This weekend ASFF selects five films from around the world that are set for a UK cinema release. Four features and one documentary, these works are set in such far-flung places as Senegal, Tasmania and Sicily and bring us up close to characters dealing with issues of religion, revenge, recrimination and racism.
Knives Out (Lionsgate)
Rian Johnson, the innovative director behind Brick and Looper, delivers his best film yet – an Agatha Christie-style whodunit that a contemporary twist. In between his James Bond duties, Daniel Craig is the Louisiana detective Benoit Blanc, called in to investigate the death of a mystery novelist and publishing magnate. Full of fiendish plotting, it’s also the most fun Johnson movie to date. The cast – Jamie Lee Curtis, Michael Shannon, Toni Collette, Don Johnson and more – is to die for, which feels appropriate.
Based on Anthony McCarten’s play The Pope, Fernando Meirelles’ Netflix drama is a surprisingly nimble tale that dramatises the moment Pope Benedict XVI (Anthony Hopkins) became the first pontiff in six hundred years to tender his resignation. In his place will be the Argentinean-born Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce) – the future Pope Francis – but the transition is less than simple. Brilliantly acted by Hopkins and Pryce, the script deeply humanises these men of God, creating a humorous and deft tale about religion and responsibility.
French actress Mati Diop, who made her on-screen debut in Claire Denis’ 35 Shots of Rhum in 2008, goes behind the camera for this curious supernatural tale. Becoming the first black female director to compete in the Cannes Film Festival official competition earlier this year – where she won the Grand Prix prize – Diop’s film embraces social commentary and sci-fi in equal measure, as the story unfolds in Senegal’s Dakar, with unpaid workers, betrothed lovers and zombie-like creatures. A strange, beguiling film.
Jennifer Kent follows her hugely successful 2014 debut The Babadook with a jaw-dropping period piece, set in 19th Century Tasmania. Sam Claflin plays a British lieutenant who takes his inferiority complex and rage out on married Irish convict Clare (Aisling Francisoi) and her family, actions that lead to bloody reprisals. It’s not a film for the feint of heart, but it’s a fine exploration of sexual and racial politics that feels entirely apt in the post-MeToo era.
British documentarian Kim Longinotto (Sisters In Law) explores the unique life and work of Italian photographer Letizia Battaglia, who dedicated much of her career to taking pictures of the Sicilian Mafia. Now 83 years-old, Battaglia is not the easiest subject – often unwilling to analyze her own work or its meaning. But here is a fascinating life story, told up close, as she goes from a reluctant house wife to a shutterbug documenting the gruesome aftermath of Cosa Nostra killings. That in itself is probably worthy of a film.
All films released on 29 November.