5. Crip Camp
Crip Camp is far from an easy watch, some scenes presenting the viewer with upsetting evidence of the abuse of the most vulnerable in society, but stick with it for an ultimately inspiring and hope-filled documentation of a turning point that launched the rights of disabled Americans forward.
In the early 1970s, many families in the USA sent their disabled children to Camp Junaid over summer break, where these kids found freedom, fun and unbreakable bonds of friendship and spirit, until the camp closed and these happy times ended. The values instilled in camp attendees and the independence they gained for a few short weeks in a year had a ripple effect across the USA and helped to instil passion in civil rights campaigns to improve the quality of life for disabled Americans forever – tired of being despised, discriminated against and ignored, a series of protests, civil disruptions and sit-ins led to a battle at Supreme Court.
Despite all the serious points being made, one of the most refreshing aspects of this film are interviews showing how proud its subjects are to talk about their healthy love lives – you don’t lose your urges just because you’re differently-abled!
Crip Camp movingly combines archive footage, home movies and new interviews to tell a poignant story of people wanting to live their best lives.
4. The Assistant
Not explicitly about Weinstein, but certainly representative of the systemic sexism of the film industry and workplace abuse of all kinds, Kitty Green’s The Assistant is one of the most essential and hard-hitting films of the year.
Personal assistant to a studio boss, Jane (Julia Garner) has the working day from hell and begins to realise no position working in the film industry is worth how she is professionally degraded, emotionally abused and psychologically tortured on a daily basis. The camera never leaves her side and her indignities never cease, but we know that even darker abuses are taking place just beyond the camera’s reach.
Garner gives the performance of the year; always under scrutiny and understated but conveying every emotion Jane is going through and barely holding back.
Honourable mentions: Never Rarely Sometimes Always; A White, White Day; Time; Small Axe Anthology
3. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
The most romantic, achingly beautiful film of the year.
Who’d have thought that way back in February so many of us would be so aching for human intimacy, forbidden love affairs or not?
Appropriately for a film incorporating art, you’d be hard-pressed to find a frame that isn’t stunningly beautiful, but two scenes heavily incorporating music to evoke characters’ inner turmoil are just as effective.
An aristocrat (Adèle Haenel) due to be married off to another suitable wealthy family falls instead for the woman hired to paint her portrait (Noémie Merlant). Héloïse and Marianne’s early relationship is frosty, but grows to include stolen glances and playful flirtation before blossoming into a full-blown romance and brief domestic bliss. You know this has to end sooner or later but you hope beyond hope that they will find if not happiness then contentment without each other in their lives.