The best international independent films of this year really captured the sense of doom and foreboding at this moment in time.
Interestingly, the themes they explore – such as poverty, injury and totalitarianism – are all viewed through the lens of family, lending each tale a timeless, universal quality.
A love letter to the ‘muchacha’ who raised him, Oscar-winning director Alfonso Cuaron tells the harrowing yet life-affirming tale of Cleo, a live-in maid to a middle-class family in 1970s Mexico City. It’s a film so real you can practically taste the tacos, and it pulverizes you with natural disasters, human cruelty, feats of bravery, and truly transformative love.
Love wasn’t easy in Soviet-era Poland. A composer and his beguiling muse share a passion that spans decades, and criss-crosses the Iron Curtain several times over. Bathed in black and white, with poetry and music and profound looks of longing, theirs is a dangerous romance for a dangerous time.
This ain’t his first rodeo, and that’s kind of the problem. Soulful cowboy Brady wrestles with a life-changing head injury, but the thrill of the ride still calls out to him. A complex and heartbreaking meditation on purpose, pride and what it means to be a man.
What if you could choose your family? A mysterious ragtag group of grifters, thieves and children battle poverty and the elements on the seedy streets of Tokyo. In adopting a desperate young girl, this makeshift family risks everything for what they believe is right.
A Lebanese adolescent, brutally beaten by extreme hardships, sues his parents for giving him life. This Cannes-favourite, an urgent exploration of justice and suffering in a deeply indifferent world, boasts some of the best child performances out there.