Here at SBS on Demand, we want to open as many windows as possible for you. Here are 20 of our favourite cinematic getaways.
Winter Sleep, Turkey
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia director Nuri Bilge Ceylan returns to that magical steppe with this Palme d’Or-winning, Chekov-inspired, slow-burn epic. Haluk Bilginer is captivating as an up-himself faded actor rattling about in the rocky hotel he inherited while irritating his young wife (Melisa Sözen) and divorcée sister (Demet Akbag). Revelling in their petty feuds, the cumulative effect is overwhelming.
Palestinian-Dutch writer/director Hany Abu-Assad casts a magnetic Adam Bakri as a young baker and freedom fighter falsely accused of murder. Press-ganged into becoming an Israeli Army informer in this Oscar-nominated nail-biter, it took home the Un Certain Regard award from the Cannes Film Festival in 2013.
Amra and the Second Marriage, Saudi Arabia
A bright light of Saudi Arabia’s fledgling film industry, director Mahmoud Sabbagh follows his acclaimed debut Barakah Meets Barakah with this razor-sharp comedy critiquing religious control and the patriarchy. Nadia Malaika is magnificent as a 40-something mum raising teenaged daughters, unimpressed by her domineering husband’s decision to bring a much younger woman into their union.
Black Kite, Afghanistan
Director Tarique Qayumi’s family fled Afghanistan for Canada when he was a kid. Returning in adulthood, he shot this deeply affecting film after the rise of the Taliban. Bravely challenging their power, it splices archival material into a touching story of a father (Haji Gul Aser) who refuses to stop flying the kites he makes for his beloved daughter.
In The Shadows, India
Old Delhi’s twisting alleyways are just as much a character as his charismatic leads in writer/director Dipesh Jain’s intriguing puzzle box. Gangs of Wasseypur star Manoj Bajpayee plays a disturbed older man obsessively monitoring his neighbours via secret cameras. But when he can’t find missing boy Idu (Om Singh), the mystery slowly draws him out.
The Black Hen, Nepal
Impressing at the Venice Film Festival with debut short The Flute in 2012, Min Bahadur Bham went on to take Best Film during International Film Critics Week there three years later with this equal parts heart-warming and rending story. It sees two young lads (Khadka Raj Nepali and Sukra Raj Rokaya) set out on a quest to reclaim the hen that staves off poverty through egg sales, while brutal civil war rages.
Honeygiver Among The Dogs, Bhutan
Film noir reaches the Himalayan kingdom with a spiritual twist in Bhutanese filmmaker Dechen Roder’s impressive debut feature. Jamyang Jamtsho Wangchuk’s no-nonsense city detective is a fish out of water in the small village where he’s sent to find a missing abbess, instead becoming entangled with Sonam Tashi Choden’s mysterious “demoness” with very different secrets and beliefs.
Golden Kingdom, Myanmar
American writer/director Brian Perkins has crafted a profoundly respectful, intimately observed story about four young Buddhist apprentice monks left to contend for themselves in a remote monastery in the cloistered country. Non-professional actors, Shine Htet Zaw leads their quest for inner peace in the face of increasing adversity.
Bad Genius, Thailand
Thai filmmaker Nattawut Poonpiriya follows up his New York-set horror Countdown with this fun thriller, an indictment on school entry test corruption. Chutimon Chuengcharoensukying plays a straight-A student so irked by her teachers leaking exam questions for favours she decides to beat them at their own game in this smartly teased-out scam that includes a stop-over in Sydney.
The Orator, Samoa
Tusi Tamasese’s debut is also the world’s first film told entirely in the Samoan language. Dwarf actor Fa’afiaula Sanote plays a village outcast who finds love with another outsider (Tausili Pushparaj) then has to fight for what little they have when her brother (Ioata Tanielu) demands her return to the family fold. A quietly unassuming gem, it took home three gongs from Venice.
The Light On The Hill, Peru
Set in a remote Peruvian village, the death of a shepherd sets off a brazen treasure hunt as locals seek to ascertain the truth behind long-held rumours of ancient wealth buried beneath his land. Lord of the Flies style, madness awaits as vicious greed spirals out of control in this macabre delight from Peruvian filmmaker Ricardo Velarde.
The Second Mother, Brazil
Picking at the class divide, writer/director Anna Muylaert’s intimate Berlin Panorama Award-winning drama casts Regina Casé as the housekeeper of a wealthy São Paulo family. Her quiet pride is challenged when the firebrand daughter (Camila Márdila) she financially supports but hasn’t seen in a decade shows up. Smart and sassy.
Dust on the Tongue, Colombia
Colombian filmmaker Rubén Mendoza spins a dark familial fable drawing on personal experience. A towering Jairo Salcedo plays a bullying but frail patriarch who retreats to his remote ranch with the grandkids (Alma Rodríguez and Gabriel Mejía) to make a startling proposition. Kill him and they inherit it all. Refuse and they get nothing. Gripping stuff.
Before The Streets, Canadian First Nations
Writer/director Chloé Leriche casts non-professional actors from Quebec’s Indigenous Atikamekw communities in this Kelly Reichardt-like lyrically realist story that attracted a Berlin Crystal Bear nomination. Rykko Bellemare stars as a drifter who falls into crime then flees after a tragic accident before returning to face traditional justice.
Indigenous filmmaker Pipaluk Jorgensen’s tragic love story is the first movie hailing from Greenland by a female filmmaker. Set contemporaneously, Nukâka (wife of Game of Thrones star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) plays a pining woman whose boyfriend’s in a coma, but it draws deep on local mythology too.
After something a bit more light-hearted? Revered Polish filmmaker Malgorzata Szumowska’s Berlin Silver Bear-winning social commentary-charged comedy packs bonus Metallica tracks. Mateusz Kościukiewicz plays a happy-go-lucky guy whose life transforms when an accident leads to him receiving the country’s first face transplant*. *Travolta/Cage not included.
The Lesson, Bulgaria
Directing duo Kristina Grozeva and Petar Valchanov’s fascinating debut is a morality play casting a compelling Margita Gosheva as a schoolteacher determined to get to the bottom of a theft in her classroom. So far, so principled, but when her dubious hubby gets them into financial hot water, things get grey-area murky pretty fast.
Winning Best Actor at the San Sebastián International Film Festival, Bogdan Dumitrache is staggering in this harrowing tale of a father unmoored by the disappearance of his daughter while he’s on the phone at a playground. Recalling Loveless, it’s written and directed by Constantin Popescu (Tales from the Golden Age) with Constantin Dogioiu also brilliant as a stony detective.
Abdelhamid Bouchnak’s cannibalistic nightmare leans heavily into horror genre tropes and has a heap of fun with it. Three journalism students played by Yassmine Dimassi, Aziz Jbali and Bilel Slatnia go looking for the truth behind a gruesome folk tale and get a lot more than they bargained for.
Viva Riva!, Democratic Republic of Congo
Djo Munga’s stylish crime thriller swept the boards at the 2011 African Movie Academy Awards. Set in capital city Kinshasa, small-time crook Riva (Patsha Bay) discovers a secret stash of gasoline. Hoping to cash in, he incurs the wrath of his former boss (Hoji Fortuna) and the local gangster (Diplome Amekindra) whose moll (Manie Malone) he steals.