Monday, January 07, 2013

Best Films of 2004

I started publishing my end of the year list from 2005 onwards but I compiled a list for 2004, which I am now putting up in order to gather some stats.

Top 10 films of 2004

1) Exiles (France/Japan, Tony Gatlif)

An emotional journey packed with mesmerizing music including an 11 minute trance segment near the end. The story involves two characters who leave Paris and head to Algeria to find their roots. Their journey consists of heading through Spain and finally sneaking into Algeria as the Algerian border is closed. Since this is a Tony Gatlif movie, flamenco musical sequences are present but this time a touch of Rai music is added to the mix.

2) Monsieur Ibrahim (2003, France, Francois Dupeyron)

It is refreshing to see Omar Sharif (who plays a Turkish shop owner) given a charming role which he plays to perfection. But the real gem of this movie is the young actor, Pierre Boulanger, who gives a virtuoso performance as the 14 year old Momo. Boulanger’s expressions are priceless, feisty when they have to be and innocent when needed.

3) Kontroll (2003, Hungary, Nimrod Antal)

The movie follows the lives of the underground subway metro staff on their daily routines which involves dealing with insanity, inner turmoils, strange passengers and playing male power games. The first half is hilarious but the second half explores shades of darkness lurking beneath the surface.

4) Samsara (2001, India co-production, Pan Nalin)

A beautiful soulful film that explores the philosophical question 'How do you prevent a drop of water from drying up?'. A Buddhist monk renounces his religious life for the worldly pleasures of sex and love. But despite getting married, he begins to realize that satisfying one desire always leads to more desires. The movie highlights his journey but more importantly, it tackles the spiritual question from a woman's point of view as well. It is always men who are willing to get up and leave for the mountains. But what about the women they leave behind? Did anyone ask what happened to Buddha's wife?

5) Carandiru (2003, Brazil co-production, Hector Babenco)

A ruthless film based on a real life incident in a Brazilian prison where riot squad massacred unarmed prisoners for purely political reasons. The movie is divided into two segments with majority of the first segment looking at the prisoners and their lives from the point of view of the prison doctor. The second segment outlines the prison massacre.

6) Kopps (2003, Sweden/Denmark, Josef Fares)

A small peaceful Swedish town is about to have its only police station shut down due to lack of crime. Faced with the prospect of losing their jobs, the local Kopps decide to boost the crime rate themselves. A hilarious film with memorable characters.

7) Control Room (USA, Jehane Noujaim)

This eye-opening documentary shows that despite all the negative media coverage, Al Jazeera might be the only remaining democratic media outlet on the planet which has tried to show stories objectively. In doing so, it has drawn criticism both from the Arab and Western world. A channel that manages to get all sides upset at the same time must be doing something right.

8) About Baghdad (USA, Sinan Antoon & 4 other directors)

A rare film that gives Iraqi people a true voice. Sinan Antoon left Iraq after the first Gulf war and returned in 2003 to see what was left of his country. He wanders the streets of Baghdad and captures the feelings and thoughts of everyday people, taxi drivers, café owners, students, writers, poets, artists, librarians, tortured victims, government employees, etc. Along with Control Room, one of the most relevant docs of the year.

9) Checkpoint (2003, Israel, Yoav Shamir)

This must-see Israeli documentary looks at the everyday drama that takes place at some of checkpoints between Palestinian and Israeli zones. Shamir simply places his camera on the side and watches the activities objectively. What at first seems like a dark satire is the harsh everyday reality for these people.

10) Before Sunset (USA, Richard Linklater)

Before Sunset starts off 9 years after Before Sunrise and catches up with Ethan Hawke & Julie Delpy’s memorable characters. Like the first film, Delpy’s character is far more interesting and some of the camera work that follows her is a delight.

Honorable Mentions roughly in order of preference

Nathalie (2003, France/Spain, Anne Fontaine)

The Passion of the Christ (USA, Mel Gibson)

Memories of Murder (2003, South Korea, Joon-ho Bong)

Primer (2004, USA, Shane Carruth)

Kill Bill Volume 2 (USA, Quentin Tarantino)

Saw (USA, James Wan)

Close Your Eyes (2002, UK,Nick Willing)

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