Megan Spencer, Guardian Australia, Radio National



1. Honeygiver Among The Dogs (Dechen Roder, BHUTAN)


Called the first ever “Buddhist film noir”, this is a breathtaking film set in the mountains of Bhutan. A policeman is sent to investigate the disappearance of a Buddhist nun, presumed murdered. Tailing the suspect – an impossibly beautiful woman deemed a “demon-ness” by the village bigots – the film becomes an ethereal treatise about the nature of reality – and  our relationship to what we ‘think’ we know. The natural and ‘sacred’ worlds crisscross at every opportunity. A profound, unpredictable, and thrilling cinematic achievement. (Panorama)


2. Those Who Make Revolution Halfway Only Dig Their Own Graves (Mathieu Denis Simon Lavoie, CANADA)


An uncompromising, confronting and beautifully cinematic imagining on how a Baader-Meinhof-esque terrorist cell might develop out of Neo-Liberal, capitalist society. Straight-to-camera set pieces, political quotes and extended instrumental ‘interludes’ arrogantly punctuate this searing, 3-hour French-Canadian production. (Generation 14+)


3. Casting JonBenét (Kitty Green, AUSTRALIA)


A compassionate, innovative ‘documentary hybrid’ about a 20-year-old, unsolved child murder which gripped the world. Funny, moving and a decidedly kind take on the very human instinct to distract ourselves from our own pain and trauma, by focusing on the tragedies that befall others. Disrupting the documentary form by combining interviews with “camera confessional” and re-enactment, Panorama programmer Wieland Speck tells me, “By offering many different approaches to ‘the truth’, the complex.. non-calculable ways our remembrance works become transparent… We bear witness to something like the creation of a ‘swarm’ truth – which is not leading to new horizons, but sharpens and enriches our ability to be critical. More important than ever in times of – you name it – fake truths and alternative facts.” What he said. (Panorama)


4.On Body And Soul (Ildikó Enyedi, HUNGARY)


A deserving winner of the Golden Bear, with some of the most beautiful images ever put to screen. An ethereal, strangely moving and sweetly funny romantic ‘dramedy’ about a pair of office workers who can only find connection and intimacy through sharing dreams. Set against the backdrop of a slaughterhouse, it speaks volumes about work, the divide between ‘that which is man-made’ and ‘the natural world’, and what might become of us if we remove ourselves from caring about either. (Competition)


5. Requiem For Mrs J. (Bojan Vuletić, SERBIA)


A knockout of a film about a woman struggling to continue after the death of her husband. Everyone around her is hateful, nothing holds meaning any more and she is rendered numb, furthered also by an Orwellian, post-war bureaucracy with little time for empathy. At times drolly funny, it’s an unpredictable, redemptive and powerful portrait of contemporary life in a possible post-EU Europe. (Panorama Special)


6. The Other Side Of Hope (Aki Kaurismaki, FINLAND)


Director Aki Kaurismaki burst into song at the post-Competition-screening press conference for his film. He had a lot to sing about: this is a touching, deadpan funny and deadly serious look at the plight of of asylum seekers in ‘post-refugee crisis’ Europe. The second in Kaurismaki’s planned “refugee trilogy”, I loved it from start to finish. And the music. Silver Bear winner for ‘Best Director’. (Competition)


7. Wilde Maus (Josef Hader, AUSTRIA)


A beautifully-written, satirical comedy about the chattering classes, “polite society” and a mid-life crisis, talented Austrian cabaret artist and actor Josef Hader reportedly “gave” himself this film to direct as a 50th birthday present. He’s a brilliant clown. Not what you think, it’s one of the funniest films in the festival. Wilde Maus should have won a major award, plain and simple. (Competition)


8. Loving Pia (Daniel Borgman, DENMARK)


Casting mostly ‘non-actors’, and shot on 16mm, Borgman tells the story of Pia, an aging, intellectually disabled woman, yearning for romance and living in rural Denmark. Based on the central actress’s own life story, the film blossoms into an incredibly moving, sweet romantic comedy, with a pet goose stealing the show at every opportunity. A brave and compassionate portrait, courtesy of a unique collaboration between the actors and director. (Forum)


9. Untitled (Michael Glawogger, Monica Willi, AUSTRIA)


A big fan of Workingman’s Death, I was saddened to hear of iconoclast documentary maker Michael Glawogger’s own in 2014. Longtime editor Monica Willi took it upon herself to finish his final project, left unedited at the time of his demise, brought about by an infection while travelling.

Glawogger’s gaze upon the world is unique. Here he sets out to make a film with no premise other than to aimlessly, “intuitively”, wander the world in search of beauty and meaning. Willi helps him posthumously achieve his vision, fashioning a stark and poetic observation of a world simultaneously falling apart and resurrecting, courtesy of ‘man’ and nature. (Panorama)


10. Ghost Hunting (Raed Andoni, PALESTINE)


A controversial, courageous and at times tough to watch film, that, like Casting JonBenét, combines re-enactment and “role play” with documentary footage. Palestinian former inmates of an Israeli detention centre are invited to collaborate on a film about their incarceration. The director invites them to build a replica of the prison and ‘interrogates’ them about their experiences.

At times appearing cruel and at others cathartic, the film is poetic statement about human rights and the need to live in peace and with dignity. Winner of the Glasshutte Original Documentary Award. (Panorama Documentary)


Honor Roll: Call Me By Your Name, Poi E: The Story of Our Song, I Am Not Your Negro, Dream Boat, Somnilioquies, My Entire High School Sinking Into The Sea, Emo The Musical, Have A Nice Day, The Wound, Insyriated, A Fantastic Woman, Beuys, Bones Of Contention, Joaquim, Wolfe (short).


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