The Best of 2016


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The Childhood of a Leader

I was riveted this year by The Childhood Of A Leader, a filmmaking debut by actor Brady Corbet. It had the languorous aesthetic of a Visconti film, with its painterly cinematography of dark candlelit rooms, Scott Walker’s clamorous score, and a sense of decadence and impending doom. The film centres on Prescott, the unhappy 10-year-old son of an American career diplomat. Child actor Tom Sweet, with no previous acting experience, gives a mesmeric performance as Prescott. When we first glimpse the blonde long-haired child, he is surrounded by a halo of candlelight wearing white wings for a nativity play. As the film progresses there is a sublime ambiguity as to whether we are being privy into the soul of a diabolical Damien or witnessing a lonely alienated child whose character is being shaped by an oppressive patriarchal household with cold unloving parents set against the backdrop of a war torn Europe of 1919.

Lianna Marletta
Development Executive

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Arrival

There are a few reasons why Arrival is my film of the year.  It is beautifully crafted, with an intelligent script that packs a surprisingly emotional punch, alongside a haunting score from Johann Johannsson and impressive, brooding visuals.  It is centred by a terrific performance by Amy Adams, who manages to deliver emotional nuances even when acting through the thickness of a Hazmat suit.  It is also a film that, for me, appeared at the right time; its celebration of co-operation, understanding and expertise feel incredibly relevant to 2016. A real joy to watch.

Andy Harrow
GFT Volunteer

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Spotlight

Spotlight is a force to be reckoned with. A tight, focused and extremely powerful journalism procedural that is filled with superb performances. As the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team uncover a child sex abuse scandal, they have to battle against religious and judicial institutions involved in a cover-up of a truly alarming scale. As the leads multiply and the evidence mounts, the team’s horror grows as they realise how wide-ranging the abuse is. The central premise of the film is spoken by Stanley Tucci’s Mitchell Garabedian “If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one”. The Spotlight team, many of whom have friends and colleagues implicated in the scandal, feel complicit for ignoring previous tips and reports. This drives their convictions to see justice done and hold the abusers to account. The cast are stellar, displaying the kind of devastating emotion and unerring conviction that the story needs. Director Tom McCarthy never over-plays it, keeping the script, editing and acting all razor sharp, making the rare explosions of emotion all the more powerful. A story that needs telling and a film that needs viewing.

Gavin Crosby
Design & Digital Marketing Coordinator

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I, Daniel Blake

It’s special when a film has a significant impact on you; with all honesty that foodbank scene (even as I write, I feel as moved as I did the first time) provoked, by far, one of the most powerful, evocative and reactive emotions I have ever felt in a cinema auditorium. In 2015, I was made unexpectedly redundant. I wasn’t the only casualty - 129 others were cast out – creating a bizarre feeling of solidarity at not being the ‘only one’ but feeling utterly alone in a climate of growing austerity. Ken Loach has never been one to shy from shouting loudly about the pitfalls of society - but this time I wasn’t just watching, I was sighing, swearing and sobbing because these streets are outside my work, my bus stop, my window. See this film, unlike the systems we are oppressed to live in; it will leave you changed for the better. I, Daniel Blake returns to GFT for selected screenings in January. Book Now.

Jodie Wilkinson
Public Engagement Coordinator

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Under the Shadow

Babak Anvari’s debut feature caught everyone unawares come its UK release, in a variety of ways. Released with little fanfare in the UK this October, regardless of a tirade of positivity following their Sundance premiere, no-one expected (or was prepared for) the visceral gutpunch that was contained within this inconspicuous feature. Nor was anyone expecting the utterly heartbreaking feminist commentary of a woman forced out of a medical career following the Iranian revolution, and her experiences surviving such an oppressive regime. But most of all, no-one was prepared for how utterly terrifying this film is, masking its’ horrors through the first 45-minutes of realist family drama before dumping the audience into pure terror. These are necessary extremes to expose the true horror of experiencing a world in flux, brilliantly navigating the Iranian revolution as displacing a once-progressive nation into one torn apart by war.

Iain Canning 
GFF Programme Coordinator

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Sing Street

Everything in Sing Street resonated with me - I was around the same age in the 1980s as the lead characters, I recognised that school, I and my friends were a similar awkward motley crew to the band depicted here, I had those same – now embarrassing - deep discussions about the cultural importance of various pop acts. (I never piloted a rickety boat through a storm in the Irish Sea though.) So I made a very personal, nostalgic connection to it. Added to this mix – and what really makes it my pick for 2016 – was the funniest screenplay of the year performed by the most perfect cast, and a clever soundtrack featuring old Eighties classics and new compositions inspired by them that were both authentic-sounding and genuinely excellent. So it doesn’t matter when you were born, this is highly recommended for anyone – well, apart from fans of Phil Collins.

David Gattens
Finance/Commercial Director

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Hunt for the Wilderpeople

In September, nature got gangster and GFT embraced #SxuxLife. Taika Waititi’s majestical Hunt for the Wilderpeople bounded on to our screens and saw the clueless authorities chase Hec (Sam Neill) and Ricky (Julian Dennison) through stunning New Zealand wilderness. Described by Empire Magazine as: ‘a low-budget, live-action Up directed by a Wes Anderson who doesn’t mind getting muddy’ and featuring whimsical haikus, heartwarming moments of tenderness and a script to make you laugh uncontrollably, Waititi and his crew of Wilderpeeps have crafted a perfectly balanced, endlessly quotable gem that you absolutely must fast-walk to see. Hunt for the Wilderpeople returns to GFT Friday 16 – Monday 19 December. Book Now.

Margaret Smith 
Marketing & Press Coordinator

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Our Little Sister

Our Little Sister tells the story of three sisters who had drifted apart, as they unite at their estranged father’s funeral. At the funeral they discover and meet their little sister, and despite their shared feelings of frustration regarding how their father left them for his new family some time before, all feel that their newly found sister should be nurtured and cared for by them; as the relationship between these different characters really starts to develop the sisters’ awareness of the bond between them is renewed and strengthened. This could very easily have been an overly sentimental story but is so well depicted by Hirokazu Kore-eda that the viewer is spellbound by the dynamics of the characters, the unfolding story and the Japanese landscape. The scene of the little sister, overjoyed at her new family, cycling off down the lane surrounded by cherry blossoms with the sun on her face was totally unforgettable!

Angela Freeman
Senior Front of House Manager

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Julieta

Pedro Almodóvar returned in 2016, and it was great. Beautifully composed and emotionally resonant, the story of middle-aged, heartbroken Julieta, and how she came to be that way, is arguably his most heartfelt film yet. It’s completely sincere, and by Almodóvar’s standards, relatively straightforward storytelling. It’s a slow-burner, featuring two brilliant performances from Emma Suárez and Adriana Ugarte as Julieta in different time periods, and its themes, of parent-child relationships, guilt and regret, bubble under and swell to a powerful - and tentatively hopeful - conclusion. Julieta returns to GFT Friday 16 – Thursday 22 December. Book Now.

Paul Gallagher
Marketing Manager

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Fan

It’s been a good year for Bollywood Cinema but Maneesh Sharma’s tale of celebrity worship and fandom in India was one of the standout films of 2016. Shahrukh Khan delivers a knockout performance as both the screen superstar and his youthful lookalike fan, who will go to great lengths to meet his idol. In one of the many memorable scenes, we see the joyous young fan wearing fake abs and dancing to the tunes of his idol at a local village talent contest; in that moment we see the sheer impact a superstar can have on an individual. Fan is one those rare films that’s asks questions of itself and in an age where there is a growing obsession with celebrity culture, asks the audience to question the way we view our idols.

Krushil Patel
GFF Programme and Events Assistant

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Paterson

In Jarmusch’s latest, his usual meandering style guides us through a week in the life of bus driver-slash-poet Paterson and his partner Laura, highlighting the daily routine that most of us experience yet are always trying to escape. Instead of escapism however, Jarmusch focuses on beauty in repetition and turns the mundane into something almost magical. Sure, Paterson writes poetry, but he writes mostly for himself rather than for the sake of ego or audience, and despite their flaws the central couple intensely appreciate each other without needing much more. While there is a ‘happy-in-their-own-bubble’ sense to that, it’s also incredibly charming, as the camera lingers on and re-appreciates the seemingly banal. The film questions the desire to always chase the bigger and better, which makes for an odd kind of feel-good cinema, focusing on small things we forget to value and chance encounters we usually cast aside as meaningless.

Sanne Jehoul
GSFF Festival Coordinator

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Nocturnal Animals

Nocturnal Animals has divided people like no other film this year and I have a theory as to why it resonated with some but not others. Nocturnal Animals is a horrible petty film about spite, anger, resentment and the bitterness that can linger years after being spurned by a lover, and seeking revenge fuelled by a potent concoction of love and hate. My theory is that if you’ve not had your heart broken and felt a stirring desire to hurt the person who rejected you then the film simply wont resonate with you. Regrettably I thought it was utterly brilliant.

Ben Taylor
Festival and Industry Coordinator

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Son of Saul

The opening minutes of László Nemes audacious and harrowing Holocaust film Son of Saul should go down in cinema history as one of the best examples of audience respect. Keeping his camera tight on the face of Saul Ausländer, Nemes has faith that the audience can fill in the blanks of what is happening just out of view, as a cacophony of German voices bark orders and rows of starved prisoners trudge into clinical bunkers to remove their clothing. As the horrific realisation dawns on us as audience, the camera remains tight on Saul and its shallow focus observes his grim acceptance of his situation. Saul is a member of the ‘Sonderkommando’, Jewish prisoners given small privileges for assisting with the extermination of his own people, until he finds the body of a boy he believes to be his son and begins a search to have him properly buried. The camera stays close on Saul’s face throughout the entire film, and this formal inventiveness allows Nemes to explore the true evil of his subject with remarkable frankness, completely avoiding the crass pitfalls of Hollywood exploitation. There have been claims that there is nothing more to say about the Holocaust, especially after Claude Lanzmann’s epic Shoah, but with Son of Saul László Nemes has managed to make a truly cinematic work of art that is immediate and indelible, difficult to watch and impossible to forget. 

Sean Greenhorn
Programme Manager

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I’m so glad I caught Mustang on the last day of GFF16, as it turned out to be my highlight of the festival. Deniz Gamze Erguven‘s directorial debut thoroughly deserves its Oscar nomination (and more importantly GFF Audience Award!) for this tale of 5 orphaned sisters, and their struggles to break away from their oppressive uncle and prison-like existence. This Turkish drama is seen from the point of view of the youngest sister, as she watches as her older sisters are married off, and looks to find her own freedom. There are some comparisons with Sofia Coppola’s The Virgin Suicides, but I think Mustang has a unique feel to it and if you haven’t seen it yet you are definitely missing out.

Sarah Emery
GFF Guest Coordinator

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