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After Lucia (dir. Michel Franco)
Franco’s After Lucia received resounding critical acclaim when it screened at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. A devastating and suffocating examination of high school bullying, After Lucia tells the tale of Alejandra and her father Roberto who move to a new town after the death of her mother. Starting over in a new school can be hard at the best of times, with Franco’s assured sophomore effort amplifying the school yard bullying and the effects of adolescent trauma to new heights. (Cannes review here)
Beyond the Hills (dir. Cristian Mungiu)
From Mungiu, the director of 2007’s Palme d’Or-winning 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Beyond the Hills is a drama focusing on the friendship between two women who grew up in the same orphanage. One has moved to German and now wishes to bring her lifelong friend with her; however she’s found refuge and security in a Romanian convent and is reluctant to leave. A story about the conflicting love for ones religion and their friends, Mungiu’s languid, yet provocative story may be one of this year’s most gruelling yet rewarding films. (Cannes review here)
Blancanieves (dir. Pablo Berger)
Berger’s tragic tale of a renowned matador and his pregnant wife, Blancanieves is a silent melodrama shot through a Gothic filter which promises to evoke the bewitching majesty of the work of F.W Murnau. Based on the Brothers Grimm’s Snow White, Blancanieves has the potential to be this year’s most beguiling and intoxicating inclusion to the LFF.
Helter Skelter (dir. Mika Ninagawa)
Directed by former photographer Ninagawa and starring pop singer/model Erika Sawajiri, Helter Skelter is based on the 2003 manga of the same name and tells the story of a model whose faultless beauty has seen her rise to the top of her profession. However, she has a secret which – her immaculate look has been constructed form scratch through plastic surgery. Promising to be yet another exponent of peculiar Japanese culture Helter Skelter is perhaps the most outlandish and intriguing instalment in this year’s programme.
Just the Wind (dir. Benedek Fliegauf)
Fliegauf’s hard-hitting Hungarian drama Just the Wind is a distressing story of a Romany community living amongst an atmosphere of fear and prejudice. Slowly building to a nerve shattering crescendo, Just the Wind is a pressure cooker of social criticism, heightened drama and intense psychological horror which deceptively hooks you early on, before slowly reeling you in for the kill. (Berlin review here)
Lore (dir. Cate Shortland)
Snapped up for UK distribution by Artificial Eye after a barnstorming debut at the Locarno Film Festival, Australian director Shortland (best-known for 2004’s Somersault) presents Lore, a dark World War Two-set tale based on Rachel Seiffert’s Booker-shortlisted novel The Dark Room. With cinematography from the acclaimed Adam Arkapaw (responsible for the aesthetics of both 2010’s Animal Kingdom and 2011’s Snowtown) and an original score from Max Richter, the talent is all in place for a beautifully constructed, desperately melancholic childhood drama.
Shell (dir. Scott Graham)
Graham’s full-length feature debut was due to premier at this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival, however due to “circumstances beyond the festival’s control”, the film was pulled and will now open at the LFF. An intense story of freedom and identity set in a remote part of the Scottish Highlands, Shell’s beautiful, yet remote landscape should beautifully mirror the isolation of the film’s two protagonists who spend their days tending to their rural petrol station. Shell promises to be a thought-provoking example of minimalist British cinema.
Sister (dir. Ursula Meier)
Following the success of her 2008 debut Home, director Meier returns with Sister (L’enfant d’en haut), a moving adolescent drama set against the backdrop of the Swiss Alps. Meier’s portrait of a boy thrust from infancy to adulthood is a remarkably fresh and invigorating adolescent drama that beautifully captures the unquenchable need for love and tenderness of a child. Cut from very much the same cloth as the work of the Dardenne brothers, Sister perfectly captures the intensity that often brews below the surface of such dysfunctional domestic dynamics. (Berlin review here)
Wadjda (dir. Haifaa al-Mansour)
Al-Mansour’s debut feature caused quite a stir at this year’s Venice Film Festival, not only is she the first female director to emerge from Saudi Arabia – a country where it is still illegal for women to drive – but she’s created a sumptuously made tale which offers the audience an unprecedented view of life in Saudi Arabia. Charting the experiences of a precocious young girl who challenges her country’s rigid traditions, Wadjda is not only a culturally significant piece of cinema but – if initial reviews are to be believed – is also a thoroughly enjoyable and beautifully shot film.
Wolf Children (dir. Mamoru Hosoda)
Hosoda’s previous films The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006) and Summer Wars (2009) both complied with the formulaic template of recent ‘family friendly’ anime films, yet somehow managed to instil an irresistibly charming aura to their playful narratives. His latest, Wolf Children, looks no different and tells the story of a woman who falls in love with Japan’s last remaining wolf-man, their love is unconditional however, their hybrid wolf children will have to deal with how their differences will affect their individual lives.