2010: That was the year that was

December 23, 2010
By Paul Pritchard

As another year comes to a close, and I start looking forward to the seasonal festivities, now is as good a time as ever to indulge in my annual look back at the most memorable independent films of the past twelve months. The usual disclaimer applies: these are the films that I have seen in 2010, not necessarily the films that were first released this year. But there have been some good ones.

The Moonlit Road
Based on a short story by Ambrose Bierce, The Moonlit Road tells of the consequences of a brutal murder and the repercussions for the husband and son of the victim. As often seems to be the case with me and ghost stories, this remarkably faithful adaptation of the original is rich in atmosphere and it is this atmosphere that makes the film such a memorable one.

Call of the Hunter
Similarly, Call of the Hunter demonstrates very effectively how much can be achieved when a director with a strong visual sense takes a talented cast into a very well selected location. The location in this case is a forest and the story centres on Herne the Hunter. This is a film that spends a fair bit of time up front establishing the characters and making sure that you have plenty of reasons to care about them. Its time well spent and ensures that when the events get bloody, they also become increasingly unnerving.

Road to Victory
There is, of course, plenty happening outside of the horror genre, as Road to Victory very effectively demonstrates. Not only is this a very well scripted drama with a pair of superb central performances, it is also the sort of film that addresses a subject thats a bit too uncomfortable for the mainstream – male impotence. The subject is handled unambiguously, but with a great deal of sensitivity, which makes for a film that is powerfully moving.

Homeland
Another drama that intelligently deals with a difficult subject is Homeland. This time the subject is Israel/Palestine and then way in which the conflict impacts on the lives of ordinary people. Like Road to Victory, Homeland does not shy away from the issues the characters face or the consequences of their actions. The result is a film that is not only thought-provoking and powerful, but also a film that becomes deeper and more rewarding each time you watch it.

The Legacy
A very different type of drama is The Legacy in which a 10 year old boy begins to suspect his father is a superhero. This is a genuinely warm-hearted and remarkably uplifting film. It is also a superb demonstration of just how much modern independent films are able to achieve.

Tick Tock
And then there is Tick Tock, a film that defies easy genre categorisation. Romantic thriller is the best I could come up with at the time, but such a description really does undersell a film that is beautifully understated

Red Princess Blues
On much more solid genre ground is Red Princess Blues. This is an action film, and what an action film it is. Alex Ferrari is a stunningly good action director and here, as with his previous films, the action is both superbly choreographed and intelligently shot and everything comes together seamlessly. What really makes the film stand out, though, is the attention to detail. Everything and everyone you see on the screen has a sense of history, a sense of being where they are for a reason and for a reason that you could fully understand if you had the time to explore the relevant backstory.

Red Princess Blues is another step towards Alex Ferrari’s much anticipated feature film of the same name. This is a film I am very much looking forward to.

Condemned
Like Red Princess Blues, Oren Shais Condemned also has a strongly consistent aesthetic. This time, though, the inspiration comes from the 1950s. Its a very grungy 1950s that the film captures as well, with a look that is rich with symbolism and a story that leaves much open for viewers to interpret for themselves.

The Terms
Another visually striking film is The Terms, which is based on a short story by Mike McCormack and focuses on the final stages of a dysfunctional relationship between father and son. The washed out colours used in this film effectively accentuates both the bleakness of the landscape and that of the two characters lives. Its a powerfully understated film that does a great job of reflecting the conflict between the ambition of youth and the resignation of a cynical old age.

Maximum Shame
Defying all description is Carlos Atanes Maximum Shame. The film is packed with ideas and obsessions and peopled with an outlandish cast in an absurdist environment. The result is incredibly engaging on both a visceral and an intellectual level. Maximum Shame is a narrative puzzle which, like chess, sets up a series of rules that are superficially simple but which allow for endlessly complex positions to be developed and explored. This is a film that does expect you to pay attention and one that will challenge you to consider many of your preconceived notions. It is also a richly rewarding experience.

And finally
20th Century Boys. Chapter 1: Beginning of the End isnt really an independent film at all, but it is an utterly stunning experience. This first part of a trilogy encompasses a huge story in which multiple plot threads steadily converge into a suitably apocalyptic ending.

And thats me done for another year. All that remains is to wish you all the best for whichever winter festival you choose to celebrate.

See you in 2011

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