Posted on January 5, 2018

They select the movies for the Calgary International Film Festival, and now our team of programmers share their Top 10 films of 2017. Still not sure what films you need to catch up on from the past year? Take it from our curators – these are films that you'll want to seek out as we say goodbye to the year that was 2017.  

World Cinema Programmer Sachin Gandhi shares his Top Films of 2017


Similar to 2016, global cinema in 2017 kept pace with current events and created works that reflected society. There were multiple films released in 2017 that covered the plight of refugees and the struggles they face (69 MINUTES OF 86 DAYS, AQERAT, MORE, HUMAN FLOW, THE OTHER SIDE OF HOPE, RESEBA, TASTE OF CEMENT) while some films showed the harsh economic realities of our world (FÉLICITÉ, THE FLORIDA PROJECT, THE NOTHING FACTORY, WESTERN). This year’s Cannes festival unveiled three timely films set in Russia that gave a glimpse into Russian society (A GENTLE CREATURE, CLOSENESS and LOVELESS). All three are very different films yet all look at the larger Russian society by highlighting the impact on a family/spouse when a male member is absent. In addition, there were new works from established master directors although Hong Sang-soo outpaced everyone else by releasing three films in one year, which is an accomplishment even by his prolific standards. Of the numerous worthy titles to choose from, this list is restricted to 17 films, all of which are new 2017 titles.

1. ZAMA directed by Lucrecia Martel (Argentina co-production)
Lucrecia Martel’s long-awaited cinematic return is a feast for the senses and brings a fresh perspective to the colonial life. Packed with delightful references to cinematic and literary characters ranging Godot to Kurtz to Aguirre and even the legendary Gabbar Singh. This is filmmaking of the highest order! 
Calgary Cinematheque will show ZAMA on March 22 at Globe Cinema

2. A MAN OF INTEGRITY directed by Mohammad Rasoulof (Iran)
Rasoulof cleverly uses a single man’s struggles to depict larger issues around corruption and politics in society. The film is set in Iran but the story about power struggle is universal.

3. WESTERN directed by Valeska Grisebach (Germany/Bulgaria)
A smart variation of a traditional Western film genre that illustrates the east as the promised land for riches instead. The guns may be absent but horses and masculinity aren’t.
WESTERN was a 2017 Calgary International Film Festival selection

4. LIFE AND NOTHING MORE directed by Antonio Méndez Esparza (Spain/USA)
A remarkable and urgent film that gets at the core about the problems regarding racism in America today. By using a single incident around a playground, the film shows the cycle of fear that leads to a violent reaction and subsequent excessive force by law officials.

5. COCOTE directed by Nelson Carlo de Los Santos Arias (Dominican Republic co-production)
A creative blend of fiction and documentary which effortlessly mixes different film stocks (colour, black and white) and contains different camera styles, including an immersive 360-degree pan. The end result is a scrumptious film that hails the arrival of an exciting new voice in international cinema! 
Calgary Cinematheque will show COCOTE on Jan 25 at Globe Cinema

6. A GENTLE CREATURE directed by Sergei Loznitsa (France)
Loznitsa brings a sharp documentary eye in depicting the prison system and corruption in society while layering the work with Kafkaesque notes, satire and even opera. 
Calgary Cinematheque will show A GENTLE CREATURE on Feb 22 at the Globe Cinema

7. CLOSENESS directed by Kantemir Balagov (Russia)
Based on a true story, Balagov nicely uses a 4:3 aspect ratio to box the screen in thereby showing the closeness and tension among different ethnicities in the Caucasus city of Nalchik.
2017 Calgary International Film Festival selection

8. LOVER FOR A DAY directed by Philippe Garrel (France)
Garrel has crafted a lovely mix of French New Wave and contemporary sensibilities.

9. THE NOTHING FACTORY directed by Pedro Pinho (Portugal)
Starts off as an absurd comedy, shifts gears to become a documentary and ends as a musical. The documentary portion of the film is brimming with ideas where the film looks at the end of capitalism and shutting down of factories across Europe. The film poses relevant questions about what work means in modern society.
THE NOTHING FACTORY was a 2017 Calgary International Film Festival selection

10. TASTE OF CEMENT directed by Ziad Kalthoum (Germany/Syria/Lebanon co-production)
A poetic documentary that depicts the lives of Syrian workers who are working on high rise towers in Beirut. The documentary smartly interweaves the construction of the buildings in Beirut with the destruction of the workers’ homes back in Syria. The film also features some of the most inventive framing and camera movements of the year, including some dizzying views of Beirut.

Honourable mentions (alphabetical order):
AQERAT directed by Edmund Yeo (Malaysia)
FACES PLACES directed by JR and Agnès Varda (France)
FÉLICITÉ directed by Alain Gomis (Senegal co-production) 2017 Calgary International Film Festival selection
NEWTON directed by Amit Masurkar (India)
ON BODY AND SOUL directed by Ildikó Enyedi (Hungary)
THE OTHER SIDE OF HOPE directed by Aki Kaurismäki (Finland) 2017 Calgary International Film Festival selection
WAJIB directed by Annemarie Jacir (Palestine co-production)

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