Reviews

Written by the world’s top critics, reviews in The Film Verdict are an authoritative guide to the most important new movies appearing on the international scene. In this section you can search for and find more than one thousand reviews that have appeared in The Film Verdict since it began in September 2021. The reviewers are a diverse group based all over the globe: Deborah Young and Jay Weissberg (Rome), Stephen Dalton and Ben Nicholson (London), Boyd Van Hoeij (Luxembourg), Jordan Mintzer (Paris), Clarence Tsui (Hong Kong), Oris Aigbokhaevbolo (Lagos), Patricia Boero (Punta del Este), Lucy Virgen (Guadalajara), Carmen Gray (Berlin), Kevin Jagernauth (Montreal), and Alonso Duralde (Los Angeles).

All Shall Be Well

All Shall Be Well

When her lover of forty years suddenly dies, Angie discovers she has no rights even to her own apartment in Ray Yeung’s Teddy Award-winning ‘All Shall Be Well’, a heartfelt though unexceptional drama revealing Hong Kong’s unjust inheritance laws for same-sex couples.

Berlin 2024: The Awards

Berlin 2024: The Awards

The Berlinale awards celebrated cultural differences, with the Golden Bear going to Mati Diop’s poetic and thoughtful documentary on colonialism ‘Dahomey’, which follows the return of looted cultural artefacts to Benin.

Shambhala

Shambhala

Nepal’s first-ever competition title at the Berlinale, Min Bahadur Bham’s Shambhala is a visually breathtaking, emotionally engaging relationship drama about a young Tibetan’s physical and mental journey across the Himalayas in search of her vanished husband.

In the Belly of A Tiger

In the Belly of A Tiger

Bowing in the Berlinale’s independently curated Forum programme, Indian filmmaker Siddartha Jatla’s second feature, ‘In the Belly of a Tiger’, combines social critique with magical realism to depict the struggles of India’s rural poor.

Above The Dust

Above The Dust

Wang Xiaoshuai, controversially without an official screening permit, returns to Berlin with another superb picture about Chinese politics (and peasantry) featuring outstanding performances and stellar dialogue.

Yanks Pull Rank at EFM

Yanks Pull Rank at EFM

BY LIZA FOREMAN This year’s European Film Market has been awash in big titles sold by a slew of independent sales companies that are creating momentum going into 2024. At this week’s EFM, buzz titles like 'Oh Canada' from Paul Schrader, Oscar nominee Celine Song’s...

Black Tea

Black Tea

The gap between African and Chinese culture proves easier to breach than the perspectives that separate a woman and a man in acclaimed director Abderrahmane Sissako’s ‘Black Tea’, a fascinating love story set in China but one that sadly gets lost in the telling.

Cu Li Never Cries

Cu Li Never Cries

Vietnamese filmmaker Pham Ngoc Lan’s first feature, ‘Cu Li Never Cries’, is an absorbing, beautiful ode about a pensioner’s nostalgia for her past and a young couple’s uncertainty about their future.

Rising Up at Night

Rising Up at Night

Nelson Makengo’s beautifully shot and observed documentary ‘Rising Up at Night’ captures the darkness of Kinshasa after severe flooding and electricity cuts, along with the resilience of its people.

Intercepted

Intercepted

Ukrainian director Oksana Karpovych’s quietly powerful documentary ‘Intercepted’ combines bleakly beautiful, defiantly hopeful images of her war-ravaged homeland with recordings of phone calls made by invading Russian soldiers.

Dune: Part Two

Dune: Part Two

The second chapter of Denis Villeneuve’s epic adaptation delivers on the visual grandeur and political intrigue, even if the characters tend to be reduced to their plot function.

Gloria!

Gloria!

A joyful feminist fantasy set in Venice in 1800, in which music unchains an orphanage full of talented girl musicians, ‘Gloria!’ will split audiences into two distinct camps.

Some Rain Must Fall

Some Rain Must Fall

A depressed Chinese woman tired of her unaffectionate family and middle class life heads towards a breakdown in ‘Some Rain Must Fall,’ the first feature by Qiu Yang, whose minimalist storytelling is full of atmosphere and foreboding.

Diaries from Lebanon

Diaries from Lebanon

Three people in Beirut representing the past, present and future of Lebanon experience the hopes, disappointments and decimated sense of stability in Myriam El Hajj’s sad yet defiant documentary tracing the country’s ups and downs since 2018.

Pepe

Pepe

Nelson Carlos De Los Santos Arias’s fanciful exploration of the inner life of one of Pablo Escobar’s cocaine hippos, Pepe, is an idiosyncratic affair as piercing and beguiling as it is confounding.

Langue étrangère

Langue étrangère

In her first solo directing stint ‘Langue étrangère’, Camera d’Or winner Claire Burger cleverly evokes the fears and anxieties of two middle-class 17-year-old European girls about to inherit a world racked with violently diverging political opinions.

Afterwar

Afterwar

Shot over 15 years, Birgitte Stærmose’s deeply empathetic documentary, focused on child survivors, is an intimate and diligent depiction of the lingering aftermath of war.

The Italian Connection

The Italian Connection

The Italian Ministry of Culture, with Cinecitta’, are hosting a series of events in the Gropius Dome at the Italian Pavilion. Organizers of the Italian film industry say the focus-event aims to introduce a new format yet unseen at international festivals that will not...

Arcadia

Arcadia

The living haunt the dead in Yorgos Zois’s sexy glumfest ‘Arcadia’, an aching, downbeat tale about loss and lingering grief, told from the ghosts’ POV.

Maria’s Silence

Maria’s Silence

The true story of Latvian-born German silent film diva Maria Leiko and her fateful journey to Stalin’s USSR in 1937 is retold in Davis Simanis’s ‘Maria’s Silence’ with a tragic depth that is engrossing and emotional.

Dahomey

Dahomey

Mati Diop’s thought-provokingly cerebral-poetic documentary follows the return of 26 looted cultural artefacts and their welcome home to Benin, encompassing the celebrations as well as larger debates around colonialization and how to reintegrate such potently spiritual objects into a society 130 years after they were plundered.

Suspended Time

Suspended Time

Olivier Assayas’s semi-autobiographical reverie ‘Suspended Time’ on his stay in the family home during lockdown, is likely his weakest work, playing like a parody of an intellectualized director’s banal ruminations.

Another End

Another End

Corporate scientists use memory technology to bring back the dead for a brief reunion with their loved ones (played by Gael Garcia Bernal and Bérénice Bejo), in Piero Messina’s clever but often perplexing ‘Another End’, whose futuristic love story beyond the grave is a mighty challenge to unravel.

No Other Land

No Other Land

Beginning in 2019, a quartet of Palestinian and Israeli filmmakers in the Occupied Territories start documenting Israel’s appropriation of the land and its escalation until just after the start of the current juggernaut in Gaza.

La cocina

La cocina

A disappointing, maddeningly self-indulgent plunge into the tensions and inequities in the kitchen of a Times Square eatery, designed as an anti-capitalist diatribe messily juggling personal and choral storytelling but saved to some degree by excellent chiaroscuro camerawork and a strong cast.

The Editorial Office

The Editorial Office

In the week between the Grammys and the Super Bowl, Human Rights Watch announced that Vladimir Putin and other military officials should be investigated for war crimes following Russia’s assault on Mariupol. On Valentine’s Day it was reported that UNESCO calculated...

Every You Every Me

Every You Every Me

Michael Fetter Nathansky, with assistance from lead actress Aenne Schwarz, inspects a shaky relationship in the shadow of work pressures in this adequately sensitive, surreal, and discomfiting look at marriage and its dissatisfactions.

Market Voices

Market Voices

by Liza Foreman For our daily column Market Voices, The Film Verdict will be checking in with the peeps peopleing the shop floor at this week’s European Film Market in Berlin, to give readers a feel for the first major film market of the year. Stay tuned. Pedro Peira,...

Crossing

Crossing

Jennie Livingston’s seminal Paris is Burning was probably the first hit film to show what LGBTQ+ people have always known: we make our own families. They’re often not biological but they are carefully chosen, proving that genetics is no determinant of unconditional...

My Favourite Cake

My Favourite Cake

A small jewel of an Iranian romantic comedy, ‘My Favourite Cake’ pits an older woman determined to find a measure of happiness against the restrictions of the Islamic regime and the loneliness of aging, while the film’s creators Maryam Moghaddam and Behtash Sanaeeha have been banned from traveling to Berlin.

Small Things Like These

Small Things Like These

Cillian Murphy follows his huge ‘Oppenheimer’ success with glum but powerful personal project ‘Small Things Like These’, a soulful literary psychodrama about mercy, empathy, complicity and dark misdeeds in 1980s Ireland.

Unifrance’s Game Changer, Daniela Elstner

Unifrance’s Game Changer, Daniela Elstner

By Liza Foreman PARIS - The Hôtel du Collectionneur is awash with French cinema talent and journalists buzzing between interview rooms at the tail end of the annual UniFrance Meetings in Paris a few weeks ago. But Daniela Elstner, the Executive Director of the French...

Madame Web

Madame Web

Despite a tangled narrative web, this arachnid superhero saga makes a far better would-be tentpole in Sony’s Spider-verse than ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2’ or ‘Morbius,’ thanks mainly to Dakota Johnson.

ITALIA IN FOCUS AT BERLIN

ITALIA IN FOCUS AT BERLIN

The Berlinale European Film Market (EFM) this year spotlights the artistry of Italian filmmakers and will offer industry participants opportunities to network with a variety of Italian producers, distributors, investors and experts. The 2024 EFM kicks off February 15...

 20 Days in Mariupol

 20 Days in Mariupol

The start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine is captured with total professionality by AP correspondent Mstyslav Chernov and his team in ’20 Days in Mariupol’, in iconic images that strike the heart forcefully in a classic, masterful documentary on war.

EUFCN Location Award Finalists

EUFCN Location Award Finalists

European Film Commissions Network (EUFCN) member film commissions had the opportunity to submit one location from a feature film or a TV series shot in their territory and released between Oct. 3rd 2022 and Sept. 11th 2023. The Location Award Jury selected the five...

Location Flashback: The Fault in Our Stars

Location Flashback: The Fault in Our Stars

This is an establishing shot of the hotel where Hazel Grace Lancaster (Shailene Woodley) and Gus Waters (Angel Elgort) stay while on their trip to Amsterdam. The Fault in Our Stars is an American coming of age romance film directed by Josh Boone, based on the novel of...

Portrait of a Certain Orient

Portrait of a Certain Orient

Awash in a luxuriant atmosphere of passion and emotional discovery created by exquisite b&w images of seas rivers and jungles, Marcelo Gomes’s three characters struggle to shake off the past and move forward post-WW2 in ‘Portrait of a Certain Orient’.

Grey Bees

Grey Bees

Dmytro Moiseiev’s laconic portrait of a solitary beekeeper with an evolving political consciousness in the “grey zone” of Donetsk is sage and affecting.

Tenement

Tenement

The traumas of Cambodia’s past stretch their icy fingers into the present in Tenement, a deeply unsettling psychological horror set in a rundown Khmer-era housing block.

Animalia Paradoxa

Animalia Paradoxa

Using a blend of stop-motion animation and live-action, Niles Atallah gorgeously crafts a mesmeric, dying world of analogue detritus and vestiges of magical knowledge, in which a half-amphibian being dreams of survival.

Moses

Moses

Baffling, free-ranging and mesmeric, ‘Moses’ roams through a text on religion by Freud with deadpan Finnish humour that grounds its kooky performance art.

Ibelin

Ibelin

Computer games offer a severely disabled young man an emotionally rich alternative life in Norwegian director Benjamin Ree’s moving, visually impressive documentary ‘Ibelin’.

Meet the IFFR Jury

Meet the IFFR Jury

The Tiger Competition Jury consists of Marco Müller, former director of Locarno, Venice, and IFFR (1989–1991); Ena Sendijarevi?, a Bosnian-Dutch filmmaker known for her acclaimed debut Take Me Somewhere Nice (IFFR 2019) and the Netherlands’ Oscars submission Sweet...

The Film Verdict 2024 Editorial Calendar

The Film Verdict 2024 Editorial Calendar

The Film Verdict announces it's 2024 Film Festival coverage. EFP European Films at Sundance Jan 18 – 28 International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR) Jan 25 - Feb 4 Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale) FEB 15 – 25 Hong Kong International Film Festival March...

I.S.S.

I.S.S.

Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s Cold-War-in-space thriller benefits from a lean-and-mean B-movie sensibility crossed with seamless effects work and potent performances.

Mean Girls

Mean Girls

A pleasant-enough musical reworking of the 2004 comedy, hitting the big screen on its way to becoming a slumber-party staple for decades to come.

Night Swim

Night Swim

This haunted-swimming-pool thriller goes from creepy to ridiculous and back again, but as January-dumped horror films go, it’s a cut above.

El Gouna 2023: The Awards

El Gouna 2023: The Awards

The El Gouna Film Festival awards this year included ’Goodbye, Julia’, a Sudanese film by Mohamed Kordofani about two women divided by their cultures, which won the Cinema for Humanity Audience Award, while Egyptian director Ibrahim Nash’at’s ‘Hollywoodgate’ won as best documentary and Hong Sang-soo’s latest ‘In Our Day’ got the best narrative nod.

The Wall

The Wall

Vicky Krieps gives a striking performance as a racist Arizona border patrol guard in Belgian director Phillippe Van Leeuw’s otherwise underwhelming contemporary frontier western ‘The Wall’.

Q

Q

An all-female Islamic sect in Lebanon first ensnares, then abandons a deeply spiritual woman, along with her mother and her daughter, in Jude Chehab’s intriguing but unstructured portrait of her unusual family in ‘Q’.

Seven Winters in Tehran

Seven Winters in Tehran

The cruel and gripping story of Reyhaneh Jabbari, a 19-year-old Iranian woman convicted of murdering a man who attempted to rape her, unfolds like a thriller in Steffi Niederzoll’s documentary recreation, ‘Seven Winters in Tehran’.

Dreaming & Dying

Dreaming & Dying

Magical realism and Far East ghost stories inject a thrilling, if not always crystal clear, element into Nelson Yeo’s fishy tale of an overage and not completely human love triangle, ‘Dreaming & Dying’.

Scrapper

Scrapper

A charmingly eccentric 12-year-old girl struggles to bond with her estranged father in writer-director Charlotte Regan’s funny, sunny, prize-winning debut feature ‘Scrapper’.

How to Have Sex

How to Have Sex

A timely coming-of-age drama about young women dealing with the complexities of sexual consent, writer-director Molly Manning Walker’s prize-winning debut feature ‘How to Have Sex’ is impressively nuanced and emotionally rich.

Wonka

Wonka

Musical prequel manages to find the sweet spot between the wicked psychedelia of the original Willy Wonka and the feel-good delights of the director’s Paddington movies.

Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé

Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé

More a retrospective documentary than a traditional concert film, this souvenir of Beyoncé’s recent smash tour will delight fans who want a peek behind the scenes even as those peeks occasionally distract from the artist’s extraordinary stagecraft.

The Last Ashes

The Last Ashes

A lone woman rides into famine-ridden 19th century Luxembourg hell-bent on revenge in Loïc Tanson’s enjoyably erudite first feature ‘The Last Ashes’, intriguingly poised between European fairy tale and the American Western.

Wish

Wish

What was clearly designed to be a victory lap for Disney’s 100th anniversary will be mostly forgotten by the time the studio turns 101.

IDFA: The Awards

IDFA: The Awards

Shoghakat Vardanyan’s ‘1489’ wins Best Film at IDFA for its humor and humanity in what the jury called “a vivid evocation of 100 years of history in less than 100 minutes of cinema.”

The Night Guardian

The Night Guardian

 For the fourth time, award-winning director Reza Mirkarimi is repping Iran at the Oscars with ‘The Night Guardian’, handling a predictably downbeat social drama set amid Iran’s swelling underclass with a delicate, sensitive touch, illuminated by young actor Touraj Alvand.

The Burden

The Burden

Elvis Sabin Ngaibino’s IDFA 2023 documentary, ‘The Burden’, walks a familiar path of African misery, but his compelling subjects lends this sophomore feature documentary a deserved poignancy.

IDFA Forum Awards Announced

IDFA Forum Awards Announced

Mohammed Almughanni’s project Son of the Streets won the IDFA Forum Award for Best Pitch, Amber Fares’ Coexistence, My Ass! took home the Forum Award for Best Rough Cut, and the DocLab Forum Award went to Turbulence by Ben Joseph Andrews and Emma Roberts. Each award...

Napoleon

Napoleon

While this sumptuously mounted production delivers as a sweeping war epic, one hopes Ridley Scott’s promised director’s cut will fill in the emotional and historical blanks.

Hot Docs Welcomes Hussain Currimbhoy

Hot Docs Welcomes Hussain Currimbhoy

Hussain Currimbhoy, whose film industry career and passion for championing works by marginalized filmmakers, is set to bring a new vision to Hot Docs, overseeing programming for Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, Toronto’s Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema...

Tehachapi

Tehachapi

French visual artist and film-maker JR chronicles his grand-scale collaboration with the inmates of a maximum-security prison in his didactic but uplifting documentary ‘Tehachapi’.

Limitation

Limitation

A raw and immediate found-footage assemblage, ‘Limitation’ traces Russia’s hand in the coup that overthrew Georgia’s first post-Soviet president Zviad Gamsakhurdia.

Alreadymade

Alreadymade

Director Barbara Visser explores the controversial links between pioneering Dadaist artists Marcel Duchamp and Baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven in her lively, adventurous, unconventional documentary ‘Alreadymade’.

In Wolf Country

In Wolf Country

Fear-stoking myths around wolves, back in Germany after a century, are dismantled in Ralf Bücheler’s doc ‘In Wolf Country’, appealing to nature management via science.

Magic Mountain

Magic Mountain

A haunting, poetic doc with political undercurrents, ‘Magic Mountain’ examines a once-grand sanitorium in the Georgian mountains lost to the vultures of capitalism.

The Marvels

The Marvels

This admirable attempt at subverting superhero-movie formula and tone should have soared beyond where MCU movies typically go.

Dance Still

Dance Still

Awarded by both the main and youth juries at Pingyao, ‘Dance Still’ is directing duo Qin Muqiu and Zhan Hanqi’s triumph of a slacker comedy, trading in jet-black absurdist humour aimed at China’s bewildered millennials.

Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour

Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour

Nearly three hours of Taylor Swift in concert might be too much of a good thing for newcomers, but devotees will wish this beautifully shot and edited performance doc had been even longer.

Location Flashback: Uncharted (2022)

Location Flashback: Uncharted (2022)

In this scene, Nathan Drake (Tom Holland) wipes down a table at a New York City bar as he makes small talk with a patron before stealing a diamond bracelet off her wrist. "Uncharted", originally set to be released on December 18, 2020, faced delays due to the COVID-19...

DOK Industry Awards 2023 Announced

DOK Industry Awards 2023 Announced

At the DOK Co-Pro Market, a total of three awards have been presented. Belarusian director Daria Yurkevich and her project “GENESIS" (Belarus, Germany) received the Saxon Award for the Best Documentary Project by a Female Director. The prize is endowed with 5,000...

The Last Relic

The Last Relic

Masses seduced by past imperialistic might and activists seeking change present clashing public spectacles in Marianna Kaat’s punchy, broad-strokes doc on modern Russia.

Meet the Juries of Dok Leipzig

Meet the Juries of Dok Leipzig

Three juries comprised of distinguished filmmakers and arts professionals, as well as a jury of audience members, will be presenting awards for short and feature-length animated and documentary films in competition at the 66th edition of DOK Leipzig. The jury members...

Knit’s Island

Knit’s Island

A trio of documentarians traverse the forbidding digital landscapes of an online survivalist video game to explore the communities that have emerged there in this verité machinima, Knit’s Island.

Toll

Toll

Lively characters get involved in a farcical church course designed to rewire gays in the otherwise staid ‘Toll’ (‘Pedagio’), a story about coping with poverty and ignorance in remote Brazil.

Red Island

Red Island

In equal parts fiercely amusing and roundly desolating, Robin Campillo’s ‘Red Island’, an offbeat look at the end of French colonialism in Madagascar, is a crowd-pleaser in San Sebastian’s Official Selection.

German Films Travel

German Films Travel

BY LIZA FOREMAN SAN SEBASTIAN - It wasn't long ago that German directors making the festival rounds typically were Wim Wenders, Werner Herzog, Margarethe von Trotta and Volker Schlondorff. But a slew of newer directors has come up through the ranks in the past two...

The Rye Horn

The Rye Horn

Celebrating the natural cycles of life in women’s ever-changing bodies, Jaione Camborda’s second feature ‘The Rye Horn’ is a moving period drama that touches on abortion laws in 1971 Spain.

The Creator

The Creator

While lovely to look at, Gareth Edwards’ latest doesn’t make the case for why we should stop worrying and learn to love AI.

SURPRISE MOVIE AT SAN SEBASTIAN

SURPRISE MOVIE AT SAN SEBASTIAN

David Fincher’s eagerly awaited new movie, "The Killer," is the surprise film at the 71st San Sebastian Festival. From the director of Se7en, Zodiac and The Social Network, and based on the homonymous novel by Alexis Nolent (Matz) and illustrated by Luc Jacamon, The...

Kalak

Kalak

A deeply damaged Danish man relocates to Greenland in a bid to escape childhood sexual trauma in Swedish director Isabella Eklöf’s bleakly compelling drama ‘Kalak’, which is based on real events.

CineVerdict: Memoria

CineVerdict: Memoria

CINE VERDICT: Después de su inquietante pero bien recibido thriller `Sundown`, el director mexicano Michel Franco , continúa  con `Memoria` un drama familiar-romance dibujado con plantilla , actuado por Jessica Chastain en el papel de una trabajadora social emocionalmente afectada, en Brooklyn.

Oldenburg at 30: Impressions and Memories

Oldenburg at 30: Impressions and Memories

Oldenburg Film Festival has evolved over the past 30 years, while preserving its intimate atmosphere and founding purpose: to celebrate and support the diverse voices and visions of independent filmmakers, to honor the creativity of the artists upon which the Festival...

Maestra

Maestra

Maggie Contreras reveals workplace realities for female orchestra conductors as global candidates vie for a Paris contest title, in a warm, glossy doc with surprising political bite.