Neptune Frost (2021)
Matalusa (Bertrand Ninteretse), a miner, and Neptune (Cheryl Isheja), an intersex hacker, go on the run after escaping from a coltan mine in Anisia Uzeyman's and Saul Williams' Afrofuturist fever dream and queer cyberpunk musical set in the hilltops of Burundi – produced by Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Why you should see it: It's a dazzling visual and sonic explosion – featuring stunning cinematography, music, costumes and production design – that poetically melts away borders, language, genders and genres.
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Touki Bouki (1973)
Djibril Diop Mambéty's groundbreaking film tells the story of two young lovers, Mory (Magaye Niang) and Anta (Myriam Niang), who dream of a new life in France together and of escaping the disenchantment of post-independence Senegal.
Why you should see it: Wth its dynamic camerawork, soundtrack and rhythm, Mambéty's feature-length debut broke from the traditionally slow paced, linear style of African cinema of the time. It's the quintessential African road movie and a classic of 1970s counterculture.
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Balangiga: Howling Wilderness (2017)
An eight-year-old boy, Kulas (Justine Samson), flees a harrowing event that saw a ‘kill and burn’ order actioned by the American military – an instruction to kill anyone over the age of ten years old – during the 1901 ‘Battle of Balangiga’, the most violent and brutal interactions of the Philippine-American War (1899–1902).
Why you should see it: The massacre has been subjected to countless Hollywood blockbusters; however, Balangiga is told from the perspective of a child, and in true Khavn De La Cruz style, uses humour to critique American imperialism and the island's history of colonial subjugation.
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Pather Panchali (1955)
Despite their family’s meagre means, Apu (Subir Banarjee) and his older sister Durga (Uma Das Gupta) make their own fun, running through fields of tall grass to watch trains cross the rural Bengal landscape they call home and listening to their ‘auntie’ Indir’s bedtime stories, while their increasingly anxious mother Sarbojaya (Karuna Bannerjee) frets for her husband’s return.
Why you should see it: A film of striking lyricism and deep humanism, Satyajit Ray’s feature debut painted a portrait of rural Bengali life in a style inspired by Italian neorealism, and announced the arrival of an important new voice in the international cinema scene. It features a musical score by Ravi Shankar and ravishing cinematography by Subrata Mitra.
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Haute Couture (2021)
In Sylvie Ohayon’s contemporary, Paris-set drama, a soon-to-be-retired Head Seamstress at Dior, Esther (Nathalie Baye), has her handbag stolen by a young woman from the Paris projects, Jade (Lyna Khoudri). When Jade returns the handbag to Esther after finding a Star of David pendant inside, the sharp-eyed Esther sees potential in young woman and offers her an internship at her workshop.
Why you should see it: Haute Couture features a rich ensemble of (mostly) female supporting characters and offers a nuanced portrait of two women of working-class origin at very different stages in their lives who discover in each other a shared tenacity and drive.
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Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths (2022)
After being named the recipient of a prestigious international award, Silverio (Daniel Giménez Cacho), a renowned Mexican journalist and documentary filmmaker living in Los Angeles, feels compelled to return to his native country, unaware that this simple trip will push him to an existential limit.
Why you should see it: After winning consecutive Academy Awards for directing in 2015 (Birdman) and 2016 (The Revenant), Alejandro G. Iñárritu returns with this epic black comedy drama to grapple with universal yet intimate questions about identity, success, mortality, the history of Mexico, and what it means to be human in these very peculiar times.
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When Ibrahima Dieng (Makhouredia Gueye), a proud man of uncertain means living in a village in Dakar, receives a small fortune from his nephew in France, he is swamped by loan requests from his neighbours and must run the gauntlet of bureaucracy to cash the money order.
Why you should see it: Ousmane Sembène’s landmark 1968 film is a mordant social satire, featuring a complex protagonist – a "paternalistic", "puffed-up, peacock"– who isn't an immediately sympathetic character. However, Sembène adeptly portrays man at the mercy of a society transformed by colonialism and plagued by corruption, greed and poverty. See Mandabi in a stunning new 4K restoration in our cinemas.
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Hit the Road (2021)
A family of four – two middle-aged parents and their sons; one a taciturn adult, the other an ebullient six-year-old – take a road trip across the Iranian countryside, where they bond over memories of the past, grapple with fears of the unknown and fuss over their sick doggo.
Why you should see it: This charming, sharp-witted and deeply moving comic humanist film is the debut feature of Panah Panahi, the son and collaborator of now-imprisoned filmmaker Jafar Panahi and former apprentice to Iranian master Abbas Kiarostami.
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Plagued by a mysterious noise only she can hear, Jessica (Tilda Swinton), a botanist embarks on an auditory odyssey through the cities and jungles of Colombia in Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s latest masterpiece. Is Jessica suffering from a case of exploding head syndrome (a condition by which Weerasethakul himself is afflicted), or is it something otherworldly?
Why you should see it: While its premise is deceptively simple, Memoria is a profound meditation on memory, trauma and the artistic process. The engrossing, dream-like sensory experience of Weerasethakul’s film – his first produced outside of his native Thailand, and his first English language feature – has to be experienced in-cinema.
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A stay-at-home husband from a middle-class family in Lahore, Pakistan secretly takes on a job as a backup dancer for an amibtious starlet in an erotic theatre.
Why you should see it: Female sexuality, non-traditional gender roles and quiet queer explorations diverge and gently intersect within a patriarchal frame in Saim Sadiq's Lollywood feature film debut. Making its premiere at Cannes where it screened in the Un Certain Regard section – a first for a Pakistani film – Joyland received the Jury Prize and the Queer Palm. More recently, it has been chosen as Pakistan’s official submission for the Academy Awards in 2023.
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In the aftermath of an attack by extremists on her insular community, mother-of-one Yana (Ia Sukhitashvili), the wife of a Jehovah’s Witness leader in a remote mountainside village in Georgia, is left alone to navigate new dangers.
Why you should see it: The theatrical release of Dea Kulumbegashvili’s revelatory 2020 debut feature film was delayed many times before it found its home on streaming services, and in online and hybrid film festivals around the world; but you can finally catch it on the big screen at ACMI. Beginning was selected as Georgia's official entry in the Academy Awards.
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After arriving in Denmark twenty years ago alone as a child refugee, Amin is still grappling with painful secrets he has kept to himself. For the first time, he recounts the extraordinary journey he undertook as a child from Afghanistan to Denmark to director Jonas Poher Rasmussen: Amin's former classmate and friend. It's part refugee-story, part coming-of-age story and part coming-out story.
Why you should see it: Officially selected for the Cannes Film Festival in 2020 before it was cancelled, Flee has led a longer-than-normal life travelling through international film festivals before officially being released in Australia in 2022. Staggering in the number of accolades it has received, Rasmussen's wondrous and personal animated documentary was nominated for three Academy Awards, won the Grand Jury Prize in the World Cinema Documentary section of Sundance and took home the award for Best Feature at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival.
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Retired music critic Clara (Sonia Braga) is the only remaining resident of the Aquarius, one of the last 1940s-built apartment buildings in a rapidly changing neighbourhood in the exclusive seaside district of Recife. Despite the other apartments having been sold to a company with ambitious plans for redevelopment, the independent-minded Clara holds out, adamant that she will not be bullied into selling the beachside home that has been a silent witness to her long and deeply lived life.
Why you should see it: Acclaimed Brazilian director Kleber Mendonça Filho’s follow up to Neighbouring Sounds (2012) screened in Official Competition at the 2016 Sydney Film Festival, taking out the festival’s top prize that year. Brazil’s contemporary class and economic tensions – and the increasingly urgent issue of the nature of gentrification in densely populated cities the world over – serve as a context for a personal reckoning for the character of Clara.
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Summer 1993 (2018)
In the wake of her mother’s death, six-year-old Frida (Laia Artegas) leaves Barcelona to live in the Catalan provinces with her aunt, uncle and younger cousin. Her loving extended family, new home in the country and summer holidays seem to offer a much-needed salve, but Frida’s complicated grief runs deep.
Why you should see it: Carla Simón’s stunning narrative first feature is also a masterclass in directing children. The performances Simón elicits from her emotionally astute cast, but most impressively from young Laia Artigas, as Frida, and Paula Robles, who plays Frida’s darling, trusting younger cousin, is an object lesson in eliciting naturalistic performances from young actors.
One of 2018’s most awarded and acclaimed films, the film received multiple awards on the festival circuit, including Best First Feature at the Berlin Film Festival, where it premiered, and represented Spain in the (then) Best Foreign Language Film category at the 90th Academy Awards.