To celebrate the New Year and kick off the conversation in FDL’s new Arts & Culture space, I thought it would be interesting to put together a resolution watch list for all of us interested in great films. And, who better to curate recommendations than people who make movies themselves? So, I reached out to a diverse group of filmmakers and asked them to recommend a movie they consider unmissable and explain their selection. The film could be from any genre or time period. Here’s what they came up…


Filmmaker Xander Points-Zollo recommends: Sherlock Jr.

“My film recommendation for 2014 is the Buster Keaton film Sherlock Jr. from 1924. Mid-way through the film Keaton, playing a film projectionist/amateur sleuth, falls asleep and dreams himself into the movie showing in the theater. There he finds himself at the mercy of a seemingly endless and random edit of the film. Not only is this one of the funniest silent comedies that I’ve seen, it’s also one of the most technically inventive films of the era.”

(Sherlock Jr. is available on Netflix and YouTube.)


New Media Artist and Associate Professor at Hunter College, Department of Film and Media, Ricardo Miranda recommends: 12 Years a Slave

“Choosing one movie from any time period and any genre is way too daunting. However, I can easily do it for this past year… 12 Years a Slave by Steve McQueen is both beautiful and painful. The movie portrays the experiences of a free black man kidnapped and sold into slavery during mid-19th century America. As the story progresses, one awaits an emotional break, but the movie is relentless. The suffering and inhumanity continue until the very end and, by the end, I was glad that it didn’t let up.”

(12 Years a Slave is currently playing in theaters. The DVD release date is 3/4/14 and the film will be available on Netflix on 4/1/14.)


Fruitvale Station

Filmmaker and Media Educator Chinisha Scott recommends: Fruitvale Station and Purple Rain

“A film that immediately comes to mind that was a favorite of mine this year is Fruitvale Station. Written and directed by Ryan Coogler, Fruitvale is an absolute, must-watch, can-not-miss film. It’s a powerful take on the final hours of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old man who was shot and killed by BART officers on New Year’s Eve in 2008. It is a complete work, masterfully executed; from the subtle yet compassionate writing of the narrative and the beautiful cinematography, to the brilliant performance by Michael B. Jordan. This film allows viewers to experience Oscar and other young men (and women) like him on a human level rather than as distant news stories.

In addition, as a very purple Prince fan, I would be remiss not to mention the Prince canon classic, Purple Rain. Fans of his music are especially kind to the film, but it really is a fun piece to watch. Plus, for the true film nerd, it is actually a great lesson in diegetic/non-diegetic use of sound and musical composition for film, between the cues from the score written by Michel Colombier and the original songs written and composed by Prince that would eventually become the iconic soundtrack/album, Purple Rain. Listen; watch; enjoy.”

(Fruitvale Station is available on iTunes and Amazon Instant Video. The DVD release date is 1/14/14 and the film will be available on Netflix on 1/14/14. Purple Rain is available on Amazon Instant Video, iTunes, YouTube, and Netflix.)


Art Director Miles Morton recommends: Children Underground

“This film, which came out in 2001, is responsible for sparking my interest in documentaries. The subject matter is absolutely devastating: homeless children, including many who are addicted to huffing Aurolac, trying to survive on the streets of Bucharest. The intimacy between the filmmaker and her subjects absolutely makes this film a must see.”

(Children Underground is available on Netflix, YouTube, iTunes, and Amazon Instant Video.)


Producer Catherine Martinez recommends: Strictly BallroomThe Piano, and The Conformist

Strictly Ballroom (Baz Luhrmann) is a colorful Australian ballroom dance fiesta that will make you reach for the nearest partner and cha-cha, even if you don’t know the difference between the polka and the pasodoble. Feel the rhythm.

The Piano (Jane Campion) is one of the most visually striking, sexually charged, oddball films with one of the fiercest female lead roles of all time. Oh, and you will also want to camp out in a hoop skirt.

The Conformist (Bernardo Bertolucci) is a disturbing portrait of a spineless functionary in fascist Italy and will absolutely blow your mind with its geometric camera angles, black & white cinematography, and stylish actors.”

(Strictly Ballroom and The Piano are available on Netflix, iTunes, and Amazon Instant Video. The Conformist is available on Netflix and iTunes.)


The Thin Blue Line

Producer Kristina Doytchinova recommends: The Thin Blue Line

“Errol Morris’ revolutionary documentary, The Thin Blue Line, examines the wrongful conviction of an innocent man. This film is an incredible example of social justice filmmaking combined with innovative storytelling and cinematography. Morris masterfully uses recreations and candid interviews to build suspense. This documentary is an essential watch for any filmmaker.”

(The Thin Blue Line is available on Netflix, iTunes, and Amazon Instant Video.)


The Decalogue

Filmmaker and Assistant Professor at Hunter College, Department of Film and Media, Shanti Thakur recommends: The Decalogue

“This ten part, 1-hour TV series by Krzysztof Kieslowski originally aired in Communist Poland. Celebrated in international film festivals, winning numerous awards, these complex, nuanced stories are based loosely on the Ten Commandments. But you don’t have to be remotely Christian or religious to like them. The films can be watched separately and appreciated, but some characters wind their way into other stories, which all take place within the same housing complex. Kieslowski was a master at creating epic events out of minuscule, personal moments. These films, and the characters’ imperfect (yet human) choices, will stay with you for a lifetime.”

(The Decalogue is available on Netflix and YouTube.)

What films do you think we should all resolve to see before this year is over? Share your picks in the comments.