10. Zombi Child (France)
With Zombi Child, Bertrand Bonello solidifies himself as one of the most aloof filmmakers working in the highest tier of the medium. It’s best to go in blind. It’s the kind of film you don’t see coming at any point. What it’s about and where it’s going remains hidden around every corner until the final moments leave your jaw on the floor. Bonello blends slow-burn horror, teen coming-of-age, Haitian voodoo magic, cerebral thriller, oppressive Franco-Haitian colonial history, and the dead to tell a story that is quite unlike any you’ve seen, regardless of whether it ends up being your cup of tea. Louise Labeque and Wislanda Louimat give terrific performances. Watching them is like watching kids sneak around Hogwarts at night, tip-toeing their way through dark candlelight in stately halls with the threat and excitement of magic on the horizon.
9. The Painter and the Thief (Norway)
Imagine wanting to become friends with someone who is responsible for the looting and disappearance of some of your most prized possessions. After renowned Czech artist Barbara Kysilkova has two of her paintings stolen from a gallery, Karl Bertil-Nordland, the Norwegian culprit, is held on trial, and Kysilkova befriends him with the express intent of painting his portrait (and, perhaps, figuring out what he did with her work). Documentarian Benjamin Ree captures the absolutely bewildering story by tracking the development of their friendship in real-time. However, he delivers it to us in fractured time, the non-linear aspect derailing what we think we know about our subjects.
8. Night of the Kings (France)
Every prison is filled with people lost in their own fiction. They’re innocent, they’re powerful, they’re fearless — in Philippe Lacôte‘s latest, that desire for a story takes a more external form. Deep in a forest within Ivory Coast, the MACA prison is controlled by an inmate. He’s dying, though, and in an effort to hold power just that much longer, he invokes the prison’s fabled tradition of the Roman, a young man chosen to tell a story through the night of a red moon. If he ends before dawn, he’ll be killed. The story he tells involving a famed criminal takes center stage, but it’s far from the only fiction woven throughout the night. Night of the Kings champions storytelling over the storyteller, but Lacôte’s eye for visuals and character remains strong throughout delivering a uniquely structured tale in its own right. (Rob Hunter)
7. Another Round (Denmark)
There is a new “the boys” in town, and they’re Danish. Mads Mikkelsen leads Thomas Vinterberg’s film about a group of four middle-aged guys who teach at the local high school and find life rather dull. To spice things up, they embark on an alcoholic experiment in which they dose themselves up to a specific ABV at school in order to find out if it makes their day-to-day a little brighter. In their lighter phases, the film is everything you could want from an engaging real-world comedy: relatable, hilarious, beautifully shot, cleverly written, deftly characterized, etc. But as the levels increase, so does the drama, building up to an emotional, riotous, and deeply satisfying finale.
6. Collective (Romania)
Alexander Nanau’s imminent documentary about the sickness that has become the Romanian healthcare system is the kind of film you should go into mentally and emotionally prepared for. Maybe with a barf bag, too, just to be safe. After a fire at a club in Bucharest left twenty-seven people dead and one-hundred-and-eighty more injured (thirty-seven more of whom would later die), the country was left in shock as to why there were not government-mandated safety precautions in place. And furthermore, as to how the thirty-seven more died in the hospital from burn wounds. We follow a team of local journalists in their stifled attempts to uncover the how and the why. In real-time, they slowly unveil a spine-chilling and ever-deepening corruption. Driven by the capitalist envy of big pharma, it seeped long into the country’s institutions of medicine like a sponge. But someone on the inside is finally trying to change that.