Best Obscure Films of 2017
These are films which were either screened in film festivals and/or had only limited or no commercial releases. Usually they can be found by a Google search, Netflix, Amazon, youtube or other online platforms.
THE FINAL YEAR - DIR. GREG BARKER
This documentary about the last 12 months of the Obama administration will either bring you to tears or cause you to tear your hair out. It focuses mainly on John Kerry, Samantha Power and Obama speechwriter and Deputy National Security Advisor, Ben Rhodes as they endeavor to do everything possible to finalize and secure the most important positions for America before the end of his term. These included the Paris Accord on global warming, the Iran nuclear deal, peace in Syria and immigration. This is the fly-on-the wall film which Obama deserves. (Kind of like the Michael Wolf book Fire and Fury being the fly-on-the wall book that Trump deserves).
THE DISTINGUISHED CITIZEN - DIR. GASTON DUPRAT
A darkly surreal comedy about an Argentine Nobel Prize winning writer who returns to his hometown in Argentina, which has been the source of his acclaimed work for decades while living as an ex-pat in Paris. His warm laudatory welcome turns ugly and sinister as his deep cynicism reveals itself. The hallucinatory final scenes are stunningly brilliant.
NAILA AND THE UPRISING - DIR. JULIA BACHA
This animated documentary is about the women behind the First Intifada in Palestine. This non-violent uprising was led by the courageous resistance leader Naila Ayesh and untold other formerly unempowered ordinary women. It is an extraordinary story and one which is equally infuriating when we realize how much they accomplished and how much they gave up when the men returned and took over again.
ANTONIO LOPEZ 1970: SEX, FASHION & DISCO - DIR. JAMES CRUMP
The title says it all about this time capsule of a film centered on the hugely influential illustrator, Antonio Lopez and the glamorous movers and shakers in the world of fashion who were in his orbit. The satellites circling his sun were Grace Jones, Jerry Hall, Grace Coddington, Jessica Lang, and Joan Juliet Buck among many others. The perfect counter balance to all of the decadence is the affectionate take that the beloved street photographer, Bill Cunningham, gives on the whole scene and its irresistible vitality and creativity.
TOUCAN NATION - PAULA HEREDIA
This documentary about a vicious case of animal cruelty which galvanizes a country to change its attitude and write laws to prevent such behaviors is truly uplifting and hopeful. The main character is a charismatic Toucan and the protagonists are the doctors and scientists who work to restore his beak and who run a facility which takes care of a complete range of injured animals in Costa Rica, and the people who rallied to the cause.
LOVE, CECIL - DIR. LISA IMMERDINO VREELAND
This is a perfect pairing of one of our best documentary filmmakers and one of the 20th century’s more fascinating figures in the worlds of art, film, theatre and literature, Cecil Beaton.
She gives as personal a portrait as possible given the measure of care and attention Beaton gave to creating and burnishing his image with his words, manners and mode of dress.
A DECENT WOMAN - DIR. LUKAS VALENTA RINNER
This is the sort of quirky, borderline kinky film that would star Isabelle Hupert if it were French.
A plain, docile-seeming young maid working in an upscale gated community on the outskirts of Buenos Aires is surrounded by spoiled, self-absorbed, smugly superficial families finds respite in the embrace of a nudist colony on the other side of the protective fence that surrounds the community. This exposure opens up some extreme emotions which translate into a surprisingly violent reaction. The veneers are ripped off of both communities in a shocking finale.