In years past I have included a section for Discoveries in my end of year wrap up, a section devoted to the fresh new faces who arrived on the scene in that past year. But while my annual Top / Bottom of the year list was published yesterday
the Discovery section was not included. The reason is simple. I normally include three or five such titles but 2010 has proven to be such a strong year for debuts and otherwise unknown directors breaking out that the initial 'short' list was not short at all and by the time I got it down to twelve titles I simply found that I was not willing to cut any further. These twelve are all so strong that I simply could not choose between them.
And so I present them all, an even dozen discovery moments from 2010. In my opinion this is the new crop of talent to watch in coming years.
A Serbian Film / Srdjan Spasojevic
Love it or hate it, the simple fact is that with his debut film director Srdjan Spasojevic delivered a film that cannot be ignored. And while many tend to get caught up in the extreme elements - and they are
extreme - the reality is that this is a phenomenally well made, self assured piece of film. Spasojevic has technical skills, a clear vision and a bold voice, all of which bodes well for whatever he may set his mind to next.
Animal Kingdom / David Michod
Michod's Animal Kingdom
made my overall Top Ten this year as well, so it's no surprise to see it here as well.
Already well known as one of the principal writers for Nash Edgerton and his Blue Tongue collective of filmmakers, pre-Animal Kingdom
Michod already had a reputation for precision and intelligence in his writing. Turns out he has those qualities as a director as well and is fantastic at drawing performances from actors as well.
Of the names on this list Michod is arguably the most ready for big success with the sort of large scale but still intelligent thrillers that typically go to Michael Mann or Martin Scorsese these days, though our next entry may challenge him for that position.
Buried / Rodrigo Cortes
You want boldness from a young director? How about this:
For his debut feature Rodrigo Cortes - working outside of his first language - cast a comedian who had never been particularly successful in any other genre in a thriller set entirely inside a box. One person. In a box. For an entire film.
And Cortes didn't just survive the experience, he made it brilliant, Buried
proving to be one of the film's earliest and most deserving buzz titles after premiering to almost unanimous acclaim at Sundance. Imagine what he can do if he gives his actors, say, a whole room to play with!
Gandu / QGandu
is the one film in this list that is not a debut, though it may as well be. The latest from a Calcutta based director who refers to himself simply as Q, Gandu
is Q's response to time spent in the commercial and populist film industry. And that response is basically 'fuck it'.
A film made with a tiny budget and a huge amount of talent, films like Gandu
are the reason film festivals remain culturally important as a means of seeing challenging, non-commercial films by potent international talents. Though Gandu
is never likely to find a broad commercial audience anywhere, that fact takes nothing away from its raw energy and the skill of its creator.
Kidnapped / Miguel Angel Vivas
Twelve shots. Twelve meticulously constructed, painstakingly timed shots. That's all Miguel Angel Vivas used to create his debut film, Kidnapped
, a film that he spent 50% longer rehearsing than he spent shooting.
The result is a gripping slap in the face, a painfully realistic, real time depiction of a home invasion playing out before your eyes. Vivas manages that most difficult of tricks, simultaneously managing to be both incredibly stylish and ultra realistic, the result being a burst of raw and painful emotion.
Monsters / Gareth Edwards
The cat is well and truly out of the bag on Monsters
director Gareth Edwards - he's currently prepping a big studio scifi feature under the watchful eye of producer Timur Bekmambetov - but that doesn't make his achievement any less significant.
Shot guerrilla style in Mexico with a crew smaller than those employed by many documentaries with effects reportedly created himself on a laptop computer Monsters
proved that if you're talented enough you don't need Hollywood to create a large scale spectacle. Or a believable post-apocalyptic world roamed by enormous, squid-like alien creatures. Though an entirely different sort of story Edwards scifi road movie has drawn deserved comparisons to Neill Blomkamp's District 9
, deserved because these two men will very likely be among the leaders of the next wave of intelligent science fiction film.
Norwegian Ninja / Thomas Cappelen Malling
One of the most unusual pictures of the year comes from Norway's Thomas Cappelen Malling who makes his debut by taking the real life story of Norway's most notorious Cold War spy - convicted of working for the other side - and devising a compelling alternate history in which he was not a spy at all but actually a patriot and the leader of a secret ninja force.
Imagine, if you will, an 80's ninja film as directed by Wes Anderson. You are now approaching the neighborhood of Malling's Norwegian Ninja
, a delightfully tongue in cheek skewering of the politics of paranoia. With added ninja action. Malling took home a Best Director award from Fantastic Fest for this one and it was well deserved.
Our Day Will Come / Romain Gavras
The indie music scene already knew Romain Gavras had the goods thanks to his breathtaking work for MIA but he got to prove it to the film world, too, with his antisocial road movie Our Day Will Come
One of the more polarizing entries in this list, Our Day Will Come
has the same sort of confrontational edge to it that makes people love and / or hate the likes of Lars Von Trier and Koen Mortier but in this case it's dressed up in a distinctively French chic. This is a movie that features Vincent Cassel lighting a young woman's breasts on fire. For real. This tells you much of what you need to know about Gavras.
Rare Exports / Jalmari Helander
Behold the rebirth of Joe Dante, with more old man penis. While the fact that nobody seems to want to give the original
Joe Dante a decent job these days is a little baffling to me, fans of the old Amblin days of kid-friendly genre fare that still managed to disturb need look no farther than Helander and his twisted Christmas story Rare Exports
The former commercial director fuses slick style with a slyly dark, ultra deadpan sense of humor as he updates the best urges of the 80s. Hilarious without ever cracking a smile, Helander is a cult giant in the making.
Submarine / Richard Ayoade
Heartfelt and hysterical, comedian turned director Richard Ayoade's Submarine
has been drawing comparisons to the work of Wes Anderson but Hal Ashby's Harold And Maude
seems more appropriate. Because while the stylistic flourishes are fully present they never seem the point of Ayoade's work - as they too often do with later stage Anderson - but rather serve to accent the character work. And Ayoade's eye for character is bang on.
Years of performance have given him an eye both for talented performers and for the nuances that will open the doors to his characters while a few years spent shooting music videos for top acts has given him an impressive set of tools to draw upon. Ayoade may very well be the next darling of the indie set.
The Troll Hunter / Andre Ovredal
Though I doubt he knew he was doing it at the time Norway's Andre Ovredal created an international viral sensation with his debut feature The Troll Hunter
. A moc-doc built on the conceit that the Norwegian government has been hiding the existence of real, actual trolls for hundreds of years the first footage of the giant beasties set off a storm of online chatter spanning the globe when it first arrived online.
Yes, The Troll Hunter
is essentially a one joke movie but it is a very good joke told very well and the film provides a useful reminder that the moc-doc format is capable of more than simple Paranormal Activity
We Are What We Are / Jorge Michel Grau
The second film on this list to also crack my overall Top Ten
- Animal Kingdom
was the other - Jorge Michel Grau created his debut film using a student crew, a tiny budget and a set that was broken by severe earthquakes that rolled through Mexico while shooting. And if he can do this
conditions ... well, I'm more than a little eager to see what he can do with the resources that a Cannes selection for his debut film should bring to bear on his sophomore effort.
That Mexico has all but abandoned its rich history of horror cinema troubles me. I expect Grau to be the leading force in bringing it back.