‘71 is the directorial debut of Yann Demange. Set in 1971 in the early days of the Troubles in Belfast, the film follows a young British squaddie, played by Jack O’Connell, as his unit helps the RUC carry out a search of a Catholic area in search of Republican weapons. As the local Catholic populace become incensed at the British troops, O’Connell’s character is separated from his unit and hunted by the IRA. Some locals help him, others pursue him with the aim of killing him – the film explores fear, crowd violence, and masculinity through the figure of the young soldier on the run.
Butter on the Latch
Josephine Decker has directed short films and performed as an actor previously, but Butter on the Latch is her first feature film as director. The film is set against a Balkan music festival in the Californian woods where two former friends, Sarah and Isolde, meet by chance. They rekindle their friendship only for a male camper to interrupt them and for Sarah to become more interested in him than Isolde. The film features innovative cinematographic techniques, improvised dialogue, and a non-linear narrative to become increasingly claustrophobic as the bond between the two girls slowly crumbles.
Catch Me Daddy
Catch Me Daddy has been labelled by one critic as ‘one of the most exciting British debuts in years.’ Directed by brothers Daniel and Matthew Wolfe, the film follows the 17-year-old Laila with her boyfriend Aaron, on the run from her strict Pakistani family on the bleak Yorkshire Moors. Pursuing them is a group of men determined to gain revenge for the dishonor Laila has brought upon her family. The directors have created a challenging piece of social realism with a nod to the great western The Searchers, directed by John Ford set against the vast space of the Pennines.
Difret has caused controversy and won considerable plaudits since release. The debut of director Zeresenay Berhane Mehari, the Ethiopian film is the story of a young girl accused of killing the man who raped her. After being kidnapped returning from school the young girl, Hirut, is forced into marriage before she escapes and shoots dead her captor. Local justice demands she is executed – but a local lawyer pleads her case and defends her actions in a male-dominated world. Difret in Amharic, the language of Ethiopia, means courage, and the film has won praise for portraying the problems faced by many women in the developing world.
Gente de Bien
Gente de Bien is the first feature made by director Franco Lolli and explores class, social mores, and father-son relations through the perspective of the 10-year-old character Eric. Sent with his dog to see his father, the young boy is disgruntled to find himself living in a rough area of Bogota in Colombia, where his father barely makes ends meet. When the pair head to a rich friend of Eric’s father the boy sees a different side of life that puts a variety of different pressures on the father-son relationship. Often funny, Gente de Bien has been lauded by critics as a well-observed social drama.
Something Must Break
Director Ester Martin Bergsmark has previously won plaudits for her documentary work. Something Must Break is her first feature and a bold and challenging work on gender and sexuality that follows a lead character who is transgender. The film is set in Stockholm and follows Sebastien, who becomes involved with a young man who is both entranced by Sebastien and later threatened by the sense that their relationship cannot last. The film, set in Stockholm, examines identity, traditional gender roles, and the pressures faced by those who grow up different.
The Goob is another coming-of-age film, this time set in rural Norfolk and the debut of director Guy Myhill. It follows the figure of 16-year-old Taylor, known amongst locals as ‘Goob’, whose summer is spent working in the café of his mother and her boyfriend – a domineering, jealous figure who thwarts Taylor’s attempts to find love and physically bullies his younger brother. The review from the veteran critic Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian praised the humor and use of the magnificent Norfolk landscape and its wide-open spaces.
Macondo premiered at the 2014 Berlin Film Festival. The film is the first feature by the Iranian–Austrian director Sudabeh Mortezai and is a piece of social realism about a young Chechen boy and his family living in the Macondo suburb of Vienna. Only the young boy can speak enough German to deal with officials and must do all he can to look after the family as their father has disappeared during the war in Chechnya. When a man turns up claiming to have been his father’s best friend in Chechnya the boy must weigh up whether to trust him or whether he is out to swindle the family.
Labour of Love
Set in the great Indian city of Kolkata, Labour of Love is the work of director, screenwriter, and producer Aditya Vikram Sengupta. Labour of Love follows two people, man and woman, who live in same apartment though work different shifts, so rarely see each other in the flesh. Their love affair is conducted in their daydreams, forever thwarted in physical reality, though paradoxically they transcend their mundane situation in their minds. Described by critics as lyrical and poetic, Labour of Love is a contemporary take on the classic theme of star-crossed lovers that runs all the way back to Pyramus and Thisbe.
Second Coming might just be the most audacious debut on this list, with an all-star cast and a subject matter of miraculous conception dealt with in a teasing, elliptical narrative. Director Debbie Tucker Green has assembled a cast headed by Nadine Marshall and Idris Elba as a couple in London who suddenly find they are expecting a new child despite it being neither expected nor biologically possible. Despite the subject matter, the film shuns religious reference, picking up instead the social realism of the kitchen-sink tradition and exploring the pressures upon Marshall’s character.
The Tribe is set in a Ukrainian school for the deaf and is acted using sign language. The directorial debut of Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy features a cast of young deaf actors in a boarding school where a new arrival discovers a world of organized criminality such as planned robberies and pimping. The new arrival, Sergey, finds himself acting as a pimp only to fall in love with one of his prostitutes and becomes entangled in the web of violence and abuse at the school. The Tribe was described as ‘the most startling and bizarre’ film to have appeared at the BFI Film Festival in London last year.
Theeb, like ‘71, is a historical drama, this time set against the Arab Revolt of 1916 against the Ottoman Turks. The film, directed by Naji Abu Nowar, follows the orphaned brothers Hussein and Theeb who, despite the events unfolding around them, prefer hunting and herding to politics. When a British officer comes across their camp they help him on a treacherous journey across the desert – along the way they meet bandits, Arab revolutionaries, and the Ottoman forces. The film takes advantage of the stunning desert backdrop and has been lavishly praised for its cinematography and narrative.