Author Robert K Elder asked 35 filmmakers to champion a movie that they love, but which had either been overlooked or reviled by critics and audiences. The result, ’The Best Film You’ve Never Seen’ is fascinating both for what it reveals about the directors he talked to and for their insights into some seriously neglected films. Case in point: Frank Perry’s The Swimmer, starring Burt Lancaster as a man who decides to swim his way home across Connecticut, one backyard swimming pool at a time. Selected by Alex Proyas (Dark CIty), this is seriously strange movie, but one that stands the test of time.
"As do few movies, The Swimmer stays in the memory like an echo that never quite disappears." Vincent Canby, New York TImes
"Enigmatic, poetic, disturbing." Kim Newman, Empire
"Burt Lancaster is superb in his finest performance." Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times
The provocative Italian filmmaker Elio Petri’s most internationally acclaimed work is this remarkable, visceral, Oscar-winning thriller. It’s the Kafkaesque tale of a Roman police inspector (a commanding Gian Maria Volonté) investigating a heinous crime—which he himself committed. .
"A provocative political thriller that is as troubling today as when it came out in the 1970s." Kenneth Turan, LA Times
"The movie survives beautifully both as an elegant thriller and as a study of the twisted infantilism that shapes the fanatic heart." Ella Taylor, LA Weekly
"Its portrait of a loner and his lusts comes up frighteningly fresh, and the whole conceit would collapse without the muscular, rousing presence of Gian Maria Volonté in the central role. He, as much as Petri, hauls the movie into the realms of Kafka." Antony Lane, New Yorker
A new female doctor arrives at a provincial hospital in what is still East Germany. Barbara (Petzold’s regular star, Nina Hoss) is a transfer from Berlin, and immediately strikes her colleagues as distant and aloof. But there are reasons, as they suspect. Her small apartment is regularly searched, meanwhile her preference for cycling to and from work seems designed to make it more difficult for the Stasi to keep an eye on her…
"It’s one terrific film, as smart, thoughtful and emotionally involving as just about anything that’s out there." Kenneth Turan, LA Times
"Petzold handles personal, formal, and political concerns in such perfect balance, it’s difficult, and not especially desirable, to separate one from the next. The movie is dense but never feels it, assembled with easy mastery and engrossing throughout." Sam Adams, AV Club
"Barbara is a film about the old Germany from one of the best directors working in the new: Christian Petzold. For more than a decade Mr. Petzold has been making his mark on the international cinema scene with smart, tense films that resemble psychological thrillers, but are distinguished by their strange story turns, moral thorns, visual beauty and filmmaking intelligence." Manohla Dargis, New York Times
Julian T Pinder
When livestock begin dying and people become mysteriously ill after gas leaks in Peace River Country in northwestern BC, a series of bombs are set off on the pipelines in reaction. "Trouble in the Peace" follows Karl Mattson, an enigmatic and reclusive cowboy, as he struggles to make sense of what’s happening to his town and the people in it. Feeling scared and alone, he embarks on a unique course of action in an attempt to save his family and unite the community.
Few composers inspire such extremes of love and revulsion as Richard Wagner, and few classical music documentaries go the extremes of this astounding German-made feature, which includes stylized, modern-dress reenactments of key moments in Wagner’s tumultuous life and digital animated graphics alongside more traditional expert testimony.
* VIFC Guest + Volunteer Passes are not valid for Best Of Hot Docs Series
How does a poor, single, African-American mother from segregated 1950s America wind up as one of the world’s most notorious jewel thieves? Stylish recreations, an extensive archive and candid interviews reveal how "Diamond Doris" managed to jet-set her way into any Cartier or Tiffany’s from Monte Carlo to Japan and walk out with small fortunes.
"Unsurprisingly, Payne’s life story is currently set to be made into a film starring Halle Berry, who has her work cut out for her if she’s going to inhabit the devilishly charming Miss Doris Payne, international criminal." Scott A Gray, exclaim
"4 stars, Must See!" Now magazine
“Is The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne Essential Hot Docs Viewing? Absolutely. You won’t find a more charming, befuddling subject of a film at this year’s fest.” Kristal Cooper, Toronto Film Scene
Lorraine Price, Juliet Lammers
Director Gracia Querejeta drew from experiences with her own son to create this honest and touching film which sensitively illustrates the difficulties of being both a child and an adult. "Immensely entertaining… reminiscent of Pedro Almodovar… blends the evident unresolved family feuds with a whodunit plot…Profound and engaging." Indiewire
Nominated for 7 Goya Awards, including Best Film, Actor, Director, Supporting Actress, Newcomer
"Immensely entertaining, the film is reminiscent of master Pedro Almodvar’s work with a less stylized but equally successful analysis of the Spanish society. There is a witty and acidic comedic tone in the dialogue and intelligently developed characters throughout… This intimate piece blends the evident unresolved family feuds with a whodunit plot…Profound and engaging 15 Years +1 Day is a story about the children’s realization that parents are imperfect creatures, and that whatever they can teach or pass on is a diluted version of their fears and fascinations rather than fixed instructions for life." Carlos Aguilar, Indiewire
Two brothers, orphaned as children: Tomas is now a drifting and withdrawn young man who has an instinctive compassion for others; his older brother Rafael is a university philosophy professor, detached and alone. Their struggles with each other and the world around them take a dramatic turn when they find themselves at a rural Zen center.
In this hit documentary, Italian journalists/filmmakers Ragazzi and Hofer wonder if those roads leading to Rome don’t also look like escape routes. There is an opportunity to move to Berlin - where rents are a third of the price, there’s less unemployment, and less homophobia too. Also Berlusconi doesn’t live there. Even so, Luca is loathe to leave. So they hop into a vintage FIAT 500 and set off to take stock of "the real Italy", with a pilgrimage to visit George Clooney’s Lake Como villa on the side.
"Effervescent." John Anderson, Variety
*** (3 stars out of 4) Rick Groen, Globe & Mail
Set in the 1920s in the palace of a noble Bengali whose passion is music and whose arch-enemy is a wealthy upstart, The Music Room reflects the conflict between the dying aristocracy and new money. Director Satyajit Ray is one of the greatest auteurs of international cinema. His film about those who dwell in the past and those who embrace the future is a magnificent tour de force. Introduced by Professor Scott Watson, head of the Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory, UBC.
Thirty years after Koyaanisqatsi, Godfrey Reggio creates another stunning, wordless portrait of modern life. Presented by Steven Soderbergh, Visitors reveals humanity’s trancelike relationship with technology, which, when commandeered by extreme emotional states, produces massive effects far beyond the human species. The film is visceral, offering the audience an experience beyond information about the moment in which we live.
"Reggio’s film is an artistic and aesthetic achievement unlikely to be equaled in 2013, and perhaps the only film in recent memory which can proudly claim to be unlike anything else we have ever seen." Christopher Schobert, The Playlist
"Incredibly profound, unexpected and brave." Alison Murray, Filmmaker
A documentary tour of Latin America with two like-thinking artists. Singer-songwriters Joan Manuel Serrat, an icon for an entire generation, and his companeiro,Joaquín Sabina, el cuate, the affectionate Mexican word loosely translating as ’brother’.
When Celestine - a mouse - persuades Ernest (a bear) not to eat her it’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship. He’s a busker by trade. She’s also something of a bohemian, and soon they’re inseparable. - much to the consternation of family, rodents and other animals.
"A delightfully old-fashioned kid’s flick with a meaningful message… The screenplay by bestselling French novelist Daniel Pennac keeps things on a believable plain (for a fairy tale), and it’s easy enough to invest in the plights of the duo… Ernest et Célestine gradually becomes a cautionary fable where friendship tries to stand the test of bigotry and intolerance…" Jordan Mintzer, Hollywood Reporter
"A delightful melding of visual style and narrative pirouettes, Ernest And Célestine is a just-about-perfect hand drawn animated feature. The unlikely but eventually rock solid alliance between gruff bear Ernest and artistically inclined orphan mouse Célestine is loaded with charm and adventure." Lisa Nesselson, Screen Daily
In French with English subtitiles
In rural Mexico, when a young boy’s parents are killed, he is raised by a farm worker and the town’s barman, who instills a desire of vengeance in him, and as an adult he romances a young woman who is going to marry a rich man to save her father from financial ruin. This 1941 Mexican film classic became an enormous hit and features Jorge Negrete as the first cinematic singing Mariachi. This performance made Negrete an international Latin film star and launched the appearance of singing mariachis in films.
When Cardinal Bergoglio became Pope Francis last year, it was an expression of the humility and love he admired in Saint Francis of Assisi - which also happens to be the subject of this beautiful, sweetly spiritual and unexpectedly whimsical film written by Federico Fellini along with the pioneer of neo-realism, Roberto Rossellini, who also directed.
“I’ve never seen the life of a saint treated on film with so little solemnity and so much warmth.” Martin Scorsese
Based on a notorious historical incident in which the sixteenth century French town of Loudun was swept up in tide of witch-hunting mania, Ken Russell’s searing movie kept censors busy all over the world with its shocking imagery and no-holds-barred assault on ecclesiastical hypocrisy. Forty years on it retains its power, not least for the astounding, career-best performances from Oliver Reed and Vanessa Redgrave, Derek Jarman’s bold production design, and the electrifying score by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies.
"The pinnacle of Russell’s astonishing career, blending the exuberant visuals and musical underpinning of his most most exotic fantasies wieh a serious undercurrent of outraged political intent… a fearsome, breathtaking masterwork." Mark Kermode, BBC
"A garish glossary of sado-masochism… a taste for visual sensation that makes scene after scene look like the masturbatory fantasies of a Roman Catholic boyhood." Alexander Walker, Evening Standard
In 2008, 18 climbers from a party of 24 reached the summit of the world’s second highest mountain, the treacherous K2. 48 hours later, 11 were dead, or had simply vanished. What happened? Nick Ryan weaves together found footage, eerie reenactments and interviews with survivors to try and solve this tragic mystery.
"Riveting. Gripping. Thrilling." Indiewire
"A gripping cliffhanger. A heart-throbbing experience." Hollywood Reporter
The location of the world’s largest—possibly toxic—gold-mine pit, Guatemala is also the homeland of the Maya and their decidedly holistic cosmology. Frauke Sandig and Eric Black’s kaleidoscopically beautiful documentary follows the daily and ceremonial lives of six articulate young Maya as they struggle to maintain their way of life in the face of C21 capitalism.
"Of course one cannot simply reverse European history and the creation of the “Self”, which is also tied to liberation from the forces of nature. But one can empathize with a philosophy that does not separate the individual from nature. This different relationship to nature is better described with pictures than with words. Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth does exactly this, with clouds that glow from within, rivers with power one can sense, or mountains, which exude an inner peace. The camerawork creates settings that inspire fascination in a hitherto unknown world."
Peter Gutting, kino-zeit
"It is an exquisitely, achingly beautiful film – wonderfully conceived and sensitively filmed. I particularly appreciated the references to ancestral dreams and memories, sequences that ring truer than any film I’ve ever seen on Maya spirituality… The sequences on the war were particularly poignant. One of the communities I lived in for 6 months was completely wiped out—I still don’t know if anyone survived. It is my sincerest hope that some lived to tell their stories like the wonderful people in this film. What strikes me is the resilience of the Maya in the face of powerful and concerted efforts to destroy or alter it. I was profoundly affected by this film and will carry many of its images with me to the end of my days."
Allen J. Christenson, Author of Popul Vuh: The Sacred Book of the Maya
Maestro Federico Fellini died just over 20 years ago, 31 October 1993. His passing - and the star-studded funeral that followed three days later - inspired one of the first great media events of the new electronic age, a circus of celebrity, culture, imagery and emotion that Fellini probably enjoyed from on high. This new documentary brings those moments back to life again with the help of Fellini’s friends, colleagues and admirers.