Despite the serious lack of free time this year (thanks, DP!) I’ve been trying to search out the more artistic, lesser-known films to analyze and discuss. Here are my top 5 that I think any film fan should watch:

Capernaum

This film is about a young boy named Zain. He lives with his family in a very dilapidated city in Lebanon called Capernaum, hence the title. Zain is constantly neglected by his family, and at one point is pushed to leave his home. He goes on an adventure throughout the city, in search of someone to house and feed him. During this journey, he not only develops as a character, but also discovers how cruel the world is around him. This film incredibly heart-wrenching, it shows you a part of the world we very often neglect and gives you a whole new point-of-view on that world. Many of you may finish the film crying. You can find the film on Amazon Prime.

Director: Nadine Labaki

Initial Release: September 20, 2018

18 awards and nominations, including: Cannes Jury Prize, Palme d’Or, Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film, Cannes Best Director Award, Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Screenplay

Tokyo Story

At first viewing, this film might give you the impression that it does not deserve high praise. It’s black and white, and has one of the simplest plots in film history (making it feel quite long at times). An old couple from Onomichi, Japan visits their children in Tokyo, who have no time to take care of them because of their busy work schedules. Without giving it away, prepare for the movie to end on a very depressing note. According to Sight & Sound magazine, Tokyo Story was voted as “the best film ever made,” according to a poll of film directors. You can find Tokyo Story in full on YouTube.

Director: Yasujiro Ozu

Initial Release: November 3, 1953

Awards: Sutherland Trophy

The Garden of Words

The Garden of Words is a Japanese animation film that talks about an almost impossible romance. A lonely high school student in Tokyo has a dream of being a cobbler; the other, a high school English teacher. Both students skip their morning classes in order to sit alone in this gazebo in a beautiful park. Over time, a close intimacy develops; however, tragedy shortly ensues. Despite its very basic and somewhat cliché plot, Shinkai’s emotional non-linear storytelling and incredibly detailed, gorgeous animation makes for an amazing film experience. You can find a good version on YouTube.

Director: Makoto Shinkai

Initial Release: May 31, 2013

No known awards

I, Daniel Blake

I, Daniel Blake is a film about, you guessed it, a man named Daniel Blake. He is desperately trying to look for a job in London, but to no avail. He is relying on the state’s welfare and recently suffered a heart attack. He is coming very close to his retirement and still can’t properly pay for his expenses. While trying to find a job at the job center, he comes across a single mother also desperately trying to find a job in order to take care of her two children. The film shows you a perspective that is not usually explored, and is brutally realistic about it. Although some may disagree with the politics of the film, it’s well-made with an emotionally jarring, incredibly realistic storyline. This film is not for the emotionally weak; you have been warned. You can find the film on Amazon Prime.  

Director: Ken Loach

Initial Release: June 9, 2017

11 awards, including: Palme d’Or, BAFTA Award for Best British Film, César Award for Best Foreign Film.

Wings of Desire

Wings of Desire follows an angel and his friend, watching over Berlin. As the angel listens to people’s thoughts, he desires to be like them–to experience what it’s like to be human. Despite the dark, grey world he sees, he is still able to find some sort of flicker of light and color within humanity. He discovers that, despite the world being so depressing and black and white, one can truly find happiness through love. You’ll find that the film feels a lot like a Shakespeare play, with its dialogue heavy scenes, and poetic and philosophical dialogue. It shows, both, how dark and lonely the world is, but also how beautiful and colorful it is. This film is incredibly slow-paced, which some might like and some not. But, it is a truly beautiful film, not only from its fluent cinematography, but also its dialogue. You can find it on Amazon Prime.

Director: Wim Wenders

Initial Release: May 17, 1987

8 awards, including: Cannes Best Director Award, National Society of Film Critics Award for Best Cinematography, German Film Award for Best Feature Film .


Hopefully, you found one or two films to check out this summer (less than 2 weeks!!), when you’re not inundated with work. These hidden gems, I believe, help keep the true spirit of cinema alive. Enjoy.

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