Dan Sallitt


Favourite films released for the first time in 2020:

  1. The Disciple (Chaitanya Tamhane, 2020)
  2. Las Niñas (Pilar Palomero, 2020)
  3. Pour Elsa (Carmen Leroi, 2020)
  4. Build the Wall (Joe Swanberg, 2020)
  5. Isabella (Matias Piñeiro, 2020)
  6. Domangchin yeoja (The Woman Who Ran, Hong Sang-soo, 2020)
  7. Las Ranas (Edgardo Castro, 2020)
  8. Le Prix de Bonheur (Rodrigo Muñoz, 2020)
  9. Mamá, Mamá, Mamá (Sol Berruezo Pichon-Riviére, 2020)
  10. El año del descubrimiento (The Year of the Discovery, Luis López Carrasco, 2020)
  11. Reserve (Gerard Ortín Castellví, 2020)
  12. Les Épisodes – Printemps 2018 (Mathilde Gerard, 2020)
  13. Ta fang jian li de yun (The Cloud in Her Room, Zheng Lu Xinyuan, 2020)

My favourites of the older films I encountered for the first time in 2020:
Douze Mille (Twelve Thousand, Nadège Trebal, 2019)
Wechselbalg (Changeling, Sohrab Shahid Saless, 1987)
Heimat ist ein Raum aus Zeit (Heimat Is a Space in Time, Thomas Heise, 2019)
Les Capricieux (Michel Deville, 1984)
Reifezeit (Time of Maturity, Sohrab Shahid Saless, 1976)
Memória de Helena (Memories of Helena, David Neves, 1969)
Khartoum Offside (Marwa Zein, 2019)
Tantas Almas (Valley of Souls, Nicolás Rincón Gille, 2019)
La Vie Scolaire (Mehdi Idir and Grand Corps Malade, 2019)
Gyopo (Samuel Kiehoon Lee, 2019)
Alice T. (Radu Muntean, 2018)
The Beginner (Ben Coccio, 2010)
Turistas (Tourists, Alicia Scherson, 2009)
Kedma (Amos Gitai, 2003)
Der Weidenbaum (The Willow Tree, Sohrab Shahid Saless, 1984)
Offre d’emploi (Jean Eustache, 1982)
Akasen tamanoi: Nukeraremasu (Street of Joy, Tatsumi Kumashiro, 1974)
Le Grand Jeu (Jacques Feyder, 1934)

As always, the list of 2020 releases will change a lot as I see more films during 2021. I wouldn’t want to single out any particular good online festivals this year, as everyone has been dealing as best they can with adverse circumstances: but I do think my film life improved a lot when festivals big and small went online, and when I realised that many of them were available to me for the first time without travel.

jack sargeant


2020 Top Ten

There are, of course, many other films I liked this year, but these works were the top of my list.

The Third Day: Autumn (Felix Barrett and Marc Munden, UK, 2020) 12 hours of one-take television manifested as a folk horror experimental work. I had this on for two days (in two six hour blocks), watching it like moving wallpaper, sometimes focusing intensely on the screen and at other times just being aware that it was on. The drive through the island that forms the first hour was beautifully hypnotic; the whole work was incredibly ambitious and shows the potential for the moving image.

The Other Lamb (Malgorzata Szumowska, Ireland, Belgium, USA, 2020) a more traditional narrative cinema exploration of religious themes than The Third Day, The Other Lamb follows a cult in turmoil, again there was an emphasis on the remote location and the nature of the elements which really added to this.

Morgana (Josie Hess and Isabel Peppard, Australia, 2020) a very strong documentary, the directors engaged with their subject, telling a personal story but using it to open up what – for many – will be new ideas.

Lydia Lunch: The War Is Never Over (Beth B, USA, 2019) of course!

The Witch of the Cross (Sonia Bible, Australia, 2020) (Disclaimer: I’m featured in this as a talking head). The reconstructions are great and really add a depth to the work, there are numerous aspects to the story and it felt like this film engaged with them all.

Спутник (Sputnik, Egor Abramenko, Russia, 2020) I really enjoyed this Russian horror / science fiction movie, it was one of the first films I saw after lockdown if memory serves and it was a joy to be in a cinema again with an audience watching this.

Swallow (Carlo Mirabella-Davis, USA, 2019) (spoiler) it’s rare a film makes me wince, but watching the protagonist looking hungrily at a battery was one of those moments.

Nomadland (Chloe Zhao, USA, 2020) an exceptional and evocative work.

Dark Water (Erin Coates and Anna Nazzari, Australia, 2019, short film) a beautifully realised quasi-surreal work that is rich in dream imagery and psychological horror.

Raw Power (Pierre-Luc Vaillancourt, Canada, 2020, short film) an experimental work exploring force, velocity, and power, consisting of flickering / strobing image manipulations depicting the two boxers training, all complimented by Marc Hurtado’s powerful score.


Mark Seman


New apartment, living alone, quarantine – it was certainly a year for viewing.

New-ish releases (in Perth, Western Australia):

Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets (Bill Ross IV, Turner Ross, 2020) (MIFF)
Atlantis (Valentyn Vasyanovych, 2020) (Revelation)
Frances Ferguson (Bob Byington, 2019) à (Revelation)

Hvítur, hvítur dagur (A White, White Day, Hlynur Palmason, 2019)

A Febre (The Fever, Maya Da-Rin, 2019)
Novu Lituania (Karolis Kaupinis, 2019)
Dylda (Beanpole, Kantemir Balagov, 2019)

Uncut Gems (Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie, 2019)
Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution (James Lebrecht & Nicole Newnham, 2020)

Portrait de la jeune fille en feu (Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Céline Sciamma, 2019)
Bergmál (Echo, Rúnar Rúnarsson, 2019)

The Deuce S3 (George Pelecanos & David Simon, 2019)

Older releases:
Jauja (Lisandro Alonso, 2014)
Western (Valeska Grisebach, 2017)
The Rider (Chloé Zhao, 2017)
Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (Nosferatu, F.W. Murnau, 1922)
Bastardy (Amiel Courtin-Wilson, 2008)
Le Parc (Damien Manivel, 2016)
Faces (John Cassavetes, 1968)
Vinterbrødre (Winter Brothers , Hlynur Palmason, 2017)
Alle Anderen (Everyone Else, Maren Ade, 2009)
Bob Dylan: Don’t Look Back (D.A. Pennebaker, 1967)
Ma Loute (Slack Bay, Bruno Dumont, 2016)
La mujer sin cabeza (The Headless Woman, Lucrecia Martel, 2008)
Tian bian yi duo yun (The Wayward Cloud, Tsai Ming-liang, 2005)

Online festivals: Revelation Perth International Film Festival
I have physically attended Perth’s Revelation International Film Festival every year since I left high school. That was 18 years ago. Mates told me how this year Revelation’s existence might be in trouble with the lack of physical ticketing. But to me this sounded like hearsay, speculation.

Revelation adapted: the full programme went online, where viewers could buy rights to view films for a period of a few days, for about AUD$10/film. (Physical ticketing is usually about AUD$20/film.) As always, I combed through the programme – consistently delightful, strange, exotic – then chose ten or so films to view, buying a 6-ticket mini-pass for a discount, before hunkering down upon the couch. Always three or four of my yearly favourites are from Revelation. This year they were Frances Ferguson, A Family, Atlantis.

Luna Leederville, my local independent, was shut for many months. But what a delight when it re-opened its doors a few weeks after the lifting of restrictions. I had worried dearly: this holy place I’d been visiting since a kid, a longer stay in my life than partners, houses and jobs – would it shut for once and all? No, it’s now back in action, seemingly kicking as strongly as ever. The first film I saw upon re-opening was Hlynur Palmason’s excellent Hvítur, hvítur dagur (A White, White Day).

2020 was a test and it feels like independent cinema – here in Perth, between Revelation and Luna – seems to have passed. Maybe even with flying colours, evolving and expanding. Kudos to the teams at Revelation and Luna. May they and cinema never end.

Sarah Scales


Films released for the first time in 2020:

Bill & Ted Face the Music (Dean Parisot, 2020)
Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (Cathy Yan, 2020)
Emma. (Autumn de Wilde, 2020)
Mank (David Fincher, 2020)
Tenet (Christopher Nolan, 2020)

Happiest Season (Clea DuVall, 2020)
Sonic the Hedgehog (Jeff Fowler, 2020)
The Craft: Legacy (Zoe Lister-Jones, 2020)

Becoming (Nadia Hallgren, 2020)
Blackpink: Light Up the Sky (Caroline Suh, 2020)
Desperados (LP, 2020)
Disclosure (Sam Feder, 2020)
Enola Holmes (Harry Bradbeer, 2020)
Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (David Dobkin, 2020)
Horse Girl (Jeff Baena, 2020)
Love, Guaranteed (Mark Steven Johnson, 2020)
Rising Phoenix (Ian Bonhôte, Peter Ettedgui, 2020)
The Devil All the Time (Antonio Campos, 2020)
The Half of It (Alice Wu, 2020)
The Lovebirds (Michael Showalter, 2020)
The Social Dilemma (Jeff Orlowski, 2020)

Looky Looky Here Comes Cooky (Steven McGregor, 2020)

Older films encountered for the first time in 2020:

1917 (Sam Mendes, 2019)
Baraka (Ron Fricke, 1992)
Honey Boy (Alma Har’el, 2019)
Military Wives (Peter Cattaneo, 2019)
Monsoon (Hong Khaou, 2019)
Motherless Brooklyn (Edward Norton, 2019)
Spies in Disguise (Nick Bruno, Troy Quane, 2019)
The Assistant (Kitty Green, 2019)
The Gentlemen (Guy Ritchie, 2019)

A Little Chaos (Alan Rickman, 2014)
American Beauty (Sam Mendes, 1999)
Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977)
Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (Stephen Herek, 1989)
Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, 2005)
Eagle vs. Shark (Taika Waititi, 2007)
Emma (Douglas McGrath, 1996)
Finding Your Feet (Richard Loncraine, 2017)
Gaga: Five Foot Two (Chris Moukarbel, 2017)
Hannah and Her Sisters (Woody Allen, 1986)
Hot Fuzz (Edgar Wright, 2007)
Hugo (Martin Scorsese, 2011)
Little Black Book (Nick Hurran, 2004)
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (Guy Ritchie, 1998)
Marriage Story (Noah Baumbach, 2019)
Moonstruck (Norman Jewison, 1987)
My Beautiful Laundrette (Stephen Frears, 1985)
Other People (Chris Kelly, 2016)
Punch-Drunk Love (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2002)
Raiders of the Lost Ark (Steven Spielberg, 1981)
Scooby-Doo (Raja Gosnell, 2002)
Shazam! (David F. Sandberg, 2019)
Something Borrowed (Luke Greenfield, 2011)
The House With a Clock in Its Walls (Eli Roth, 2018)
The Irishman (Martin Scorsese, 2019)
The Purple Rose of Cairo (Woody Allen, 1985)
The Talented Mr. Ripley (Anthony Minghella, 1999)
The Trip to Italy (Michael Winterbottom, 2014)
Thunderball (Terence Young, 1965)
Top End Wedding (Wayne Blair, 2019)
True History of the Kelly Gang (Justin Kurzel, 2019)
Uncut Gems (Benny & Josh Safdie, 2019)
Withnail and I (Bruce Robinson, 1987)

A League of Their Own (Penny Marshall, 1992)
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Chris Columbus, 2001)
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Chris Columbus, 2002)
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Alfonso Cuarón, 2004)
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Mike Newell, 2005)
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (David Yates, 2007)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (David Yates, 2009)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 (David Yates, 2010)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (David Yates, 2011)
In the Cut (Jane Campion, 2003)
Little Women (Gillian Armstrong, 1994)
Tea with the Dames (Roger Michell, 2018)
The Craft (Andrew Fleming, 1996)
Trixie Mattel: Moving Parts (Nicholas Zeig-Owens, 2019)

Her Sound, Her Story (Claudia Sangiorgi Dalimore, 2018)
Maya Angelou and Still I Rise (Bob Hercules, Rita Coburn Whack, 2016)

Online festivals ‘attended’:
68½, Melbourne International Film Festival
Comedy Shorts, Melbourne Queer Film Festival
Humankind, Human Rights Film Festival
Interrupted, Melbourne Queer Film Festival

I May Destroy You

andrea schmidt


2020 Cinema Experience: 10 Films
I struggled with this list for quite some time, as I consider Michaela Coel’s I May Destroy You the absolute cinematic experience of the year despite its HBO Max release as a limited series this summer. If cinema is designed to transport, provoke, and move, then Coel’s work fits this definition, and it does so in ways far more powerful than the venerated so-called “provocateurs” of cinema. More often than not, the latter replicate rather than challenge the status quo (von Trier, Tarantino, etc.). (As much as I adore Fleabag, Destroy proves a much-needed corrective to Waller-Bridge’s painfully equivocated metoo politics.) To roughly paraphrase author Marlon James via a social media post: “It defies binge watching as you are contending with the film in your head.”

Six Films Shown via Virtual Film Festival
I had only visited one of these film festivals in-person (Romanian Film Festival Seattle), and the discovery of the other film festivals came about via word-of-mouth and copious amounts of time spent-online.

Dortmund Cologne International Women’s Film Festival
More so a lecture performance than film, Julia Nitschke’s People suck but it’s okay because cats (2020) was a bright light of internet cat content in the early days of lockdown. Ines Johnson-Spain’s Becoming Black (2020), a documentary on her childhood/young adult life in the GDR and contending with “color blind” racism, establishes her as a phenomenal talent.

Seattle Queer Film Festival
Leoni Krippendorf’s queer coming of age story, Kokon (2020), is heart-wrenchingly beautiful. It manages to explore early teenage sexuality without being creepy (see: Bertrand Bonello’s Zombie Child [2019]). Also featured at the festival, the documentary Uferfrauen (2020, Babara Wallbraun) presents itself as a simplistic documentary on the lives of “Lesbian life and love in the GDR,” it juxtaposes the triumph of the radical everyday with the threat of political oppression.

Romanian Film Festival Seattle
Collective (Alexander Nanau, 2020) is easily one of my top 10 films of the year. It details a 2015 fire in a Bucharest club and the journalist investigation that exposed large-scale negligence and government corruption. Like Uferfrauen, the film presents itself as a deceptively straightforward documentary that peels back the devastating amount of corruption – parallels with the United States. Particularly stunning and disturbing is actual footage from inside the club.

Chicago International Film Festival
Undine (2020). Barbara still remains my favorite of Berlin school director Christian Petzold’s films. What elevates this film is Paula Beer’s stunning performance as the water being/Berlin tour guide.

The four films I saw in movie theaters
There were a few moments, in the months prior to the shutdown in mid-March and brief lifting of restrictions in October, where I could physically visit the cinema.

  1. The Fargo Theater: I grew up in Fargo (yes, like the film/television series!) Parasite (Bong Joon-ho, 2019) played to a packed house in mid-February, just a week after its Oscar win. Portrait de la jeune fille en feu (Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Celine Sciamma, 2019) has one of the most powerful final shots I have seen in a film. I adore you, Fargo Theater; please put some posters of female directed films up in your lobby – Celine Sciamma would be a good start!
  2. West Acres Cinema: Emma. (Autumn de Wilde, 2020): My sister and I started giggling at one scene towards the beginning of the film (a pretty blatant attempt to reverse the male gaze), to which a group in front of us started giggling in response. Soon, the whole theatre was laughing. I miss that.
  3. Michigan Theater: When restrictions were briefly lifted in Ann Arbor in Fall 2020, my sister and I visited a screening of the Empire Strikes Back (Irvin Kershner, 1980). This film had been my first introduction to the Star Wars Universe when I saw it on VHS over 30 years ago, and I have been hooked ever since. (Exhausted parents, stuck at home with two sick four year olds, probably thought the “movie with Yoda” would provide the most appeal, prescient of today’s Baby Yoda mania.) One week before the 2020 election, a fully masked audience sat in rapt attention (sans popcorn) and applauded at the end. It’s such an incredibly beautiful and funny film, and remains one of my favorites to this day. A special thanks to Andrew Rogers for his beautiful rendition of the “Princess Leia Theme.” (RIP, Carrie Fisher!)

There were many other films viewed via streaming platforms this year that deeply moved me: Only You (Harry Wootliff, 2018), The Assistant (Kitty Green, 2019), Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Eliza Hittman, 2020) The Forty Old Version (Radha Blank, 2020), House of Hummingbird (Kim Bora, 2018). A few will see cinematic release after this deadline Promising Young Woman (Emerald Fennell, 2020), Wonder Woman (Patty Jenkins, 2020). I’m saddened by their shortened/lack of theatrical release in the States, but grateful to the phenomenal artists who made these works available.

howard schumanN


20 Favourite Films of 2020

  1. Never Sometimes Rarely Always (Eliza Hittman, US, 2020)
  2. J’ai Perdu Mon Corps (I Lost My Body, Jérémy Clapin, France, 2019)* An animated film about the attempt to recover a part of one’s self which was once vibrant and alive, but is now hidden. The story of a disembodied hand severed in a tragic accident, which takes on a life and personality of its own as it seeks reunion with the body it lost.
  3. First Cow (Kelly Reichardt, U.S, 2019)* Reichardt quietly explores a male friendship that is built upon kindness and mutual acceptance and offers a vision of an American dream not yet corrupted by self-interest or exploitation. It is a song to nature, a tribute to intimacy and friendship, and a solid rebuke to Hollywood’s image of the gung-ho masculinity of the Old West.
  4. On the Rocks (Sofia Coppola, U.S., 2020) A light comedy about a playboy father and anxiety-ridden daughter snooping on a husband suspected of cheating. With Bill Murray as the sleuthing dad, Rashida Jones as the suspecting wife, and Marlon Waylans as the would-be philanderer, on first glance, the film seems to be headed towards sitcom territory; however, a witty and affecting script by Coppola and busloads of chemistry between the two main protagonists reveals depths that transcend any superficial judgments.
  5. Hine Anachnu (Here We Are, Nir Bergman, Israel, 2020) Israeli director Nir Bergman focuses on the co-dependent relationship between Aharon, a separated father in his 50s, and his autistic son Uri, a young man who is unable to care for himself. While the story may not sound uplifting, in Bergman’s skilful hands, its sadness is balanced with humour and buoyed by the strength and dignity of its characters.
  6. Portrait de la jeune fille en feu (Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Céline Sciamma, France, (2019)* Set in an isolated home on the Brittany coast in the 18th century, Portrait of a Lady on Fire is the story of an “impossible” relationship between two women in an era that rejected their form of sexual expression. Told with an understated passion, the lovers, Héloïse, the daughter of a countess, and artist Marianne are bound by the rules determined by the patriarchal society in which they live, and the full expression of their love is burdened by the knowledge that it is doomed to end.
  7. Tenki no Ko (Weathering With You, Makoto Shinkai, Japan 2019)* Set in Tokyo during a record-breaking rainstorm that has lasted for months and has caused widespread flooding, this is the story of a young girl known, according to Japanese legend, as a “weather maiden,” one who has the power to affect the weather through the force of her prayers. While the film is a fantasy that soars to realms beyond the reach of our earthbound senses, it is also relevant to the contemporary issue of climate change.
  8. Fatima (Marco Pontecorvo, Portugal, 2020) A retelling of the fact-based 1917 sighting of the Lady identified as the Virgin Mary, first brought to the screen in “The Miracle of Our Lady of Fatima.” The present story is told from the point of view of the three young children, especially that of Lúcia who bears the main job of convincing the community of the authenticity of her visions. The film challenges our normal consensus view of reality and strives to evoke in us a renewed sense of mystery often missing in contemporary culture.
  9. La vita davanti a sé (The Life Ahead, Edoardo Ponti, Italy, 2020) A sincere look at the relationship between an orphaned Muslim boy from Senegal and an aging Holocaust survivor and former sex worker played by Sophia Loren, now in her 86th Adapted from a novel by Romain Gary, the film has been updated with references to illegal immigration and transgender relationships to support the film’s excellent performances, especially from Loren who still maintains her stately beauty.
  10. Honeyland (Ljubomir Stefanov and Tomara Kotevska, Macedonia, 2019)* Honeyland looks into the ancient tradition of beekeeping, a tradition that has been attuned to the rhythms of nature for centuries. Set among the isolated villages and rocky hills of North Macedonia and shot over a period of three years by cinematographers, Fejmi Daut and Samir Ljuma, the film is about more than beekeeping. It is a story of connection and belonging, about our relationship with the planet, a film that asks us what kind of world we want to live in.

*Released in Canada in 2020

pummy sharma


Watching Films in the Times of COVID-19
The year 2020 has been the wildest, nerve-racking, soul-stirring year of my life. When most of the population sat locked in their homes, cinema, music, art and indoor hobbies were only a few things that kept people sane. I made it a point to discover many unheard of gems of cinema through film discussions and film festivals, to enrich my film knowledge and satiate my hunger for good cinema. First, I utilised this year to catch up on beautiful films, like The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit and Joker, that I missed out in the previous year because of my busy schedule. Second, I unearthed many treasures from Indian regional cinema. If any readers want to experience Indian cinema away from the market influenced Bollywood, they can watch The Catastrophe, The Firingoti and other films by Jahnu Barua. Third, rather than focusing on movies that were released in 2020, my focus was to find and watch unheard masterpieces of cinema.

The world lost many celluloid gems in the form of the great Irrfan Khan, Shashi Kapoor, Sushant Singh Rajput, Chadwick Boseman, and others. The loss of Irrfan Khan and Chadwick Boseman almost felt like a personal loss because of the long-sufferings they endured. I searched for the best films of these legends and religiously watched them.

Among the films released in 2020, my favourite is Da 5 Bloods. The film is the best combination of writing, direction, acting and unabashed politics. I do not recall having experienced such a level of acting and direction in recent times. The monologue by Delroy Lindo is one of the best moments of film history for me in a decade. Pataal Lok, an Indian web series released in 2020 is the best TV series I watched in this year. The TV series is a satire on the political situation that has emerged in India post-2014 after Narendra Modi became the prime minister. The series, ridicules without any restraint, the news circus that has become a new norm in Indian journalism of late.

Films Released in 2020 (in alphabetical order):

  1. Cargo (Arati Kadav, 2020)
  2. Da 5 Bloods (Spike Lee, 2020)
  3. Dil Bechara (Mukesh Chhabra, 2020)
  4. Enola Holmes (Harry Bradbeer, 2020)
  5. Gulabo Sitabo (Shoojit Sircar, 2020)
  6. Lootcase (Rajesh Krishnan, 2020)
  7. Raat Akeli Hai (Honey Trehan, 2020)
  8. Serious Men (Sudhir Mishra, 2020)
  9. Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan (Hitesh Kewalya, 2020)
  10. Tenet (Christopher Nolan, 2020)

Older Films (in alphabetical order):

  1. Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977)
  2. Annihilation (Alex Garland, 2008)
  3. Another Year (Mike Leigh, 2010)
  4. Blood Diamond (Edward Zwick, 2006)
  5. Bird Box (Susanne Bier, 2018)
  6. Burn After Reading (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2008)
  7. Crazy, Stupid, Love (Glenn Ficarra, 2011)
  8. Deep Horizon (Peter Berg, 2016)
  9. existenZ (David Cronenberg, 1999)
  10. Firingoti (The Spark,1992)
  11. Ghost in the Shell (Rupert Sanders, 2017)
  12. Hkhagoroloi Bohu Door (It’s a Long Way to the Sea, Jahnu Barua, 1995)
  13. Joker (Todd Phillips 2019)
  14. Konikar Ramdhenu (Ride on the Rainbow, 2003)
  15. Halodhia Choraye Baodhan Khai (The Catastrophe, Jahnu Barua, 1987)
  16. Paan Singh Tomar (Tigmanshu Dhulia, 2012)
  17. Prometheus (Ridley Scott, 2012)
  18. Qarib Qarib Single (Tanuja Chandra, 2017)
  19. Repo Men (Miguel Sapochnik, 2010)
  20. Schindler’s List (Steven Spielberg, 1993)
  21. The Art of Travel (Thomas Whelan, 2008)
  22. The Big Lebowski (Joel and Ethan Coen, 1998)
  23. That Gutsy Morning (Jahnu Barua, 2016)
  24. The Imitation Game (Morten Tyldum 2014)
  25. The Irishman (Martin Scorsese, 2019)
  26. The Two Popes (Ferrando Meirelles, 2019)
  27. Vice (Brian A Miller, 2015)

TV Series (old and new, in alphabetical order):

  1. Atypical (Seth Gordon, 2017-20)
  2. Bandish Bandits (Anand Tiwari, 2020)
  3. Little Things (Dhruv Sehgal, 2016-19)
  4. Mirzapur (Karan Anshuman et.al., 2018-20)
  5. Panchayat (Deepak Kumar Mishra, 2020)
  6. Pataal Lok (Avinash Arun and Prosit Roy, 2020)


christopher sikich

  1. Da 5 Bloods (Spike Lee, 2020)
  2. The Half of It (Alice Wu, 2020)
  3. Lovers Rock (Steve McQueen, 2020)
  4. Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Eliza Hittman, 2020)
  5. I’m Thinking of Ending Things (Charlie Kaufman, 2020)
  6. David Byrne’s American Utopia (Spike Lee, 2020)
  7. Mank (David Fincher, 2020)
  8. The Vast of Night (Andrew Patterson, 2020)
  9. Tenet (Christopher Nolan, 2020)
  10. John Lewis: Good Trouble (Dawn Porter, 2020)

*Best Discovery of the Past: Distant Voices, Still Lives (Terence Davies, 1988)

valerie Soe


Films released for the first time in 2020 (in no particular order):

  • 76 Days (Hao Wu, 2020) (viewed at 2020 San Diego Asian Film Festival) This documentary is an achingly empathetic look at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan, China in early 2020 as the city of 11 million people locked down to control the spread of the virus. Focusing primarily on hospitals in the metropolis, the verite-style film is a compassionate look at China’s frontline medical workers and the patients they cared for during those chaotic first weeks.
  • Be Water (Bao Nguyen, 2020) (viewed at 2020 Hawai’i International Film Festival) This meticulously crafted film is the biographical documentary that Bruce Lee deserves, adeptly combining a treasure trove of archival footage with a vast range of interviews. The film eschews a talking-heads format, instead keeping interviewees off-screen, which allows the footage to shine. Director Nguyen deftly places Lee’s work in its historical context, discussing how racism in Hollywood, 1960s counterculture, and Hong Kong’s singular milieu influenced the great martial artist.
  • Keep Rolling (Man Lim-chung, 2020) (viewed at 2020 Hawai’i International Film Festival) This documentary focuses on legendary Hong Kong director Ann Hui, tracing Hui’s career from her apprenticeship with King Hui in the 1970s through the making of her most recent film. Director Man’s unobtrusive, observational style catches Hui as she interacts with her elderly mother, scouts locations, smokes incessantly, and prepares to be honoured at the 2019 Venice Film Festival, among other revealing daily activities.
  • Los Hermanos/The Brothers (Marcia Jarmel and Ken Schneider, 2020) (viewed at 2020 Mill Valley Film Festival) Los Hermanos/The Brothers looks at Afro-Cubano sibling musicians Ilmar and Aldo López-Gavilán as they attempt to record an album together despite political and geographic challenges. Los Hermanos effortlessly weaves together its images with its gorgeous score (composed by Aldo), using the soundtrack to drive and elevate the narrative, and Jarmel and Schneider skilfully portray the brothers’ relationship with each other. The movie turns an affectionate lens on Cuba, depicting the island nation awash in vibrant pastel light.
  • Kim Ji Young, born 1982 (Kim Do-young, 2019) (viewed at 2020 San Diego Asian Film Festival) Based on the best-selling novel of the same name, this is a sensitive and thoughtful look at a young mother and wife attempting to overcome South Korea’s quotidian sexist and patriarchal social structures. Despite attacks by anti-feminists it was one of the top grossing films of 2019 in South Korea.
  • Subarashiki Sekai (Under The Open Sky, Miwa Nishikawa, 2020) (viewed at 2020 Hawai’i International Film Festival) Koji Yakusho is on point as a low-level gangster recently released from prison whose earnest attempts to go straight are thwarted by Japan’s societal restrictions. The film is neither overly sentimental nor unduly sensationalist and director Nishikawa draws out a layered and subtle performance from veteran actor Yakusho (The Eel; Shall We Dance; The Third Murder), who despite being occasionally befuddled by modern society is stolidly undeterred by the petty obstacles hindering his attempts to reintegrate into society.
  • My Prince Edward (Norris Wong, 2019) (viewed at CAAMfest CAAM Forward drive-in) Shot en la calle in Mongkok and focusing on an ordinary woman navigating the complexities of life and relationships, the film is a simple and affecting throwback to Hong Kong’s New Wave.
  • Three Missing Letters (Lin+Lam, 2020) (viewed at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art website) This short experimental essay film imagines the fate of three letters that were lost when a rocket-driven mail delivery exploded over the India-China border in 1934, using simple animation, voiceover, and gorgeous extended time-lapses of landscapes in the region to meditate on the cultural and political significance of the mail, amongst the backdrop of the Himalayas.

Older films encountered for the first time in 2020 (in no particular order):

  • Daeho (The Tiger, Park Hoon-Jung, 2015) (viewed online 2020 as part of Korean Cultural Center Washington, D.C. K-Cinema at Home series) A solid slice of genre film set during the Japanese occupation of Korea, The Tiger is anchored by Choi Min-shik performance as a retired tiger hunter who is reluctantly drawn back into the fray in pursuit of a legendary one-eyed tiger on Jirasan Mountain.
  • Chung Hing Sam Lam (Chungking Express, Wong Kar-wai, 1994) Wong’s wondrous and exhilarating film screened as part of Existence Is Longing: Wong Kar Wai, at the Pacific Film Archive, from a longer series of 4k digital restorations of his oeuvre that originated at the Lincoln Center in New York. Even after many viewings this film never fails to make me smile and it retains its freshness and exuberance even after more than 25 years since its release.

Honourable mentions:
Sound of Metal (Darius Marder, 2020)
The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend A Broken Heart (Frank Marshall, 2020)
Waikiki (Christopher Kahunahana, 2020)
Wuyong (2007) and Yi zhi you dao hai shui bian lan (Swimming Out Till The Sea Turns Blue, 2020) – Jia Zhangke
No Crying At The Dinner Table (Carol Nguyen, 2020)

Memorable online festivals from 2020:
After a bit of a film-watching drought as festivals scrambled to migrate online, by the last quarter of 2020 there were several outstanding programs available via streaming. I saw many films at the Mill Valley Film Festival, the San Diego Asian Film Festival and the Hawai’i International Film Festival, all of which had excellent programming as well as user-friendly online platforms. I also viewed several films through smaller festivals such as CAAMfest’s CAAM Forward, as well as ongoing programming by the Washington, D.C Korean Cultural Center’s K-Cinema at Home series and the Asian Pop-Up Cinema series in Chicago.

mark spratt


A year’s viewing like no other and too much of it in a living room environment, yet the films that turned up streamed on line from many different cultural institutions that one might have not encountered otherwise (e.g. Filmmuseum Münich, Anthology Film Archives, Cinémathèque Française, Pordenone’s Silent Stream et al) made for a most satisfying year overall. Online festivals and markets (Melbourne, Bologna, Pordenone, Cannes, San Sebastien, Venice) filled in many of the gaps we were experiencing in “live” presentations.

My list is a grazing over some of the highlights seen from a variety of sources in a chronological order of the year.

Waves (Trey Edward Schults, 2019)
Martin Eden (Pietro Marcello, 2019)
Emma. (Autumn de Wilde, 2020)
The Hunt (Craig Zobel, 2020)
Boze Cialo (Corpus Christi, 2019) and Sala Samobojcow (The Hater, 2020) – both by Jan Komasa
J’accuse (An Officer and A Spy, Roman Polanski, 2019)
The Assistant (Kitty Green, 2009)
Dau: Natasha (Ilya Khrzhanovsky, Jekatarina Oertel, 2020) and Dau: Degeneration (Ilya Khrzhanovsky, Ilya Permyakov, 2020). Both included as they must be part of a debate on their role in cinema as a recording of a vast social experiment. These two films in the Dau series to come are the closest films I can think of to compare to Salo (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1975) as an examination of the true limits (or absence of them) when a group of humans isolate themselves from ‘normal’ society.
The Trouble With Being Born (Sandra Wollner, 2020)
First Cow (Kelly Reichardt, 2019)
La Llorona (Jayro Bustamente, 2019)
I’m Thinking Of Ending Things (Charlie Kaufman, 2020)
Dorogle Tovarishchi (Dear Comrades, Andrei Konchalovsky, 2020)
Quo Vadis, Aida? (Jasmila Zbanic, 2020)
Abwege (Georg Wilhelm Pabst, 1928)
Straight Shooting (John Ford, 1917)
Shatranj-E Band (Chess Of The Wind, Mohammad Reza Aslani, 1976)
The Woman In Black (Herbert Wise, 1989)

A mention too for two documentaries that act as important correctives to ignorant social media campaigning and the appropriation of names for causes:

By The Way, Woody Allen Is Innocent (Rick Worley, 2020) and
Aka Jane Roe (Nick Sweeny, 2020)

To end on a light note, it is always interesting to find a modern film unexpectedly illuminating one from the past. Misbehaviour (Phillippa Lowthorne, 2020) is an average if likable celebration of the nascent Women’s Movement protesting and disrupting the UK’S Miss World competition in 1970. But Carry On Girls (Gerald Thomas, 1973) in its inimitable way got there first and is a quite credible and thoughtful acknowledgement of Women’s Lib and the 1970 events (with some tits, bums and drag jokes!)


madalina stefan


Films released for the first time in 2020 (festivals, cinemas, streaming services):
Wolfwalkers (Tomm Moore, Ross Stewart, 2020)
I’m Thinking of Ending Things (Charlie Kaufman, 2020)
Domangchin yeoja (The Woman who ran, Hong Sang-Soo, 2020)
Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Eliza Hittman, 2020)
Stories from the Chestnut Woods (Gregor Božič, 2019)
Stray (Elizabeth Lo, 2020)
Charter (Amanda Kernell, 2020)
City Hall (Frederick Wiseman, 2020)
1917 (Sam Mendes, 2019)
Dark Waters (Todd Haynes, 2019)
Mank (David Fincher, 2020)
Archive (Gavin Rothery, 2020)
The King of Staten Island (Judd Apatow, 2020)
Let Them All Talk (Steven Soderbergh, 2020)

Older films encountered for the first time in 2020 (seen in festivals, cinémathèques, re-releases, home entertainment, streaming channels, etc):
Jeux interdit (Forbidden Games, René Clément, 1952)
Woman of the Lake (Yoshishige Yoshida, 1966)
Suddenly, last Summer (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1959)
The Best Years of Our Lives (William Wyler, 1946)
Daughter Rite (Michelle Citron, 1978)
Le beau mariage (A good Marriage, Éric Rohmer, 1982)
Después de… (Cecilia Bartolomé, 1983)
Together Apart (Qu Youjia, 2019)
First Cow (Kelly Reichardt, 2019)
Blanco en blanco (White on White, Théo Court, 2019)
Letter From Masanjia (Leon Lee, 2018)
Barn (Beware of the Children, Dag Johan Haugerud 2019)
Nomad: in the Footsteps of Bruce Chatwin (Werner Herzog, 2019)
Hvítur, hvítur dagur (A White, White Day, Hlynur Pálmason, 2019)
Roubaix, une lumière (Oh Mercy!, Arnaud Desplechin, 2019)
Chambre 212 (Room 212, Christophe Honoré, 2019)
Leave No Trace (Debra Granik, 2018)
Le regard de Charles (Aznavour by Charles, Marc di Domenico/ Charles Aznavour, 2019)

Online festivals:
D´A Film Festival
Docs Barcelona
Gijón Film Festival

brad stevens


 Top Twenty (in roughly preferential order):
Siberia (Abel Ferrara, 2020)
Domangchin yeoja (The Woman Who Ran, Hong Sang-Soo, 2020)
Rizi (Days, Tsai Ming-Liang, 2020)
Wasp Network (Olivier Assayas, 2019)
Diqiu zuihou de yewan (Long Day’s Journey into Night, Bi Gan, 2018)
Shirley (Jospehine Decker, 2018)
Portrait de la jeune fille en feu (Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Céline Sciamma, 2019)
Vitalina Varela (Pedro Costa, 2019)
Small Axe (Steve McQueen, 2020)
La vérité (The Truth, Koreeda Hirokazu, 2019)
Little Women (Greta Gerwig, 2019)
Adults in the Room (Costa-Gavras, 2019)
A Hidden Life (Terrence Malick, 2019)
Richard Jewell (Clint Eastwood, 2019)
Gisaengchung (Parasite, Bong Joon-ho, 2019)
J’accuse (An Officer and a Spy, Roman Polanski, 2019)
Little Joe (Jessica Hausner, 2019)
Possessor (Brandon Cronenberg, 2019)
The Roads Not Taken (Sally Potter, 2020)
I’m Thinking of Ending Things (Charlie Kaufman, 2020)

To which I would add Martin Scorsese’s lockdown diary (made for Mary Beard’s BBC series Lockdown Culture) and Jean-Luc Godard’s Instagram interview.

Ten Retrospective Discoveries (in chronological order):
So This Is Love (Frank Capra, 1928)
The Good Fairy (William Wyler, 1935)
Houdini (George Marshall, 1953)
Bluebeard’s Castle (Michael Powell, 1963)
Stop (Bill Gunn, 1970)
Vivre ensemble (Anna Karina, 1972)
Alice ou la dernière fugue (Claude Chabrol, 1976)
Moment by Moment (Jane Wagner, 1978)
Vaya luna de miel (Jess Franco, 1980)
Chant d’hiver (Otar Iosseliani, 2015)

Corpus Christi

iván suárez


Best films released for the first time in festivals, cinemas and streaming services in Spain (listed alphabetically):
Bacurau (Kleber Mendoça Filho, Juliano Dornelles, 2019)
A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Marielle Heller, 2019)
Boze Cialo (Corpus Christi, Jan Komasa, 2019)
El crack cero (José Luis Garci, 2019)
L’extraordinaire voyage de Marona (Marona’s Fantastic Tale, Anca Damian, 2019)
Fourteen (Dan Sallitt, 2019)
Gloria Mundi (Robert Guédiguian, 2019)
A Hidden Life (Terrence Malick, 2019)
J’accuse (An Officer and a Spy, Roman Polanski, 2019)
Madre (Mother, Rodrigo Sorogoyen, 2019)
Mr. Jones (Agnieszka Holland, 2019)
On the Rocks (Sofia Coppola, 2020)
One of These Days (Bastian Günther, 2020)
Richard Jewell (Clint Eastwood, 2019)
Roubaix, une lumière (Oh Mercy!, Arnaud Desplechin, 2019)
Le Sel des larmes (The Salt of Tears, Philippe Garrel, 2020)
Shooting the Mafia (Kim Longinotto, 2019)
Tommaso (Abel Ferrara, 2019)
The Twentieth Century (Matthew Rankin, 2019)
Video Blues (Emma Tusell, 2019)

Very good films released for the first time in festivals, cinemas and streaming services in Spain (listed alphabetically):
À l’abordage! (Guillaume Brac, 2020)
Atarrabi et Mikelats (Atarrabi & Mikelats, Eugène Green, 2020)
Bill & Ted Face the Music (Dean Parisot, 2020)
Las buenas intenciones (The Good Intentions, Ana García Blaya, 2019)
Color Out of Space (Richard Stanley, 2019)
Domino (Brian De Palma, 2019)
Da 5 Bloods (Spike Lee, 2020)
La France contre les robots (France Against the Robots, Jean-Marie Straub, 2020)
The Invisible Man (Leigh Wannell, 2020)
Leyenda dorada (The Golden Legend, Chema García Ibarra & Ion de Sosa, 2019)
Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool (Stanley Nelson, 2019)
The Nightingale (Jennifer Kent, 2018)
Sorry We Missed You (Ken Loach, 2019)
Tabi no Owari Sekai no Hajimari (To the Ends of the Earth, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2019)
Uncut Gems (Josh & Benny Safdie, 2019)
Ventajas de viajar en tren (Advantages of Travelling by Train, Aritz Moreno, 2019)

Best older films encountered for the first time in 2020:
The Scarecrow (Buster Keaton & Edward F. Cline, 1920)
Cops! (Buster Keaton & Edward F. Cline, 1922)
Das Testament das Dr. Mabuse (The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, Fritz Lang, 1933)
You Only Live Once (Fritz Lang, 1937)
Der Prozess (The Trial, G.W. Pabst, 1948)
Hollow Triumph (Steve Sekely, 1948)
Night and the City (Jules Dassin, 1950)
Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (Albert Lewin, 1951)
Cielo negro (Dark Sky, Manuel Mur Oti, 1951)
Park Row (Samuel Fuller, 1952)
Riot in Cell Block 11 (Don Siegel, 1954)
Moonfleet (Fritz Lang, 1955)
House of Bamboo (Samuel Fuller, 1955)
Fedra (Fedra, The Devil’s Daughter, Manuel Mur Oti, 1956)
El cochecito (The Wheelchair, Marco Ferreri, 1960)
Os verdes anos (The Green Years, Paulo Rocha, 1963)
The Naked Kiss (Samuel Fuller, 1964)
Valley of the Dolls (Mark Robson, 1967)
Le cercle rouge (Red Circle, Jean-Pierre Melville, 1970)
Le genou de Claire (Claire’s Knee, Éric Rohmer, 1970)
Händler der vier Jahreszeiten (The Merchant of Four Seasons, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1972)
Les dernières fiançailles (The Last Betrothal, Jean Pierre Lefebvre, 1973)
Le orme (Footprints on the Moon, Luigi Bazzoni, 1975)
Faustrecht der Freiheit (Fox and His Friends, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1975)
Mutter Küsters’ Fahrt zum Himmel (Mother Küsters Goes to Heaven, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1975)
La casa dalle finestre che ridono (The House with Laughing Windows, Pupi Avati, 1976)
Watership Down (Martin Rosen, 1978)
Amor de perdiçao (Doomed Love, Manoel de Oliveira, 1978)
Macabro (Macabre, Lamberto Bava, 1980)
Un dessert pour Constance (Dessert for Constance, Sarah Maldoror, 1981)
The Challenge (John Frankenheimer, 1982)
Tough Guys Don’t Dance (Norman Mailer, 1987)
Distant Voices, Still Lives (Terence Davies, 1988)
Homer and Eddie (Andrei Konchalovski, 1989)
Innisfree (José Luis Guerin, 1990)
Semiosis (José Luis Garci, 1991)
Todos a la cárcel (Everyone Off to Jail, Luis García Berlanga, 1993)
A comédia de Deus (God’s Comedy, Joao César Monteiro, 1995)
Assigné à résidence (Locked-In Syndrome, Jean-Jacques Beineix, 1997)
Ossos (Pedro Costa, 1997)
As bodas de Deus (God’s Weddings, Joao César Monteiro, 1999)
Vai e vem (Come and Go, Joao César Monteiro, 2003)
Um filme falado (A Talking Picture, Manoel de Oliveira, 2003)
4:44 Last Day on Earth (Abel Ferrara, 2011)

There are many films I did not see yet, among them La voz humana (The Human Voice, Pedro Almodóvar, 2020), Siberia (Abel Ferrara, 2020), or Undine (Christian Petzold, 2020). Maybe they’ll turn up on next year’s list. This was an awful year on every level for reasons we all know, and some of the films I included here were watched thanks to online events like the D’A Film Festival or the Gijón International Film Festival. Both were good ways to keep up with new releases by great or interesting filmmakers, or to discover new directors to follow their future work. There were also films that I found horrendous, mediocre or overrated made by established filmmakers (Fincher, Nolan, Dardennes, Mendes, Waititi, Gerwig, Ritchie, Larraín), disappointments (Herzog, Bernard Rose, Campos, Eggers, Kore-eda, Reichardt… I know I have to give her another try) and discoveries I’ll try to give another opportunity to their future films (Marcello, Gaztelu-Urrutia, Lulu Wang). Maybe the problem is mine for failing to appreciate their possible merits.

It’s sad to read the news about movie theatres closing since they are the best medium to watch a film. It’s also sad to note that for many people the only thing that exists are the current and future TV series or films usually based on famous franchises like Marvel, DC or Star Wars, whether they are good or awful, while they ignore lots of other cinematographic experiences, but I am not going to chastise them; I hope they enjoy them. On a more optimistic note, remember that Cinema has been declared dead many times and it is still with us. I sincerely hope that 2021 will be a better year for everyone on every level, and like I said the previous year, still waiting for Carax and Verhoeven.

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