Posted on December 20, 2018

They select the movies for the Calgary International Film Festival, and now our team of programmers share their Top 10 films of 2018. Still not sure what films you need to catch up on from the past year? Take it from our curators – these are films that you'll want to seek out as we say goodbye to the year that was 2018.

Features Programmer and Series Lead on World Cinema, Sachin Gandhi shares his Top Films of 2018

"2018 was an extremely strong year for world cinema. The year started off with a jolt at the Berlin Film Festival with the World Premiere of numerous stellar titles including TRANSIT, AN ELEPHANT SITTING STILL, GRASS, SEASON OF THE DEVIL and RAMEN SHOP. However, it was the strongest Cannes in almost a decade that elevated the year’s cinematic output. 11 out of the 18 films in this list premiered at Cannes including 7 out of the top 10 films. This end of the year list includes just a fraction of the worthy films that showed at Cannes and other film festivals. There are still more than a dozen essential 2018 films that I missed seeing and will likely spend the better part of 2019 catching up with." - Sachin Gandhi 

Note: this list only includes new films that premiered in 2018 and doesn’t include 2017 films, some of which released in the city this year.

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1. TRANSIT

Directed by Christian Petzold (Germany/France)

Christian Petzold’s masterful adaption of Anna Seghers’ 1944 book is a cinematic treat! With just a few tweaks, Petzold has ensured that there is a constant tension between the past and present in the film. This balance between past-present highlights how history repeats in cycles and shows that a book written almost 75 years ago speaks to today’s world situation. This is because throughout history there are always people or communities that are persecuted and forced to leave their homes. The film is further elevated by a haunting love story, one which references CASABLANCA with hints of Kafka and Beckett.

TRANSIT was a 2018 Calgary Film selection

2. BURNING

Directed by Lee Chang-dong (South Korea)

BURNING, Lee Chang-dong’s cinematic return after a gap of 8 years, smartly transforms a Haruki Murakami short story into a seductive thriller that lingers in the memory long after the credits.

Calgary Cinematheque will show this film on Jan 10 at Globe Cinema.

3. LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT

Directed by Bi Gan (China)

Bi Gan’s sumptuous film provides an emotional ride across space and time by mixing past, present and dreams.

LONG DAY’S JOURNEY INTO NIGHT was a 2018 Calgary Film selection.

4. THE WILD PEAR TREE

Directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Turkey co-production)

Ceylan has combined the visual strength of his previous films with a meaty narration resulting in a tour de force which covers topics ranging from literature, religion, romance, philosophy to politics.

THE WILD PEAR TREE was a 2018 Calgary Film selection

5. AN ELEPHANT SITTING STILL

Directed by Hu Bo (China)

Hu Bo’s first and only feature was one of the most emotionally devastating films of the year. Shortly before the film was completed, 29-year-old Hu Bo committed suicide. He didn’t live to see the film’s World Premiere at the 2018 Berlin Film Festival where it was extremely hard to secure a ticket to see this almost 4-hour film. Such is the strength of Hu Bo’s artistry that the film’s length is never felt. Instead, one is drawn into the lives of the four characters in Northern China and invested in their fate.

6. SIR

Directed by Rohena Gera (India/France)

Rohena Gera’s astute film gets at the core of what we seek in relationships and what causes two people from radically different backgrounds to form a connection. The end result is one of the most charming films of the year lit by a vibrant performance by Tillotama Shome.

SIR was a 2018 Calgary Film selection.

7. FAUSTO

Directed by Andrea Bussmann (Canada/Mexico)

Canadian director Andrea Bussmann creatively uses the text of Goethe’s Faust as a jumping point to explore myths, local legends, and tales in Mexico’s Oaxaca coast. The decision to use low light for shooting many of the scenes results in a shape-shifting film that strips away the concept of time; the film could be set decades in the past or could be contemporary. The end result is exhilarating as the film shows a unique way to perceive history and cultures.

8. DONBASS

Directed by Sergey Loznitsa (Ukraine co-production)

Sergey Loznitsa cleverly depicts how events in Ukraine are influenced by the overarching influence of Russia. An urgent film that also depicts how the media is being manipulated by politicians resulting in further blurring between real and fake news.

9. ASH IS PUREST WHITE

Directed by Jia Zhang-ke (China/France/Japan)

Jia Zhang-ke’s newest film is a perceptive depiction of the Chinese landscape, both social and economical, over the course of two decades.

ASH IS PUREST WHITE was a 2018 Calgary Film selection.

 

10. ANOTHER DAY OF LIFE

Directed by Raúl de la Fuente and Damian Nenow (Poland, Spain, Belgium, Germany, Hungary)

Based on late journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski’s book of the same name, ANOTHER DAY OF LIFE is a fascinating mix of documentary and animation that captures the energy of Kapuscinski’s book about the Angolan civil war.

Honourable Mentions (alphabetical order):

3 FACES directed by Jafar Panahi (Iran): 2018 Calgary Film selection

BLACKkKLANSMAN directed by Spike Lee (USA): streaming now on VOD and iTunes

CLOSING TIME directed by Nicole Vögele (Germany/Switzerland)

COLD WAR directed by Pawel Pawlikowski (Poland/UK/France): 2018 Calgary Film selection

GRASS directed by Hong Sang-soo (South Korea)

THE IMAGE BOOK directed by Jean-Luc Godard (Switzerland/France)

Calgary Cinematheque will show THE IMAGE BOOK on Jan 31 at Globe Cinema

ROMA directed by Alfonso Cuarón (Mexico/USA): streaming now on Canadian Netflix

SEASON OF THE DEVIL directed by Lav Diaz (Philippines)

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Read more of our yearly recap from our programming team! Here's the best of 2018 from Shorts Programmer, Brennan Tilley.


What’s next for Calgary Film? Check out our January 9 Doc Soup screening of THE WORLD BEFORE YOUR FEET. Tickets on sale now! 

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