Leviathan (Russia): If there is one and only one film I could watch at the fest it would be Leviathan directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev. Among other awards the film won the best screenplay at Cannes earlier this year and has received tremendous critical appreciation. Zvyagintsev was at IFFI in 2011 when Elena was screened and it won the Best Actress award.
Timbuktu (France, Mali): Winner of the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at Cannes this year, Timbuktu is a film about a place where religious fundamentalists have taken over and how the lives of the people get affected with it
The Fool (Russia): The film won a handful of awards at the Locarno film festival including the prize of the Ecumenical Jury and Junior Jury award. The story is about an honest plumber who fights against a corrupt system in order to help a bunch of tenants.
Foxcatcher (USA): The film starring Steve Carell and Channing Tatum won director Bennett Miller the Best Director prize at Cannes. It is about an Olympic Gold Medal winning wrestler who forges a new partnership with a wealthy man to train and how it affects the relationship with his brother. It is likely to be released theatrically so don’t punish yourself if you miss it.
A Hard Day (South Korea): Amidst mostly serious films, there is nothing like a crime thriller to break the monotony. Screened at Cannes in the Directors Fortnight along with the Toronto and London Festival, the story is about a detective who knocks a man down while driving, setting off a chain of events
Ida (Poland ): Winner of the FIPRESCI prize at Toronto and the Best Film at London Film Festival (and other 30 odd awards), Ida is the story of a young woman who is all set to take her vows as a nun when she discovers some family secrets that changes everything.
Life in a Fishbowl (Iceland): Iceland’s official submission at the Oscars this year, the story is about a writer, who is on a drinking binge, and a single mother who has to resort to extremes to make ends meet.
Little England (Greece): Official submission of Greece to the best foreign language film category at the Oscars, this drama of love, passion and relationships is set in the 1930s.
The Postman’s White Nights (Russia):
This mid-festival film picked up a couple of awards at the Venice film festival including the Silver Lion. The director Andrei Konchalovsky has also made some English films as well like Runaway Train.
Sivas (Turkey): Winner of the special jury prize at Venice, Sivas is a story about an 11-year-old boy and his friendship with a fighting dog named Sivas. The young boy also won accolades for his performance.
The Theory of Everything (USA): Director James Marsh won an Oscar for his documentary ‘Man on Wire’, but this film is based on the life of the famous physicist Stephan Hawking and his relationship with his wife Jane Hawking.
The Tribe (Ukraine): Winner of the Critics Week Grand Prize at Cannes, this powerful film is without dialogues or subtitles. It about a deaf mute teenager who struggles to be a part of the boarding school and the film is one of the more remarkable films at the festival.
Turist (Sweden): Winner of the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at Cannes, this gripping tale is about a family on a vacation on the French Alps which is struck by avalanche. What follows is a family drama.
The Way He Looks (Brazil): This crowd pleaser is also Brazil’s submission at the Oscars this year. It is about two teenagers, their friendship and how it changes when another young boy moves to their part of the town.
Blind Massage (China): Winner of the Silver Bear at Berlin, Blind Massage is about a massage parlour where all the employees are, well, blind. This is a film with interesting characters and has bittersweet moments.
Charlie’s Country (Australia): Director Rolf de Heer’s name may not be as popular as some of the other directors from world cinema, but make no mistake as his filmography is highly impressive. This film won David Gulpill (who also acted in de Heer’s Tracker) the best actor award at Cannes in Un Certain Regard.
Behaviour (Cuba): Part of the competition section, this film about a young boy who becomes the breadwinner in his family has won quite a few accolades around the world.
Corn Island (Georgia): Not surprisingly, this stunningly shot film is Georgia’s entry at the Oscars. Impressively directed by George Ovashvili with minimal dialogues, this story is about a grandfather and his grand daughter who live on a makeshift island.
Mommy (Canada): Xavier Dolan, the 25 year old director’s ‘Mommy’ is a whirlwind of a film. Brilliant acting, especially from Anne Dorval who has given one of the best performances of the year, Mommy has set the bar very high for Dolan. It shared the Jury prize at Cannes this year with a film that I loathed- Godard’s Goodbye to Language.
Difret (Oblivion, Ethiopia): Just for the sheer story of guts and glory of a girl who is abducted and escapes from the clutches of kidnappers and a lawyer who fights for the girl’s rights, Difret, based on a true story is worth a watch. Angelina Jolie has also been promoting the film after it caught her attention.
Clouds of Sils Maria (France): Directed by Olivier Assayas (who served on the IFFI jury in 2007) the film stars Juliette Binoche as an actress who is asked to play the role that made her famous couple of decades ago. The film also stars Kristen Stewart and Chloë Grace Moretz.
Winters Sleep (Turkey): Directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan, the film won the top prize, Palm d’Or at Cannes. It is about an actor turned hotel owner living in Anatolia with his wife with whom he has a tumultuous relationship. The film has a daunting length of 196 minutes but it still is one of the highlights of the festival.
The Look of Silence: Director Joshua Oppenheimer stunned the world with his documentary ‘The Act of Killing’ and has followed it up with another remarkable film. Based in Indonesia, a family confronts the men who killed one of their brothers.
The Salt of the Earth (France): Directed by Wim Wenders and Juliano Ribeiro Salgado, this documentary won prize of the Ecumenical Jury Special Mention and Un Certain Regard Special Jury Prize at Cannes this year. The citation read, “This documentary masterpiece about photographer Sebastião Salgado is a compelling testimony of our time and a reflection of the human condition worldwide that shows the possibility of hope for humankind.”
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (Sweden): The final film of the trilogy from director Roy Anderson, the other two being Songs From The Second Floor (2000) and You, The Living (2007), this film with a rather interesting title won the Golden Lion at Venice this year.
Flapping in the Middle of Nowhere (Vietnam): The film won the Fedeora award at Venice. It is about a young woman who discovers that she is pregnant. Along with her boyfriend, she tries to make money to have an abortion.
The Imitation Game (USA, UK): Based on the life of Alan Turing, the film has wooed critics and audiences alike by winning a handful awards. Benedict Cumberbatch stars in the lead.
The Owners (Kazakhstan): A young man along with his sick sister and teenage brother are forced to leave their house. When they move to an ancestral house, they discover it is occupied by someone else.
Mr Kaplan (Uruguay): The country’s entry at the Oscars this year, the story is about an elderly gent who goes on a mission of his own after he suspects that there is a Nazi in hiding.
Dearest (China): This film is about a couple living in a village who come to terms with the disappearance of their son.
Apart from these films, White Shadow (Italy, Germany), Susanne Bier’s A Second Chance (Denmark Sweden), Cold in July (it made waves at the Sundance festival), Nabat (Azerbaijan’s entry at the Oscars), and The Guide (Russia) might just be worth it.