The Best International & Indie Films of 2013

by PopMatters Staff

23 December 2013


10 - 6

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As I Lay Dying

Director: James Franco
Cast: James Franco, Logan Marshall-Green, Danny McBride, Tim Blake Nelson, Ahna O’Reilly, Beth Grant


As I Lay Dying
Millenniums Films

Although he often comes across as an arthouse showoff (or worse, indie wannabe), James Franco is technically a humanist at heart. He wallows in the excesses and eccentricities of individuals while coming across as disconnected and above it all. With As I Lay Dying, he makes the wise choice to focus on the characters over the circumstances, believing (rightfully so) that this is the way Faulkner would have wanted it. Since the novel is so overwrought with technique and obtuseness, there is simply no better way to get to the heart of its message. As with all Southern Gothic bathed in this specific author’s Bourbon and bilious contempt, the plot is just a path toward internalized enlightenment. Getting Addie’s body to Jefferson becomes secondary to what the rest of her family are learning and experiencing. Bill Gibron


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Blue Is the Warmest Color

Director: Abdellatif Kechiche
Cast: Adèle Exarchopoulos, Léa Seydoux, Catherine Salée, Aurélien Recoing, Sandor Funtek, Alma Jodorowsky


Blue Is the Warmest Color
Sundance Selects

Blue Is the Warmest Color is essentially a film about trying and failing to recognize yourselves in the eyes of someone who once meant the world to you. In this case we follow young Adele (as played by the extraordinary Adele Exarchopoulos) as she discovers love for the very first time in the shape of Emma (Lea Seydoux). Shot by Abdellatif Kechiche with a voracious camera who almost seems to become one with its protagonist, the film deals with heartbreak, maturity and desire in a way we rarely have seen onscreen. Worthy if only to discover the magic of Exarchopoulos, the film is a delicious essay on the perils of waiting too long to give your heart away, and as such will connect with anyone who has loved intensely only to find sometimes passion is not enough. Jose Solis


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A Touch of Sin

Director: Zhangke Jia
Cast: Wu Jiang, Lanshan Luo, Li Meng


A Touch of Sin
Koch Lorber Films

The only time characters in Chinese film tend to fight the power is in period wuxia flicks, where they wail mightily against Western baddies. Each of the four stories here—a miner fighting corruption, a female sauna worker assaulted one too many times, and a hired killer and factory worker both drifting around looking for meaning—have been ripped from the headlines by visionary filmmaker Jia Zhangke. His powerful epic of a modern-day China imploding from within is all bottled-up frustration that erupts in Shakespearean rage. Crackling pulp intensity married with an unnervingly staid visual style. Chris Barsanti


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Halima’s Path

Cast: Alma Prica, Olga Pakalović, Mijo Jurišić, Izudin Bajrović, Miraj Grbić, Mustafa Nadarević


Hamila’s Path
Studio Arkadena

Inspired by true events in the former Yugoslavia after the Bosnian War, Halima’s Path depicts the psychological repercussions for surviving families in the aftermath of the region’s ethnic/religious warfare and mass killings. Safija and Slavomir are star-crossed lovers: She’s a Bosnian Muslim, he’s a Serbian Christian. When a desperate Safija gets pregnant, she gives the newborn boy to her childless aunt, Halima, telling Slavomir that the baby was stillborn. Fast forward 20 years as Halima searches for her husband and the boy, who were abducted and killed by Serbs during the war. The mission to find and bury her adopted son’s remains forces her to revisit both Safija and a past that contains terrible revelations. Director Arsen Anton Ostojic creates a riveting drama, at once austere in composition and richly complex in structure and content, and the film refuses to flinch from overwhelming tragedy. In playing a simple woman who has lost everything, Alma Prica goes bone deep as Halima, working wonders in portraying her both young and old and delivering a wrenching portrait of survival and quiet courage. Steve Leftridge


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The Act of Killing

Director: Joshua Oppenheimer
Cast: Anwar Congo, Adi Zulkadry, Herman Koto, Syamsul Arifin


The Act of Killing
Drafthouse Films

Joshua Oppenheimer’s brutal depiction of evil has Indonesian mass murderers recreating the crimes they became infamous for and might very well be one of those films so horrifying that few people will ever dare to sit through it twice. Oppenheimer chronicles the rise to power of Suharto’s army composed of gangsters and conservative revolutionaries who imposed a reign of terror and murder based on movies they had loved watching. Watching criminals like Anwar Congo and Adi Zulkadry joyously reminisce about their preferred methods of torture is infuriating and strangely illuminating as we begin to perceive the origins of true wickedness. A film that will undoubtedly be studied by sociologists, anthropologists, psychologists and of course filmmakers, for decades to come, The Act of Killing was the year’s most revelatory masterpiece. Jose Solis

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