I haven’t seen an enormous number of films in the cinema during 2009, but there was considerable quality amongst the short list.
Slumdog Millionaire was a great film with poverty and hardship on show throughout, but also celebrating Indian heritage, architecture, humanity, enthusiasm, kindness and love. The book Q&A was even better than the film.
Milk was probably the best film I saw all year. It’s the one that made me angry. Creating ghettos and marginalising people’s identity isn’t smart, and isn’t loving. Go and see it, or rent it out.
Urban Hymns: The Movie was a brilliant way to look back at the Belfast Festival concert we’d missed the previous November. And the film turned out to be better than the similar concert – The Unforgettable Choir – held as part of the 2009 festival.
Prods and Pom Poms was a great locally produced indie film that was featured in the Belfast Film Festival in April. And it was great to see the story of the Sandy Row cheerleaders making it to the small screen on UTV in early November.
Rem Koolhaas – A Kind of Architect gave a documentary insight into the approach and designs of the Dutch lifestyle journalist turned architect, with an eye for floating buildings.
Us Now explored changing patterns of social participation through a series of interviews with web visionaries, bearded boffins, couch surfers, football supporters and the odd politician too. It asks what government can learn from the kind of mass collaboration that is becoming the norm for a growing (though perhaps still small) proportion of society. Still reckon we need to organise a screening for local practitioners, politicians and civil servants. (Just realised I saw this on DVD and not in the cinema!)
Moon injected a welcome note of science fiction into the cinematic experience, with a low budget, a twisted plot, minimal tension, and a surprising lack of audience empathy. A good film, but sadly not a great one.
District 9 was the second blast of science fiction. Aliens appear in a spaceship hovering above Johannesburg. Once “rescued” and ferried down to the ground it becomes a story of dehumanisation, segregation, prejudice and community tension as the “prawns” are hosted in vast townships. Man’s inhumanity to man extended to man’s inhumanity to the very aliens they chose to rescue. Worth watching.
Katalin Varga brought an Eastern European flavour with a story of secrecy, shame and disgrace. A mother travelling through the Hungarian countryside with her son on a mission of revenge that turns out to be more destructive than she ever imagined. An unusual dark and thoughtful film.
And finally, Nativity! An unexpectedly sensible, schmaltz-free Christmas film, with lessons for anyone (a) caught lying; (b) made to arrange a primary school nativity play; (c) thinking about switching from shepherds and wise men to look at the character of Herod.