At a Saskatchewan cattle ranch during branding season, a blue-collar kid is rattled by an unsettling discovery.
On Noah’s Ark, the animals discover the darker side of their natures and things get unholy very fast.
Chile, Germany, Argentina, Netherlands
One of the New Argentine Cinema’s mainstays, Martín Rejtman returns with this funny, deliberately episodic study of 18-year-old flute player Mariano (Rafael Federman) and his circle of friends and family. "A nearly uncategorizable seriocomedy whose string of non-sequiturs oddly mimics life’s implausibilities… There’s a great deal of humor built in to the characters, whose instability has a certain endearing quality."—Variety
Beautifully wrought and meticulously controlled, Alejandro Fernández Almendras’ taut drama follows a bullied man as he wrestles with the moral implications of revenge… "A terrifically tense first half culminates in a truly brilliant scene… [and it] all ends with a dramatic pop as sharp as the first of only two gunshots in this menacing, morally agnostic film."—Guardian. Winner, World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic, Sundance 2014.
The radiant Gong Li is magnificent in this staggering period piece about a woman with Alzheimer’s-like symptoms who anxiously awaits her husband’s return despite the fact he’s already come home to her. "Chinese master Zhang Yimou’s… family drama of guilt, love and reconciliation set during the aftermath of the Cultural Revolution [is] heartbreaking in its depiction of ordinary lives affected by political upheaval."—Variety
Diao Yi’nan’s film noir is a stylish, exhilarating descent into a nightmarish wintery Manchurian mystery. Following a series of murders, alcoholic former cop Zhang Zili’s (Liao Fan) suspicions are aroused by laundress Zhichen (Taiwan superstar Gwei Lun-mei), who seems intimately linked to the victims. China’s biggest art-house box-office hit so far. Winner, Golden Bear (Best Film), Silver Bear (Best Actor), Berlin 2014. Shelly Kraicer
Among the most eloquent voices advocating for Tibet and its people is that of Beijing-based Tibetan writer/blogger/activist Tsering Woeser. This sharply designed, formally innovative documentary is completely in her own voice: combining readings from her secret government “dossier” with her own passionate, moving account of her political awakening and unrelenting advocacy Shelly Kraicer
Ex-con Shengli, whose rough exterior hides a gentle soul, has a nutty plan: open a kindergarten with his dancer-cum-nurse partner. But he can’t shake the violent shadows of his past. Zhang Meng’s controversial winner at the Shanghai Film Festival is a rare Chinese commercial film that’s dramatically powerful, absurdly comic, politically astute and somehow censor-approved. Winner, Grand Jury Prize, Shanghai 2014. Shelly Kraicer
Abandoned by his mother, a small village boy sets out to find her on a Dickensian adventure through the horrors of China’s brutal economy. First he’s a factory slave, then he’s abducted by thieves… Zhang’s film, however, is shockingly, poetically beautiful, with a black and white floating camera-eye that turns every shot into lyrical poetry. Shelly Kraicer
Based on Bi Feiyu’s best-selling novel, Lou Ye’s sensual drama explores a Nanjing massage parlour and the desires of the sightless masseurs and masseuses employed there. As the camera and actors (including the extraordinary Guo Xiaodong and Qin Hao) grow as intimate as lovers and Lou artfully conveys how his characters experience the world, the film becomes "entirely engrossing…”—Variety. Winner, Best Cinematography, Berlin 2014.
China, Hong Kong
Fresh from Venice, Ann Hui’s masterly new film tells the life story of China’s greatest modern woman writer Xiao Hong, brilliantly played by Tang Wei. In the background, Japan’s invasion of China in the 1930s. In the foreground, a woman in love with a feckless man, negotiating the sexual and political rivalries of her day with honesty, clarity and beauty. Tony Rayns
It’s Christmas in Bogotá and 10-year-old Eric has been sent to live with his impoverished handyman father. When a wealthy client takes pity on them, and invites them to stay at her family’s country villa over the holidays, tensions and discomfort soon begin to crackle, exposing the gap between Christian charity and the starker realities of the class structure. "An engrossing, sensitive and admirably nuanced social drama."—Hollywood Reporter
In a vibrantly depicted Havana, 11-year-old Chala industriously cares for carrier pigeons and dogs on his apartment balcony. Trouble is, there’s easy money in dog fighting. The most important champion in his life however is his aging teacher, Carmela (the marvelous Alina Rodríguez), a woman who refuses to let the boy fall between the cracks and endures government reprisals as a result. Director Ernesto Daranas demonstrates equal bravery in confronting Cuba’s social ills. Winner, Audience Award, Málaga 2014.
Nil Malmros draws on an incident from his own life—due an array of tragic circumstances, his wife killed their baby—to forge an intense, empathetic and bracingly intelligent drama. "The images have a sober, self-effacing beauty, the acting is subdued, and the fatal deed itself is never shown… Sorrow and Joy is a… melodrama about grace—a small miracle in today’s cinema."—Film Comment
In parts of Ethiopia, tradition calls for a man to abduct his wife-to-be, sometimes without her consent. When 14-year-old Hirut (Tizita Hagere) resists and ends up killing her abductor, the death penalty awaits. Enter Addis Ababa lawyer Meaza (Meron Getnet) determined to present a case for self-defense… Based on a true story, Zeresenay Berhane Mehari’s debut is "a quiet and powerful drama."—Hollywood Reporter
Finland, Slovakia, Luxembourg, Czech Republic
Thirty years after achieving the zenith of his career in grease paint, an acclaimed actor returns from self-imposed exile for one last show in Prague. Reunited with his former partners, he and his colleagues attempt to restage their greatest performance, stave off old rivalries and ensure that time doesn’t have the last laugh. Viktor Tauš’ poignant film reminds us that tragicomedy is the lifeblood of clowning.
A broad ranging and hard-hitting discussion of the importance (and regular misuse) of mathematics in our lives, Olivier Peyon’s documentary is also very much about why we should love math, and care that its power is used well. This captivating work builds its arguments on significant recent data, as well as the inspired testimonials of gifted teachers, mathematicians, finance critics—and kvetching children.
France, Hungary, South Korea
Hungarian director/ringmaster György Pálfi (Hukkle) turns an apartment building into seven rings of carnivalesque hell in this stunner. Pálfi essays the grotesqueries of modern life through stories that run the gamut from social realism to sci-fi. “It’s thrilling to see a director in such clear command of the cinematic medium operating in such a playfully stylized way.”—Variety. Winner, Best Director, Karlovy Vary 2014.
Mixing awe and irreverence, this cinephile’s delight explores the legendary Swedish auteur Ingmar Bergman’s home, life, films and legacy through interviews with luminaries like Michael Haneke, Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, John Landis, Claire Denis, Ang Lee, Zhang Yimou and Lars von Trier (as quotable as ever). Their insights will inspire an intense desire to view (or re-view) Bergman’s classics.