Tibet, 1980s: Dargye and Drolkar’s two boisterous youngest sons have blown up their parents’ condoms like balloons. Not only does this outrage their entire village, but more practically: they have no more condoms. The shepherd couple already have three sons, and as China has recently introduced its one-child policy, they can’t have any more.
Once China’s one-child policy was relaxed in 2015 – now permitting two children per family – space opened up for films examining the often profoundly traumatic consequences of this measure. Tseden takes a drily comic approach to the subject here, captured in deceptively simple handheld footage full of implicit symbolism. In his world, there is no chasm between modernity and tradition; rather, the two gently rub against each other.
With its cool colour palette, attentive handheld camerawork, and painterly passages that seem to transpire somewhere between this world and the next, Balloon approaches weighty themes with beguiling brio and a sense of wonder.
Drawing on stories from Sharrock’s friends in Damascus, Limbo imbues its characters, a group of lost souls awaiting both visas and different, more inner types of release, with dignity and individuality.
Recalling the quiet, occasionally surreal comedic absurdism of the films of Palestinian actor-director Elia Suleiman and Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki, it’s a sincere and immensely intelligent film about the internal and external reckonings forced upon refugees that also has a wider resonance for audiences in these socially distanced times.
Starring international star Mads Mikkelsen (The Hunt, Casino Royale, Doctor Strange, Rogue One), Another Round posits that there is an obscure philosophical theory that humans should have been born with a small amount of alcohol in our blood; that modest inebriation opens our minds to the world around us, diminishing problems and increasing creativity.
Intrigued, Martin (Mads Mikkelsen) and three of his friends, all weary high school teachers, embark on a risky experiment to maintain a constant level of intoxication throughout the workday.
Initial results are positive, but as the units are knocked back and stakes are raised, it becomes increasingly clear that some bold acts carry severe consequences.
Released: 2 July 202 by Studio Canal
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Length: 117 mins
Country: Denmark, Netherlands, Sweden
Sound of Metal
Ruben (Riz Ahmed) and Lou (Olivia Cooke) live together, two nomads traveling gig to gig on an endless American tour. Their music is loud, frenzied and passionate, until one day Ruben is overwhelmed by a severe ringing in his ears, which quickly gives way to deafness. Ruben is suddenly overcome by anxiety, depression, and soon enough his past addictions begin to surface. Ruben checks himself into a home for deaf addicts run by an eccentric deaf veteran, Joe.
In this world of silence and under Joe’s tough, observant care, Ruben must confront himself more honestly than ever before. But the love and sound of his old life echoes in Ruben’s mind, calling for him to return.
“Ahmed is superb in this impactful drama which explores attitudes towards and questions about disability” – Screen Daily
She is small, but dangerous. Wherever Benni ends up, she is immediately expelled.
The wild 9-year-old girl has already become what child protection services call a “system crasher” and she is certainly not looking to change her ways.
Benni has one single goal: to be back at home with her mommy! Unfortunately, her mother is scared of her own daughter. Trying to find a permanent placement for Benni, Child Protection Services hires Micha, an anger management trainer and suddenly there is a seed of hope. Will Micha be able to succeed where all others despaired?
Film Hub Wales members: You can watch a screener of System Crasher in our Preview Room section here.
In the lead role, young Helena Zengel is mightily impressive, showing the natural depth of a born actress as she pours her energy into System Crasher” – The Hollywood Reporter
Peanut Butter Falcon
The Peanut Butter Falcon is a modern Mark Twain-
esque adventure starring Shia LaBeouf (American Honey, Fury) as a small-time outlaw turned unlikely coach who joins forces with Zak, a young man with Down Syndrome on the run from a nursing home with the dream of becoming a professional wrestler. Dakota Johnson (Suspiria, Fifty Shades of Grey) stars as Zak’s loving, but stubborn, carer.
Utøya – July 22
On 22 July 2011 more than 500 youths at a political summer camp on an island outside Oslo were attacked by an armed, right-wing extremist. Earlier that day he bombed a Government building in Oslo before making his way to Utøya island. In this first fictional movie about the attack we follow Kaja as she tries to survive – minute by minute.
“A gut-wrenching ordeal … a brutal single-take drama from the victims’ perspective…like a YA post-apocalyptic dystopia, with Kaja a real-life Katniss Everdeen … an absorbing and moving tribute to the courage of the young victims of Utøya.”
Somewhere in Tokyo, Osamu Shibata and his wife Nobuyo live in poverty. While Osamu receives occasional employment and Nobuyo has a low-paying job, the family relies in large part on the grandmother’s pension. As he is shoplifting for groceries with his son, Shota, they discover Yuri, a homeless girl. Osamu takes her home, where the family observes evidence of abuse. Despite their strained finances, they informally adopt her.
“Equal parts incisive social critique and nuanced family portrait, the latest from Japanese master Hirokazu Kore-eda — winner of this year’s Palme d’Or at Cannes — follows a small band of marginalized misfits struggling to make ends meet in a merciless urban environment.” – Toronto International Film Festival
In this thrilling adaptation of a Haruki Murakami short story, Korean auteur Lee Chang-dong returns with a gripping psychological thriller about obsessive love set in modern consumerist Korea.
Happy as Lazzaro
Sweet-natured Lazzaro lives in a village in the beautiful Italian countryside, set apart from the world by a bridge that no one can be bothered to fix. Life unfolds much like it did a century ago, save for the odd Walkman and 1990s-era dance music, until things take a strange and supernatural turn as Lazzaro strikes up a friendship with a rebellious young nobleman.
“Rohrwacher concocts a trippy brew of Italian class struggle, folk tales, biblical allegory, pop culture references and a rich vein in cinema history.” – BFI London Film Festival
The Pearl Button
The lyrical documentary from internationally renowned documentary director Patricio Guzmán (Nostalgia for the Light, The Battle of Chile) opens up a rich reflection on landscape, history and culture in Chile.
Guzmán takes us on a journey into the water and ocean of Southern Chile. With 2,670 miles of coastline and the largest archipelago in the world, it’s a supernatural landscape full of volcanoes, mountains and glaciers. In it are the voices of the Patagonian Indigenous people and their tragic history, the first English sailors and also those of its political prisoners. Using both archival images and gorgeous new footage, The Pearl Button (El botón de nácar) manages to convey different periods of history and geography in a gripping tale of our modern world.
Released: 18 March, 2015 by New Wave
Director: Patricio Guzmán
The award-winning Mustang announces a new female filmmaking talent both on the screen and behind the camera. Five sisters grow up under the strict supervision of their aunt in this sensitive and powerful portrait of sisterhood and sexuality.
It’s the beginning of the summer. In a village in the north of Turkey, Lale and her four sisters come home from school, innocently playing with boys. The supposed debauchery of their games causes a scandal with unintended consequences. The family home slowly turns into a prison, classes on housework and cooking replace school, and marriages begin to be arranged. The five sisters, driven by the same desire for freedom, fight back against the limits imposed on them.
Released: 13 May, 2015 by Curzon
Director: Deniz Gamze Ergüven
“Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s debut is an accomplished study of what it means to be young and female in Turkey” 5* – The Guardian
In the middle of the Aegean Sea, on a luxury yacht, six men on a fishing trip decide to play a game. During this game things will be compared. Things will be measured. Songs will be butchered, and blood will be tested. Friends will become rivals, and rivals will become hungry. But at the end of the voyage when the game is over, the man who wins will be the best man. And he will wear upon his littlest finger the victorious signet ring: the Chevalier.
Winner of the Best Film Aware at the London Film Festival 2015 and directed by Athina Rachel Tsangari (acclaimed for her feature Attenberg in 2010), Chevalier is a hilarious comedy satire exposing the bizarre lengths men will go to, to be ‘the best in general’.
Released: 22 July, 2016 by Optimum Releasing
Director: Athina Rachel Tsangari
Length: 103 mins
“Chevalier” is an intelligent and dry entertainment that might also make a very telling date movie. ” – RogerEbert.com
Sonita dreams of being a famous rapper. But as an Afghan teen living in Tehran, her dreams are dangerous: the Iranian government doesn’t allow girls to sing, and at home, she is expected to become a teenage bride. With the help of filmmaker Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami, Sonita is offered a chance to turn a dream into a reality but a perilous journey lies ahead. Winner of both the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival, Sonita is a powerful yet intimate portrait of creativity and womanhood.
“An intimate portrait of creativity and womanhood, Sonita highlights the rarely seen intricacies and shifting contrasts of Iranian society through the lens of an artist who is defining the next generation” – Sundance Film Festival
Daphne has ‘sort of given up on people’ as she goes through the motions of her busy life, working as a cook in a London restaurant and through a series of drug-fuelled hook-ups. She resists genuine intimacy in her few friendships and rejects her mother Rita’s attempts to engage. When she witnesses a violent robbery, she’s thrown into chaos and finally begins to confront the person she’s become.
“Quickly develops into something pretty remarkable, thanks mostly to the stunning performance at its center.” – RogerEbert.com
God’s Own Country
Johnny Saxby (Josh O’Connor) works long hours on his family’s remote farm in the north of England. He numbs the daily frustration of his lonely existence with nightly binge-drinking at the local pub and casual sex. But when a handsome Romanian migrant worker (Alec Secareanu) arrives to take up temporary work on the family farm, Johnny suddenly finds himself having to deal with emotions he has never felt before. As they begin working closely together during lambing season, an intense relationship starts to form which could change Johnny’s life forever.
Released: 1 September, 2017 by Picturehouse
Director: Francis Lee
Length: 104 mins
“This is one of the most assured, fully-formed British debuts of recent years.” Sight and Sound Magazine
The Prince of Nothingwood
A joyous portrait of Salim Shaheen, Afghanistan’s most popular actor, director and producer, ‘The Prince of Nothingwood’ is a gripping, heartwarming and often funny tale of creativity against all odds. Having made a record 110 films over 30 years, despite no budget and the country’s ongoing war, Shaheen is ‘The Prince Of Nothingwood’, the man behind the movie industry in Afghanistan (aka ‘Nothingwood’).
Released: 15 December, 2017 by Vertigo
Director: Sonia Kronlund
Length: 85 mins
A Fantastic Woman
Marina and Orlando are in love and planning for the future. After celebrating Marina’s birthday one evening, Orlando falls seriously ill. Marina rushes him to the emergency room, but he passes away just after arriving at the hospital. Instead of being able to mourn her lover, suddenly Marina is treated with suspicion. The doctors and Orlando’s family don’t trust her. Marina is a trans woman and for most of Orlando’s family, her gender identity is an aberration, a perversion. So Marina struggles for the right to be herself. She battles the very same forces that she has spent a lifetime fighting just to become the woman she is now – a complex, strong, forthright and fantastic woman.
Released: 2 March, 2018 by Curzon Artificial Eye
Director: Sebastián Lelio
Length: 104 mins