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'Caramel' (2007) not only announced a striking new talent, it challenged what many might have expected from a female Lebanese director. Undermining stereotypes and hilariously funny at times, it also offered an insight into the roles of women in contemporary Beirut. 'Where Do We Go Now' (2011) employed the same device used in 'Lysistrata' (and more recently Spike Lee's 'Chi-Raq', 2015) – where sex is withheld from men until they can learn to live more peacefully.
Few contemporary filmmakers travel as far down the road of human relationships in extremis as Joachim Lafosse. Eschewing visual flourishes in favour of grounded, realistic drama, his international breakthrough came with his third feature 'Private Property' (2006). It starred Isabelle Huppert as a divorced mother of two who decides to change her life, prompting friction between the family members. In 'Private Lessons' (2008), a young tennis player is taken under the wing of an old pro, whose family life is rapidly disintegrating. 'Our Children' (2012), based on a true story, tells the devastating story of a young woman ('Rosetta'’s Émilie Dequenne) whose marriage to a man (Tahar Rahim) and co-habitation with his initially benevolent adoptive father results in a tragic outcome. Its refusal to shy away from extreme human behaviour resulted in an uncomfortable but all-too-credible drama. 'After Love' (2016) is no less uncompromising as it details the attempt of an estranged couple and parents of two girls who economic circumstances for them to live together. But like all of Lafosse’s work, 'After Love' is a film of compassion and humanity.
Expect the unexpected. Few contemporary directors surprise with both their choice of material and the way they approach it. The result is an impressive body of work that demands repeated viewing. He followed his debut 'Fuga' (2006), about a classical composer going insane, with the international hit 'Tony Manero' (2008). Featuring a man obsessed with John Travolta’s character in 'Saturday Night Fever' (1977), it was the first of a series of films critiquing Chilean society, particularly in connection with the Pinochet regime. If 'Post Mortem' (2010) plays out as a tense thriller, set during the last days of Salvatore Allende’s presidency, 'No' (2013) is a smart and often funny account of the advertising agency that helped the campaign to democratically overthrow the Pinochet government. 'The Club' (2016) might be set in a small coastal village in Chile, but in dealing with defrocked priests that the Catholic Church would rather just disappear, it struck a note with audiences around the world. Larraín’s work has increased in recent years. He immediately followed 'The Club' with 'Neruda' (2017), a playful blend of fact and fiction, revolving around a moment in the late 1940s when the celebrated poet and political agitator went on the run from the police and a Chilean government that wanted him silenced. Both films are gorgeously shot in soft tones. 'Jackie' (2017) is sharper, in tone and look. Covering the four days between John F. Kennedy’s assassination and state funeral, it is a formally daring work that attempts to unravel the myth of the modern-day camelot and its presiding queen, played with fierce intelligence by Natalie Portman.
Mike Leigh's background in theatre and use of improvisation techiniques have resulted in some of the most distinctive British films of the last 30 years. The comic realism of 'Nuts in May' (1976) and 'Abigail's Party' (1977), both made for the BBC Play for Today Programme marked him out as a great director with actors. His film 'Secrets & Lies' won the Palme d'Or in 1996.
In 2006, Sebastián Lelio completed 'La Sagrada Familia', which premiered at the San Sebastián Film Festival, where it received many awards and international recognition. More recently he was distinguished with the Guggenheim Fellowship and received the support of DAAD Berliner Künstlerprogramm for the development of his new projects.
The documentary 'Richard Linklater: Dream is Destiny' goes some way in defining the Austin, Texas director's place in contemporary cinema. A mainstream filmmaker who has produced some of the most fascinating experiments with the medium in the last two decades, his mostly easygoing dramas hide the intelligence and skill at work in them. 'Slacker' (1991) was his feature debut and breakthrough. Its series of comic encounters with individuals belied its narrative ingenuity. He would repeat the trick, albeit with the addition of roto-scope technology in 2001's 'Waking Life'. 'Dazed and Confused' (1993) captured life for a group of school friends in the hazy summer of 1976 as 'Everybody Wants Some!!' (2016) presents college jock life in the early 1980s. 'SubUrbia' (1996) tapped into the same comic vein. There have been some failures. 'The Newton Boys' (1998) didn't work. Tape (2001) lacked bite. 'Fast Food Nation' (2006) was too chaotic. But 'School of Rock' (2003) was a joy. 'A Scanner Darkly' (2006) was a bold roto-scope take on Philip K. Dick's mind-bending masterpiece. 'Me and Orson Welles' (2008) might have failed to attract an audience but it is a joyful recreation of a period in the great actor-director's life. And 'Bernie' (2011) is a near-perfect character study. Then there is 'Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight' (1995/2004/2013) – one of cinema's great trilogies and a glorious paean to love. And 'Boyhood' (2014): a brilliant account of the vagaries of youth and parenting that also happens to be a radical experiment in real time.
One of the most gifted new generation comedy actors and writers, Alice Lowe first appeared in the cult series 'Garth Marenghi's Darkplace' (2004) before subsequent roles in 'The Mighty Boosh', 'Little Britain', 'The IT Crowd', 'Angelo's', 'The Beehive', 'Horrible Histories' and 'Ruddy Hell! It's Harry and Paul'. Her film breakthrough came with Ben Wheatley's 'Sightseers' (2011) which she co-wrote and co-starred with Steve Oram. She also appeared in his directorial debut 'Aaaaaaaah!' (2015). Other film roles include 'Paddington' (2014), 'Black Mountain Poets' and 'Burn Burn Burn' (both 2015). She recently wrote, directed and starred in the pitch black comedy thriller 'Prevenge' (2016).