Encompassing independent films from every country in the world apart from the UK, this category is as competitive as it gets. Curiously, the five nominated films this year break down into three English language titles directed by men and two foreign language ones directed by women. With Kenneth Lonergan’s subtle, heartbreaking Manchester by the Sea and Barry Jenkins’ meticulously achieved Moonlight, two hotly tipped Oscar contenders fly the flag for the very best of US indie filmmaking. From Germany and Austria comes Marden Ade’s hugely acclaimed comedy Toni Erdmann (achieving the highest ever aggregate score on Screen International’s Cannes Film Festival critics grid), and from Turkey comes Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s bittersweet tale of five teenage sisters, Mustang. All of these films could see their hopes dashed by New Zealand director Taiki Waititi’s delightful crowdpleaser Hunt for the Wilderpeople, winner of the audience award at the Edinburgh International Film Festival and a nicely satisfying word-of-mouth box office hit at UK cinemas since September.
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Hunt for the Wilderpeople
Ricky (Julian Dennison) is a defiant young city kid who finds himself on the run with his cantankerous foster uncle (Sam Neill) in the wild New Zealand bush. A national manhunt ensues, and the two are forced to put aside their differences and work together in this hilarious and heartfelt adventure.
Manchester by the Sea
Lee Chandler is a brooding, irritable loner who works as a handyman for a Boston apartment block. One damp winter day he gets a call summoning him to his hometown, north of the city. His brother’s heart has given out suddenly, and he’s been named guardian to his 16-year-old nephew. As if losing his only sibling and doubts about raising a teenager weren’t enough, his return to the past re-opens an unspeakable tragedy.
Moonlight is the tender, heartbreaking story of a young man’s struggle to find himself, told across three defining chapters in his life as he experiences the ecstasy, pain and beauty of falling in love, while grappling with his own sexuality. Anchored by astonishing performances and the singular vision of filmmaker Barry Jenkins, Moonlight is a groundbreaking exploration of masculinity — a sensual, intoxicating piece of cinema that uncovers deep truths about the moments that define us, the people who shape us most, and the ache of love that can last a lifetime.
It’s the beginning of summer. In a small village in northern Turkey, Lale and her four sisters are on their way home from school, innocently playing with local boys. But prying village eyes view their games with suspicion and the girls’ behaviour – and refusal to repent – quickly causes a scandal among the family. Soon the sisters find themselves locked in their bedrooms, with sober dress enforced and their schoolwork replaced by cookery classes. Their home now a prison, all the girls have to live for are arranged marriages and family honour. But together, driven by strength, courage and a desire for freedom, the five sisters fight back and test their family ties to breaking point.
Winfried doesn’t see much of his daughter Ines. The suddenly student-less music teacher decides to surprise her with a visit; an awkward move because career woman Ines is working on an important corporate project in Bucharest. Practical joker Winfried loves to annoy his daughter, and they soon reach an impasse, with Winfried agreeing to return home to Germany. Enter Toni Erdmann- Winfried’s smooth-talking alter-ego. Disguised with a weird wig and even weirder fake teeth, Toni barges into Ines’ life, claiming to be her CEO’s life coach. As Toni, Winfried is bolder and doesn’t hold back, but Ines meets the challenge. The harder they push, the closer they become, and slowly, Ines begins to understand that her eccentric father might deserve some place in her life after all.