Shadows obscure life throughout Dheepan, in the drudgery of scraping a living together from nighttime street vending to cleaning out dank common areas in a French housing development rife with tension between rival gangsters to the room the titular character shares with a woman and girl masquerading as his wife and daughter. The shadows seep into the lead character’s sense of self, for his real name is not even Dheepan, as established early in the film. He’s a former Tamil soldier fleeing strife in Sri-Lanka, adopting a new name and joining forces with a young woman and an orphaned girl for safe passage to France.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Clan may just be one of the most demented movies Argentina has ever produced. It’s a wide-eyed stare into the abyss of the legacy of its “Dirty War” of the ‘70s and ‘80s, where many opposed to the country’s dictatorship simply disappeared. During the South American nation’s transition to democracy a few supporters of the military junta had a hard time breaking habits. One fellow was Arquímedes Puccio, who dragged his wife and five children into complicity with schemes of kidnapping people for ransom.

Read the rest of this entry »


Sometimes cinema submits us into consent with images that tell us how to be, act or feel. The power of the Seventh Art can be wielded to create propaganda or to push boundaries. It is this power that makes it at once democratic, alluring and — in the best cases — disruptive. The past few days attending Miami Dade College’s 33rd Miami International Film Festival have, for the most part, brought fresh air into Miami by packing aesthetics that disrupt the normative dullness that Hollywood usually brings.

Some we have previewed, as Hans Morgenstern has written about in the Miami New Times (see the end of this post for links, as well as our last post: Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures filmmakers talk about interview subjects and plans for next work: Trump). But a standout among the films that we previewed is a locally directed, produced and written film called Hearts of Palm (tickets: 2016.miamifilmfestival.com/films/hearts-of-palm), which premiered Wednesday night. It was a highlight to have an auteur revealing her vulnerability, as she deconstructs the idea of a relationship and what it means when love is disrupted. Do two people manifest love in each other or is it an independent force that comes and goes? Writer/director Monica Peña (full disclosure: she’s a friend we’ve covered in the past: Storytelling through collaboration – Director Monica Peña discusses filmmaking and upcoming Speaking in Cinema panel) leaves it up to the audience to decide. Here, there’s no suspended disbelief; filmmaking is shown in Hearts of Palm as an artifice itself, an excuse to communicate ideas that in itself is an idea.

Ive Never Not Been From Miami Q&A

Peña was also among the locally produced short documentary filmmakers on local artists in an omnibus program called “I’ve Never Not Been From Miami,” which screened Monday (the image above is from the Q&A after). Peña (second from left) once again gave us remarkable work, examining the creative process with Hearts of Palm collaborator Lucila Garcia De Onrubia … It was a standout among the shorts that played on the giant screen at the Olympia Theater. There were beautiful tributes to dancers Ana Mendez, Pioneer Winter and Rosie Herrera by filmmakers Keisha  Rae  Witherspoon, Tabatha  Mudra and Jonathan  David  Kane, respectively. A couple of filmmakers explored their subjects with a sense of humor, like Tina Francisco’s Bob Ross Parody featuring concert illustrator Brian Butler and Andrew Hevia’s briskly paced story about actor/writer/director Edson Jean. A fellow called Swampdog captured Aholsniffsglue’s wacky persona as well as collectors’ and fans’ feverish interest in his work. Other artists explored with more gravity and insight included Agustina Woodgate, Cara  Despain  and Farley Aguilar by Joey Daoud, Kenny  Riches and Kareem Tabsch, respectively. While we’re dropping all these names we love, shouts are due out to some of the musicians who contributed to the soundtracks on some of the films, including Richard Vergez, Emile Milgram and Oly.

Among red carpets and sartorial flair, another stand out film was Eye in the Sky, which brought modern warfare ethics front and center. Now, this is not a topic that occupies much time in the airwaves or space in headlines, nor is it a topic that is openly discussed in many of the glossier Miami events, yet the film festival gave us the opportunity to pause and reflect on how it is that the use of drones may be negatively impacting the humanity of those very people who are on the frontlines of particular brand of combat. Director Gavin Hood is no stranger to Hollywood, yet his take on warfare through Eye in the Sky is a thoughtful and measured and does not dictate nor pontificate in a specific direction but makes the audience aware of the many gray areas that can animate policy and how the lines between elected officials and the army are not always as clear-cut as they seem on paper.

Gavin Hood in conversation with Festival director Jaie Laplante photo by Carlos Llana

It should be noted that Hood’s introduction to the film was quite epic in that he decided to finally speak at length about X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Here’s just one quote from the night regarding the superhero flick, which wasn’t necessarily loved by fans nor critics, that contains a key nugget of advice for filmmakers. “It’s not the film I’m most proud of,” he said of the 2009 movie, “and I think that the advice that I would give to any young filmmaker is to be aware of this: I now do not start a movie until the script, which you would think is obvious, is absolutely clearly done, and I know that that’s the film I want to make, and it seems like such unnecessary advice, but that’s what happens.”

It was just part of a much longer answer to festival director of programming Jaie Laplante’s question of what it was like for him to turn from an Oscar-winning Foreign Language film (2005’s Tsotsi) to Hollywood. After Hood finished his rant, Laplante said, “I have to say I wasn’t expecting that kind of an answer.”

“Neither did I,” replied Hood, who was said to have asked for a stiff drink after the night’s opening conversation. Eye In the Sky did not have a repeat screening at the fest. However, it opened today in commercial theaters to very good reviews).


That day we also caught the exquisite Sunset Song by British director Terence Davies, a beautiful film about permanent impermanence shown through family, love and war during turn-of-the-20th-century Scotland. Though the Scottish brogue of some of the actors wasn’t always easy to understand for our American ears, Davies commits himself gloriously to a language that breaks through his indelible imagery. You have a chance to see it one more time at the Miami International Film Festival on Sunday (tickets: 2016.miamifilmfestival.com/films/sunset-song). It stands as one of Hans’ favorites at the festival so far, one he would dare use the “m” word for (yes: masterpiece).

Sunday we had a day off and Monday was the “I’ve Never Not Been From Miami” event, which ended with a party on the Olympia’s stage with a DJ who played music by David Byrne and Brian Eno as well as film soundtrack highlights from The Forbidden Planet. On Tuesday we saw the French-Canadian film Ville-Marie. Like Eye in the Sky, it was part of the festival’s “Marquee Series,” and the only of the four screenings that took place at the Olympia Theater. Preceded by a red carpet with the film’s star Monica Bellucci and Director/writer Guy Édoin, the film was informed by the female perspective. In a Q&A with the director before the film started, Bellucci embraced her age and status as a mother as being key to her performance. The movie’s story follows a mother who decides to bare her life on camera and finally reveal the heavy weight of her past to her son. The story was a powerful one, and from the conversation that took place on stage between Édoin and Bellucci, it was also a personal one that carried the weight of Bellucci’s own experience.


Last Friday’s opening night seems so long ago now, but it bears mentioning, as it too was a high-profile affair at the Olympia. It also featured an appearance by a huge star, the singularly named Raphael of Spanish music. We previewed it last year (Miami International Film Festival hints at Spanish heavy line-up for 2016). It did what opening night films should: get the film fest audience excited for the week’s celebration of cinema, premieres, parties and seminars. The film’s humor was distinctly Spanish with references that Spaniards would appreciate more than any other Latins. Director Alex de la Iglesia gets away with skewering the country and its popular culture that also features a glimpse of the filmmaker’s nasty side (in a good way). We hear the film is coming to the Coral Gables Art Cinema and O Cinema. Click the theater names for screening details.

Jumping forward to just last night, we caught two more movies in Little Havana’s Tower Theater. Paulina, a rather grim yet intelligently constructed film from Argentina’s Santiago Mitre. It explores the strength of a liberal minded woman who is gang raped and finds a way toward forgiveness. Actress Dolores Fonzi introduced the film and prepared the audience for what they were about to see. She called the role incredibly challenging and asked the audience not judge her character. It plays again this Saturday (tickets: 2016.miamifilmfestival.com/films/paulina).


Afterward, The Forbidden Shore made for a nice palate cleanser. A hyper-active survey of Cuba’s rich and vital music scene, it also gives one hope that creativity can thrive on the authoritarian island. It’s an incredibly polished work by documentary filmmaker Ron Chapman, the director of Who the F**k is Arthur Fogel and The Poet of Havana. It might seem glossy (the still image at the lead of this article comes from the film), but it still gets to the core of music in Cuba: an irrefutable passion. It also has a second screening this Saturday (tickets: 2016.miamifilmfestival.com/films/the-forbidden-shore).

Really, we can’t both agree that we have seen a stinker in the lot of movies we have caught so far. If none of these appeal to you, go out there and explore and take a chance, just as we are doing (barring a few assignments).

One of the reasons for this single (though comprehensive) post of our experience (so far) at the festival is because Hans was hired by several publications to cover screenings and talent participating at the festival. Below are links to all the other coverage he has accomplished, including some work in national publications:


‘Eye in the Sky’ Director Gavin Hood Talks About the Mistakes of ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’

Why Monica Bellucci Thinks Hollywood is Finally Coming Around on Great Female Roles

Filmmaker Magazine:

Film as a “Spiritual Memory”: Writer/Director Monica Peña on Her Miami International Film Festival Premiere, Hearts of Palm

Miami New Times:

MIFF 2016 review: Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures Takes Audiences on a Journey Behind the Lens

MIFF 2016: Mountains May Depart Delves Into a Futuristic China Where Love Is as Complex as Ever

We will offer a wrap up to the rest of the films we catch this weekend, which includes several on Saturday and Sunday. Now we are off to catch Weiner, which also shows again tomorrow (tickets: 2016.miamifilmfestival.com/films/weiner). Let us know what you might be planning to watch at the festival in the comments below.

Hans and Ana Morgenstern

Except for the photos from “I’ve Never Not Been From Miami” and the Monica Bellucci conversation, all images were provided by the Miami International Film Festival. The festival also provided tickets to all screenings.

(Copyright 2016 by Ana and Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

Screen-Shot-AMYI took in a decent amount of music documentaries in 2015. Most were great. Only one was terrible. And the one that caps this list will probably win the Oscar, and I wouldn’t disagree with its win.

Let’s start with the actually bad music documentary I saw this year. Even though it’s beautifully shot and the songs sound amazing (even in hacked up snippets), Arcade Fire’s The Reflektor Tapes is atrociously edited. The phenomenal group from Canada created an album full of songs that build on grooves. But before you can get into any musical moment in this film, there is a cutaway to something else. Making matters worse are the varied formats of framing. The film even jumps around in time with little rhyme or reason. Sometimes the audio doesn’t even match the performance. Director Kahlil Joseph simply betrays the music with a concern for panache over substance. Vincent Moon did it much better with Miroir Noir. Seek that out instead (purchase here).

Honorable mentions include Revenge of the Mekons, which actually came out a couple of years ago but only last year made its theatrical tour. I caught it at O Cinema Wynwood during a one-night only screening with only four other people attending, and — besides my partner — two of them turned out to be people I know from the music scene, so that says something about who The Mekons are in the world of music. Read my review of the film here: Revenge of the Mekons presents a portrait of a band whose success transcends fame and fortune. Also worth noting is the revealing documentary What Happened, Miss Simone?, which debuted via Netflix. It’s quite good, and director Liz Garbus does ultimate justice to Simone’s music by allowing full performances to play out as the story of her life is told with archival recordings and talking heads, including her daughter, who doesn’t hold back in sharing how difficult her relationship was with her activist/artist mother.

For the most part, this year, we got to know and understand the difficult line of existence that is the world of music and fame contrasted with musicians’ private lives out of the limelight. Simone was later diagnosed as manic-depressive as was Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, Janis Joplin and Jaco Pastorious, all subjects in some of the year’s best music documentaries, whose tragic stories involved premature death. In a way, Simone was the strongest and indeed the feistiest of these subjects. It makes for an odd, sad connection between these excellent films, but these are sad exceptions of the music world in general. There are clearly happier stories that don’t make for compelling, sad stories. One of those more positive stories of recent music history debuted at Miami Dade College’s Miami International Film FestivalThe Record Man undeniably stands as the most uplifting of all the docs on this list. It had its world premiere at the festival with a rooftop party featuring guests like music legend George McRae, who introduced himself to me singing this song’s chorus.

But really, this was the year of the depressing music doc, reflecting on dead icons, their lives meticulously picked apart in retrospect with the cooperation of surviving family members who helped paint intimate portraits of the people behind the music. For more thoughts on these films, I have linked to my original reviews. If I didn’t get the chance to review them, I share a few thoughts. Where available, all titles link to the item description page on Amazon. If you purchase via the link provided, you will be financially supporting this blog.

5. Janis: Little Blue Girl


Read my review

4. The Record Man

Record Man poster

Though, like all the subjects in these documentaries, Henry K. Stone has passed, this film is the most uplifting of the lot. I never thought disco music would make me smile as much as it did when it appears in this film. This was the music of my childhood, and it was great to see how a warehouse in Hialeah, Florida, became the source of an indelible movement in music. Director Mark Moormann offers a brilliantly paced stroll through Stone’s story as a music mogul that included the discovery of Harry Wayne Casey (of KC and the Sunshine Band).

3. Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck

Kurt Cobain Montage of Heck

The film that set the tone for the year of the grim music documentary reflecting on deceased musicians. Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck is an incredibly researched work, despite some contention by Cobain’s former friend in The Melvins, Buzz Osborne (read his review here). Director Brett Morgen had access to Cobain’s archives of tapes and recreated the man’s past, sometimes even using animation set to Cobain’s monologues. On a human level, it’s a hard film to watch. The home movies of Cobain as a precocious child slowly evolve into the home movies of the drug-addled man, and it’s a pitiful thing to observe.

2. Jaco


Read my review in “PureHoney Magazine”

1. Amy

amy poster

Read my review

Next up, a look at some of the year’s best albums and songs.

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2016 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)


I tend to avoid the rubbish Hollywood produces to sell the popcorn and its over-priced 3D premium upgrades, so you won’t find well-known crap like Terminator Genisys and Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 on this list. I try to seek out films that at least appear to have potential to be good and/or are well-reviewed. Still, that doesn’t mean I don’t get suckered into some disappointments.

Among the Hollywood films I had higher hopes for in 2015 were TrainwreckAmy Schumer’s big screen debut as not only a lead but a screenwriter. I found the movie to be forced and not as funny as it was hyped to be. The editing was particularly terrible, revealing sentimentality for improvised lines over an interest in consistent storytelling. Then it all ended in typical precious Hollywood sincerity. There was also too much made over The Danish Girl, which sealed my judgement with an idiotically romanticized scene of closure with a fucking flying scarf and the words “Let it fly!”

These are all the easy targets, however. My disappointments include well-respected directors, indie darlings and several screenings at Miami Dade College’s Miami International Film Festival. To be fair with MIFF, a festival of about 200 films, it can only be as good as the films you can actually see during the festival’s week and a half run. I was also on a jury where I was assigned movies to watch. It’s also not really fair to single out some of the weaker movies that somehow made it into the program. Some are obscurities that will never get U.S. distribution yet offer distinct voices for the countries that produced them. So I won’t note some particularly disappointing experiences from Venezuela and Spain.

That said, I do feel obliged to single out a couple of titles. Oscar-winning Danish director Susanne Bier returned to the fest with the obnoxiously preposterous A Second Chance. It’s a ludicrous film featuring the talented actor Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who plays a police detective pulling “the old switcheroo” with a baby he finds in a drug addicted couple’s filthy home and the body of his and wife’s dead infant. Then there was the festival’s big award winner, Las oscuras primaveras (Obscure Spring). I had high hopes for this Mexican film, but it turned out to be utterly contrived and overly serious. I was surprised to see the jury fall for it. You can read my review in the Miami New Times here. And I was glad to find The Hollywood Reporter’s film critic prove that I did not stand alone in my complaints: read Jonathan Holland’s review here.

Still, these were not the worst films I saw in 2015. Here in ranked order, are the biggest disappointments for this writer in 2015:

5. Z for Zachariah


The pedigree was right for this one. Director Craig Zobel, whose previous movie I admired (Compliance reveals horrific dimensions of social behavior – a film review), had three fine actors at his disposal. Unfortunately, the original story by Robert C. O’Brien was changed so much that it not only lost its relevance but lost its sense.

Read my review: Z For Zachariah can’t overcome shortcomings to live up to its concepts — a film review

4. The Hateful Eight


I’ve loved so many films by Quentin Tarantino. Though I was generally positive about Django Unchained (Film review: ‘Django Unchained’ celebrates myth and history with humor and horror), for the first time I had some serious issues with a Tarantino movie. My main problem was that it could have used some editing. But here is the monstrosity that results in terrible self-indulgence: The Hateful Eight.

Read my review: The Hateful Eight is just a tiresome exercise in drawing out mean caricatures of annoying people — a film review

3. Sicario

Final Poster

Canadian director Denis Villeneuve always shows so much great potential in his movies. So far all of them have succumbed to fundamental flaws in story-telling. You have to look beyond his film’s often stellar cinematography, but once you do, you will understand that his scripts are plagued with terrible issues. Sicario tries to say something deep but can only help but scratch at a surface that only reveals ignorance and ends with a mere tasteless stretch of Hollywood closure with a climax that caves to its own evils.

Read my review with Ana Morgenstern: Sicario romanticizes revenge in gritty Hollywood take on US/Mexican drug war — a film review

2 and 1. Love and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

love_poster_1-620x875Me and Earl poster

These two are so close to call because both made me want to walk out. Both are also stories of young people stumbling with an affection for the opposite sex who fall short for their own egos. Both directors take themselves so damn seriously that all they reveal is their own annoying self-importance. Both filmmakers have growing up to do before they can cast backward glances at growing up and avoiding so much overwrought, self-indulgent cinema.

Read my reviews:

Love is flawed in almost every cinematic way possible — a film review

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl reduces friendship and death to sentiment and tokenism — A film review

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2016 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)

Hearts of Palm - Director Photo 2Miami’s film scene is not only booming with talented filmmakers, but it is also among the more diverse platforms for filmmakers due to an abundance of audiences. In the upcoming iteration of its Knight Foundation sponsored series “Speaking In Cinema,” Miami cinephiles will be getting a chance to hear up-close and in-depth conversations with three Miami-based independent filmmakers who have each crafted an important niche in different genres. Miami filmmakers Carla Forte (Miami Filmmaker Carla Forte on shooting hundreds of dogs in action and her impromptu poem on inspiration), Jillian Mayer (Jillian Mayer on inspiration from the medium of film and upcoming projects, from a talk show about pets to Kaiju), and Monica Peña will be featured in Oct. 22’s “Speaking in Cinema” presented and produced by the Miami Beach Cinematheque. Filmmaker Magazine Editor in Chief Scott Macaulay will be moderating the conversation, where each filmmaker will show highlights of their work.

I recently had a chance to talk to Peña about her filmmaking philosophy and her sources of inspiration in storytelling. We sat outdoors at the Vagabond Hotel, a fitting place since it is old and new Miami at once, evoking some the themes in Peña’s filmmaking, or as she puts it “Miami is an endlessly interesting place.” Peña’s opera prima, Ectotherms is a personal favorite, an artistic work with a definite point of view that offers complex storytelling about place, growing up and coming of age. The critical look at life in the tropics is coupled with a documentary filmmaking style and a use of stark music that enhances on-screen action, but what makes this film so great is Peña’s authenticity and uncompromising standpoint. The film was a personal favorite at last year’s Miami International Film Festival because it said so much with seemingly very little, and the multi-layered storytelling allowed spectators plenty of room to understand the work in personal ways.

Peña’s upcoming work is titled Hearts of Palm and promises to continue in the vein of Ectotherms with a narrative style that defies traditional storytelling. “It’s hard to describe or summarize in words,” she tells me of her upcoming film. “The seed of the film was an exploration of feminine and masculine parts of myself.” Although the film is loosely about a relationship, the sources of inspiration included literature, music, works of art, the Miami landscape and the disjointed nature of the self. Indeed, the film form is lose and demands of the audience to bring their own awareness to the story, unlike traditional storytelling where the film feeds the audience a clear line of thinking. That tradition could not be further from Peña’s approach. “The story is mostly told through vignettes that convey moments,” she continues. “A lot of it is told through music. There is very little dialogue and images are very surreal.” The work will lend itself to a unique conversation about film-making. From what I have had the chance to see in Peña’s work and hear about her process, the boundaries of film seem to disappear, and something that you haven’t seen before is created – an experiential sort of imagery.

Collaboration is key to Peña’s directorial style. Her creative process for Hearts of Palm included creating a core document that included the vision for the film, which she describes as “a story about a relationship that is decomposing, that took place in this house that is decomposing with supernatural undercurrents throughout.” Hearts of Palm - Director Photo 1Once the vision was shared and agreed upon by the filmmaking team, the story itself took shape and went in different directions in an organic way with input from the rest of the team. For Hearts of Palm, Peña has again joined forces with sound producer Joel C. Hernandez, who also collaborated on Ectotherms and provided sounds that are part of the narrative. During the collaborative process, production designer Lucila Garcia de Onrubia came up with the visuals and the feel of the vision for Hearts of Palm, bringing the tropical landscape indoors in a conceptual way. She credits cinematographer Jorge Rubiera and actor/original score composer Brad Lovett as contributors, for not only understanding her documentary-style of film-making but also helping bring her vision to life.

As this snippet of a long conversation shows, filmmaker Peña is excited to talk about her approach and share her personal philosophy on surreal filmmaking. “If you set your idea in motion, a movie starts to show you what it wants to be … it’s a matter of tuning in from that point on.” Indeed, Ectotherms feels organic, a journey that takes you out to another world and within into yourself — if you let it. Peña’s artistic visualizations on film have a marker that is hard to pinpoint. She tells me she is excited about discussing her own work alongside such a diverse slate of Miami’s filmmakers. The event goes to show that Miami’s film community encompasses a myriad voices. Although the event focuses on women filmmakers, it should be noted that the relevancy of their work stands on its own. However, having a platform to showcase it remains critical. “I feel like it’s important to create a place for women to speak … carving out spaces for women is important,” says Peña of the upcoming Speaking in Cinema.

In addition to Peña’s voice, we will have the pleasure to hear from Carla Forte, who brings a unique perspective to her filmmaking with a style that consciously raises social awareness and leaves audiences to question big issues such as homelessness, identity in a foreign land and even animal rights. Her approach is also informed by her training as a dancer, resulting in a multidisciplinary approach that brings out interesting avenues in her work that cannot be neatly encapsulated. Finally, Jillian Mayer, of Borscht fame, plays with the alternative realities that we create for ourselves and others on the web. Her projects are playful and DIY at first glance but charged with awareness of the pitfalls and disinformation in the digital world. For Mayer, the construction of culture in the Internet is another form of discourse that may be changing the way identity is constructed and understood.

Ana Morgenstern

The Miami Beach Cineamtheque begins showing the films by these local filmmakers starting this Friday, Oct. 16. For a detailed schedule, follow this link. It culminates in a discussion with the filmmakers, also including directors Carla Forte (read her profile here), Jillian Mayer (read her profile here) and Filmmaker Magazine Editor in Chief Scott Macaulay. This profile series continues tomorrow with a piece on Peña.

You can also read more about these filmmakers and their retrospective in an article in the Miami New Times by jumping over to the alternative weekly’s art and culture blog through the image below:

NT Arts

(Copyright 2015 by Ana Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)


We are a bit past the halfway point, and the lists of what are so far the best movies of 2015 are already popping up. Here’s a good one by a friend on WordPress: Humanizing the Vacuum (and inspiration behind this post). If you prefer something more popular, take a look at these lists by the critics of Variety, though I would disagree that some films are worthy (White God and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl stand as some of this year’s worst films, in my view).

As for my list, for now, below are the top 10 contenders for this best films of 2015. There’s a hint to my preferences in their order, but it could change by Dec. 31. Note: many link to reviews on Independent Ethos, so click through the titles for deeper thoughts on these titles:

Some facts about these films:  Three of them premiered in my neighborhood at Miami Dade College’s Miami International Film Festival (Flowers, Theeb and Voice Over), and one premiered at the Miami Jewish Film Festival (Gett). A couple came out a year earlier but didn’t hit theaters in Miami until this year (Inherent Vice and Mr. Turner).

I never found the time to write reviews for two of these. Let me just say Girlhood is an amazing French film following a group of girls from the projects of Paris who have more in common with American girls that you would imagine. There’s a very universal need to physically connect, and it’s depicted with incredible grace in the film by French director Céline Sciamma.

Mr. Turner deserved more recognition at the end of last year. Watching it, you will not have to second guess why it was nominated for a cinematography Oscar. It should have won over Birdman. It’s less about flash yet incredibly transporting. It also deserves notice for its lead performance by Timothy Spall. You might as well throw in production design, and heck, even editing. I literally yelled “Oh my God!” and broke out laughing between cuts of Turner spitting on a painting and a close-up of a mountain. If you never experienced it on the big screen, woe unto thee. The second best thing you can do is purchase it on blu-ray (buy it here and you’ll be supporting the Independent Ethos).

To see some contenders that are trailing behind these films, check out my list on Letterboxd (that’s a hot link). If you don’t already follow me there, you should. There’s where you will get my most intimidate reactions to films I catch — in almost real time.

Do you have a list of favorite films of 2015? Let us know in the comment section.

Hans Morgenstern

(Copyright 2015 by Hans Morgenstern. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.)