A year in cinema brings audiences a plethora of films to choose from. Whether you are a horror aficionado, a drama devotee or a lover of the latest big blockbuster – there will be a film that suits your cinematic taste buds. And in this day and age, being a cinephile could not be easier with a number of streaming platforms available as well as being able to see films at your local theatre.
That being said, there are always a number of films that fall beneath the radar or that will not reach the same size audience as bigger films are able to. Often that is due to marketing budgets and restraints, but for whatever reason – there are films that go overlooked in any given year of film that are worthy of recognition.
1. Tigers Are Not Afraid
This Mexican drama from director Issa Lopez mixes elements of crime, horror and fantasy. Tigers Are Not Afraid is reminiscent of Pan’s Labyrinth in the way that it mixes the real world with the fantastical. In fact, Guillermo del Toro himself is a fan of the film and named it in his best of the year of its release. But in the case of this film, the story follows a group of orphaned children who are trying to survive on the run from the cartels that murdered their parents.
As you might expect, Tigers Are Not Afraid is a very bleak, violent and brutal film. The fantasy elements are much like Pan’s Labyrinth in that they are left completely up to the audience to decide whether they are really happening or simply symbolic of the horrors of real life.
Tigers Are not Afraid is a very raw film – much of it is filmed handheld and the child actors are children who had not acted previously, thus their performances are very fresh and energetic. The young actors have very adult dialogue and themes to deal with, and so their performances are certainly worthy of praise. Juan Ramon Lopez is particularly noteworthy as Shine, the leader of the orphaned children.
Tigers Are Not Afraid is a film that, even given its clear inspirations from Pan’s Labyrinth, feels very unique and unlike any other film released recently. Though it is often a harrowing and difficult watch, it is definitely a film that addresses important issues and themes and is worthy of being seen.
2. One Cut of the Dead
If you are a fan of the zombie genre and looking for a slightly off piste film to add to your collection, then you might want to check out One Cut of the Dead.
One Cut of the Dead is a low budget, Japanese zombie comedy film. It follows a film crew who are making a zombie horror film at a deserted WWII underground facility, when they are attacked by real zombies. Rather than try and escape, the director decides to keep the camera rolling.
One Cut of the Dead took awhile to gain a theatrical release and by the time that it did, it already had a cult following. The film has earned critical praise and is one of the small amount of films with a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes.
One Cut of the Dead is a genuinely meta and satirical film, and most audiences may be surprised with where the film takes them. This film will also really appeal to anyone interested in filmmaking or has experienced filmmaking first-hand, as there will be much that rings true for filmmakers. One Cut of the Dead is a unique and spirited film with a fresh take on the zombie genre – something that is hard to achieve in such a crowded and popular genre.
Beanpole won the Un Certain Regard Best Director Award and the FIPRESCI Prize for Best Film in the Un Certain Regard section at the Cannes Film Festival. The film was also the Russian entry for Best International Feature at the 92nd Academy Awards, though it did not make the final list of nominees.
Beanpole is set just after the Second World War and follows two young women, Iya and Masha, as they try to rebuild their lives amongst the resulting chaos of the war. It soon becomes clear that the horrors of war do not end with peacetime.
Beanpole is a complex and thought-provoking film that deals with a myriad of issues and ideas. At its centre, it is a study of the effects of PTSD and the aftermath of the war. But Beanpole is also a character study of both Iya and Masha and the meaning of female friendship. Beanpole also looks at hopelessness and what that means to different people.
As you might expect, Beanpole is not an easy watch and does feature some harrowing scenes, but it is unlike any other film of its ilk from recent times. Beanpole feels unique and resonant, whilst providing much food for thought for audiences.
This German drama from director Christian Petzold follows a refugee’s attempt to flee a fascist state by assuming the identity of a deceased writer. But the man finds his attempts made even more complicated by the people he meets along the way. The film is based on a 1944 novel by Anna Segher, but interestingly, although the setting feels somewhat timeless, the film is set in the modern day.
Transit is a quiet and contemplative film. It has a sort of dissonance to it, a detached air – and the audience must decide whether to engage in the film’s existential qualities or it may very well leave you behind. That is not because the film is necessarily hard going or difficult to understand, but because it is just as much about things unsaid as things said – small looks and glances, and multiple meanings in one uttered word.
Transit is engaging and intriguing, with some scenes feeling particularly fascinating and inviting. The film is a great example of a unique adaptation, and benefits from further thought and discussion to truly appreciate.
5. Corpus Christi
Corpus Christi was the Polish entry for Best International Feature at the 92nd Academy Awards and made the final shortlist of nominations, being pipped to the post by Parasite.
Corpus Christi follows a young man named Daniel who wants to become a priest. Unfortunately, due to his criminal conviction, Daniel is unable to do so. Upon his release from a juvenile detention centre, a case of mistaken identity leads to Daniel taking over duties at the local parish. The local community is still reeling from a recent tragedy and this charismatic and unique young man may be the best hope that they have to begin healing. However, Daniel’s past threatens to catch up to him…
Corpus Christi could almost sound comical from its description, but no make mistake – this is a sometimes violent, often bleak and always serious film. It is washed in muted tones, never too bright or too warm which certainly reflects the film tonally.
One of the strongest aspects of the film is the central performance from Bartosz Bielenia, who plays Daniel. He has a unique look, almost like a young Christopher Walken and his performance is electrifying.
Corpus Christi deals with themes of guilt, forgiveness, ethics and of course religion. It raises interesting questions and would be a great film to watch and then discuss in a group. It is a well-made, well performed and well directed film with an ending that really packs a punch.