J Hurtado's 13 Favorite Indian Films of 2019
As we enter a new year full of promise and endless numbers of amazing cinematic possibilities, it's only right that we take a look back to remember what made 2019 a great year at the movies.
This past year marked a low for me in terms of catching Indian mainstream films in the cinema. Personal and programming responsibilities took precedent over leisure viewing, which means that I missed a lot of the biggest films from the major industries. This is both a good thing and a bad thing for you. There are plenty of online lists that highlight the best in mainstream filmmaking, my list is going to be quite a bit more esoteric to match my tastes and hopefully put a few new films on your radar.
A little over a dozen films in five languages populate this list, the vast majority of them in what the Indian mainstream audience would consider "regional" languages. Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Hindi, and Assamese language films all made big impressions, but this year it was a pretty even spread. Take a look at the list below to see what really hit home for me.
Director Lijo Jose Pellissery has the distinction of appearing on my year end lists with each of his last four films. The wonderful part about his latest, Jallikattu, is that the world finally seems to be catching up! After a boisterous premiere at TIFF and screenings at Fantastic Fest, BFI London, and numerous other festivals, Jallikattu is the first of his films to put him in the position to be recognized as the genius he's always been. I reviewed the film out of its TIFF world premiere and had this to say at the time:
A small village in the forests of rural Kerala is about to face down a terrifying beast when a buffalo bound for slaughter escapes and wreaks havoc on its lanes and the surrounding farmland. The seventh feature from Indian filmmaker Lijo Jose Pellissery, Jallikattu explores the chaos that erupts when the men of the village try to corral this force of nature and instead end up blurring the line between what is civilized and what is bestial as the situation grows increasingly savage.
Released in a blink-and-you'll-miss-it limited diaspora-focused cinema run in November, Jallikattu is now streaming on Amazon Prime around the world except the USA, where it will debut in the first week of February.