ICE CREAM AND THE SOUND OF RAINDROPS (Feature/Tokyo International Film Festival). When their staging of Simon Stephens’ “Morning” gets shelved, a young theater troupe continues with rehearsals and starts internalizing their characters in real life. This one-take wonder feels like a stage play itself, with director Daigo Matsui squeezing a month-long storyline into a single shot and relying on wardrobe changes to imply the passage of time. The ambition sure pays off. And at a time when our right to expression hangs in the balance, it’s timely assurance that fervent hearts cannot be silenced. This calls for a standing ovation.
DANTZA (Feature/San Sebastian International Film Festival). Directed by Telmo Esnal and choreographed by Juan Antiono Ubeltz, this Basque musical is a vibrant terpsichorean ode to Northern Spain, from its lush scenery to its fun-loving locale. It’s as hyper-kinetic and colorful as a spectacle can get.
THE EPIC OF EVEREST (Feature/BFI London Film Festival).Knowing how the 1924 Mount Everest Expedition panned out makes the existence of footage a bit unnerving. Actually, make that highly unnerving: we’re shown how George Mallory and Andrew Irvine spent their final hours. Nevertheless, it’s hard to pass the chance at witnessing the beauty of the world’s most indomitable peak, even just from someone’s lens. This 1924 documentary was shot with a hand-held camera by Captain John Noel, who was also part of that fateful climb, and was restored by the BFI National Archive in 2013.
LOS PASOS DOBLES (Feature/San Sebastian International Film Festival). A collaboration between director Isaki Lacuesta and painter Miquel Barcelo, this film revisits an esteemed legend and gives it a modern spin. Inspired by artist François Augiéras’ lost army bunker murals, the story juxtaposes actual musings by Barcelo with a reimagining of Augiéras as a contemporary Malian man. It’s an intriguing blend of fact and fiction, and it earned Lacuesta the plum prize in 2011’s San Sebastian Film Festival.
WRATH OF SILENCE (Feature/International Film Festival and Awards Macao). Western and film noir influences abound in Xin Yukun’s riveting thriller. Not long after losing his tongue in a brawl, a miner finds himself in a relentless search when his son gets kidnapped.
TREMBLE ALL YOU WANT (Feature/Tokyo International Film Festival). It’s clear from Yoshika’s fascination with extinct animals that she’s stuck in the past. She’s also still too hung up on her middle school crush, “Ichi”, to entertain any current suitor. So when her work colleague, “Ni”, makes his move, Yoshika can’t move forward. Occasionally perplexing but downright charming, Akiko Ooku’s quirky rom-com benefits greatly from Mayu Matsuoka’s (The Shoplifter) electric performance.
WAKE UP: STORIES FROM THE FRONTLINE OF SUICIDE PREVENTION (Documentary Feature/We Are One). This documentary was initiated by the Wake Up movement, a non-profit organization committed to upending stigmas surrounding mental health and suicide. The film collects testimonies from four different points of view – American veterans, LGBT, university students, and gun-owners – and unifies them in promoting positive change. More than a tribute, it’s a compelling call to action.
MUD (Short Film/Sundance Film Festival). Shunned by both her town and her family, an alcoholic Navajo woman descends deeper into loneliness. Written and directed by Shandiin Tome, this tragic short explores the repercussions of ostracism.
ATLANTIQUES (Short Film/New York Film Festival). Gritty and experimental, Mati Diop’s documentary chronicles a young boy’s voyage in Senegal. This 15-minute piece also serves as a prelude to the director’s award-winning feature, Atlantics.
AIR CONDITIONER (Feature/International Film Festival Rotterdam). An absurd premise is given cred in this stylistic debut feature by Angolan-born music video director Fradique. When air-conditioning units start mysteriously falling to the ground in Luanda, it’s up to a security guard to find a replacement unit for his boss.
ADELA HAS NOT HAD SUPPER YET (Karlovy Vary International Film Festival). Renowned sleuth Nick Carter (not that Nick Carter, you teenybopper) visits Prague to investigate a mysterious disappearance and comes across a music-loving, carnivorous plant. While it’s easy to peg as the Czechoslovak Little Shop of Horrors, it’s definitely more than that. This second team-up between director Oldrich Lipsky and screenwriter Jirí Brdečka lampoons the detective genre with the help of the delightfully deadpan Michal Docolomansky, The wild color palettes and cartoony effects are among this zany parody’s visual highlights.
MYSTERY ROAD (Feature/Sydney Film Festival). Cowboy detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pederson) visits the outback to investigate the murder of a teenage girl. Ivan Sen’s chilling thriller is also a commentary on racial tensions in the Land Down Under.