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25 of the most exciting new feature films from around the world.

Lovers Rock

  • Steve McQueen
  • 2020
  • UK
  • 68 minutes

Opening Night

A movie of tactile sensuality and levitating joy, Lovers Rock is part of Steve McQueen’s Small Axe anthology of decades-spanning films that alight on various lives in London’s West Indian community. Here, McQueen, in an ecstatic yet no less formally bold mode, charts the growing attraction between Martha (newcomer Amarah-Jae St. Aubyn) and a brooding stranger (Micheal Ward) over the course of one night at a house party.

Nomadland

  • Chloé Zhao
  • 2020
  • USA
  • 108 minutes

Centerpiece Selection

Chloé Zhao’s richly textured follow-up to her acclaimed The Rider recounts a year in the life of Fern (Frances McDormand), a stoic, stubbornly independent widow who, having spent her adult life in a now-defunct company town, repurposes an old van and sets off in search of seasonal work. Mixing professionals and non-actors, Nomadland is a road movie for our precarious times.

French Exit

  • Azazel Jacobs
  • 2020
  • USA
  • 110 minutes
  • English and French with English subtitles

Closing Night

Michelle Pfeiffer is entirely bewitching as an imperious, widowed New York socialite who, facing financial insolvency, relocates to a friend’s empty apartment in Paris with her dyspeptic son, Malcolm (Lucas Hedges), and their mercurial cat, and begins to grimly plan for an impossible future. Azazel Jacobs’s adaptation of the best-selling novel by Patrick deWitt is a rare American film of genuine eccentricity, with a brilliant central performance.

Atarrabi and Mikelats

  • Eugène Green
  • 2020
  • France/Belgium
  • 123 minutes
  • Euskara with English subtitles
The sacred Atarrabi and the profane Mikelats follow wildly divergent paths in Eugène Green’s tale of two brothers, a modern-dress take on Basque myth perched on the line between earnest spirituality and sly satire.

Beginning

  • Dea Kulumbegashvili
  • 2020
  • Georgia
  • 125 minutes
  • Georgian with English subtitles
In her striking feature debut, Georgian filmmaker Dea Kulumbegashvili tells the devastating story of a persecuted family of Jehovah’s Witness missionaries in a remote village from the perspective of a traumatized wife and mother.

The Calming

  • Song Fang
  • 2020
  • China
  • 93 minutes
  • English, Japanese, and Mandarin with English subtitles
In Song Fang’s film of arresting beauty and tranquility, a young director makes her way around Japan, China, and Hong Kong after the dissolution of a relationship, presenting her work, engaging with friends and artists, and dealing with the realities of aging parents.

City Hall

  • Frederick Wiseman
  • 2020
  • USA
  • 272 minutes
In his latest kaleidoscopic look at the function and practice of community, policy, and civic engagement in American life, Frederick Wiseman trains his camera on the inner workings of the city of Boston to get at larger ideas about a country’s steps toward inclusivity and social reform.

Days

  • Tsai Ming-liang
  • 2020
  • Taiwan/France
  • 127 minutes
  • Taiwanese
In one of Tsai Ming-liang’s best and sparest works, Lee Kang-sheng plays a variation on himself, wandering through a lonely urban landscape and seeking treatment for a chronic illness; at the same time, a young Laotian immigrant working in Bangkok goes about his daily routine. The lives of these two solitary men eventually converge.

The Disciple

  • Chaitanya Tamhane
  • 2020
  • India
  • 128 minutes
  • Bengali, English, Hindi, and Marathi with English subtitles
Indian filmmaker Chaitanya Tamhane’s much-anticipated follow-up to Court is a finely crafted labor of love set in the world of Hindustani classical music, starring singer—and remarkable first-time actor—Aditya Modak as a man living in Mumbai who tries to follow in the footsteps of his father and become a maestro in the Khayal raag music tradition.

Gunda

  • Victor Kossakovsky
  • 2020
  • Norway
  • 93 minutes
Victor Kossakovsky’s remarkable, heartbreaking documentary uses natural sound design and crisp, pastoral black-and-white cinematography to immerse the viewer in the compassionate tale of a sow who lives on a farm in Norway.

I Carry You With Me

  • Heidi Ewing
  • 2020
  • USA/Mexico
  • 111 minutes
  • Spanish with English subtitles
Among the most emotionally resonant and innovatively conceived cinematic love stories in years, I Carry You With Me unexpectedly and brilliantly incorporates documentary elements into the tale of a burgeoning romance between two men who cross the border from Mexico to the U.S.

Isabella

  • Matías Piñeiro
  • 2020
  • Argentina
  • 80 minutes
  • Spanish with English subtitles
Never has Argentinian filmmaker Matías Piñeiro’s art been more graceful or structurally complex than in his latest, in which he again uses a Shakespeare text to anchor a loose yet intellectually rigorous examination of life’s loves, labors, and futile pursuits.

Malmkrog

  • Cristi Puiu
  • 2020
  • Romania
  • 200 minutes
  • French, German, Hungarian, and Russian with English subtitles
A turn-of-the-20th-century Christmas Eve gathering among five members of the European elite at an elegant Transylvanian estate becomes the setting for an increasingly intense succession of conversations in Cristi Puiu’s pristine, sometimes terrifying vision of the simmering violence beneath the colonialist’s veneer of politesse.

Mangrove

  • Steve McQueen
  • 2020
  • UK
  • 126 minutes
An epic piece of Steve McQueen’s Small Axe anthology, Mangrove tells the true story of Frank Crichlow, the Trinidad-born owner of a café in Notting Hill who was arrested for protesting the police’s intimidation and brutality. This is a vivid and gripping dramatization of these events and the resulting landmark 1970 court case of Crichlow and the other defendants, who came to be known as the Mangrove Nine.

MLK/FBI

  • Sam Pollard
  • 2020
  • US
  • 104 minutes
Throughout his history-altering political career, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was often treated by U.S. intelligence and law enforcement like an enemy of the state. In this virtuosic documentary, veteran editor and director Sam Pollard lays out a detailed account of the FBI surveillance that dogged King’s activism throughout the 1950s and ’60s.

Night of the Kings

  • Philippe Lacôte
  • 2020
  • France/Ivory Coast/Canada/Senegal
  • 93 minutes
  • Dioula, French, and Ivorian slang with English subtitles
Paying homage to the tradition of the griot in West African culture, this original vision from breakout Ivory Coast filmmaker Philippe Lacôte tells the story of a pickpocket (Koné Bakary), newly arrived at a correctional facility in the Ivorian capital of Abidjan, who, in order to stay alive, must keep his fellow inmates entertained with wild tales over the course of a night.

Notturno

  • Gianfranco Rosi
  • 2020
  • Italy/France/Germany
  • 100 minutes
  • Arabic and Kurdish with English subtitles
Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker Gianfranco Rosi returns with an immersive work of nonfiction; shot over the course of three years along the borders of Iraq, Kurdistan, Syria, and Lebanon, Notturno is a nighttime ramble through a region rocked and shattered by catastrophe and violence.

Red, White and Blue

  • Steve McQueen
  • 2020
  • UK
  • 80 minutes
In Steve McQueen’s vivid adaptation of a true story set in the early ’80s, John Boyega gives an impassioned yet nuanced performance as Leroy Logan, a member of the London Metropolitan police force who both witnessed and experienced first-hand the organization’s fundamental racism.

The Salt of Tears

  • Philippe Garrel
  • 2020
  • France
  • 100 minutes
  • French with English subtitles
Handsome Luc (Logann Antuofermo) aggressively courts Djemila (Oulaya Amamra) on a Paris suburb metro. But in veteran filmmaker Philippe Garrel’s pinpoint precise and economically told moral tale, she isn’t destined to be his one and only.

Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue

  • Jia Zhangke
  • 2020
  • China
  • 111 minutes
  • Mandarin with English subtitles
In his evocative new documentary, Jia Zhangke gathers three prominent authors—Jia Pingwa, Yu Hua, and Liang Hong—in Shanxi province, where he grew up, to create a tapestry of testimonies about the drastic changes in Chinese life and culture that began with the social revolution of the 1950s.

Time

  • Garrett Bradley
  • 2020
  • USA
  • 81 minutes
The tireless 20-year campaign of Louisiana woman Fox Rich to secure her husband’s release after he received a 60-year prison sentence for robbery becomes a delicate work of nonfiction cinematic alchemy in the hands of filmmaker Garrett Bradley.

Tragic Jungle

  • Yulene Olaizola
  • 2020
  • Mexico
  • 96 minutes
  • English, Creole, Maya, and Spanish with English subtitles
In the 1920s, Agnes (Indira Andrewin) escapes from the white British landowner she doesn’t want to marry into the deep thickets of the tropical forest along the Rio Hondo River. Mexican filmmaker Yulene Olaizola immerses the viewer in a richly drawn, tactile experience that works as both a gripping adventure and a contemplative rumination on the brutality and splendor of nature.

The Truffle Hunters

  • Michael Dweck, Gregory Kershaw
  • 2020
  • Italy/USA/Greece
  • 84 minutes
  • Italian and Piedmontese with English subtitles
This revelatory, earthy documentary immerses the viewer in the forests of Northern Italy where dogs, accompanied by their elderly and often irascible human owners of modest means, seek the precious white Alba truffle.

Undine

  • Christian Petzold
  • 2020
  • Germany
  • 90 minutes
  • German with English subtitles
German director Christian Petzold (Phoenix, Transit) injects a mythological element into a lush melodrama about a pair of star-crossed lovers—Undine (Paula Beer), a historian and museum tour guide specializing in urban development, and Christoph, an industrial diver—linked by an affinity for the water.

The Woman Who Ran

  • Hong Sangsoo
  • 2020
  • South Korea
  • 77 minutes
  • Korean with English subtitles
Divided into three casually threaded yet distinct sections, Hong Sangsoo’s latest delight follows Gamhee—played by the director’s regular collaborator Kim Minhee—as she travels without her husband for the first time in years, reconnecting with a succession of friends, on purpose and by chance.