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.
Francisco Algarín Navarro
Dr Nandana Bose
José Cabrera Betancort
Buñel in Mexico
Michael J. Casey
Henri de Corinth
Wheeler Winston Dixon
Gwendolyn Audrey Foster
Jennifer Lynde Barker
Josh B Mabe
Koen Van Daele
Nicholas de Villiers
Mark William Watkins
Jason Philip Wierzba