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Film in Stock: Forgotten films of 2017

While “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” “Lady Bird,” “Call Me By Your Name” and “The Shape of Water” are great cinematic feats (though I have a fight to pick with the first film mentioned), the conversation about these Academy-recognized films has overshadowed some other great films of 2017. Here, I recommend a few that are worth a watch.

“In the Fade” by Fatih Akin

In her first German-language feature, actor Diane Kruger becomes a woman coping with the death of her Kurdish husband and son after a neo-Nazi terrorist attack. If you believe, as I do, that film is one of the great ways to increase empathy, there is no better example than “In the Fade.” Turkish director Fatih Akin asks the audience to question what it means to move on or seek revenge: how does one deal with loss at the hands of bigotry-laced violence? “In the Fade” feels current, not that it will soon be irrelevant, but Akin attaches a face and experience to the news media’s sensationalism of terror-caused deaths. Watch “In the Fade” to see a well-layered construction of grief and its consequences.

“Personal Shopper” by Olivier Assayas

Originally released in France in 2016, “Personal Shopper” is Olivier Assayas and Kristen Stewart’s second collaboration together, the first being “Clouds of Sils Maria” (2014) for which Stewart won the prestigious French César Award. I understand aversions to teenage vampires, but Stewart, well within her independent film Golden Age, stars authentically as Maureen, a celebrity’s personal shopper who tries to contact her recently deceased twin brother. A character study, this film brings a Hitchcockian vibe into the twenty-first century, complete with text messages from mystery numbers. Watch Personal Shopper if you’re in the mood for a well-acted psychological thriller that still maintains an independent feel.

“I Am Not a Witch” by Rungano Nyoni

In her first full-length feature film, Welsh-Zambian director Rungano Nyoni follows the story of a young girl, Shula, played by Maggie Mulubwa. After suffering allegations of being a witch, she must choose whether to go to a “witch camp” or suffer the consequences of running away. “I Am Not a Witch” doesn’t treat its protagonist with any sort of exploitativeness or disrespect, and instead offers a view into a multi-faceted character. At the same time, Nyoni points out the injustices of the situation, perfectly exemplified by a scene in which a tourist visiting the “witch camp” asks to take a selfie with Shula. Watch “I Am Not a Witch” if you appreciate sharp and dark humor paired with singular circumstances.

“Good Time” by the Safdie brothers

The Safdie brothers’ second film, “Good Time,” follows Connie, played by Robert Pattinson, as he enlists his 20-something brother with developmental challenges to rob a bank. While that description may sound borderline ridiculous, the Safdie brothers construct the film in a way that respects both main characters through stylistic choices like lingering tight shots of facial expressions that humanize the impacts of the situation. The film is fast-paced and intentionally gets more and more out of control, questioning the realm of acceptability. Watch “Good Time” if you are looking for intense character studies in a nineties-feeling contemporary New York and a final scene that will echo.

“Beatriz at Dinner” by Miguel Arteta

My favorite cinematic experience is coming out of a theater saying, “I’ve never seen anything like that before.” I had exactly this experience while watching Salma Hayek play holistic healer Beatriz who, through unfortunate circumstances, attends a dinner party at the home of her rich clients. There, she meets a billionaire developer played by John Lithgow, who, among other things, hunts big game like rhinos for pleasure and asks Beatriz if she came to the United States illegally. “Beatriz at Dinner” marks the intersection of film and activism in the age of Trump, as director Arteta explores the extraordinary gap between the intensely rich and everyone else, as well as the effects of not-so-post colonialism. Watch “Beatriz at Dinner” if you’d like to see someone struggle to reconcile with her political opposite.

— Martha Beliveau ’21

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