As FEST began showing its first signs of life back in 2004 it is hard not to look back at the past 12 years and think of how many filmmakers have since emerged in the international scene. So our team decided to sit down and come up with a list of the 10 best, most daring and innovative debut feature films unleashed in this period. In this list we purposely left out all FEST entries, which shall be included in another list in the future. Here is our Top 10.
10. "BIG MAN JAPAN" (2007) by Hitoshi Matsumoto (Japan)
The Asian scene has certainly witness its fair share of innovative new figures in the last 12 years, but none more bonkers and downright brave as Japanese comedian turn filmmaker Hitoshi Matsumoto. His debut feature “Big Man Japan” is perhaps one of the most insane pieces of film-making ever seen and his uncompromising visual orgy and satire on Japanese popular monster mythology, which dangles somewhere between the fiction and documentary formats, makes it a beyond deserving entry into our list.
9. “MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE" (2011) by Sean Durkin (USA)
Despite the triumphant premieres in Sundance and Cannes and the over 20 awards in the international festival circuit, Sean Durkin's first feature film is one of the most underrated American indie films of the past 12 years. Its shy box office performance does little justice to this daring and disorientating tale of psychological dominance and cult like manipulation, which includes groundbreaking performances by a surprising Elizabeth Olsen and a daunting John Hawkes.
8. "PERSOPOLIS" (2007) by Marjane Satrapi (France/Iran)
Based on Marjane Satrapi's personal experiences growing up in revolutionary Iran, “Persepolis” hit the film world with a bang. Few were expecting such a powerful and engaging animation, capable of forcing audiences to reevaluate many preconceptions about Iran and its all encompassing revolution. Certainly the most daring film in the genre in the past 12 years.
7. “MARIA FULL OF GRACE" (2004) by Joshua Marston (Colombia)
Long before Hollywood and the world of television became obsessed by the Colombian drug trade, Joshua Marston's intimate portrait of a young drug mule provided a complete picture of the multy-layered world of drugs. The release of "Maria Full of Grace" is even more relevant as it broke the doors wide open for a decade that was to be historical for film-making in the Americas.
6. "ANIMAL KINGDOM" (2010) by David Michod (Australia)
What on the surface appears to be yet another film about a criminal family, quickly turns out to be quite an unique crime thriller. Michod's directing reads like a masterclass on elegant pacing despite the viciousness of the characters and themes.
5. "AJAMI" (2009) by Scandar Copti, Yaron Shani (Israel)
Scandar Copti's and Yaron Shani's vision of everyday life in Jaffa is actually a labyrinth narrative of 5 “different” experiences in contemporary Palestine. An Oscar nomination, a special mention in Cannes and a myriad of international awards, transformed Copti and Shani into instant key figures in the Middle East film scene.
4. "CARAMEL" (2007) by Nadine Labaki (Lebenon)
Probably the biggest crowd pleaser in our list, Actress/Director Nadine Labaki's comedy on the lives of 5 women in Beirut took the festival scene by storm back in 2007. Since then Labaki has become perhaps the most successful middle eastern woman in the world of film-making.
3. "THE TRIBE" (2014) by Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy (Ukraine)
A two hour long Ukrainian film in sign language and no subtitles may not be everybody's first choice. But fortunately Slaboshpytskyi's “The Tribe” is also one of the most groundbreaking cinematic experiences in contemporary European cinema, transporting its audiences into a world where the senses are stimulated in unique and rare ways. Truly a must see to those who have missed it so far.
2. "HUNGER" (2008) by Steve Mcqueen (UK)
Considering the enormous success the British born director has had in the last few years with “Shame” and “12 Years a Slave”, it is surprising to remember that his first steps were only unleashed less then 8 years ago. The film is perhaps one of the most disturbing looks into the Irish troubles, and an extraordinarily lucid portrait of one of its key figures: Bobby Sands. Yet despite the power of the narrative it is in the process that Mcqueen first stood from the crowd, and his debut feature still holds as perhaps the best example of this filmmaker's exquisite talent.
1. "BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD" (2012) by Benh Zeitlin (USA)
Whatever happened to Benh Zeitlin? The premiere of his debut feature took the world by storm with a fabulous and imaginative vision of the now legendary “Hushpuppy” character. Since then he has hidden himself, preparing for his next project, of which we only know the title (“Wendy”). All this secrecy has only contributed to the almost enigmatic image of a young director on a mission. Will it be enough to satisfy the expectations?