Leeds International Film Festival 2019 Roundup

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LIFF 2019 has delivered a mix of bold new films from first-time directors, as well as some instant classics from the top filmmakers from across the globe. Here are some of our top picks…

The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao (Giovana Chiconelli)

Set in 1950s Rio de Janeiro, this film follows two sisters,  adventurous Guida and shy Euridice Gusmao, whose lives reflect reversed images of each other. Throughout the movie, they seem to not only be searching for each other, but for the better life they had before they were forced to face adulthood as women in a world that exists to put them down. The cinematography is lush, warm and melancholic and with the end of the film‘s impactful finale, you can feel the entire theatre breathe one last sigh of relief. 

Olla (Sophie Shekhavtsova)

Clocking in at only 27 minutes, Ariane Labed‘s short film explores the feminine desire for sexuality and self-expression in a subtle yet grotesque manner. After responding to an online dating advert for ‘Eastern women‘, title character Olla moves in with a Frenchman and his ageing mother. However, nothing goes according to plan as the young tenant struggles to contain her unbridled sexual energy.

A Hidden Life (Sabrina Martins)

A Hidden Life tells the true story of Franz Jägerstätter (August Diehl), an Austrian farmer who refused to fight for the Nazis during World War II. Like every man in his village, he is asked to swear his allegiance to Hitler but, unlike the rest, he refuses. Although sparse of dialogue,  Instead, the image, most often accompanied by an orchestral piece, develops its own language: the camera follows an esoteric choreography, spins and swoons until it falls static. It is visually impeccable, splendid and ethereal.

Marriage Story (Phoebe Walker)

Marriage Story is a chimaera of multiple cinematic genres, tender drama, romance, thriller, screwball comedy and musical all combined to create an achingly beautiful narrative where the audience is made to be as bewildered as the couple it follows who are going through a difficult divorce.  It is a beautifully told, a skilfully and heartbreakingly acted character study of two people experienceing raw human emotions at the worst of times, with tenderness, comedy and yes more than a few tears. Be sure to take tissues.

And Then We Danced (Sabrina Martins)

The newest released from Swedish-Georgian director Levan Akin, this film tells the story of Merab (Levan Gelbakhiani), a young dancer who has been training in the National Georgian Ensemble since he was a child. As a new male student (Bachi Valishvili) joins his class, Merab starts to discover a new side of himself. More than a love story, this is the coming of age of a young man who is constantly held back by the world around him. In times like these, films as glorious and humane as And Then We Danced feel more than urgent.

Watermelon Juice (Sophie Shekhavtsova)

This Spanish short film from  Irene Moray deals with the sharp subject of sexual violence against women through the depiction of what happens to women after traumatic experiences. Moray’s choice of locations with natural views are stunning and small details, like shots of the main character’s smiles, make the film intimate and less hard-hitting.

Watermelon Juice, Image Credit: Distinto Films

House of Hummingbird (Sabrina Martins)

In 1994 Seoul,  Eun-hee (Park Ji-hu), is a 14-year-old middle-school girl who longs to love and be loved. She develops feelings for a boy and a girl, but it is only when she meets her new teacher, Young-ji (Kim Sae-byuk), that she finds some comfort and sense of self as the two discuss in a classroom whose shelves are filled with fiction and feminist literature.

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Giovana Chiconelli)

With every shot perfectly curated, this drama follows Marianne (Noémie Merlant), an artist that goes to a small island in Brittany with the intention of painting the wedding portrait of Héloïse (Adèle Haenel), a wealthy woman´s daughter that is set to marry a man she has never met. With no significant male characters in the story, this version of 1770s France refuses to stray from its focus of female stories.

Greener Grass (Rory Yeates)

Greener Grass is the directorial debut from writing partners Jocelyn DeBoer and Dawn Luebbe, and follows two suburban ‘soccer moms’ who find themselves constantly trying to one-up each other during the mundane affairs of their everyday lives. With a surreal path of twists and turns, and a home-invader on the loose, this experimental comedy treads along a minefield of insanity, whilst addressing the darker undertones of suburban American life. DeBoer and Luebbe have a clear vision in their work that may not be to everyone’s taste, but which delivers a very original comedy that leaves you with plenty to think about.   

Image Credit: Lillies Films