17. Endless Poetry (Alejandro Jodorowsky, Chile/France)
With his early works like El Topo (1970) and The Holy Mountain (1973), Chilean-French filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky all but invented the midnight movie cult phenomenon and now in his 80s, Jodorowsky is showing no signs of slowing down or even stopping to catch his breath.
Starring his son, Adan Jodorowsky, as sex-starved Alejandro––surely a composite for the man himself––and set in the Santiago of the 40s and 50s, this poetic fantasia has been described as “Felliniesque”, so truly, what more of an endorsement do you need?
It made quite a splash at the Directors’ Fortnight section at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival so it’s pretty certain the water’s warm, and with allusions to Federico García Lorca tossed in for added oomph, these waters will undoubtedly run wondrously deep.
16. She’s Allergic to Cats (Michael Reich, USA)
Michael Reich’s feature length directorial debut features a fractured Hollywood filmmaker (Michael Pinkney) who’s also dog groomer and is wholly obsessed with shooting an all-cat remake of Carrie. ‘Nuff said. Take my money!
15. Lily Lane (Benedek Fliegauf, Hungary)
This expressive and atmospheric work from frequently experimental Hungarian auteur Bence Fliegauf (Just the Wind, Womb) centers around Rebeka (Angela Stefanovics) and her 7-year-old son Dani (Balint Sotonyi).
Both mother and son are haunted by past trauma in this eerie film which, like Fliegauf’s previous works, has been compared favorably to the elegiac and obsessive cinema of Terrence Malick and Andrei Tarkovsky. A disturbing, defiant, and slow burn study of memory, childhood, and loss, Lily Lane could just be the sleeper hit of VIFF 2016.
14. After the Storm (Kore-eda Hirokazu, Japan)
Not since the legendary Yasujirō Ozu has a Japanese filmmaker beautifully captured the intimate complexities of family life with the careful eye and generous heart that has of late been demonstrated from Tokyo’s Kore-eda Hirokazu (2012’s achingly profound Like Father, Like Son). His latest opus tells the tale of a former prize-winning writer turned failure Ryota Shinoda (Abe Hiroshi), now a gambling-addict and deadbeat dad.
As his child support payments go unpaid and his family ties fracture before him, Ryota must rise to the occasion or risk losing what matters most. Featuring a startling turn from Taiyô Yoshizawa as Shingo Shiraishi, his young son, After the Storm promises to be another poignant promise from one of Japan’s most stirring voices.
13. The Red Turtle (Michaël Dudok de Wit, France/Belgium/Japan)
Dutch-British animator Dudok de Wit’s feature length debut brings together Studio Ghibli and Wild Bunch for this fable-like rendering with no dialogue about a man shipwrecked on a deserted island with the eponymous turtle elusively haunting him.
The Red Turtle made big waves at Cannes 2016 where it debuted in the Un Certain Regard section. Fans of Hayao Miyazaki will not want to miss this compelling eye-catcher.
12. Little Sister (Zach Clark, USA)
This pitch-dark comedy from writer/director Zach Clark (White Reindeer) features a star-making turn from Addison Timlin (Afterschool) as Colleen Lunsford, a former Goth now a young nun, returning to her childhood home after her shell-shocked older brother, Jacob (Keith Poulson) has also returned, only he from the Iraq war.
Clark is determined to put the “fun” in dysfunctional while paying props to screwball comedies of old with modern delinquent protagonists and a scene stealing Ally Sheedy as Joani, the misguided matriarch of the Lunsford clan. This looks like goofy goodness, and, as previously mentioned, could be the film that makes Timlin the biggest blip on your indie film radar. Righteous!
11. Goldstone (Ivan Sven, Australia)
They say that in the land Down Under that the women rule and men plunder, well, at least that’s what Men at Work would have us believe. Perhaps the fury slowly unleashed in Aussie director Ivan Sven’s (Dreamland) revisionist Western/neo-noir hybrid can confirm or refuse such lyrical aspirations?
While searching for a missing woman in the frontier mining town of Furnace Creek, an Aboriginal detective named Jay Swann (Aaron Pedersen) must tackle rampant racism, sexism, and misogyny while throttling cretinous bikers and corrupt lawmakers. Goldstone comes complete with significant buzz and certain fist-pumping promise while revisiting characters from Sven’s previous film, Mystery Road in this loose sequel, of sorts. Sounds good to us.
10. Lavender (Ed Gass-Donnelly, Canada)
Abbie Cornish (Seven Psychopaths) stars as Jane, an amnesiac who can recall nothing prior to a terrifying car crash she just barely survived in this tense thriller from Ed Gass-Donnelly (Small Town Murder Songs).
A haunted house-style genre film that’s sure to pack more than a few surprises and terrifying tableaus, the first thing that got our attention about Lavender is the orchestral OST from Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld––please come out on vinyl––and the requisite thrills and shrills that come from this sort of spooky wtf is happening moment of truth this kind of film so often delivers. That and after seeing her in Jane Campion’s Bright Star (2009) we will watch Cornish in anything.
9. The Birth of a Nation (Nate Parker, USA)
Already one of the most widely discussed films of 2016, Nate Parker’s reclaiming of the title of D.W. Griffith’s rampantly racist silent era epic looks to be an invigorating and thrilling heroic poem all it’s own.
Based off the true story of Nat Turner, a slave who led a rebellion in 1831 Virginia, this looks to be an electrifying and exhilarating tour de force, provided the regrettable controversy over Parker and co-writer Jean McGianni Celestin––stemming from deplorable rape charges from 1999––can somehow be addressed and acknowledged. A pity that so bold and important a film be defanged by something so ugly.
At the TIFF premiere earlier this month, The Birth of a Nation was given a rapturous standing ovation and it was also praised for it’s marvellous mise-en-scene, generous intelligence, and narrative momentum. Parker’s film certainly has the potential to generate wide-ranging discussion on a wealth of stirring subject matter.