5. Shirkers (2018)
In 1992, director Sandi Tan and her friends were helped by Georges Cardona, a charismatic forty-something American film teacher, to shoot their first movie which was meant to reinvigorate the Singaporean cinema. The film, which was to be called “Shirkers”, was a road movie filled with Lynchian surrealism which followed the adventures of a 16-year old serial killer played by Tan.
“Shirkers” was shaping up to be a really ambitious film, very different from the other Singaporean films of those days. Unfortunately, Georges Cordona, who served as the film’s director, stole the film rolls and mysteriously disappeared, leaving Sandi Tan and her friends baffled and disappointed. They had thought all their work was for nothing, but that changed in late 2011 when Cordona’s widow emailed Tan about her husband’s death and began sending her boxes filled with film rolls, storyboards, scripts, and other “Shirkers” related stuff.
The footage was missing the audio tracks, but Tan decided to still use it and that led to “Shirkers” the documentary, which is one of the most charming and authentic tales of youth, creativity, and rediscovery of the lost past.
4. One Cut Of The Dead (2017)
This Japanese zombie comedy written and directed by Shin’ichirô Ueda follows a group of filmmakers who are shooting a zombie short film called “One Cut Of The Dead” in an abandoned water treatment plant.
When real zombies invade the filming location, the director sees it as an opportunity to shoot a great movie and insists that the camera operator should keep filming. The first forty minutes of the film are shot in one take, from the perspective of the cameraman, then the film goes back in time and turns into a very different kind of thing.
We are not going to spoil anything more about “One Cut Of The Dead” because we think this is the kind of film where the less you know the more you will enjoy it. We will just say that it is one of the funniest, most entertaining, well-thought and unique zombie films ever made and you’ve never seen anything like it.
3. Leave No Trace (2018)
Directed by Debra Granik (“Winter’s Bone”) and based on the novel “My Abandonment” by Peter Rock, “Leave No Trace” stars Thomasin McKenzie as Tom, a 13-year-old girl who lives a below radar existence along with her father Will (Ben Forster).
The two of them are moving from camp to camp, living in the woods on the outskirts of Portland, Oregon. Forster’s character, who is a war veteran dealing with PTSD issues, goes to the city and sells his medication to other veterans, in order to get supplies for him and his daughter. One day, a jogger accidentally discovers them and proceeds to turn them in to the feds.
The authorities want to reintroduce Will and Tom to society and are surprised to find out that – despite her unusual lifestyle – the girl has a better education than most kids of her age. While Tom finds it easy to get used to society and even likes it better than her former way of life, things aren’t the same for her father who wants to return to the wilderness.
This is a subtle and intelligent father-daughter drama that works on all levels. It is well-directed, has great cinematography and it does a great job reflecting on things such as the importance of society, alienation and the effects of trauma on war veterans, and the influence that a parent’s lifestyle can have on his children. But what really makes it work and feel believable are the two restrained, yet very natural performances from its two leads.
2. Minding the Gap (2018)
Shot in over 12 years by the Asian American director Bing Liu, “Minding the Gap” is like the real-life version of “Boyhood”.
The film recounts the lives of Liu and his fellow skateboarder friends Zack and Kiere from their teen years into their early adulthood and it is amazing how insightful the film manages to be in just over 90 minutes running time. As the credits roll, you really feel that you’ve got to know these people, what they’ve been through and what made them who they are.
“Minding The Gap” is also a very well filmed and edited movie and flows so naturally that for most of the time you are under the impression that you’re watching an indie coming-of-age drama rather than a documentary film. This is more or less due to Liu’s friends who didn’t take his documentary seriously and as a result, didn’t really care they were being filmed for most of the time.
“Minding the Gap” has won the U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Filmmaking at 2018’s Sundance Film Festival and was unanimously acclaimed by critics if we are to look at the 100% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 110 reviews. We can really see why all this praise, for this is a truly exceptional film.
1. They Shall Not Grow Old (2018)
“They Shall Not Grow Old” marks Peter Jackson’s first time directing a documentary and also his most well-received work since “The Lord of The Rings” trilogy.
The movie depicts the lives of British soldiers on the western front of World War I and is based on previously unseen film footage from the Imperial War Museums’ archives. The footage – which has been restored and in certain parts colorized – is enhanced with the addition of sound effects and interviews from 120 war veterans which were recorded back in the 1960s and the 1970s.
Over a century has passed since the Great War and 74 years since World War II ended. Soon, there won’t be anyone around who has been alive during those times and the reality of the World Wars will feel more like an old tale than something that really happened. It is easy to forget the past and what mankind is capable of and that is exactly what Peter Jackson tries not to let happen with his film.
Within its 99 minutes running length, “They Shall Not Grow Old” manages to encapsulate the past and keep it alive for future generations to witness it. This documentary is a great achievement and probably the most immersive and authentic experience of World War I that we can have these days.