A political asylum-seeker from Guinea-Bissau, Africa crosses paths with a with a struggling single mother in this fine-tuned Icelandic feature debut from writer/director Ísold Uggadóttir. Newly sober, Lára (Kristín Thóra Haraldsdóttir) impresses on her first day as a border agent by catching a discrepnacy in Adja’s (Babetida Sadjo) papers. Through a series of run-ins, and the naive charm of Lára’s son Eldar (Patrik Nökkvi Pétursson), the two women forge an unlikely connection in trying circumstances.
When Finnish expat Leevi (Janne Puustinen) returns from Paris to help his estranged father rennovate their summer cottage, his lack of carpentry skills necessitate a hired hand, and in walks bearded Syrian immigrant Tareq (Boodi Kabbani). Left alone for the night, they hit up the Finnish sauna and swim nude in the placid lake. In his debut feature, writer-director Mikko Makela weaves themes of national identity, queerness, and outsiderness into an engaging and steamy drama.
The film that made waves when it was banned in its home country despite a Cannes debut, this tender queer romance pulses with bight colors and the electric butterflies of young love. Boasting nuanced performances from two newcomers, Wanuri Kahiu’s assured debut feature is an important reminder of the struggle many still face to live out and proud.
Set during the height of Apartheid South Africa, “Canary” follows a creative teen who earns a coveted spot in the Canaries, the South African Defence Force Choir, where he hopes to ride out his two years of mandatory military service. With musical numbers varying from Boy George to traditional Christian hymns, “Canary” sprinkles plenty of humor into its seemingly bleak surroundings. Director Christiaan Olwagen assembled a variety of expertly drawn, one-of-a-kind characters, the most memorable being Ludolf (Germandt Geldenhuys), a flamboyant brown-noser with perfect pitch.
Bearing a lovely resemblance to Sebastián Lelio’s 2013 film “Gloria,” “The Heiresses” follows one woman’s mid-life sexual reawakening in painstaking detail. When her partner goes to jail for fraud, Chela (Ana Brun) is forced to sell many of her family heirlooms, and begins driving a taxi for the local neighborhood women. Under Paraguayan writer-director Marcelo Martinessi’s deft hand, Chela transforms from a sullen recluse to a fully alive human with her own desires and needs.
A beautiful and heartwrenching portrait of a father-son bond, Alvaro Delgado Aparicio’s feature debut imbues the Peruvian countryside and its proud artisans with a sweeping romanticism. With documentary-like precision, the film closely follows a 14-year-old boy as he learns his father’s trade of crafting intricate and colorful storyboxes. When he witnesses his father in a situation that shatters his world, his initial judgment gives way to anger at the chauvinistic culture surrounding him.
An odd-couple comedy with heart, “Tucked” treads familiar ground in a fabulous six-inch heel. The week aging drag queen Jackie (Derren Nesbitt) finds out he’s dying, he adopts baby queen Faith (Jordan Stephens), who’s been sleeping in her car. Faith brings renewed energy to his life, dragging Jackie to strip clubs and easing a reunion with his estranged daughter. British writer-director Jamie Patterson has crafted a satisfying feel-good movie with a fabulous sensibility and a broad appeal.
Tell a bunch of lesbians that Tonks from “Harry Potter” and Talisa from “Game of Thrones” played girlfriends in a movie, and you just might be flattened by an imminent stampede of Doc Martens. Shedding their period garb for shaggy haircuts and leather bomber jackets, Natalia Tena and Oona Chaplin play a London couple who wonder how to fit a child into their bohemian houseboat lifestyle. As if that weren’t enough, “Anchor and Hope” also stars Chaplin’s mother, the great Geraldine Chaplin.
PJ Raval’s wrenching investigative documentary centers around the horrific murder of a Filipina transgender woman named Jennifer Laude at the hands of a U.S. marine. Focusing on Laude’s mother, American trans journalist Meredith Talusan, and activist attorney Virginia Lacsa Suarez, Raval unravels this tragic injustice while placing it in context of the history of U.S. military presence in the Philippines.
Kosovo’s entry to the Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film draws parallels between one marriage’s secrets and a country’s painful past. Juxtaposing wedding plans with waiting for remains of the dead, Bekim (Alban Ukaj) and Anita’s (Adriana Matoshi) bickering comes to a head with the sudden arrival of Bekim’s old friend Nol (Genc Salihu). Between lingering looks and long nights drinking, the film reveals a love triangle steeped in shared trauma.
If Celine Sciamma’s “Girlhood” and “Tomboy” had a baby, it might look a bit like this gutsy coming-of-age tale from Austrian director Katharina Mueckstein (“Talea”). Sulking tomboy Mati (Sophie Stockinger) spends her days riding motorcross with her gang of boys, fending off advances from her best friend but really eyeing the local girls. This coming-of-age tale doesn’t break the form, but it features stunning camera work, film references, and assured performances.
This moody Brazilian drama won the 2018 Teddy Award, the Berlinale’s coveted queer film prize. Set in the southern Brazilian city of Porto Alegre, the film follows a reclusive Pedro (Shico Menegat), a cam boy who uses neon paint to illuminate his body during shows. When he accuses a competitor of stealing his signature technique, the charismatic Leo (Bruno Fernandes) gets Pedro out of his shell.
Documentarian Hikaru Toda’s intimate look at the hidden gay world in strictly conformist Japan follows real-life couple Fumi and Kazu, an openly gay married couple who run a law firm together. As they attempt to change the status quo by taking on human rights cases, Toda captures a human portrait of grassroots activism.
Winning the Teddy Award for Best Documentary, this portrait of an activist performance artist mines plenty of thrills from its provocative subject. Crowning herself Bixa Travesty, a reclamation that translates to “Tranny Fag,” Linn da Quebrada uses song, rap, dance, spoken word, and other media to give voice to queer people of color from Brazil’s favelas. The film weaves performance footage with more intimate personal scenes to honor this electric artist with a futuristic eye.