With everyone making lists of the Best Films So Far I'm going to give you the names of ten filmmakers who have impressed the hell out of me this year. They may not have made the "best" films but they have kicked the walls down made me want to see what they do next.
A word about the choices - these are not everyone who impressed me this year. There are at least another dozen more filmmakers who knocked my socks off (and as a such a second list will be coming). Because my lists tend to end up long and unwieldy I put this list together with only one rule- once I hit ten I stop. That is grossly unfair to everyone left off but it had to be done this way or else I wouldn't have gotten it done.
Here, in no particular order are ten filmmakers you need to be watching (click on the film title to be taken to my review):
Fernanda Valadez- Identifying Features- Valadez has made a film which transcends mere story. Blending words, sound and images she has made a film that puts us in a place and a heartspace. She has pushed film not into a place where we can easily talk about what we experience with her film, rather she has made a film we want to ass on to the next person so that they too can feel it and so that we may nod at each other in soulful understanding.
Kouros Alaghband-Majnuni- A dark moody film that is a work of art. Not so much narrative but a visitation to a headspace it leaves the viewer bewildered and shaken when we leave. Watching it we get into an off kilter rhythm that leaves us wondering what is normal.
Hasan Oswald-Higher Love- One of the best films of 2020 is that way because director Oswald understands that sometimes you don't look away, that sometimes you have to keep the camera running and that life doesn't have cutaways.
Patricia Vidal Delgado-La Leyenda Negra- I don't know if Delgado's film really works but six months on her visceral and heartfelt scream but life and injustice has hung with me more than most bigger films I really liked. An in your face "fuck you this is my life" confrontation is blistering and alive. He film is a plea for us to take notice and god damn not only have I noticed I can't shake the experience.
Daniel Newell Kaufman-Runon- I may have seen this short more times than any other in 2020. I watched the film over and over traveling on it's rhythms again and again because I can't look away. I want to see what he does with a feature.
Linhan Zhang- Last Ferry To Grass Island- a tale of a hit and its complications. It is rare that you ever see a story as perfectly told on every level. I want to compare Zhang to great directors of the past but his voice and vision is entirely his own and as such I am looking for him to take over the film world in a few years.
Steve Elkins- Echoes of The Invisible- hypnotic and thought provoking documentary on life and it's connections. Three months on I am haunted by the themes, thoughts and images in this film. There is something profound about it that puts me beyond words and into a place of deep understanding. Coupled with his first feature (The Reach of Resonance) which I saw after the fact ELkins reveals himself to be making thought works of art unlike anyone else out there.
Rodrigo Reyes - 499- I know Reyes has made other films but this was the point where I noticed him. This documentary/essay/drama about a conquistador wandering across Mexico today makes you ponder how the pain and suffering of the good old days id reflected in the past. Most important while Reyes is speaking specifically about Mexico his film also addresses the state of America where the people of today are dealing with wounds of our history and trying to recover.
Joanna Vasquez Arong- To Calm The Pig Inside- Arong's marriage of images of an island destroyed by a storm married to narration that rips open the destroyed psyche of a people is a shattering film. As I said in my review even if her next film is half as good as this it will be twice as good and almost any other film out there.
Merwai Gerima- Residue- Gerima's one of a kind look at race, gentrification and the upheavals of society will rock you. This isn't just a tale that will make you think but one that will make you feel in a deeply visceral, I'm in someone else's shoes, sort of way. While the story is powerful, it is Gerima's putting us into the story that is what you need to experience. It is a rethinking of what cinema is and can do and potentially heralds one of cinema's new greats.
All of the films are currently on the festival circuit so keep an eye out for this masterpieces by filmmakers to watch.