Film Review: "Unbroken"

I would never wish to diminish the enormous suffering Louis Zamperini endured during World War 2 but I think Angelina Jolie's tribute to him through this film did him some disservice.

If "Unbroken" leaves you a broken man after suffering two hours with it, then Jolie succeeded in her endeavor. But if you are like myself and you find yourself rolling your eyes about an hour  into the movie and start feeling like you are in some bizarre theater of the absurd watching a man undergo such terrible hardship and suffering that it just couldn't be real then you will have also laughed despairingly at the movie too often at times that you would feel so embarrassed until a couple others start snickering and chuckling too.

There must be a special recipe if one wants to do a biopic about a man who survived unspeakable atrocity without showing just all the suffering otherwise it defeats the primary purpose of the story, which is to inspire. The director and the top-caliber writers unfortunately did not find that recipe. Yes, many of the shots are amazing and the canvas has that "Look at me, this is an epic" feel about it but the tone adapted for the movie was just too bleak, too morose.

In "Unbroken", the story of Zamperini, though not completely heroic in the mold of, say, T.E. Lawrence, is something to derive inspiration from. His story is so incredible that it fits perfectly in the stranger-than-fiction category. What made his story somewhat absurd is the film's Christ-like depiction of it, including a climax that evokes Christ's carrying of the cross.

Again, Zamperini's story is ultimately a triumphant one. He may have been the unluckiest man during the war but he made peace with it and in the movie's only memorable scene, just before the end credits, a reel of an 80-year-old Zamperini carrying the Olympic flame through Tokyo is shown along with the requisite end title cards telling us what became of some key characters after the war because, after all, this is a true story.

The performance by Jack O'Connell is good though not as strong as his turn in "Starred Up". The Japanese actor who portrayed his nemesis was terrible - he was not entirely scary. He was weird and so was the depiction of his relationship to Zamperini.

Rating: 3 Stars

Film Review: "Wild"

There is one scene early on in "Wild" that convinced me the movie is going to be something i'll love. It was how the music was used organically to establish the two main characters in the story and how this brilliant idea instantly revealed to us the soul and the spirit that will propel Cheryl Strayed to do the crazy idea of hiking 900 miles across three states along the Pacific Crest Trail.

There are thematic similarities between Jean Marc-Vallee's "Wild" and Sean Penn's "Into The Wild" but whereas the latter ended quite tragically, the former carries a happier and more hopeful conclusion.

"Wild" is based on the incredible journals of Cheryl Strayed when she spent over three months hiking over deserts, mountains and forests in searing heat and snow in search of her proverbial self and her worth as a person -- and in atonement for the many transgressions she has committed against herself and people who loved and cared for her.

The hike also served as the final stage of her grieving process. It's an emotional and deeply moving film that validates the capacity of the human spirit to triumph over extreme adversity when equipped with determination, inspiration and, to some degree, desperation.

The movie features a masterful screen adaptation and an excellent performance from Oscar-winner Reese Witherspoon. Marc-Vallee's direction is divine and the editing utterly flawless.

The parade of supporting casts are also impressive but I remember most the boy Cheryl encountered on the trail who sings to her and in the process helps usher in a cathartic, well-earned cry --- which rubbed off on me, too!

And, above all, Cheryl's journey has inspired me to consider doing a similar hike as well. Just an idea for now. A crazy one.

Rating: 5 Stars

Film Review: "The Imitation Game"

There's not a single memorable scene in "The Imitation Game" and no scene stands out over the others because every scene in the movie is as memorable as the other. Each scene is beautifully composed and filled with wonderful performances from a uniformly marvelous cast and a stupendous, career-defining turn by Benedict Cumberbatch who may just, quite possibly, snag the Best Actor Oscar for his quiet and tortured performance as Alan Turing, a closeted homosexual who, with the help of a team he assembled, successfully cracked Enigma, the NAZI communication device that proved to be impenetrable and allowed Hitler to conquer much of Europe until Alan Turing defeated him, that is.

The movie is an imposing document of one man's undeclared greatness and enormous sacrifice to save millions of lives in exchange of his own. What an incredible film! What a triumphant performance by Mr. Cumberbatch. I always say that a good movie is one that moves me to tears. This one did. I wrote a quick review for my Facebook friends immediately after the movie ended. I stood up in a corner of the cinema, typed my rave review until i noticed that tears were still flowing through my cheeks, washing the sense of loss i felt for Mr. Turning. Those were tears for his brilliant but short and uncelebrated life; for the pain he carried in his heart because society wouldn't allow him to express who he was, because society decided that he was only good for what he can provide; and for his role in the rise of computer technology and for not benefiting from it.

I am raving about the movie not solely because the story is exceptional. I am raving because the quality of the movie-making is just as exceptional. The narrative jumps between three important periods in Mr. Turing's remarkable life: his years in school, his years in the service and his terribly sad final years --- when the world was celebrating the rewards of peace brought on by the end of World War 2 and Mr. Turing was quietly suffering inside, devoid of peace because the world didn't know who he was and those who knew and had power to grant him some piece of happiness wouldn't give it to him.

Mr. Turing was recognized for his greatness decades after he died. It may have been late, but as this movie shows, it is never too late to celebrate his life. His story is sad but it is ultimately inspiring. "The Imitation Game" is one of the very best films of the year. You should watch it!

Rating: 5 Stars

Film Review: "Big Eyes"

"Big Eyes" is based on an astonishing story of deception and of a husband and wife battling over the authorship of a series of paintings about children with hauntingly big eyes that set the art world on fire during the '60s. It is also an examination of what really constitutes art and its legitimacy. Additionally, it also examines the testy relationship between commerce and art. Does one wait for his art to be discovered or is it okay to advertise, promote and sell your art?

The movie also shines a light on the role of critics in relation to art. There's a scene in the film that somewhat validates the need for critics while at the same time sharply questioning our role in the appreciation of and elevation of art and the artist. In this day and age of social media when people can create almost anything, the movie sorts of puts the focus on what makes art truly art.

Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz play the warring couple. Their performances are commendable but not really memorable (given their excellent body of work) with Waltz delivering his usual hyper-acting -- which is unfortunately becoming really annoying. This movie features a dark story but lighted in pleasantly vibrant hue -- a welcome surprise from director Tim Burton.

Rating: 4 Stars

Film Review: "Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)"

Let's start this review by pointing out that the movie was filmed in one single continuous shot. Actually not but it was shot and edited in such a way that as if we were all watching one seamless, fluid take. It's a ravishing display of visual flourish. It deserves to win Best Editing Oscar!

The opening sequence is a dizzying tour inside a Broadway theater as we observe a group of actors and crewmen mount a stage play based on a Raymond Carver short story. The characters are introduced one by one until we get a sense of what the core story is all about.

It is a story about a has-been actor on the edge of insanity and his relationship with his daughter, his ex-wife, his girlfriend, his manager/producer, his insecure leading lady and an obnoxious actor tapped to replace another who was hit by a spotlight.

The movie follows Michael Keaton's character as he tries to compose himself amid a spiraling chaos of directing and acting in his first Broadway play in a desperate attempt to rekindle the fire that made him a huge Hollywood star twenty years before. He is a walking time bomb that could just explode any moment. The tense final minutes of the film is going to test your patience and will make you wonder how the director plans to end the story. Fortunately, Alejandro Gonzalez Innaritu, the director, devised three separate endings that complement the other with a final sequence that gives us a sense that there was really no other way --- that Birdman had to fly.

Another interesting topic touched on rather extensively by the movie is the role of critics in the success or failure of every Broadway show. No artist would easily acknowledge their affection for a particular critic but they would always look out for their compliments first minute they open the morning paper. It's a delicate act but it's the nature of the business. Critics don't create art, so to speak, but we set the bad art from the good and the great ones.

Michael Keaton is in fine form here and may just finally nab an Oscar without ever having to go through what his character did in this fictional tale.

Rating: 5 Stars

Film Review: "The Interview"

Like every Seth Rogen/James Franco comedy of late, "The Interview" is nothing but a series of outrageous gags that are sometimes funny but oftentimes ridiculous and yet, somehow, the duo always manages to miraculously knit together a narrative thread that comes off uneven but nevertheless engaging and, at times, entertaining.

The last Rogen/Franco collaboration that I saw was their movie about a group of stoners trying to survive the end of the world. I found it horrible, distasteful and unfunny and I did not bother finishing it. I swore not to watch another comedy of theirs.

Then came "The Interview".

This movie is a tad better than their last film. It features a host of celebrity cameos and Katy Perry's hit song "Fireworks". This comedy, like their previous one, is a fantasy concocted by Rogen and a couple of other guys and dealt with the planned assassination of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. The premise is provocative and, for the most part, the movie lived up to its ambitions -- but it is still a stupid, silly movie that would have been a whole lot better if the banter between the two main characters was fresher and if more jokes were a lot funnier.

Yes, Kim Jong-un dies in the end. We all know that otherwise there would not have been so much hoopla over the movie and Sony Pictures would not have been hacked but how the dictator dies in the film is less dramatic as one would expect. The actual assassination however takes place during the interview between Franco's character and Kim Jong-un. The segment is the funniest and finest part of the film and, for this alone, the movie deserves to be seen --- whether one is merely curious because of the controversy or one is a fan of the Rogen/Franco brand of comedy.

This film is not a parody, not a satire. It is just an insane fantasy with no political agenda -- it can't be propaganda against North Korea, otherwise, it would be an insult not just to them but to all master propagandists. This is the kind of movie that you watch, have a laugh, talk a little about then you forget about it.

Rating: 3 Stars

Film Review: "Into the Woods"

Saw Disney’s adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s “Into the Woods” and it was an experience that left me wanting for more. I never watched the Broadway musical nor was I aware of what the story was about except for what Disney was teasing in their promos and trailers for the movie. I know there’s a witch, a wolf, a girl with a red hood, a young lady calling herself Cinderella, a baker and his wife.

The movie opens with a rousing musical suite introducing some familiar fairy tale characters who are oddly not so similar to the characters we have grown to know and love. Cinderella, for example, does not have a fairy godmother but a dead mother who grants her wishes. Little Red Riding Hood loves her cookies so much to the point of stealing them from the hapless baker. Jack of Jack and the Beanstalk tale is charmingly dimwitted. And there’s a subplot involving Rapunzel (who I am tempted to call a slut because she hooks up with the first prince she meets!), the evil witch and the childless baker.

“Into the Woods” is an enthralling invitation for fairy tale fans to venture into another world where the fairy tale characters act differently and almost irreverently – and the latter is where I had issues with it most. Being unfamiliar with the world that Sondheim created, I went into the cinema expecting a grand Disney spectacle that takes its subject matter seriously and offers its audience some escape into the magical world inside the woods, filled with witches, princesses and princes and fairies – but I was so wrong!

When I go into a Disney movie, I always expect the child in me to be satisfied. I want wonder, I want magic. "Into the Woods" feels too adult at times that I worry that the kids may not find the film to their liking.

And I would put the responsibility about the movie squarely on director Rob Marshall’s shoulder. Had he embraced the farcical tone of the musical and made all the characters cheeky from the start, my expectation about the film would have been set right instead of myself wondering why nearly everyone in the theater were laughing hysterically to Chris Pine’s characterization of Prince Charming that I had to whisper to my friend and ask what it was that I am missing. She told me why and that’s when it dawned on me that the story was not supposed to be taken seriously. But it was already too late. My disappointment lingered and that prevented me from totally enjoying some of the grandest movie production designs this year and Meryl Streep’s bravura turn as the evil witch.

The cast are uniformly good but the uneven narrative and inconsistent storytelling style makes you wish yourself for a better adaptation.

Rating: 2 Stars

Sneak Peek: Brand New "Inside Out" trailer is here!

The brand-new trailer for Disney's 2015 offering "Inside Out" is here. Watch the trailer below.

Inside Out is a female buddy adventure fantasy-comedy film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and released by Walt Disney Pictures. The film is based on an original idea by Pete Docter, who is directing the film along with co-director Ronnie del Carmen, and producer Jonas Rivera.

The impeccable voice cast includes Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Mindy Kaling, Kaitlyn Dias, Diane Lane, Kyle MacLachlan and John Ratzenberger.

Opens on June 19, 2015!

Oscars 2015: 9 Films Advance in Foreign Language Race

Nine features advanced to the next round of voting in the Foreign Language Film category for the 87th Academy Awards®.  Eighty-three films had originally been considered in the category.

The lucky films are:

Poland, "Ida," Paweł Pawlikowski, director

Sweden, "Force Majeure," Ruben Östlund, director

Mauritania, "Timbuktu," Abderrahmane Sissako, director

 Argentina, "Wild Tales," Damián Szifrón, director

Venezuela, "The Liberator," Alberto Arvelo, director

Russia, "Leviathan," Andrey Zvyagintsev, director

Estonia, "Tangerines," Zaza Urushadze, director

Georgia, "Corn Island," George Ovashvili, director

Netherlands, "Accused," Paula van der Oest, director

Foreign Language Film nominations for 2014 are being determined in two phases.

The Phase I committee, consisting of several hundred Los Angeles-based Academy members, screened the original submissions in the category between mid-October and December 15.  The group’s top six choices, augmented by three additional selections voted by the Academy’s Foreign Language Film Award Executive Committee, constitute the shortlist.

The shortlist will be winnowed down to the category’s five nominees by specially invited committees in New York, Los Angeles and, for the first time, London.  They will spend Friday, January 9, through Sunday, January 11, viewing three films each day and then casting their ballots.

The 87th Academy Awards nominations will be announced live on Thursday, January 15, 2015, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

The Oscars® will be held on Sunday, February 22, 2015, at the Dolby Theatre® at Hollywood & Highland Center® in Hollywood, and will be televised live by the ABC Television Network.  The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 225 countries and territories worldwide.

Raymond Lo

PSIFF 2015: Full Festival Lineup

The first film festival in the world this year begins on January 2nd with over a hundred excellent titles from all over the world - I just so love their slogan this year, "Goodbye Winter, Hello World". Let's all say hello back to PSIFF!

Below are the films to be screened at the festival this year. I have already seen some of the titles so I decided to put my ratings of those films next to the titles. The ratings may vary but they are all worth watching!

A Girl At My Door
South Korea, 2014, 119 min. 
Doona Bae (Cloud Atlas) stars as a female police chief whose attempts to protect a teenage girl from domestic abuse exposes levels of violence and bigotry in a provincial seaside town. 

Above and Beyond  
USA, 2014, 87 min.
On the first day of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, Tel Aviv was bombed. The Israelis, employing only a tiny air force, faced imminent disaster. What could they do? 

Netherlands, 2014, 97 min.
This tense thriller is based on the true story of one of the biggest miscarriages of justice in Dutch history, the case of intensive care nurse Lucia de Berk, aka “The Angel of Death.” 

Hungary, 2014, 90 min.
Tender, funny and surprising, Afterlife is a sweetly absurdist coming-of-age tale that explores the relationship between an anxious twentysomething and his controlling father, a village Pastor — not only while the older man is alive, but also after his death. 

Belgium, 2014, 93 min.
Amour fou is particularly deranged in this maniacal tale of two lovers who conflate raging passion and rampant bloodletting. The story of the “honeymoon killers” remains just as shocking in this contemporary retelling as when it was ripped from the headlines for the 1969 cult classic. 

An Eye for Beauty
Canada, 2014, 102 min.
A handsome, married Québecois architect (Érin Bruneau) begins an affair, confident that he can juggle two relationships. He is wrong, of course… 

An Honest Liar
USA, 2014, 92 min.
Liar. Cheat. Charlatan. Truth teller. Confused? Meet James “The Amazing” Randi. He’s spent half a century entertaining millions with his remarkable feats of magic, escape and trickery, but also debunking those who use the same techniques to cheat others. 

Germany, 2014, 82 min.
Palm Springs resident and film and art legend Udo Kier is “arteholic”. He lives, breathes and makes art. In this playful docu-fiction, we follow Udo on a road trip through famous museums and eavesdrop on chats with artists and filmmakers.

August Winds
Brazil, 2014, 77 min.
A gorgeously shot, sensual tone poem, centering on the romance between handsome deep-sea diver Jeison and beautiful coconut plantation worker Shirley. 

Back on Board: Greg Louganis
USA, 2014, 88 min.
Incorporating vintage footage of diving champion Greg Louganis’ rise to greatness and intimate views of the turmoil in his personal life along with candid interviews with Louganis and those who know him best, this an engrossing portrait of the four-time Olympian.

Canada, 2014, 92 min.
A young couple heads off on what is supposed to be a romantic camping trip. Alex has nothing but love in his heart. Unfortunately he loses his bearings, and gradually at first, then very, very rapidly, things go south.

Ballet Boys
Norway, 2014, 75 min.
This inspiring documentary takes viewers into the lives of three young dancers; through disappointments, victories, friendships, first loves, doubt, faith, and finding one’s own way. In short, everything about being a teenager, all mixed with beautiful dance sequences.

Norway, 2014, 110 min.
Based on the best selling Norwegian novel, this is the ultimate coming-of-age story. Four teenage boys are growing up in Oslo at the time when Beatlemania hits Norway. The only thing they know for certain is that the Beatles are the best band in the world! 

Cuba, 2014, 108 min.
A veteran teacher goes to bat for an impoverished 11-year-old student in this award-winning drama, a courageous movie that has taken Cuba by storm. 

Beloved Sisters
Germany, 2014, 170 min.
German director Dominik Graf lets his Romantic imagination run wild in this tasteful but erotically charged melodrama about the love life of German sturm-und-drang philosopher and writer Friedrich Schiller, the object of a pact between two sisters who decide to love him equally. 

Beti and Amare
Ethiopia, 2014, 94 min.
In 1936 Ethiopia, a young girl in the desolate countryside develops a relationship with a strange being who’s fallen from the sky… Andy Siege’s dreamlike low-budget sci-fi allegory is rife with visual invention and affecting narrative turns. 

USA, 2014, 106 min.
A troubled 11-year-old kid is plucked from poverty to be part of the American Boychoir School, but is initially resented by tough choirmaster Carvelle (Dustin Hoffman). 

The Breach
USA, 2014, 85 min.
After watching Pacific Northwest salmon populations dwindle, a fishing guide/filmmaker sets out on a quest for answers. The resulting documentary spins an alarming tale of human stupidity and a looming ecological crisis so dire that you'll be left praying that it's all just a fish story.

Chagall - Malevich  
Russia, 2014, 120 min.
Two of Russia’s greatest artists: Marc Chagall and Kazimir Malevich. A story of love and passion, hatred and egotism, and the clash of huge creative personalities. 

Charlie’s Country  
Australia, 2014, 108 min.
A hypnotically beautiful film that parallels star David Gulpilil’s own troubled life and epitomizes the cultural dislocation that aboriginal people face in contemporary Australia. 

Belgium, 2014, 84 min.
This cinematic delight is infused with just the right touch of social realism, fantasy and dark humor. Weighing 220 pounds, 12-year-old Kevin Bouboule’s life is far from easy until he comes across a German shepherd belonging to the burly guard Patrick, and befriends both the dog and its owner. 

Germany, 2014, 114 min.
With all the high drama of a political thriller, Laura Poitras puts you face-to-face with Edward Snowden and goes where no filmmaker has ever gone before: directly into the heart of America’s secret NSA surveillance programs.

Ciudad Delirio
Colombia, 2014, 100 min.
A Spanish doctor falls for a beautiful dancer on a trip to Colombia; when he comes back to stay he has to fend off her aggressive, immature ex-boyfriend and attempt to win her over against a swirling backdrop of exuberant salsa music and dance. 

Clouds of Sils Maria
France, 2014, 124 min.
Set high in the Swiss Alps, Olivier Assayas’ beautifully directed backstage drama hinges on a bravura turn from Juliette Binoche as a star wrestling with questions of aging, identity and the meanings of art and life. 

Come to My Voice
Turkey, 2014, 101 min.
A Kurdish girl and her grandmother are placed in the Kafkaesque situation of needing to hand over nonexistent guns in order to free the girl’s father from a Turkish prison. 

Concrete Night (5 Stars)
Finland, 2013, 96 min.
Shot in stunning black-and-white, Concrete Night is a dream-like odyssey through Helsinki over the course of one night. A 14-year-old boy from the slums roams the streets with his older brother, on his last day before incarceration. 

Corn Island
Georgia, 2014, 100 min.
A fable-like drama capturing the cycle of life along the border between Georgia and Abkhazia. An old farmer sows corn on one of the tiny islands that form in the Inguri River each spring, but cultivating no-man’s land is dangerous business. 

Cowboys  (4 ½ Stars)
Croatia, 2013, 107 min.
A nifty blend of social drama and absurdist comedy, about a bunch of small town no-hopers who stage an American Western as a musical. 

Cut Snake
Australia, 2014, 94 min.
An ex-con’s past returns to haunt him when his old cellmate arrives unannounced, intent on picking up where they left off. This bruising Aussie neo-noir knows how to throw a sucker punch, delivering everything expected from a crime thriller while delighting in subverting expectations. 

Dancing Arabs
Israel, 2014, 105 min.
Eran Riklis’ best film since The Syrian Bride looks at the difficult road taken by Arab Israeli student Eyad (Tawfeek Barhum), who wins a scholarship to a posh Israeli high school—where he’s the only Arab in attendance.

The Dark Horse
New Zealand, 2014, 124 min.
Genesis Potini is a legend in New Zealand, a bipolar Maori who helped turn around the lives of some 15,000 Maori children by teaching them the intricacies of chess. 

The Dark Valley  
Austria, 2014, 115 min.
In this moody, almost Gothic feature, the Western genre’s mainstays are all in place – a brooding hero, an isolated town full of secrets; a revenge motif; an evil villain – but the majestic Alpine backdrop against which the archetypical tale plays out is something quite different. 

Egypt, 2014, 116 min.
An overworked film production designer begins to lose her grip on reality, slipping into the fabricated life she is creating on her latest movie set. This playful meta-movie finds contemporary purchase on the conventions of the classic “women’s picture.”

Don Quixote: The Ingenious Gentleman of La Mancha
USA, 2014, 83 min.
Tilting at windmills, James Franco (who plays a role) and his USC film students have made a faithful and warm-hearted period adaptation of Cervantes’ picaresque about the mad would-be knight (Carmen Argenziano) and his hilarious companion Sancho Panza (Luis Guzmán). 

The Duke of Burgundy (3 ½ Stars)
United Kingdom, 2014, 101 min.
From the director of Berberian Sound Studio, a sly, wry, but surprisingly tender account of a perverse lesbian SM relationship, played in the style of decadent Euro-porn of the 1970s but with more than a few post-modern kinks of its own. It’s the thinking woman’s 50 Shades of Grey. 

Pakistan, 2014, 93 min.
In the mountains of northern Pakistan, a mother and her ten-year-old daughter flee their home on the eve of the girl’s arranged wedding to an aging tribal leader and a deadly hunt for them begins. 

Effie Gray
United Kingdom, 2014, 108 min.
Dakota Fanning illuminates the silver screen as the wife of Victorian art critic John Ruskin who caused a scandal when she left him for painter John Everett Millais. 

Excuse My French
Egypt, 2014, 99 min.
A smash box office success in Egypt, this comic coming-of-age story from the director of Asma’a spotlights social discrimination. Twelve-year-old Hany, a smart boy from a privileged Coptic Christian family, is mistaken for a Muslim when he attends a government-run public school.

Eyes of a Thief
Palestinian Territories, 2014, 98 min.
Palestine’s Academy Award® submission is simultaneously a thriller and a relationships drama about an ex-prisoner with a dark past, and a nuanced portrait of life under occupation. 

Fair Play
Czech Republic, 2014, 100 min.
In Czechoslovakia circa 1983, a talented young sprinter risks her career by resisting the “special care” program designed to boost her competition times in this involving drama. 

The Farewell Party  
Israel, 2014, 93 min.
“The provocative issue of euthanasia is addressed with wisdom, sensitivity and a welcome strain of humor. Anyone ever touched by the inexorable decline of an elderly family member afflicted with terminal illness or dementia will be moved by this tender, unexpectedly charming tale.

Felix and Meira
Canada, 2014, 105 min.
Tracing the blossoming relationship between a married Hasidic woman and a secular loner, this subtle romance is a study of love and liberty. 

A Few Cubic Meters Of Love
Afghanistan, 2014, 90 min.
Set in a shantytown on the outskirts of Tehran where a factory owner employs a horde of illegal Afghan workers, this affecting social issue drama centers on a forbidden relationship. 

Fidelio, Alice’s Journey
France, 2014, 97 min.
Mechanic Alice takes a job on a cargo ship - only to discover that the captain is a former lover. An old sea dog’s diary sets her thinking about the love lives of sailors. Meanwhile her fiance waits patiently in port in this impressive, beautifully shot debut feature. 

Spain, 2014, 99 min.
Buried passions and lingering emotional memories are expressed through mysterious flower deliveries in a film that finds poetic resonance between a quiet, unhappily married woman and an older woman who yearns for a grandchild – their lives connected by a sudden tragic event. 

Force Majeure (5 Stars)
Sweden, 2014, 118 min.
Set in a European ski resort, this is a bitingly funny dissection of masculinity found wanting from rising Swedish star Ruben Ostlund. 

Futuro Beach
Brazil, 2014, 106 min.
Two breakneck motorcycle rides bookend a tactile gay romance, told over three chapters and in the contrasting locations of sexy Brazil and frigid Berlin. Karim Ainouz’s latest feature is an astonishingly colorful and intimate look into the complexities of human relationships.

Gemma Bovery
France, 2014, 99 min.
A lovely, young, bored wife; a neglectful husband; a handsome suitor… And the nosy neighbor convinced he’s watching Flaubert’s Madame Bovery replay before his very eyes (albeit with an English twist in the form of Gemma Arterton’s voluptuous Gemma). This Anglo-French confection mixes romance, comedy. 

Gente de bien
Colombia, 2014, 86 min.
Sent to live with his estranged, handyman father, ten-year-old Eric is treated like a son by the man’s rich, kindly employer, but socio-economic differences surface and the boy is forced to confront painful truths. 

Gett, The Trial of Viviane Amsalem
Israel, 2014, 115 min.
Israel’s answer to Iran’s A Separation, this powerhouse courtroom drama is stirring winds of change in Israeli society. 

Lebanon, 2013, 100 min.
A gently barbed social satire about bigotry and redemption in a traditional Lebanese coastal town. 

The Golden Era (4 Stars)  
China, 2014, 178 min.
A free spirit, Xio Hang became one of the most influential political essayists and a major influence in Chinese literature, reflecting progressive thinking not often seen in 1930s China. A bold, beautiful biopic from the director of A Simple Life and the star of Lust, Caution. 

Goodnight Mommy  
Austria, 2014, 99 min.
A mother and her alienated twins get caught up in an increasingly disturbing battle of wills in this elegantly warped chiller from producer Ulrich Seidl. 

Grand Street
USA, 2014, 81 min.
A brief, chance encounter between two drifting souls who share an all-but-forgotten past sets the stage for a whirlwind, romance-fueled journey through the teeming streets and shadowy scenes of late night Manhattan in this impressionistic, deeply satisfying debut feature from writer/director Lex Sid.

The Grandad
Iceland, 2014, 90 min.
Mild-mannered Gudjón is approaching retirement. A dream trip to the Canary Islands with his wife doesn’t turn out the way he expects and forces him to take a good, hard look at his marriage and his life. An hilarious comedy about aging (with serious undertones).

The Grump  
Finland, 2014, 104 min.
A stubborn, set-in-his-ways, 80-year-old farmer is forced to spend some time in capital Helsinki where he rants about the modern world and imposes on his daughter in law. 

Güeros (3 ½ Stars)
Mexico, 2014, 106 min.
A teenage boy goes to live with his slacker brother in Mexico City in the midst of the massive student protests of 1999. They go searching for a legendary folk singer in this witty and stylish nod to the French New Wave.

The Guide
Ukraine, 2013, 120 min.
A boy on the run is rescued by a blind folk minstrel in this tale of love, loyalty, betrayal and infamy, set during the suppression of rural kulaks — wealthy farmers — and the Soviet-engineered Ukraine famine that left as many as 10 million peasants dead from starvation. 

South Korea, 2014, 111 min.
Snowpiercer director Bong Joon-ho oversaw this extremely tense, ethically-probing dramatic thriller set onboard a rundown fishing trawler. To stave off bankruptcy the captain has agreed to smuggle migrants, but his human cargo proves less pliable than expected.

India, 2014, 159 min.
Set in Kashmir of the mid 1990s when militancy was at its peak, Vishal Bharwaj’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet brings its ecstasy, pain and passion to life with an intensity rarely seen in a Bollywood movie. 

Halla Halla
Sweden, 2014, 97 min.
A touching and warm-hearted comedy about love and rebellion in a small community full of lively and eccentric characters that addresses the theme daring to make changes even in middle age. 

Argentina, 2013, 102 min.
Award-winning filmmaker Marco Berger (Plan B, Absent) invests this tale of romantic longing between two men from opposite sides of the tracks with an exquisite sense of slow-burning passion, as a young, drifting laborer finds himself at the door of a childhood acquaintance who offers him odd jobs.

Helicopter Mom
USA, 2014, 83 min.
Convinced that her closeted son needs a push out of the heteronormative nest, an overbearing mom outs him in front of his school. The only problem? He’s not sure he’s gay. 

Henri Henri
Canada, 2014, 100 min.
In the tradition of Mr Hulot and Amelie, this gentle, luminous comedy about a naïve innocent whose sole dream is to put light in the lives of those he meets will ensure you leave the theater with a smile. 

Holbrook/Twain: An American Odyssey
USA, 2014, 94 min.
Hal Holbrook has been performing on stage as Mark Twain for over 100 years. Well, not quite. But he has been doing it for more than six decades. This gorgeous black-and-white documentary portrait-of-the-artist-as-a-not-so-young man peels back the curtain on Holbrook’s fascinating and inspiring creation.

Hope and Wire
New Zealand, 2014, 96 min.
More drama than doc, but incorporating first-hand accounts, news footage, and the real-life devastation still evident in the New Zealand city of Christchurch, this account of the 2010-2011 earthquakes is a vivid reminder that Mother Nature holds the trump cards. 

The Hours With You
Mexico, 2014, 92 min.
Three generations of Mexican actresses combine in this emotional tour de force, a heartfelt drama about a young woman facing an unwanted pregnancy called to the deathbed of her beloved grandmother and forced to confront her difficult relationship with her outspoken mom. 

How I Got Over
USA, 2014, 87 min.
Honest, revealing and remarkably moving, Nicole Boxer’s uplifting documentary chronicles the daily triumphs and setbacks of a group of 15 formerly homeless women as they create an original play based on their true-life stories, for a Kennedy Center performance. 

Human Capital (3 ½ Stars)  
Italy, 2013, 111 min.
The destinies of two families are irrevocably tied together after a cyclist is killed in a hit and run incident in this engrossing transposition of a Stephen Amidon novel to northern Italy. 

The Humbling
USA, 2014, 112 min.
Barry Levinson’s alternately loony and lacerating new comedy, adapted from Philip Roth’s eponymous final novel by award-winning screenwriter Buck Henry, boasts a dream cast in a twisted tale about an ageing actor (Al Pacino) who literally takes a nose dive into the dark recesses of his craft.

I Can Quit Whenever I Want
Italy, 2014, 100 min.
A top box office success in Italy, this smart, topical satire follows a bunch of redundant academics pulling a Breaking Bad and entering the drug trade. 

Ida (4 ½ Stars)
Poland, 2013, 80 min.
A moving and intimate drama set in 1960s Poland, about a young novitiate on the verge of taking her vows who discovers a dark family secret dating from the Nazi occupation. 

In Her Place  
Canada, 115 min.
When a sterile woman negotiates the secret adoption of an impoverished, erratic teenager’s unborn baby, the stage is set for an involving psychodrama. The precariousness of their arrangement lends an intoxicating tension to their tragic tale as it wends its way to a dizzying, devastating close.

In Order of Disappearance
Norway, 2014, 116 min.
Stellan Skarsgard is a snowplow driver cleaning up a gang of drug-dealers in this black comic Norwegian revenge thriller reuniting the director and star of A Somewhat Gentle Man.

In the Crosswind
Estonia, 2014, 87 min.
An art film in every sense of the word, this black-and-white slice of history mixes live-action with tableaux vivants to provide a requiem for inhabitants of the Baltics deported to Siberia or killed on Stalin’s orders. 

Inbetween Worlds
Germany, 2014, 102 min.
This realistic and beautifully acted story of an impulsive German army captain and his intrepid interpreter was shot in Afghanistan. Aladag highlights the often-frustrating red tape of modern warfare, the opposite approach of the underequipped but fired-up local resistance fighters.

USA, 2014, 74 min.
Legendary documentarian Albert Maysles brings the same big-hearted approach to his latest subject as he did with his classic Grey Gardens. Here he shines his camera (and charm) on irreverent fashion maven Iris Apfel. 

It Follows  
USA, 2014, 100 min.
Something wicked this way comes! It Follows is a daring and original horror movie about a sexually-transmitted stalker whose relentless bloodlust can only be diverted onto your next lover. 

The Japanese Dog (4 Stars)  
Romania, 2013, 85 min.
This moving tale centers on bereaved 80-year-old reconnecting with his estranged son, who returns to Romania with a Japanese wife and child. 

Kebab & Horoscope
Poland, 2014, 72 min.
A former kebab-shop employee and an out-of-work horoscope writer declare themselves marketing experts and are hired to help a struggling carpet emporium in this droll shaggy-dog story. 

Keep On Keepin’ On
USA, 2014, 84 min.
Clark Terry, one of the all-time great jazz trumpeters, mentored giants Quincy Jones and Miles Davis. Now 93, Clark has formed a special bond with current student, 23-year-old blind piano prodigy Justin Kauflin. Their relationship is as moving as the sweetest melody you ever heard. 

Kurmanjan Datka: Queen of the Mountains  
Kyrgyzstan, 2014, 131 min.
A sumptuous and exotic historical epic tracing the true story of a young woman who rises to become the savior of her people, this is the engrossing tale of Kurmanjan Datka, who united the warring tribes of her Central Asian nation and led them against the Russian Empire’s invading forces. 

La Tirisia
Mexico, 2014, 110 min.
Two women are both pregnant by the same man, but neither is married to him. Structured over the course of five months, this visually rich, cumulatively powerful film is distinguished by its empathy and compassion. 

Lake Los Angeles
USA, 2014, 85 min.
A lonely, middle-aged Cuban man and a rootless 10-year-old Mexican girl cross paths in stark Antelope Valley briefly before returning to parallel interior worlds. 

Learning to Drive  
USA, 2014, 105 min.
After her husband leaves her, a Manhattan writer (Patricia Clarkson) finds solace in her biweekly lessons with a Sikh driving instructor (Ben Kingsley), in this highly observant and sweetly funny adaptation of Katha Pollitt’s 2002 essay for The New Yorker. 

The Lesson
Bulgaria, 2014, 107 min.
An honest, hard-working schoolteacher in a small Bulgarian town is driven to desperate measures to avoid financial ruin and must grapple with the moral consequences of her actions. 

Russia, 2014, 140 min.
A hard-hitting parable of the Putin era, this modern take on the Biblical story of Job is a devastating tragedy set in contemporary Russia. 

Li’l Quinquin  
France, 2014, 200 min.
The previously austere art-house director Bruno Dumont surprises with this laugh-out-loud screwball police procedural, originally planned as a 4-part mini-series for French TV. 

Liar’s Dice  
India, 2013, 104 min.
Leaving her mountain village behind with her little girl, a pet goat and a cell phone, Kamala goes searching for her missing husband and encounters an enigmatic stranger who offers to help. 

Life in a fishbowl (3 ½ Stars)  
Iceland, 2014, 129 min.
In one of Iceland’s biggest-ever domestic hits, the lives of three characters intertwine. This strongly acted, sensitively directed drama offers a naturalistic portrait of fraught lifestyles in Reykjavik on the eve of the country’s 2008 economic meltdown. 

The Light Shines Only There  
Japan, 2014, 120 min.
Portraying love and friendship among people on the margins of society, Mipo Oh solidifies her reputation as one of Japan’s most promising directors. 

Limited Partnership  
USA, 2014, 74 min.
In 1975, Richard Adams and Tony Sullivan became one of the first same-sex couples to be legally married in the United States. This tears-inducing story takes us through the decades with this pioneering couple: two unsung heroes who paved the way for the eventual defeat of DOMA. 

Little England  
Greece, 2013, 132 min.
Two sisters, both in love with the same man... This gripping family saga set on the Greek island of Andros during the 1930s and 40s is a story of passion, family and loss. 

Living is Easy with eyes closed  
Spain, 2013, 108 min.
This charming, nostalgic road movie is inspired by a true story of a high school English teacher – a devoted Beatles fan – who drove across Spain to meet his idol John Lennon in 1966 to clarify some lyrics he couldn’t understand. 

Love at First Fight
France, 2014, 98 min.
A mild, easy going young man and a hard-as-nails young female survivalist fall for each other during an army training course in Thomas Cailley’s hilariously acerbic and decidedly skewed romantic-comedy. 

Lucky Stiff  
USA, 2014, 78 min.
A young, down-and-out shoe will inherit $6 million if he fulfills his uncle’s dying request to be taken to Monte Carlo in this giddy musical farce with an undeniably romantic heart. Oh, and there’s just one catch: his uncle is already dead… Happy endings indeed! 

Lutah - A Passion for Architecture, A Life in Design
USA, 2014, 65 min.
A thoroughly engaging documentary portrait, Kum-Kum Bhavnani’s revealing film captures the life and work of Lutah Maria Riggs (1896-1984), a visionary Southern Californian architect and the first woman in the state to be named a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects. 

Magical Girl
Spain, 2014, 127 min.
Alicia, a terminally ill child, asks her father to buy her the dress of her favorite Japanese series Magical Girl Yukiko. This wildly expensive wish will unleash a world of blackmail and revenge in this tense, offbeat curio. 

Israel, 2014, 88 min.
An intelligent social issues drama, Manpower sketches a portrait of four men in crisis. Moving between scathing realism and subtle irony, the film raises questions of belonging and uprooting, exile and emigration, home and family. 

Margarita, with a Straw  
India, 2014, 100 min.
Years ago, Shonali Bose was inspired to make a movie when her cousin, who has cerebral palsy, told her that what she wanted for her birthday was… sex. Charming and earthy, this film is an exhilarating story of self-discovery and a touching love story. 

Marie’s Story  
France, 2014, 95 min.
Based on an inspiring true story from 19th-century France, this beautiful film recounts how a Catholic nun and the blind and deaf girl she cared for built a way to communicate and changed each other’s lives forever. 

USA, 2014, 92 min.
When an inquisitive couple impose themselves on an eccentric Juilliard dance instructor (Patrick Stewart), a strained interview soon devolves into a hostile interrogation. Devilish and droll in a gripping performance, Stewart glides gracefully through the hairpin plot twists of this sly and suspense. 

Colombia, 2014, 86 min.
A Colombian teenager who works for his criminal uncle extorting money is forced to join a theater group. He starts to make friends there and falls for a pretty girl, but his uncle pressures him to spy on them. 

Merchants of Doubt
USA, 2014, 96 min.
Director Robert Kenner’s landmark documentary Food, Inc. made us think differently about food. Now, he’s back, with a savvy, provocative and highly entertaining look at the folks who are trying very hard to make you think climate change is nothing to worry about. 

Hungary, 2014, 90 min.
An African footballer on the lam (Isaach de Bankolé) in the desolate and lawless plains of Hungary becomes an avenging angel in Szabolcs Hajdu’s Eastern European western. A beautiful, mysterious work, it’s graced with fantastic camerawork and a superb soundtrack. 

Canada, 2014, 134 min.
Dolan’s fifth feature (at just 25!) is a bold, innovative, nakedly emotional return to the mother-troubled teen dynamics of I Killed My Mother. Dolan shared a Jury Prize with Godard at Cannes, and the heartfelt Mommy smacks with a wallop. 

The Monk  
Myanmar, 2014, 93 min.
The first feature to come out of Myanmar (Burma) in 50 years is a fascinating depiction of the dilemma facing a young novice, forced to choose between the monastery and a return to village life.

Canada, 2014, 108 min.
A visually stunning, elemental portrait of the trajectory of the annual monsoon season as it makes its way from Kerala in southeast India to Assam in the northwest, bringing joy to some, destruction to others. 

A Moonless Night  
Uruguay, 2014, 80 min.
Three deeply engaging stories about yearning for connection unfold in parallel, one New Year’s Eve in a small town in central Uruguay, balancing the universality of human suffering with a powerful sense of hope. 

Mother of the Lamb
Chile, 2014, 79 min.
Cristina is about to turn 50 and has dedicated her entire life to taking care of her manipulative mother. But when a childhood friend comes into town Cristina starts to go out, and the aftermath of a violent incident pushes her to a breaking point. 

Mr. Kaplan 
Uruguay, 2014, 98 min.
A cantankerous 76-year-old Jewish retiree in Montevideo attempts to leave a legacy by unmasking an elderly German beach bar owner as a Nazi war criminal. 

Azerbaijan, 2014, 105 min.
“A rare art film from Azerbaijan, Nabat tells the simple but affecting story of an elderly peasant woman who selflessly cares for her dying husband in wartime while grieving for her lost son. What makes it extraordinary is the presence of major Iranian actress Fatemeh Motamed-Arya.

Natural Sciences  
Argentina, 2014, 71 min.
With an inspiring force of will, 12-year-old Lila convinces a teacher at her boarding school to defy the principal and take her on a journey to find the father she has never known - with a rusty plaque as their only clue. 

The Nature of Modernism: E. Stewart Williams, Architect
USA, 2014, 79 min.
Granted access to architect E. Stewart Williams’ personal archival recordings, the Gorsts have produced a fascinating history of one of the most influential mid-century modernists, the man responsible for any number of California classics, including the Palm Springs Art Museum and the Architectural.

Never Die Young  
Luxembourg, 2014, 70 min.
A singular and unforgettable work, Pol Cruchten’s quasi-experimental documentary mixes harsh realities and daring visuals while looking at the hard, sad life of a heroin addict, paralyzed from the waist down at age 20. 

The Nightingale  
China, 2013, 108 min.
In this ravishingly beautiful movie, an elderly farmer decides it is time to keep his promise and return to the village he left 20 years before for Beijing – bringing with him his beloved bird, and, unexpectedly, his spoiled, cosmopolitan granddaughter. 

Peru, 2014, 94 min.
In exhuming a group of bodies of people who were made to “disappear” some 25 years earlier in Peru, a John Doe is discovered. An investigator finds himself overwhelmed by the long-buried despair of victims’ relatives as he tries to determine the body’s identity. 

No One’s Child  
Serbia, 2014, 97 min.
In the spring of 1988, hunters capture a wild boy among the wolves deep in the Bosnian mountains and send him to a Belgrade orphanage. But his “education” is interrupted by war.

Norte, the End of History (3 ½ Stars)  
Philippines, 2013, 250 min.
Inspired by Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, this Filipino epic from art house talisman Lav Diaz goes for the long view: it’s four and a half hours, and a mesmerizing immersion in a world of glaring inequalities, injustice and cruelty. 

Not All Is Vigil
Spain, 2014, 98 min.
A dark and funny, semi-documentary look at the odd rhythms and bittersweet intimacy of a charming octogenarian couple (director Paralluelo’s own grandparents) when they’re confronted with the prospect of moving into an assisted living facility. 

One for the Road
Mexico, 2014, 93 min.
Three octogenarians band together for a road trip to honor the dying wish of their friend: to deliver the draft of a Ranchera song to a museum. A series of poignant and comical adventures bring them a renewed sense of purpose and possibility in their golden years. 

The Outrageous Sophie Tucker  
USA, 2014, 96 min.
Here’s the rags-to-riches story of Sophie Tucker (1887 – 1966), the “Last of the Red Hot Mamas”, who ruled the worlds of vaudeville, Broadway, radio and Hollywood and entranced audiences with a bold, bawdy and brassy style unlike any other.

Packed In A Trunk: The Lost Art of Edith Lake Wilkinson
USA, 2014, 78 min.
Edith Lake Wilkinson’s exuberant paintings and possessions were packed into trunks when Edith was committed to an asylum in 1925, never to be heard from again. Nearly nine decades later, Edith’s great-niece, writer-director Jane Anderson, seeks to solve the mystery of Edith’s life.

Paper Planes  
Australia, 2014, 96 min.
A 12-year-old Australian boy sees his gift for crafting paper planes carry him to the World Paper Plane Championships in Japan… Robert Connolly’s engaging and near-irresistible crowd-pleaser is charming, funny and tender by turns. 

Patrick's Day  
Ireland, 2014, 102 min.
Winner of major awards at the Cork, Galway and Woodstock Film Festivals, this stunningly well-acted tale about the push/pull between Patrick, a likeable young man with mental problems, and his fiercely protective mother proves to be a riveting watch; complex, deeply moving and emotionally engrossing. 

The Perfect Dictatorship  
Mexico, 2014, 143 min.
In this hard-hitting satire of Mexico’s political corruption, a state governor is caught on tape accepting a bribe from a drug cartel, but uses his influence and government money to pay off the country’s largest television corporation, giving his image a makeover by any means necessary. 

Queen and Country  
United Kingdom, 2014, 115 min.
John Boorman’s belated follow up to the autobiographical Hope and Glory is a portrait of the artist as a young army conscript in the 1950s, getting into scrapes with authority, and falling in love for the first time. It’s a gently comedic memoir, satire nestling in with pure nostalgia. 

The Reaper  
Croatia, 2014, 98 min.
With a superb, seasoned cast and stellar camerawork, three intertwined stories unfold over a single night in an isolated Croatian village. This tense, nuanced drama makes for grim but compelling viewing. 

Red Amnesia  
China, 2014, 115 min.
When an elderly widow starts receiving anonymous phone calls her sons shrug it off as the imaginings of a lonely and disoriented old woman. But the harassment continues, a painful reminder of a long-forgotten past. 

Red Army  
USA, 2014, 76 min.
Whether you are a diehard hockey fan or think that a “blue line” is something on a subway map makes no difference; the enthralling documentary Red Army goes well beyond sports to tell the larger-than-life Cold War story of the Soviet Union’s most dominant team. 

Red Rose  
France, 2014, 87 min.
Intimate personal moments and vérité-style street scenes taken from Iran’s Green Revolution give Sepidah Farsi’s compelling drama a rare urgency as it traces the relationship between a young activist and the passive middle-aged man who gives her shelter. 

Rocks in My Pockets  
Latvia, 2014, 89 min.
A modern milestone in animated storytelling, stuffed with irony, humor and tales within tales, this imaginative memoir merges director Signe Baumane’s own story with a mini-history of 20th century Latvia. 

Saint Laurent  
France, 2013, 150 min.
The life of iconic fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent (an uncanny Gaspard Ulliel) and the visual style of director Betrand Bonello make for a perfect match in this mesmerizing investigation of a life fuelled by excess, triumph, love and loss. 

The Salt of the Earth  
France, 2014, 100 min.
Peripatetic Brazilian photojournalist Sebastião Salgado’s extraordinary life and work are the focus of this inspiring, visually mesmeric documentary, a collaboration between the photographer’s son and veteran German filmmaker Wim Wenders (The Buena Vista Social Club; Pina).

Sand Dollars  
Dominican Republic, 2014, 85 min.
In the Dominican Republic, an older American woman (Geraldine Chaplin, in an unforgettable performance) falls deeply in love with a young local woman who seems to be using her for her money, but more complicated motivations are gradually revealed. 

School of Babel  
France, 2014, 89 min.
Julia Bertuccelli’s clear-eyed and deeply moving documentary follows teacher Brigitte Cervoni and her class of newly arrived immigrant children at a Paris school. A film of hard truths and profound emotions, it has soul to spare.

The Search  
France, 2014, 149 min.
The Academy Award®-winning director of The Artist changes tack with this searing war drama, a loose remake of Fred Zinnemann’s 1948 classic, updated to contemporary Chechnya and tracking the parallel stories of a nine-year-old Muslim orphan and a 19-year-old Russian soldier. 

See you in Montevideo (3 ½ Stars)
Serbia, 2014, 146 min.
This exciting sequel to Montevideo, Taste of a Dream (PSIFF, 2013) continues the tale of how the Yugoslav football team took part in the first official World Cup in Montevideo, Uruguay in 1930 and made sports history. 

She’s Funny That Way  
USA, 2014, 93 min.
Whiplash fast and ferociously funny, Peter Bogdanovich’s star-studded new bedroom farce harks back to the Golden Age of Hollywood slapstick comedy, with its labyrinthine plot involving a large cast of self-absorbed eccentrics, each pursuing a romantic brass ring that seems just beyond their grasp.

USA, 2014, 97 min.
Striving to help her impoverished family, a 13-year-old Indian girl instead finds herself sold into sexual slavery and imprisoned in a brothel. The grim reality of child prostitution is addressed with the urgency and compassion it demands in this riveting, powerful and ultimately inspiring drama. 

Some Kind of Love  
Canada, 2014, 87 min.
Equal parts light and dark, Thomas Burstyn’s (This Way Of Life) moving, beautifully crafted portrait of his artist aunt and scientist uncle finds two diametrically opposed, equally fascinating forces of nature living in the same decaying London flat but inhabiting separate worlds. 

Song from the Forest  
Germany, 2014, 98 min.
Set between the rainforest and the skyscrapers, this epic journey follows world-renowned musicologist Louis Sarno from the Central African Republic, where he has been living among the Bayaka Pygmies for the last 25 years, back to his home in NY with his 13-year-old son Samedi. 

Song of the Sea
Ireland, 94 min.
The magical tale of a boy and his mute sister, running away from their grandmother in Dublin to get back to their lighthouse keeper father. A dazzling animated film from the director of the Oscar®-nominated Secret of Kells. 

Song One
USA, 2014, 88 min.
Anne Hathaway is luminous as Frannie, a young archaeologist who returns home after a long absence when she learns that her estranged brother Henry is in a coma. Distraught and guilt-ridden, she immerses herself in his life as a street musician, finding a whole new world for herself in the process.

Sorrow and Joy
Denmark, 2013, 107 min.
Filmmaker Johannes and his wife, schoolteacher Signe, experience the biggest sorrow and misfortune one can ever imagine – and try to move forward together despite everything. A profound, deeply personal film from Nils Malmros. 

The Sound of Redemption: The Frank Morgan Story
USA, 2014, 83 min.
Frank Morgan’s sublime alto sax playing made him a beloved jazz musician. The fact that he performed much of that music from behind bars at San Quentin Sate Prison made him a legend… and a fascinating subject for N.C. Heikin’s engrossing and musically bewitching documentary. 

Speed Walking
Denmark, 2014, 108 min.
From the director of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, here’s a very funny and authentic coming-of-age tale that manages to hit the sweet spot between tragedy and comedy. 

Spirit / Will / Loss  
USA, 2014, 77 min.
“It’s almost like dying and being reborn,” says Katie Dallam, one of three artists portrayed in this highly imaginative, visually stunning, and, ultimately, inspiring documentary that takes us on a fascinating journey from tragedy, through struggle and into transformation. 

USA, 2014, 109 min.
When an American backpacker encounters an alluring woman in Italy, romantic sparks fly and ignite a fever dream in which intimate drama bleeds into high-concept sci-fi/horror. Earning its “Linklater meets Lovecraft” comparisons, this genre-bender grows more bewitching by the moment. 

Still Alice  
USA, 2014, 101 min.
Julianne Moore gives an extraordinary, Academy Award®-worthy performance as a top linguistics expert, seemingly at the peak of her powers, suddenly struck with Alzheimer’s Disease. 

Sunshine Superman  
USA, 2014, 96 min.
Carl Boenish made it his life’s work to dance with gravity. First, skydiving; then, as “the father of BASE jumping”, helping a new extreme sport find its feet. This doc celebrates his infectious enthusiasm for living to the max, and the dizzying lovestory he shared with wife, Jean.

Tales of the Grim Sleeper
USA, 2014, 105 min.
In his best work to date, documentary filmmaker Nick Broomfield, aided by a cast of unforgettable characters, rips the façade off LA and exposes a dark and disturbing tale of murder and negligence that reveals both the worst and finest impulses in the human condition. 

Estonia, 2013, 87 min.
1992. An Estonian village in Abkhazia. The approaching war scares off all but two villagers who remain to harvest the tangerines. This deeply pacifist chamber drama is as tense as a thriller. 

Jordan, 2014, 100 min.
The Arabian Desert, 1916: Theeb’s brother teaches him the Bedouin way of life. His lessons will prove crucial to the boy’s survival. 

These Are the Rules
Croatia, 2014, 78 min.
Based on a true story, this is a painstaking and painful account of the official indifference and injustice that confronts the law-abiding parents of a teenage boy badly beaten up by a high school bully. 

Three Windows and a Hanging
Greenland, 2014, 93 min.
When a woman from a traditional Kosovar village anonymously reveals to an international journalist that she and others were raped during the war with Serbia, the fallout from this once-repressed secret threatens to tear apart the fabric of village life. 

India, 2014, 90 min.
A young salesman in Pakistan happily peddles Western infant formula until, witnessing firsthand the devastating effects the formula can have, he vows to take action. A gripping drama from Bosnian director Danis Tanovic, whose No Man’s Land won the Foreign-Language Oscar. 

Mauritania, 2013, 97 min.
Sissako’s account of the occupation of the Malian city by militant Islamic rebels is a direct aesthetic riposte to their zealotry, characterized by its warmth, color, texture and compassion, its sense of beauty and justice. 

To Kill a Man (4 ½ Stars)  
Chile, 2014, 82 min.
A thoughtful and restrained portrait of an unassuming family man driven extreme action. Let down by an ineffective legal system, he plots the murder of a street thug who has terrorized his family and cost him his marriage. 

Iran, 2014, 87 min.
A Tehran taxi driver becomes the impromptu protector of a desperate young pregnant woman after he rushes her to hospital, in this delicate, deceptively small-scale drama from award-winning Iranian director Reza Mirkarimi. 

Tokyo Fiancée
Belgium, 2014, 100 min.
A Belgian free spirit recalls a winsome cross-cultural romance with her Japanese French-language student in this charming adaptation of Amélie Nothomb’s semi-autobiographical novel. Complications, misunderstandings and double meanings in both French and Japanese provide humor and fodder for thought. 

The Treatment
Belgium, 2014, 127 min.
Who needs Nordic noir? The Flemish are the new masters of crime thrillers. A police inspector with a traumatic past leads an increasingly personal manhunt when a nine-year-old child goes missing. 

Trespassing Bergman
Sweden, 2013, 107 min.
Mixing awe and irreverence, this cinephile’s delight explores Swedish auteur Ingmar Bergman’s home, life, films and legacy with the help of other world cinema heavyweights. It’s certain to inspire a passionate desire to view Bergman’s classics, as well as the works of the interviewed filmmakers. 

The Tribe
Ukraine, 2014, 132 min.
One of the most original, audacious and talked about films of 2014, The Tribe takes place in a boarding school for the deaf where the students participate in an underground criminal network. Performed entirely in sign language without subtitles. Contains frank and disturbing scenes of sex and violence. 

Tu dors Nicole  
Canada, 2014, 93 min.
A 20-something Quebecoise has some growing up to do in this sweetly absurd, wryly comic film with characters that become more endearing as the episodic action progresses. 

Twenty-Five Palms
Luxembourg, 2014, 116 min.
In this festive documentary, photographer-turned-director Fabrizio Maltese chronicles the history of the 25-year-old Palm Springs International Film Festival and offers a peek behind the scenes. The staff, volunteers, stars and films appear alongside less visible events such as the directors’ retreat. 

Two Days, One Night (5 Stars)  
Belgium, 2014, 95 min.
Marion Cotillard is outstanding as a desperate working-class mother who has one weekend to save her job by confronting her coworkers and her own insecurities in this latest naturalistic, thought-provoking film from Belgian masters Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (The Son; The Kid with a Bike). Unlikely Heroes  

Unlikely Heroes
Switzerland, 2014, 94 min.
In this feel-good comedy a lonely Swiss amateur actress ends up directing a play about William Tell, the most Swiss of heroes, at a local refugee detention center. There’s a cultural gap to be bridged, but how do you do that when practically none of the cast speaks German? 

Villa Touma
2014, 88 min.
An 18-year-old Palestinian orphan arrives at the home of her three estranged aunts only to discover that they’re practically living in suspended animation, pretending that the epochal Six-Day War never happened. The directing debut of award-winning screenwriter Suha Arraf (The Syrian Bride).

USA, 2014, 87 min.
Held every four years in Fort Worth, The Cliburn is one of the world’s most prestigious and grueling piano competitions. Courtesy of this intimate and satisfyingly suspenseful documentary, you’ve got a prime seat for all the action. Hurry, the house lights are dimming.

Walking Under Water (4 ½ Stars)  
Poland, 2014, 77 min.
Eliza Kubarska’s magical, dreamlike documentary is a modern fairytale: Alexan, the last Badjao diver on his island in the Borneo Sea, takes 10-year-old Sari under his wing. But will Sari carry on this disappearing way of life or instead join the increasingly dominant tourist trade? 

USA, 2014, 94 min.
Since making his childhood deal with God to decide the eternal fate of everyone he encounters in return for God sending his dad to heaven, theatre ticket-taker Walter has kept his part of the bargain. But once the mysterious Greg appears on the scene, Walter finds his side of the bargain increasingly. 

The Way He Looks
Brazil, 2014, 95 min.
Leonardo is a blind, gay teenager; his best friend Giovana stands up for him against the school bullies. But then Gabriel, a new student, takes an interest in him. Giovana must try to adjust her expectations as tender feelings develop between the two boys. 

What’s Between Us
Switzerland, 2015, 94 min.
After 18 years of marriage and three children, Frank and Annie face a major turning point in their marriage when Frank admits he finds himself attracted to men. When Frank’s newfound attraction becomes focused on one man in particular – Pablo – Annie is forced to grapple not only with her own feelings.

White God
Hungary, 2014, 119 min.
A new city law taxing mixed breed mutts leads many owners to dump their dogs on the streets – including 13-year-old Lili’s beloved pet Hagen. While she tries to find him, Hagen fights for survival. But every dog has his day.

Who Am I - No System is Safe
Germany, 2014, 105 min.
A German nobody becomes an Internet somebody because of his hacking skills in this fast-paced techno-thriller. Set to the striking beats of German electronica wunderkind Boys Noize, this is a visually arresting, twist-filled ride that explores how acts in cyberspace can have potentially catastrophic. 

Wild Tales (5 Stars)
Argentina, 2013, 122 min.
Produced by Pedro and Agustín Almodóvar – a compendium of six absurdly taut, funny and emotionally-charged short films that share the common theme of revenge, delivered with a wicked sense of humor and a fresh and inventive visual style. One film you cannot afford to miss. 

Winter Sleep
Turkey, 2014, 196 min.
The top prize winner at the Cannes film festival, the latest from the director of Once Upon a Time in Anatolia is a long, meaty, fully achieved chamber drama about a complacent, well-off hotelier, impervious to the various discontents of his younger wife, divorced sister, and struggling tenants. 

X + Y
United Kingdom, 2014, 111 min.
Hugo discovery Asa Butterfield is superb as Nathan, an autistic teen math whiz whose entry into the International Mathematical Olympiad leads him to Taipei and burgeoning romance. Morgan Matthews’ perceptive and moving debut features sterling support from Sally Hawkins, Timothy Spall and Eddie Marsa

Greece, 2014, 128 min.
This quirky queer road movie follows two brothers en route to a singing contest in Thessaloniki and, maybe, a meeting with the father who abandoned them long ago. The spirit of early Almodovar animates the mixture of hot button topics and exhibitionist fervor.

The 10 Year Plan
USA, 2014, 92 min.
Meet Myles and Brody: best friends, and total opposites. Myles dreams of finding “The One”; Brody revels in being single. But a playful vow made long ago will make them question what they really want and what they mean to each other. 

10,000 KM
Spain, 2014, 99 min.
Is long distance the wrong distance? Even the most passionate relationships can succumb to the stress of physical separation. When Alex accepts a residency in LA and leaves Barcelona for a year, her steamy bond with Sergio is enacted through video-chats, texts, status updates and phone calls. 

1001 Grams (5 Stars)  
Norway, 2014, 90 min.
Scientist Marie travels to Paris with the Norwegian national kilo prototype where it can be weighed against international standards in this deadpan, Tati-esque comedy. 

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
Sweden, 2013, 114 min.
Centenarian Allan escapes his retirement home and hits the road. What follows is one of the most irresistibly dark comedies in years, as our hero’s adventures (elephants, explosions, decapitations, frozen bodies) mingle with flashbacks to his wild youth (involving Stalin, Franco and Truman). 

USA, 2014, 80 min.
Part heist movie, part political thriller, 1971 takes us back to a time before Watergate, WikiLeaks, and Edward Snowden when a group of ordinary citizens broke into an FBI office and exposed widespread government surveillance activities. Never caught, the group has remained silent… until now. 

24 Days  
France, 2014, 110 min.
This tense policier based on true events surrounding the 1986 kidnapping of 24-year-old Ilan Halimi by a suburban Parisian gang of thugs captures a pivotal moment in a wave of anti-Semitic sentiment and violence that swept France.

Belgium, 2014, 95 min.
This remarkable debut is a subtle but unpredictable thriller about a middle-aged executive (Dardenne brothers regular Olivier Gourmet) who throws himself into a a new opportunity after being fired, and his 11-year-old son, a tennis prodigy who seems to have inherited his old man’s ruthless ambition. 

5 To 7  
USA, 2014, 98 min.
A New York novelist is surprised when an alluring French stranger welcomes his advances. As she’s married, a fairytale romance isn’t to be. However, their brief liaisons inspire a swoon-inducing love story that wears its heart on its well-tailored sleeve. 

United Kingdom, 2014, 100 min.
A young and inexperienced British soldier finds himself abandoned in enemy territory in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in this strikingly shot, often thrilling feature debut from director Yann Demange. Demange imbues this bleak story with gritty realism and a visceral sense of danger. 

See you at the festival!

Raymond Lo