If we started ranking the decades since cinema was born for their importance, the 2000s would probably not make the top five, but it’s still an important decade that changed the way film was produced and exhibited. The ascension of digital filmmaking and the emerging new ways to exhibit and watch movies made film even more popular in that decade than it was with the advent of the VHS era.
With these new technologies, it was possible for more and more countries with a smaller industry (or no industry at all) to produce films at a cheaper price – but not exactly cheap because filmmaking is not the least expensive art form to make – and, therefore, made it possible for more and more voices to emerge during this decade.
In this article, even though we are talking about a decade that saw the ascension of digital filmmaking, it does not mean we’re only going to talk about directors who started their careers in the 2000s, nor that these movies were strictly shot on film.
So, here is a selection of 10 great films from the 2000s that are really not as recognized as they should be.
1. Soul Kitchen (2009), directed by Fatih Akin
Starting his career in 1998 with the film “Short Sharp Shock”, director Fatih Akin wrote “Soul Kitchen” in collaboration with Adam Bousdoukos, who also plays the main character in the film. In “Soul Kitchen” we’re introduced to Zinos, a man who has a restaurant that is not very successful and whose girlfriend is moving away. When he gives his brother on daily parole a job – and also full authority of the restaurant – he sees he might be in more trouble than he thought.
“Soul Kitchen” is a great comedy that is far from being as acclaimed as it should. All the relations between the characters and the great comedy moments provided by Zinos (Adam Bousdoukos) and his brother Illias (Moritz Bleibtreu) makes it a film definitely worth watching. Also, the chef Shayn Weiss, played by Birol Ünel, is another great character who is responsible for many of the highlights of the film.
With great writing and setting, “Soul Kitchen” is a great German movie from the 2000s and should absolutely be watched by any film fan.
2. The Swamp (2001), directed by Lucrecia Martel
Praised as one of the most brilliant filmmakers from Argentina, Lucrecia Martel released in 2001 her masterpiece, “The Swamp”, following the story of two families that travel to their country place. The warm weather, the little events, the drinking, the emerging conflicts and relations are the setting in this place where everything seems to be going under.
“The Swamp” is without any doubt one of the best films made in Argentina this century. This lack of communication, how the environment seems to take over the characters, and the way the sounds of this place seem to speak way louder than anybody, take the audience deep inside these characters’ troubled minds.
After “The Swamp”, Martel went on to direct more two great films, “The Holy Girl” (2004) and “The Headless Woman” (2008). Although those two are unquestionably great films, “The Swamp” is still her masterpiece and should definitely be watched.
3. Lunacy (2005), directed by Jan Švankmajer
The acclaimed Czech surrealist filmmaker Jan Švankmajer released in 2005 his fifth feature film: “Lunacy”. This film that approaches two forms of running an asylum is among his most remarkable works. The two forms, as aforementioned, are to control and punish or to leave people in absolute freedom, but there’s a third one that combines the worst of these methods.
This horror film, as Švankmajer himself describes, is a movie that has all the traces of his filmography. The fascination for the human mind and the surreal are all over this feature, and watching the arc of the character Jean Berlot is something absolutely terrifying in this amazingly directed film.
Approaching delicate themes and not being afraid to go deep and dark into the human soul and mind without leaving aesthetics behind makes “Lunacy” number three on this list.
4. Goodbye, Dragon Inn (2003), directed by Ming-liang Tsai
Following the story of a movie theater about to close down, “Goodbye, Dragon Inn” is absolutely among the finest works of acclaimed director Ming-liang Tsai. During the film, we see the theater playing, for the last time, King Hu’s classic movie “Dragon Inn”. On this rainy night, a few people go inside to avoid the rain and many do not seem interested in the film.
With almost no dialogue through the entirety of the movie, “Goodbye, Dragon Inn” is, without any doubt, a masterpiece. All the slow and long shots allows Tsai to lead us through the landscapes inside and outside the theater, and to see how distant from each other the modern life might have made us.
“Goodbye, Dragon Inn” is a movie about distance and silence, taking its audience on a journey not only through this theater that is about to end its history, but also making the spectators look inside while following it.
5. Shirin (2008), directed by Abbas Kiarostami
More than 100 famous actresses of Iran, as well as French actress Juliette Binoche, star in this film directed by one of the most important filmmakers of all time. The film shows close-ups of all of these actresses as we follow Khosrow and Shirin, a tragical famous romance in Persian culture, written by poet Nizami Ganjavi.
During the 92 minutes of running time we see all these faces reacting while we hear this famous story. With a cast of narrators, we watch all of the women’s emotions while listening to this story.
Considered to be a turning point in Kiarostami’s career, “Shirin” is an unique feature that is a must-see film for his great narrative and unusual visual approach in telling this story, and among the most interesting films made in this century so far.