Director: Fanny Liatard, Jérémy Trouilh
Starring: Alséni Bathily, Lyna Khoudri, Jamil McCraven, Finnegan Oldfield
Directors Fanny Liatard, Jérémy Trouilh achieve a perfect blend of social and magical realism, in drawing from the true story of a condemned Paris housing development named for Soviet cosmonaut, Yuri Garagin: An actual block of 14-storeys and 382 rent-subsidised apartments, the Cité Gagarine was built in Paris' Red Belt as a shining symbol of the Communist Party (it opened with great fanfare in 1963 with a visit by its namesake), but the building's decline mirrored the fate of its founders, and it came to represent the general disenfranchisement of its residents, particularly migrants from North Africa.
This wondrous film invites us into the imagination of 16 year-old wannabe astronaut, Youri (newcomer Alséni Bathily), whose entire worldview has been shaped by living in 'The Gag'. When the building is earmarked for demolition, Youri refuses to go without a fight, and he retreats to his apartment/space capsule, in bold gambit to shoot for the stars. This was one of my favourite films from Cannes 2020.
Gagarine premieres at SBS On Demand on 19 November
Genre: Feature documentary
Director: Alexander Nanau
How do you dismantle a system of depraved corruption within a nation’s healthcare network? It’s the daunting challenge at the heart of this masterful Romanian documentary by Alexander Nanau, which has earned each of its 2021 Academy Award nominations (International Film and Documentary Feature). A national tragedy gives way to outrage when fatalities from a nightclub fire continue to add up, and a crack team of investigative journalists connect the mystery to a head-spinning case of graft and disregard for public safety. A corrupt politician is replaced by a reformer with a history in patient advocacy, but can he withstand the backlash when he doesn’t know how widespread the rot has set in?
Collective is now streaming at SBS On Demand
Day of the Dead
United States of America, 1985
Genre: Horror, Thriller
Director: George A. Romero
Starring: Lori Cardille, Terence Alexander, Joseph Pilato, Jarlath Conroy, Anthony DiLeo, Richard Liberty, Sherman Howard, Gary Howard Klar
In embarking upon the third film in his genre-defining Dead franchise, the pressure was well and truly on George A. Romero to come up with the goods. He had achieved the impossible in following up Night Of The Living Dead with the equally outstanding Dawn Of The Dead, and he had every intention of matching that feat with the next incarnation, Day Of The Dead, which he boasted would be "the Gone with The Wind of zombie movies" (meaning that he intended for it to match the former's scope and scale, not its nostalgia for the racist Confederacy). Romero's refusal to compromise on the film's rating led to the studio downsizing the budget. Corners had to be cut on that promised grand scope and scale, and well, the critics were not kind. Fortunately these days it enjoys a cult appreciation, as in its own way, Day Of The Dead builds upon the work of its excellent predecessors to get us to a point where the undead have more or less taken over the joint. What remains of humanity now lives underground, plotting for ways to fight back against the hungry hordes that threaten to consume them.
Day Of The Dead is now streaming at SBS On Demand
Director: Majid Majidi
Starring: Ali Nasirian, Javad Ezzati, Tannaz Tabatabaei, Roohollah Zamani, Mahdi Mousavi
This is the Iranian tween prison break drama you didn't realise you needed in your life. Majid Majidi plays broad with a street-smart tale of 12-year-old Ali (Roohollah Zamini) and his gang of petty thieves, who are enlisted to do the nimble dirty work for a local crime boss. They're commissioned to retrieve buried treasure hidden under a school, which requires the ragtag team of tearaways to re-enroll -and stay enrolled- in school.
Sun Children will be available to stream at SBS On Demand on 5 November
If Beale Street Could Talk
Director: Barry Jenkins
Starring: KiIi Layne, Stephan James, Regina King, Brian Tyree Henry
Following his Best Picture Academy Award winner Moonlight, writer/director Barry Jenkins breathes new life into poet/author/activist James Baldwin’s acclaimed novel about the power of love to help to endure an unforgiving, unjust place. The intimate love story is set in 1970s Harlem, and follows Tish (KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James), deep in love and preparing for parenthood, whose plans are derailed when Fonny is wrongfully arrested for a crime he didn’t commit. As their dream for a life together breaks apart in front of their eyes, Tish and Fonny draw strength from their own families (including Regina King in her Oscar-winning supporting role), who act as a buffer to the racist world outside.
If Beale Street Could Talk premieres at SBS On Demand on 12 November
Genre: Drama, Crime
Director: Hirokazu Kore-Eda
Starring: Lily Franky, Sakura Ando, Mayu Matsuoka, Jyo Kairi, Miyu Sasaki, Kirin Kiki, Sosuke Ikematsu, Naoto Ogata, Yôko Moriguchi, Yuki Yamada, Moemi Katayama, Kengo Kora, Chizuru Ikewaki, Akira Emoto
Hirokazu Kore-eda has a knack for eliciting natural performances from child actors (he explained his directing technique to me here), in family-focused features that seesaw between comedy and drama with ease. His 2018 Palme d’Or winner Shoplifters continues this tradition in inviting us into the odd world of a family of grifters, who live on the fringes of Tokyo, and have nothing in common but their crimes. "This film is packed with the various elements I have been thinking about and exploring these last 10 years," director Kore-eda explains. "It is the story of what family means, a story about a man trying to be a father, and furthermore, a coming-of-age story of a boy."
Shoplifters streams at SBS On Demand from 12 November
The Wedding Guest
United Kingdom, 2019
Director: Michael Winterbottom
Starring: Dev Patel, Radhika Apte, Jim Sarbh, Harish Khanna, Nish Nathwani, Meherbaan Singh, Sidhu Manpreet
A border-crossing neo-noir, The Wedding Guest will keep viewers on their toes as they try to determine exactly how much Jay (Dev Patel) knows about the broader machinations behind a criminal plot that he's been charged with carrying out. When we meet him, he's a Brit abroad, with a tall tale about attending a wedding. He doesn't mention that he's there to kidnap the bride-to-be. Michael Winterbottom zeroes in on the building chemistry between Patel and his "victim", Samira (played by Radikha Apte), who in the best tradition of film noir damsels, might just know a whole lot more about the situation than she's letting on.
The Wedding Guest premieres at SBS On Demand on 24 November
Red Cliff (Part I)
Genre: Drama, Adventure, Action
Director: John Woo
Starring: Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Fengyi Zhang, Chiling Lin
John Woo reunites with Tony Leung Chiu Wai for the first time since their 1992 pairing, Hard Boiled, for a war epic about the legendary tale of the 208AD Battle of Red Cliff. Woo's vision was to apply his Hollywood blockbuster sensibilities to Chinese history, in a film with sufficient detail for the generations who have grown up familiar with the tale first immortalised in the 700 year-old novel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms: "My goal is for this film to rise above cultural and historical barriers, so that the Western audience feels as if they are watching an Asian Troy, while the Eastern audience can discover new perspectives on a familiar story," Woo said. "I also wanted to prove that here in China we are capable of creating an epic film of the same calibre as a Hollywood production.
Part I opens with a self-serving Prime Minister-turned-General Cao Cao (Zhang Fengyi) seeking permission from the Han dynasty Emperor to organise a million-man-mission to eliminate the armies of two rival warlords, Liu Bei of Xu (You Yong) and Sun Quan of East Wu (Chang Chen). What follows over the course of two films, is a legendary tale of underdogs, outnumbered, facing down a powerful force.
Red Cliff Part I screens on SBS World Movies and debuts at SBS On Demand on 7 November
Red Cliff Part II
Genre: Action, Drama, History, War
Language: Mandarin, Thai
Director: John Woo
Starring: Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Zhang Fengyi, Chang Chen, Zhao Wei, Hu Jun, Song Jia, Shidou Nakamura, Lin Chi-Ling, Tong Dawei, Hou Yong,
Red Cliff Part II screens on SBS World Movies and debuts at SBS On Demand on 14 November