Senses of Cinema has partnered with Eyelet to bring you exciting and engaging cinema from around the world. This month, in celebration of MIFF 68½, we’ve put together a selection of global festival favourites from 2019, many of which featured in our World Poll of the year’s best films.

For Sama

1 h 40 min | Documentary, War | 2019

Director: Waad Al-Kateab

FOR SAMA is both an intimate and epic journey into the female experience of war. A love letter from a young mother to her daughter, the film tells the story of Waad al-Kateab’s life through five years of the uprising in Aleppo, Syria as she falls in love, gets married and gives birth to Sama, all while cataclysmic conflict rises around her. Her camera captures incredible stories of loss, laughter and survival as Waad wrestles with an impossible choice – whether or not to flee the city to protect her daughter’s life, when leaving means abandoning the struggle for freedom for which she has already sacrificed so much. The film is the first feature documentary by Emmy award-winning filmmakers Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts.

Heimat is a Space in Time

3 h 38 min | Documentary, History | 2019

Director: Thomas Heise

Heise’s latest, Heimat is a Space in Time, is a monumental work that traces four generations of his family’s archives, from the 19th century to the present – their intimate stories revealing the larger cultural and political events that have shaped the past hundred years of German history. The collage of documents in Heise’s brilliant essay film include letters and diaries that he reads, in voiceover, to luminous black-and-white images of various German landscapes and spaces. In this immersive work, silences reveal as much as what is said, with fragments drawing attention to what is missing. Heise’s family was torn apart only to have subsequent generations coalesce and try to make sense of their remnants. Heimat is a Space in Time spans both world wars, economic collapse, a horrific genocide, and the rise and fall of political ideologies, and it is Heise’s focus on the small details of personal experience, the subtlest shifts of light across a landscape, that make for his film’s most visceral experiences.

Les Misérables

1 h 44 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller | 2019

Director: Ladj Ly

Brigadier Stéphane Ruiz is a young and light-heartened cop who moves to Paris to be closer of his little son after the divorce of his wife. Working in the impoverished suburb of Montfermeil, in the 93th district, where Victor Hugo wrote his famous 1862’s novel “The Miserables”, Ruiz joins the local Anti-Crime Brigade, being paired with veterans but unscrupulous colleagues Chris and Gwada, who are charged with the task to train Ruiz about the way Montfermeil’s works and the people to meet. However, his first day in Montfermeil twists in bad way when the owner of a circus and his men meet where drug-lord Le Maire (“The Mayor”) claiming for a stolen baby lion a few hours ago, blaming him by the theft. Avoiding a fight between Le Maire and circus’ owner, the three cops patrol the hood looking for the animal, learning that a troubled kid named Issa is the thief, who stolen to have it as pet. But when Ruiz, Chris and Gwada locate Issa to recover the baby lion, Issa’s friends attempt to liberate him from the cops. With the situation out of control, Gwada shots a rubber ball just when Issa tried to escape and hits him in the face, just in the moment that all they realize that a drone of a boy named Buzz recorded all the incident. Patrolling around, Chris and Gwada locate Buzz and start a prosecution to catch him after to learn that drone’s card is gone. Hiding in a downstairs, Buzz escapes from Chris and runs to ask refuge to Salah, a Kebab’s owner and leader of the each time more powerful Muslim brotherhood in the hood. While Issa’s friends run to advise Le Maire about the drone and the record, Ruiz, Chris and Gwada moves where Le Pince (“The Clamp”), a bar’s owner in addition to Le Maire’s rival and Chris’ partner in business, looking for help, at the same time that Ruiz goes to a pharmacy to heal Issa’s hurts. But when a confident alerts about Buzz’s location, Le Maire, the cops and Le Pince meet at the same time at Salah’s local claiming by the card, not measuring the consequences of their acts.

Pain and Glory

1 h 53 min | Drama | 2019

Director: Pedro Almodóvar

The protagonist of “Pain and Glory” was at the decline of his career. The man involuntarily looks back into the past, and a stream of vivid memories falls upon him. He recalls such moments from his youth as tender feelings for his mother, love and separation, the search for happiness and success. All this leads the master of cinema to important thoughts about life and art, because this is the most important thing for him.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

2 h 02 min | Drama, Romance | 2019

Director: Céline Sciamma

In 18th century France a young painter, Marianne, is commissioned to do the wedding portrait of Héloïse without her knowing. Therefore, Marianne must observe her model by day to paint her portrait at night. Day by day, the two women become closer as they share Héloïse’s last moments of freedom before the impending wedding.

Sorry We Missed You

1 h 41 min | Drama | 2019

Director: Ken Loach

Ricky and his family have been fighting an uphill struggle against debt since the 2008 financial crash. An opportunity to wrestle back some independence appears with a shiny new van and the chance to run a franchise as a self employed delivery driver. It’s hard work, and his wife’s job as a carer is no easier. The family unit is strong but when both are pulled in different directions everything comes to breaking point.

Synonyms

2 h 03 min | Comedy, Drama | 2019

Director: Nadav Lapid

Yoav, a young Israeli man, has a one-way ticket to Paris believing France to be his salvation from what he sees as the madness of his country. Things don’t get off to a great start as he discovers his living arrangement is unfit for living, yet his grandiose expectations leave no room for a failure to adapt. Wholehearted in his resolution to erase his Jewish-Israeli origins, he refuses to speak Hebrew and obsessively studies his constant companion, a French dictionary. He develops a particularly strong bond with his privileged neighbor who symbolizes – to Yoav – the French promise of fraternité. Nothing can extinguish Yoav’s determination to be thoroughly French. Based on the real-life experiences of writer-director Nadav Lapid, SYNONYMS explores the conflicted realm of fervent Nationalism and the challenges of putting down roots in a foreign land.

The Farewell

1 h 40 min | Comedy, Drama | 2019

Director: Lulu Wang

A headstrong Chinese-American woman returns to China when her beloved grandmother is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Billi struggles with her family’s decision to keep grandma in the dark about her own illness as they all stage an impromptu wedding to see grandma one last time.

Varda by Agnès

1 h 55 min | Documentary, Biography | 2019

Director: Agnès Varda

An unpredictable documentary from a fascinating storyteller, Agnès Varda’s next film sheds light on her experience as a director, bringing a personal insight to what she calls “cine-writing,” traveling from Rue Daguerre in Paris to Los Angeles and Beijing.

Young Ahmed

1 h 25 min | Drama | 2019

Director: Jean-Pierre Dardenne

A Belgian teenager hatches a plot to kill his teacher after embracing an extremist interpretation of the Quran.

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