Hard to summarise 2020. Should one simply be grateful or let the grief continue to wash over? Tough call. Fortunately for us, we conveniently buried our heads in the wonderful films that came our way. It’s usually easy to pick that one film that stands out, but like everything else about 2020, it wasn’t meant to be. So, here we are, trying our best to summarise 2020 for the art of indie cinema—the year that was, and despite everything, one has to admit, a surprising treat to cinephiles.
We have to start off with Ernesto Sandoval’s The Devil’s Son which tugged at our hearts for not only bringing myths, drama and fantasy into one frame, but expertly using illustrations to lure its audiences in for the ride.
Moving on from myths to fantasy, we had A Helical, a 30-minute sci-fi, an experimental short that risked its opening scenes with graphics that were reminiscent of the 80s and 90s’ but clearly knew where it was going with it. Then came Metta Via, another sci-fi that had commendable CGI, even if slightly inclined to the standard tropes. But subverting the tropes would be The Five Minutes, an absolute special that went beyond the usual time-travel narrative and offered a surprising insight into grief. No year could better understand grief than 2020!
From films dealing with PTSD (Dion, The Journey Man) characters forging unexpected bonds (Lucy, Bittersweet) and the often overlooked plight of the migrants (Soyka, Out Of Place, Ya Albi) the drama genre had its fill. Not to be left out, biographies made their presence felt too through The Suitcase, Mical and My Neighbor, Miguel. But perhaps, it is White Feather that stood out the most, a moving short in the war subgenre that reminded us pointedly that bravery doesn’t always have to be in the shade we think it to be.
If White Feather, His Hands and Big Touch brought out colours that spoke, then Hang Up!, Professional Cuddler, La Petite Folie and Ruhaan played with black and white—an interesting choice that paid off well, considering the themes of each of these films.
Moving from the monochrome setting, we had A Million Eyes that was 25 minutes of self-discovery, and coming-of-age. As was Young, Young Men—set in England, a charming slice of life, bringing back the nostalgia of youth, and unbridled hope for a future that brought a sense of wholesomeness to movie viewing in an otherwise dreary year.
But despite it—and perhaps because of it—we couldn’t help but sit up and take note of hard-hitting documentaries on climate change (Vanishing Louisiana, Dirty Business), crime and justice (Unfinished Lives), and the pandemic (Brass). The year’s expected entrant has to, of course, be the quarantine films, shot entirely during the lockdown, and Oru Naal, Oru Aal earns the brownie points for its effective execution—a crime thriller that kept its audience on tenterhooks all the way until the credits begin to roll.
If crime thrillers and whodunits earned their accolades, then so did Harvey, Dumps and Haunt that supplemented us with the much-needed humour for the year. From dark comedy to the nihilistic conclusions of Back of the Night, 2020 films were varied and eclectic. From LGBTQ drama to women-centric films and women-directed films, including the action-thriller Keeper, not only have the shorts been engaging and novel in their execution, but also clearly raising the standards of storytelling and cinema viewing.
2020 hasn’t been easy, but we can’t deny how kind it has been on us for the brilliant films that came our way. Granted, it’s hard to summarise the works of so many incredibly talented filmmakers and their crew and yet there are some, like Alive, or A Little Place Off Edgware Road or Marriage Material that just leave such an indelible mark that one returns to them, over and over.
2021 brings with it plenty of hope and if 2020’s contribution to independent cinema is anything to go by, then we are in for a pleasant ride!
Here’s looking forward to a year filled with wonderful stories, engaging narratives and moments that make us laugh, cry and just leave us wishing for more.