With over 100 entries from cinephiles, academics, critics, programmers, and filmmakers across the globe, this year’s Senses of Cinema World Poll is a handy barometer for viewing habits and attitudes in a time of upheaval and uncertainty. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of contributors lament the loss of the cinema-going experience – the sensual immersion, the absence of distraction, the feeling of connection to a collective whole. At the same time, many contributors rejoice in the greater accessibility to films that occurred in 2020 because of the pandemic. For the first time ever, film festivals and film organisations streamed content online. In her entry, Gwendolyn Audrey Foster hopes a “hybrid” model can continue once the pandemic is over, so “theatrical and streaming can exist side-by-side”. 

Above all, this year’s World Poll – like every iteration since it first started 20 years ago – is a celebration of cinema. A cursory glance at the lists and accompanying notes underlines the immense passion and desire for cinema that exists around the world. In soul-searching times such as 2020, film viewing took on an even greater urgency and purpose. This was most certainly the case for Pummy Sharma, a cinephile from India, who decided to spend the “wildest, nerve-racking” year of her life enriching her “film knowledge and satiat[ing] [her] hunger for good cinema”.  

A select number of titles appear frequently throughout the entries. These 2020 favourites include but are not limited to Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Eliza Hittman, 2020), Da 5 Bloods (Spike Lee, 2020), The Assistant (Kitty Green, 2019), Undine (Christian Petzold, 2020), Rizi (Days, Tsai Ming-liang, 2020), Om det oändliga (About Endlessness, Roy Andersson, 2019), and Domangchin yeoja (The Woman Who Ran, Hong Sang-soo, 2019).

For entries that include a truly eclectic mix of titles that go beyond the hits of the festival circuit, see Francisco Algarín Navarro, Nicolas Carrasco or Jordan Cronk. Other similar examples but that also include innovative ways of grouping their highlights include Christoph Huber, Olaf Möller, Barbara Wurm and Neil Young. 

Overall, 2020’s entries attest to the continued rise of streaming platforms in providing access to film titles, from MUBI to Netflix, particularly crucial throughout 2020. Thanks to such platforms, we’re able to self-select and self-curate what we view, a defining aspect of contemporary cinephilia. Whilst ‘giants’ like Netflix wield substantial power, as critical ‘consumers’ we have a diverse array of platforms to choose from. However, frustratingly, so many titles remain unavailable.

This year’s entries also attest to the continued interest that TV series hold for cinephiles. Shows such as The Queen’s Gambit (Scott Frank, Allan Scott, 2020) or I May Destroy You (Michaela Coel, 2020) appear in several lists. Andrea Schmidt, for example, regards the latter as “the absolute cinematic experience of the year”. 

For a year that saw ongoing racial injustice and oppression, films that explored racial conflict resonated with many contributors throughout 2020. Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series, Spike Lee’s short film, 3 Brothers: Radio Raheem, Eric Garner, George Floyd (2020), Aaron Sorkin’s The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020) all impacted contributors. See, for example, entries by Ian Christie and Mark William Watkins for a detailed look at the impact of these films.

But that’s enough from me! The 2020 World Poll awaits you! A heartfelt thank you to all the contributors from around the world who submitted their entries. And an enormous thank you to the editors and volunteers who assisted in compiling this mammoth project.



PART 1 >>

Antti Alanen
Francisco Algarín Navarro
Martyn Bamber
Mike Bartlett
Arta Barzanji
Raphaël Bassan
Sean Bell
Malik Berkati
Lukas Brasiskis
Samuel Bréan
Samantha Broadhead
Michael Brown
Dr Nandana Bose
José Cabrera Betancort
Buñel in Mexico

PART 2 >>

Thomas Caldwell
Nicolás Carrasco
Michael J. Casey
Kevin Cassidy
Jeremy Chamberlin
Allison Chhorn
Ian Christie
Emily Collins
Jordan Cronk
Adrian Danks
Dustin Dasig
Henri de Corinth
Monica Delgado
Kriti Dhanania
Marko Djurdjić
Wheeler Winston Dixon

PART 3 >>

William Edwards
Gerónimo Elortegui
Ted Fendt
Christine Folch-Sathiah
Gwendolyn Audrey Foster
Simon Foster
Sachin Gandhi
Flora Georgiou
Sean Gilman
Antony Ginnane
Leonardo Goi
Francesco Grieco
Michael Heath
Claire Henry
Alain Hertay
David Heslin
Lee Hill
Jytte Holmqvist
Peter Hourigan
Brian Hu
Christoph Huber
Tomáš Hudák

PART 4 >>

Parviz Jahed
Tara Judah
Daniel Kasman
Christopher Kearney
Dominique Kobler
Rainer Knepperges
Jan Křipač
Jay Kuehner
Eugenia Lai
Marc Lauria
Elaine Lennon
Thomas Logoreci
Jennifer Lynde Barker

PART 5 >>

Josh B Mabe
Ioannis Makris
Randy Malamud
Bob Manning
Miguel Marías
Jamie Mendonça
Douglas Messerli
Jack McCulloch
Jane Mills
Stefano Miraglia
Olaf Möller
Andy Motz
Marcel Muller

PART 6 >>

Peter Nagels
Walter Neto
Andy Norton
Veton Nurkollari
Alison O’Daniel
Darragh O’Donoghue
Andreea Pătru
Antoni Peris
Andréa Picard
Milan Pribisic
Catherine Putman
Bérénice Reynaud
Daniel Ribas
Stuart Richards
Peter Rinaldi
Peter Rist

PART 7 >>

Dan Sallitt
Jack Sargeant
Mark Seman
Sarah Scales
Andrea Schmidt
Howard Schumann
Pummy Sharma
Christopher Sikich
Valerie Soe
Mark Spratt
Madalina Stefan
Brad Stevens
Iván Suárez

PART 8 >>

Josh Timmermann
Jon Towlson
Tomas Trussow
Koen Van Daele
Nicholas de Villiers
Peter Verstraten
Fiona Villella
Mark William Watkins
Jason Philip Wierzba
Barbara Wurm
Neil Young

About The Author

Fiona Villella is an editor of Senses of Cinema.

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