Our 2017 staff picks: films

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Agnes Varda & JR's Faces Places

Kristy Matheson, senior film programmer, says:

Here’s to another great year that gave us new films from many of my favourite directors, including Aki Kaurismäki, Lucrecia Martel, Michael Haneke, Frederick Wiseman, Clare Denis, Andrey Zvyagintsev to name but a few. It’s hard to pick a single film that’s made my cinematic heart sing in 2017, but I've kept coming back to Faces Places (Visages Villages). In a year that’s been littered with such extreme social injustices it was amazing to experience a film brimming with curiosity and humanity – a treat for anyone’s eyes, ears and hearts.

Luca Guadagnino's Call Me By Your Name

Max Minkoff, film programs administrator, says:

I am bound in every way to say Call Me By Your Name, not just because it’s my duty as a gay cinephile, but also because it is the best queer film we’ve had in years. Luca Guadagnino perfectly portrays the agony of youthful desire, almost as well as he films beautiful people leaning against beautiful old Italian walls. The peach emoji will never be the same again.

Ziad Kalthoum's Taste of Cement

James Hewison, head of Film Programs, says:

A potent meditation on absence, construction and destruction: as migrant Syrian workers build a towering skyscraper, their own neighbourhoods are ripped apart by war. Sparse and lyrical, Kalthoum's film reflects on the corrosion of freedom, the vertiginous calamity of civil war and the absurd paradox of exile and absence.

Chemi Bednieri Ojakhi's My Happy Family

Roberta Ciabarra, film programmer, says:

Manana (Ia Sgugliashvili) unexpectedly decides to move out of the cramped apartment she shares with her husband, grown children and parents. Her perplexed husband, Soso, enlists family and friends to pressure her into staying, but the 52-year-old literature teacher is resolute. She packs her modest possessions and relocates to a tiny apartment, where she revels in the simple but hard-won freedom of being able to play records, read in the afternoon sunshine and eat cake for dinner.

Georgian-born screenwriter/director Nana Ekvtimishvili and German co-director Simon Gross work together under the moniker Nana & Simon, and they also directed 2013’s impressive coming-of-age drama In Bloom, which was also set in Ekvtimishvili's hometown Tbilisi. The note-perfect ensemble acting in My Happy Family reminded me of Cristi Puiu’s wonderful Sieranevada (2016), but the superb Sgugliashvili steals the show as a woman of formidable depth who – note to self – quite literally reclaims her voice, without once resorting to histrionics or cheap dramatics.

Paul Calori & Kostia Testut's Footnotes (Sur Quel Pied Danser)

James Nolen, film programmer, says:

A modern musical, set in a shoe factory under constant threat from cheap imports and set in regional France. With a nod to musicals of Jacques Demy, the film tackles romance and union disputes in a way only the French can! I managed to catch it at the Village East Cinema in New York in June. Otherwise, I was rather taken by the Australian cycling documentary All For One.

Amanda Kernell's Sami Blood

Tiana Stefanic, festivals and events coordinator, says:

A gorgeously rendered coming of age story about a young girl navigating two disparate worlds in the 1930s: the geographically-dispersed and culturally-rich Sami people, and the ‘civilised’ society of Sweden, into which she struggles to integrate. I was really affected by how universal the character’s journey was; all she wanted was acceptance and happiness and the needless discrimination that held her back was alarmingly salient. I look forward to rewatching this in our cinemas in the new year.