Best Films Of 2017 So Far…

It’s that time of the year. Blockbuster season has nearly finished and with it the yearly doom and gloom analysis about massive tentpole flops dragging the industry down arrives. Meanwhile, festival season is about to begin and every day a new line-up with the films everybody will be talking about from the autumn onwards is announced, taking cinephile excitement to the roof.

It’s a good time to look back and count the best of what 2017 has delivered. As usual, we don’t include anyyhing released before March, because that was the deadline for the films we considered for our 2016 Robers, which already included most of the films that featured heavily during the awards season, except perhaps for Asghar Farhadi’s excellent drama ‘The Salesman,’ which unexpectedly became a symbol against Trump’s Islamophobic policies, or Raoul Peck’s superb documentary ‘I Am Not Your Negro.’

Latin America reaffirms the good moment its production it’s going through with four titles featured in our Top 20: From Brazil ‘Aquarius’; from Mexico ‘The Untamed’; from Venezuela ‘La Soledad’ and from Argentina ‘The Human Surge.’

Genre films also feature preeminently in our selection. The only big studio productions highlighted, except for the majestic war epic that is Christopher Nolan’s ‘Dunkirk,’ are very distinctive horror films such as ‘Get Out’ which uses the current racial tensions in the States as the source for its thrills or ‘Logan’ which almost single-handedly saved the superhero subgenre from destruction porn clichés, with a classic Western-like storyline.

The latest works by Cristian Mungiu, Aki Kaurismäki, Sofia Coppola, Radu Jude or James Gray add a strong authorial flavour to the mix and the extraordinary ‘A Ghost Story’ by James Lowery, next to Trey Edward Shults’ ‘It Comes At Night’ proves that there is still life in the increasingly formulaic world of American indies.

Altogether, these films may not herald a vintage year in film; but they are diverse, challenging and ground-breaking enough as to guarantee a decent supply of quality work, appeasing the growing choir of voices who claims the death of the industry as we know it, sacrificed in the altar of the digital platform.

And our Favourite Films of 2017 so far are…

(Kleber Mendonça Filho)

As if the return of Sonia Braga in top acting form was not enough, the third film of Mendonça Filho is also a relevant indictment against the unstoppable advance of neoliberal exploitation, cleverly showcasing the current global battle to keep houses as homes against speculative investment.
(Aki Kaurismäki)

The Finnish auteur returns to the familiar territory of Le Havre after a long break that hasn’t diminished any of his distinctive qualities with this story of friendship between a Syrian refugee and local a who has also left his home to start a new life. Infused with deadpan humour and melancholic warmth, this is a welcome addition to his impressive filmography.
(Raoul Peck)

Using the words of African-American writer and activist James Baldwin, this extraordinary documentary departs from his incomplete project Remember This House, intended to be an incendiary account of the lives and successive assassinations of three of his close friends-Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr, providing a personal and powerful look at the origins of the current racial malaise in the States.
(Cristian Mungiu)

The shared winner of 2016 director prize at Cannes, Mungiu delivers another dazzling morality lesson, this time about the destructive, widespread forces of corruption, told through the tale of a father who kickstarts an unstoppable chain of under the table favours to safeguard her daughter’s chance to get a scholarship for a British University. Imbued in complex psychological observations, this is a thought-provoking, damning statement on the state our societies are in.
(David Lowery)

One of the most unique cinematic experiences of the year, after his incursion in Disney territory with a remake of Pete’s Dragon, Lowery brings this sublime reflection on our ideas of loss, love, and time, boasting powerful performances by Rooney Mara and Casey Affleck and appropriating the most basic image of a ghost, the one that’s covered with a white sheet, to wonderful metaphysical effect.
(Asghar Farhadi)

The winner of this year's Foreign Language Oscar became a symbol against Trump's imposed travelling ban on Muslim countries. Another superbly observed exploration of the prejudices in Iranian society, this time a married couple of actors move to an empty flat as recommended by a man in their company where the wife is raped. Her life, marriage and his husband’s values will be put to a test.
(Christopher Nolan)

Christopher Nolan’s incursion in the war genre depicting the famous rescue operation of the British soldiers trapped in the French coastal town is every bit as epic and spectacular as the hyped would tell you. Replacing heroic narratives for an almost sensorial experience in which Hoyte van Hoytema's cinematography puts the viewer in the middle of the action.
(Amat Escalante)

The Mexican director has established a peculiar style, blending social realism with the most outlandish genre elements. After violently dealing with drug mafias in Heli, now he goes all sci-fi. A strange alien being, looking like a tribute to Zulawski’s Posession, makes everyone confronts their deepest sexual desires with dangerously addictive consequences.
(Radu Jude)

Free adaptation of Romanian writer Max Blecher’s experiences in hospital suffering from spinal tuberculosis. As dramatic as it sounds, its story combines the sense of humour shared by the young patients and the account of the protagonist’s complicated sexual awakening, shown with exquisitely framed shots from a static camera.
(Sofia Coppola)

This elegant remake od Don Siegel’s 1971 pulpy, Clint Eastwood-starred film, is inbued in Southern Gothic, replacing his testosterone-filled performance for a much calmer one by Colin Farrell. Taking the point of view of the ladies of a boarding school, whom, after bumping into an injured soldier from the rival front, decide to look after him and shortly find themselves competing for his attentions. Arguably Coppola’s best since The Virgin Suicides?
A good natured account of the life of a Finnish boxer whose success took him to the gates of the world featherweight title, but love came in the way. Nicely crafted in sharp black and white cinematography and neo realist undertones; this comedy distils a restrained, humane charm that works as an antidote to the stereotyped over the top approach to this sport, marking the arrival of a fine new voice in film,
(Nicolas Pesce)

More black and white cinematography in a horror film whose look is as stunning as disturbing are its images. The daughter of a former Portuguese surgeon relocated to the American countryside is no stranger to anatomy thanks to her mum’s lessons. When a serial killer attacks her family, that knowledge will be put to a much more frightening use. The result reconciles personal trauma indie drama with exploitative gore fest.
(Jordan Peele)

Comedian Jordan Peele debuts by turning an everyday story about the unease generated by meeting your in-laws into a social study of racial anxieties in America, wittily using genre thrills to showcase them. Get Out is the surprise box office hit of the year and one of the most accomplished and original horror films we have enjoyed in a while.
(Jorge Thielen Armand)

The Venezuelan director revisited the decrepit Villa his grandparents formerly owned, now inhabited by their seriously ill maid and her family, struggling to find a job to make ends meet , while being warned the legal owners want the property back. A formally stunning docu-fiction, played by the real people whose story is depicted, serving as a bitter-sweet metaphor for a country’s descent into economic and social decay.
(Trey Edward Shults)

The follow-up to the energetic alcoholism dramedy Krisha confirms Shults as a force to be reckoned among American independents. Set in a post-apocalyptic future where a deadly virus looms, the few survivors are thrown in a climate of isolation and paranoia against any potential invader who can spread the disease. A fantastic cast led by Joel Edgerton fills with claustrophobia their near home confinement in a reflection on the way we are evolving.
(William Oldroyd)

Austere adaptation of the Russian novel, formally indebted to the likes of Haneke, it makes the most of its economy of means, shaking up the conventions of lavish period drama with a razor-sharp screenplay, excellent craft and superb performances by its young protagonist, Florence Pough, as the young girl forced into marriage with a man who doubles her age and Cosmo Jarvis as her lover.
(Matthew Heineman)

The follow up of Heineman’s investigation on Drug Carters is another gripping documentary about the work of Syrian media activist collective Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently, who risked their lives and were forced into exile for exposing the atrocities perpetrated by ISIS in their country.
(James Mangold)

Although Wonder Woman with its pro gender-equality stand stole the spotlight for superhero winner of the year, our surprising favourite is this classy farewell to Hugh Jackman as the Wolverine, which boasted the structure of a Western and successfully avoided the endless clichés of the tiresome sub genre.
(James Gray)

James Gray’s unexpected incursion in the adventures genre focuses in British explorer Percy Fawcett and the dramatic events of his life. His many attempts to find an ancient lost city in the Amazonian Jungle ended up with his disappearance as well as his son’s in 1925. More concerned with the drama and the cinematic craft than the thrill of Fawcett’s experiences, the result is a visually gorgeous, quiet epic.
(Eduardo Williams)

A debut that heralds the arrival of another distinctive young voice in Latin American cinema, this formally inventive docu-fiction distantly observes with the immediacy provided by hand held cameras some of the challenges millennials are currently facing around the world -namely in his country, Argentina, Mozambique an the Philippines- shaping up a strange mosaic of unevenly matched scenes of poetic beauty and though-provoking reflection.