November started already! The year is coming to an end soon. And not only a year, but a whole decade: the 2010s.
There is an opinion dilemma here, as there are people that consider the current decade began on January 1st, 2010 and ended back on Dec 31st, 2019, whilst others consider the “twenty-tens”, “two thousand (and) tens”, or just “the ’10s” decade started on January 1st, 2011 and will end this coming December 31st, 2020.
As part of the second group and being a ‘list’ person as I am, plus an indie and international movie lover, I couldn’t help but to make a list of titles of what I find the most representative independent and off-beat films from around the world of this interesting decade: One that started in the middle of a global financial crisis, that witnessed new generations of royals, that suffered earthquakes, hurricanes, a world pandemic, yet observed social media-fuelled mass movements and new laws legalising more inclusive rights, among whatever might happen next month, as the year’s still not over!
So, here’s a list of movies, documentaries, and short films I consider worth watching:
1. *2010 – Chico and Rita, Spain
This animated music romantic film in Spanish and English, directed by Tono Errando, Javier Mariscal, and Fernando Trueba tells us the stormy love story between Chico, a Cuban idealistic piano player, and Rita, a delicate and beautiful singer with a touching voice. Boleros (Latin ballads), romance, immigration, heartache, love, and torment fill the screen making us engage with these two lively characters that take us on a journey to a late ‘40s Cuba and New York. The original soundtrack is from Cuban pianist, bandleader, and composer, Dionisio ‘Bebo’ Valdés. Beautiful!
*This one is for those that consider the 2010’s decade goes from 2010-2019.
2. 2011 – Pina, Germany
This 3D documentary about Pina Bausch filmed in Wuppertal is a tribute to her abilities as a contemporary dance choreographer. Directed by Wim Wenders, it presents four passages of her most acclaimed dance pieces within the dance theatre in Germany. Interviews and further dance choreographies complete the narrative. Unexpectedly, during the preparation of the film, Pina passed away, adding a special feeling to the experience of watching it. Pina’s dance colleagues convinced Wenders of presenting it, so it premiered at the 61st Berlin International Film Festival and was selected as the German entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 84th Academy Awards. Vigorous!
3. 2012 – Ginger & Rosa, United Kingdom / Denmark / Canada
This early 60’s London-set film presents a heartbreaking and tempestuous journey of two teenage girls’ friendship and how it breaks apart by disloyalty. Elle Fanning got praised for her captivating role as Ginger in this film written and directed by Sally Potters. Convincing!
4. 2013 – La Jaula de Oro [The Golden Dream], México
This Mexican movie directed by Diego Quemada-Díez narrates how Juan (Brandon López), Sara (Karen Noemí Martínez Pineda), and Samuel (Carlos Chajón) leave Guatemala to try and reach the United States, finding Chauk (Rodolfo Domínguez), a Tzotzil native, on their way. Their troubled journey gives us a taste of what Latin American indigenous migrants suffer in their intent of overcoming poverty and injustice and how they (sometimes) survive through solidarity, hope, and love among themselves. Quite amusing the fact that, except for the main characters, most of those who participate in the film are not professional actors, but migrants hired by the production in the locations where the film was shot. Heartbreaking!
5. 2014 – Lola [Grandmother], Philippines
Brillante Mendoza directs this dramatic short film about two heartbroken grandmothers: one of them has to face the sudden death of her grandson and the other one has to see how her grandson rots in jail. They become antagonists due to life circumstances but their grandmotherly love may change the end of this emotional story. Lola was the first Filipino film in the Venice Film Festival competition since 1985. Emotional!
6. 2015 – Frackman, Australia
Fracking… Coal seam gas developments…Multimillionaire companies mining rural lands without any care for the environment or the people that live there, like Dayne Pratzky, who against all odds, fights this David and Goliath battle (as some critiques have called it) against these gas developments. This is a based-on-real-events film where directors Richard Todd and Jonathan Stack show how this one guy, by protecting his land, becomes an activist in one of the largest global social movements. Engaging!
7. 2016 – Ma vie de Courgette [My Life as a Zucchini], Switzerland
This Franco-Swiss stop-motion animated comedy-drama film tells the tragic story of several kids, but one in particular, Icare, who has to face some of the most terrible situations life has to offer and how he deals with them through friendship, love, and the feeling of pertaining. Claude Barras directs this film that touches our heartstrings. This second adaptation of the Autobiographie d’une Courgette by Gilles Paris, made it to the 89th Academy Awards nominations for the Best Animated Feature Film. Touching!
8. 2017 – The Square, Sweden
Written and directed by Ruben Östlund, this Swedish satiric film won the European Film Award for Best Film. It is about how an art curator (Claes Bang) struggles with the consequences of taking in his hands the recovery of his stolen mobile phone, at the same time he deals with an affair that got out of hand with a rather obsessed, yet funny journalist (Elisabeth Singleton Moss), and the responses to the controversial promotion of a new exhibition of an art piece, he incautiously approved. Funny!
9. 2018 – Jeg Vil Bo I Mitt Navn [I Want to Live In My Name], Norway
Director and photographer Lars Erlend Tubaas Øymo combines natural landscapes, cities, and a basement in Bergen in this documentary that follows the charming Espedal in his aim to see the beauty in old age, language and death. A bohemian film that leaves us with a sweet sensation that living life freely to its fullest is incredibly worth it. Compelling!
10. 2019 – Baxu and the Giants, Namibia
This short film by German filmmaker Florian Schott showcases the harsh rural reality of 9-year old Baxu and her family, affected by a combination of unexpected visitors and the need of Khata, Baxu’s brother, to improve the family’s economy. The rhinos, giants of the Savannah, talk to Baxu in her dreams whilst she faces a challenging decision. In only 30 minutes, Schott can make us deeply connect with his characters. Captivating!
11. 2020 – Pugalo [Scarecrow], Russia
Director Dmitry Leonidovich Davydov, interested in the healing practices in the countryside, as he expressed after being awarded, takes us on a journey to a Yakutian village where their contradictory inhabitants are scared of this eremite woman: Scarecrow (Valentina Romanova-Chyskyyray), a healer, who they insult, humiliate and offend, but rush to her encounter whenever they are ill, as she might be the only one able to cure them at the expense of her own health. Last September, in the middle of a world pandemic, this film won the main prize of the Sochi Open Russian Film Festival, known as Kinotavr. Mystical!
Have you seen any of these? Share your must-watch film of these years, would love to hear!