’s just for a very small group of people. sure, a lot of people could see those films with the right kind of trailer or poster, but they would not be very happy about the experience.

  • Igdy Kajigger

    FYI: Mexico is part of North America http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mexico. Alas, no Central American movies in your list.

  • Lars von Trier as Pie

    “Directors such as
    Jane Campion, Claire Danes, Dietrich Bruggerman, Catherine Breillat,
    and ZeresaneyMehari among many others have been creating exemplary
    cinematic achievements throughout this decade and every other during
    cinemas history.”

    That sentence would have been a bit more credible if the author had bothered looking up Claire Denis’ name; I suppose he meant her instead of actress Claire Danes.

    Also, most of these movies can hardly be called overlooked, as I’ve been able to see most of them in the cinema without actively searching for them.

    • Hunter Daniels

      Shows how much you know – Claire Danes is an amazing director!

  • Hey! Nice lists on this site.
    I did a review of Hard to be A God!
    Check it out:

    http://www.thefocuspull.com/reviews/sci-fi/hard-to-be-a-god/

  • HLLH

    Unfortunately for you, Mexico is located in North America. Get a map.

  • Raúl Vargas

    Mexico is in North America guys.

  • Brandon Thompson

    The only I have seen is Stranger by the Lake it was boring.

  • Shlomob

    What film is the image of the red demon-type figure from?

    • shards0fwords

      Post Tenebras Lux

  • Noah Garner

    Hard to be a God is a complete masterwork, better even than his contemporary Tarkovsky. Like Someone in Love is also very beautiful.

  • Stan Moyer

    Thank you for the great list of films that I would otherwise not see. And a special BIG thanks for noting which ones are “Available on Netflix Instant Streaming”.

  • zathorcm

    Nothing of this list is on netflix!

  • Cygnifier

    “B. The author is also painstakingly aware of the fact that there are no female directors included in this list, something that very much disconcerts me but is ultimately what happened when narrowing down the features.

    Directors such as Jane Campion, Claire Danes, Dietrich Bruggerman, Catherine Breillat, and ZeresaneyMehari among many others have been creating exemplary cinematic achievements throughout this decade and every other during cinemas history.”

    Given paragraph # 2, then paragraph # 1 is a crock. Perhaps stretching your viewing and personal tastes to appreciate these “exemplary cinematic achievements” rather than pretending that there is some objective and external criteria for “narrowing down the features” in such as way as to totally exclude them would be advised.

    • Vincenzo Politi

      I don’t think he pretended there is some “objective and external criteria”. I think that his criteria are quite subjective and, from his own subjective point of view, he happens to like the movies in his list more than the movies of the female directors he mentions. So what’s the problem? Why should he “stretch his viewing and personal tastes”? Is there an “objective and external” reason for such a suggestion, other for your subjective irritation toward someone’s subjective taste?

      • Cygnifier

        The very title “THE most overlooked films” implies objective criterion. That generates different expectations that if he titled it “my personal pet peeves for films that have been overlooked.”

        • Vincenzo Politi

          Oh, please! We are talking about cinema and cinematic experience, so what is really implied here is that we are talking about subjective tastes. This is also made abundantly clear from paragraph #1, in which the author of the list actually speaks about his own personal viewing experience as a motivating factor behind some choices. He also says that viewing the same movies in different conditions may have led him to different cinematic experiences. It seems to me that the subjective dimension of what will follow is made abundantly clear from paragraph #1 (which perhaps you have skipped to go straight to #2?). After all, ALL the lists in this site are subjective. Want a demonstration for this? Well, people disagree with these lists all the time. Why? Because there is no such a thing as an “objective criterion” in this type of discussions! Your whole argument seems to rely on the use of the definitive article “THE”, but the use of such an article is justified on a pragmatic basis. Otherwise, every single title in this site should be something like “the most overlooked films FOR ME”, “the 10 horror movies which will scare you for life IN MY OPINION”, and so on. Clearly, such titles would sound extremely redundant, if not plainly ridiculous! Also, in your first comment, it seems to me that you make a connection between #2 (which is about female directors) and the part where he says that “Directors such as Jane Campion, Claire Danes, Dietrich Brüggerman, Catherine Breillat, and Zeresaney Mehari”. Please notice that Dietrich Brüggerman and Zeresaney Mehari are men — meaning that, after section #2, the author is not trying to justify himself for not including women in the list, but he is acknowledging the great contribution of great directors who, for a reason or another, did not make the list (regardless of their gender). Should he have included Jane Campion and Catherine Breillat in the list? Well, Breillat’s 2010 “Abuse of Weakness” was a triumph of critical reception, while Jane Campion’s last movie was “Bright Star” which (a) was not overlooked at all, (b) was release in 2009, so wouldn’t have made a list about the most overlooked movies of the past five years. We are left with Claire Danes… who is actually an actress, not a director, so I don’t understand why her name was put together with the others. Perhaps the author of the list mistyped a name, but it seems to me that you yourself don’t know too much about female directors, the movies they make, how successful these movies are, you don’t seem to even be able to recognise who is actually a female director and who is not and yet you very happily feel entitled to go around telling people how they should broaden their tastes and what to write in their lists. Classy.

          • Cygnifier

            Wow. How sad that the very notion of recommending that films by women directors need to be addressed so infuriates you that you must build a diatribe related to a straw argument. Tsk tsk.

          • Vincenzo Politi

            How funny are people who cannot admit they were wrong.

          • Vincenzo Politi

            (PS: I do suspect that I actually know (and appreciate) far more women directors than you, since it does not look like you have actually recommended any film by any woman director at all. Or have you? I don’t seem to recall that, sorry. I only recall that you wrote a very sour comment against the list we are commenting, criticising the choices of the author but without giving any constructive comment at all and without suggesting possible movies to be included in the lists. And then I am the one building a diatribe related to a straw argument??? Yeah yeah, right.)

  • Jacob Lyon Goddard

    Good disclaimer.

  • Jacob Lyon Goddard

    I feel out of the loop, Uncle Boonmee is the only film on this list I’ve seen.

    • Joel Zachariah

      i know that feeling … have you seen his other works ?

      • Jacob Lyon Goddard

        I have not.

  • FunnyFaceKing

    I Wish by Hirokazu Koreeda is not on Netflix Streaming now.

  • frozengoatsheadupanunsarse

    Uncle Boonmee is a true delight.

  • Maximo Cunillera

    In my opinion this films are great cinema but for an speciffic public. Then most of the films themes are very difficult to market outside of the independence circuit , For this reason most of this movies are overlook films for general audiences

  • Blurbwhore

    Clare Danes? you mean Denis right?

  • Overlooked? Excuse me Taste of Cinema ‘journalist’ but have you been living on Mars in the last five years?

  • El Barto

    i can’t believe no one wanted to see a movie called “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives by Apitchatpong Weerasethakul”. That’s totally the most catchy title i’ve ever heard.