The stark landscapes of Galway, on the West coast of Ireland, form the backdrop to Song of Granite. It’s an elegantly understated, and original, documentary about a remarkable life. Joe Heaney, the now long-gone but much loved sean-nós singer, who died in 1984, is celebrated here again after a spell of obscurity.
What short film manages to win 82 awards and get invited to over a hundred film festivals? The remarkable Silent River, by writer-director Anca Miruna Lǎzǎrescu, achieved that feat back in 2011. Her 2005 short film Bucuresti-Berlin had been an early sign of a promising career. Lǎzǎrescu studied in Munich, and started out as a documentary filmmaker. Her documentary film The Secret of Deva won Best German Newcomer Film in 2007. Since then, Lǎzǎrescu has gone from strength to strength.
Completed just a few days before its festival launch, The Heiresses was probably the best film at the 2018 Berlinale – and one that inspired both affection and a high degree of esteem. It won the Alfred Bauer Silver Bear and the FIPRESCI prize, alongside the Silver Bear for Best Actress awarded to Anna Brun for her nuanced portrait of a woman finding grace as she falls.
A cheerfully iconoclastic film, Michel Hazanavicius’s Redoubtable has provoked both ire and delight. Jean-Luc Godard is considered such a key figure in both European culture and political history that to treat him with levity is outrageous to some, and just deserts to others. Hazanavicius has said that critical responses have, at times, been as if he’d peed on the Sistine Chapel.
Western, Valeska Grisebach’s latest work, was met with significant critical acclaim when it screened at Cannes’ Un Certain Regard last May. It’s a memorable film. It digs deep without seeming to. Grisebach is based in Berlin, and we met there earlier this year, to discuss her work.
A deliciously funny romantic comedy, I Got Life is a reminder that with love and determination, there’s always hope. In the picturesque seaside town of La Rochelle, Aurore (Agnès Jaoui) is having a bad day. Pre-menopausal hot flushes, a husband who’s decamped to have babies with a young woman, a sleazy boss, and a newly pregnant daughter – everything is conspiring to overwhelm her. This could go all Ken Loach and pear-shaped.