Thinking about my favorite movies last year, quite a few of them were foreign productions. The difficulty was picking just one to vote for in the 2011 Flixist Awards.
Our final nominations were diverse in terms of their country of origin and subject matter. There was a great portrait of ethical dilemmas in Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation (Iran). Pedro Almodovar went to strange and dark territory for his horror thriller The Skin I Live In (Spain). We had two entries from Korea: Jang Hun’s Korean War film The Front Line and Kim Jee-Woon’s intense revenge film I Saw the Devil. From the UK, we had Joe Cornish’s alien invasion yarn Attack the Block and Paddy Considine’s debut feature Tyrannosaur, and from France we had Céline Sciamma’s exploration of gender identity Tomboy.
After close voting, only one movie could get the coveted Golden Dactyl.
Two of my favorite movies in 2011 were A Separation and The Skin I Live In. These two movies tied in our initial voting, but ultimately the tie-break went to A Separation, a moving drama about moral compromises and the difficulties of being honest.
One of the most fascinating things about Farhadi’s film is that he paints realistic, conflicted characters without making any sort of moral judgments about them. The audience can sympathize with anyone, which leads to sympathy for everyone. There are no bad people in A Separation, there are only profoundly hurt people that you feel sorry for. Even though A Separation takes place in Iran, this story of families falling apart effortlessly taps into a universal sense of human sadness and deep compassion. A Separation is a masterpiece.
All of the other nominations are worth a look, particularly Almodovar’s strange and perverse little beast The Skin I Live In. I’d also like to give a little shout out to some other great foreign films that were lost in the limbo of 2010/2011 release dates: Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, Abbas Kiarostami’s Certified Copy, Takashi Miike’s 13 Assassins, and Asif Kapadia’s Senna.