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The Independent Film Community Picks the Best Films of 2016

We asked our friends and colleagues in the indie world to share their favorites.

Clockwise from left: “Sieranevada,” “Aquarius,” “Moonlight,” “Maurice”

Beth Barrett, Seattle International Film Festival

In no order, here are 10 works that really affected me in 2016.

“Tower”: not just an intimate telling of a crucial piece of our history, but a forceful reminder of how little has changed around our gun laws

“La La Land”: masterpiece of a musical love story

“Stranger Things”: the pitch-perfect sets, music, feeling — everything about this binge-worthy series is so right

“Captain Fantastic”: featuring the beautiful NW as a character, Viggo Mortensen is stunningly complex

“Moonlight”: scenes so powerful they took my breathe away

“Tickled”: with every turn, more and more fascinatingly disturbing

tickled movie


“Kedi”: the cats of Istanbul have something to say about our humanity

Two deeply thoughtful sci-fi films — “Midnight Special” and “Arrival” — perhaps reflecting our times?

“The Handmaiden”: a wild erotic romp in the world of Park Chan-wook

Every year I resolve to see more, champion more unknowns, and challenge myself more. Going into 2017, I resolve to make sure that the stories of the world keep getting seen.

Frederic Boyer, Artistic Director, Tribeca Film Festival

“American Honey”
“Things to Come”
“Embrace of the Serpent”
“Hacksaw Ridge”
“The Fits”
“O.J.: Made in America”

Dan Braun, Co-President, Submarine Entertainment

1. “Oasis: Supersonic”
2. “Arrival”
3. “Gimme Danger”
4. “The Green Room”
5. “The Witch”
6. “Hail, Caesar!”
7. “Landfill Harmonic”
8. “Midnight Special”
9. “Troublemakers: The Story of Land Art”
10. “Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice” (or probably “Doctor Strange,” had I seen it)

“Midnight Special”

Josh Braun, Co-President, Submarine Entertainment

Here is my top ten list of films I re-watched and loved all over again (and reminded me how great and diverse and exciting cinema can be):

“Zodiac” (director’s cut)
“Andy Warhol’s BAD”
“The Honeymoon Killers”
“Room at the Top”
“Female Trouble”
“Bigger Than Life”
“Assault on Precinct 13”
“The Furies”

Brian Brooks, Film Society of Lincoln Center, Deadline, SeriesFest (and former Managing Editor of IndieWire)

1. “I, Daniel Blake”
2. “Moonlight”
3. “Manchester by the Sea”
4. “I Am Not Your Negro”
5. “20th Century Women”
6. “Loving”
7. “Neruda”
8. “Cameraperson”
9. “Julieta”
10. “Finding Dory”

My resolution: After many years on the journalism/event producing side of things, I’d like to also pursue something more directly on the creative side (though I will continue to do what I do).

Jeff Deutchman, Programmer-at-Large, Tribeca Film Festival

2016 was a horrible year. Movies were the only good part…

Top 8:
“American Honey”
“Horace & Pete”
“La La Land”
“The Lobster”
“Manchester by the Sea”
“Toni Erdmann”

“20th Century Women”


Honorable Mentions:
“20th Century Women”
“Certain Women”
“Embrace of the Serpent”
“Everybody Wants Some!!”
“Hell or High Water”
“I, Daniel Blake”
“Midnight Special”
“My Golden Days”
“O.J.: Made in America”
“Pete’s Dragon”

Matt Grady, President, Factory 25

2016 was a great year for unique unconventional stories in film and it looks like it’s going to continue into 2017…I broke down my favorites into two lists and a stand alone film event that doesn’t fit on either. The first is the list that plays by the same rules as the critics had to on their year end lists and only has films that have been released in theaters for a week and the other list are some of my favorite films that I saw at festivals or that were distributed digitally that didn’t end up with a theatrical run.

Top films of 2016 (films with theatrical runs):

1. “Uncle Kent 2” by Todd Rohal
Factory 25 released it, but there is no film that exists that I have liked more in the past few years. It is the only film that I’ve seen twice at the same festival and I still play it in my office when I’m working sometimes because it makes me happy.

2. “Lace Crater” by Harrison Atkins
A pretty insane and original premise that totally works. It’s my favorite film by far this year that isn’t “Uncle Kent 2.”

3. “Little Sister” by Zach Clark
Goth. Great Cast. Gwar.

4. “The Love Witch” by Anna Biller
Anna Biller’s unique vision of the a world in technicolor on 35mm was a thrill to watch on the big screen.

5. “Slash” by Clay Liford

6. “Pete’s Dragon” by David Lowery
I haven’t cried as much at a film since Bjork died in “Dancer in the Dark.” Lowery really made an amazing film that didn’t talk down to kids and that parents can enjoy.

7. “Breaking A Monster” by Luke Meyer

8. “Goodnight Brooklyn” by Matt Conboy

No Rules (films that I’ve seen at festivals that are likely coming out in 2017 and/or did not get a theatrical release):

1. “Actor Martinez” by Nathan Silver and Mike Ott

2. “Donald Cried” by Kris Avedisian

3. “The Arbalest” by Adam Pinney
The discovery in the third act blew my mind.

4. “Fraud” by Dean Fleischer-Camp

5. “Dark Night” by Tim Sutton

6. “Contemporary Color” by The Ross Brothers
Best music performance since D.A. Pennebaker’s “Depeche Mode: 101”

7. “In the Treetops” by Matthew Brown
An amazing first feature that was criminally ignored. I was excited that Rooftop Films played it in NYC.

“Contemporary Color”

Best interactive film experience:

“Check Surrounding for Safety” by Michael Arcos/Sex Lab Inc.
Michael Arcos immersive film/performance experience is more exciting than any VR I’ve experienced as it is less virtual and more reality. The film toured festivals this year and I hope it continues to build a following as I want to see Arcos take what he’s started to an even higher level.

What I want to see more of in 2017:
Over the next couple years, I really want to see a new generation of punk films. It’s time. Over the last couple years we had “We Are Best” and “Green Room” but we need more, many more…I want to see a new wave of films w/the same attitude and heart as “Ladies and Gentlemen, The Fabulous Stains,” “Repo-Man,” “Breaking Glass,” “La Brune Et Moi,” “Blank Generation,” “Dudes,” “Half-Cocked” or even “Hard Core Logo.”

What I’m excited for in 2017:
2017 is already looks like it’s going to be an exciting year for indie film. Here are some of the films that I’m looking forward to seeing: “Person to Person” by Dustin Guy Defa, “Golden Exits” by Alex Ross Perry, “Beach Rats” by Eliza Hitman, “Good Time” by Ben and Josh Safdie, “Jobe’z World” by Michael Bilandic and Nathan Silver’s “Thirst Street.”

Season 2 of Caveh Zahedi’s “The Show About The Show.” There isn’t a series that I look forward to more. I refused to watch series for years, believing that episodic and web based series were hurting indie film by taking feature filmmakers and production resources away from low budget cinema… I’ve come around a bit with the brilliance of Zahedi’s “The Show About The Show.”

“Snowy Bing Bongs” film based on the Cocoon Central Dance Team’s live show directed by Rachel Wolther and Alex Huston Fischer starring Eleanore Pienta, Tallie Medel and Sunita Mani. The live show was the best live performance I’ve experienced in NYC in years and the  film version, shot by Ashley Connor and directed by Wolther and Fischer, should be nothing less then amazing.

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