Martha’s Vineyard is lucky to have so many wonderful film venues. Edgartown Cinemas is a state-of-the-art facility that screens films year-round; Chilmark’s TMVFF and Summer Institute Series show independent films; the Capawock and Strand have a classic charm, and Martha’s Vineyard Film Center seems to do it all. Here is my selection of the top 10 films which played at Island theaters this year.
Top 10 lists are always idiosyncratic, influenced by what films the reviewer has seen and what her preferences of subject and style may be. This list is no exception, but it may help filmgoers think about what the year has brought and, I hope, will inspire their watching of unseen films.
At the top of the list is “Moonlight.” It narrates three stages in the life of Chiron, who grows up in a Miami ghetto with a confused sexual identity. Not only does “Moonlight” depict African-American life with sensitivity and depth, but it does so with haunting, beautiful imagery.
Next up is the charming New Zealand comedy, “Hunt for the Wilderpeople,” about Ricky, a troublemaker who escapes into the bush with his foster father. Once again, the cinematography is spectacular.
A Norwegian thriller, “The Wave,” wins third place. Here viewers will find themselves on the edges of their seats watching what happens when a small town’s mountainous fjords let loose with a terrifying rock fall and its resulting tsunami.
Many films have addressed the Holocaust, but “Son of Saul” has to be one of the best, taking the No. 4 slot. It describes how a concentration camp prisoner, forced to help dispose of those who have been gassed, finds a way to give a boy a proper Jewish burial. The subject is far more complex than that, and the cinematography insightful.
The No. 5 choice, “The Innocents,” treats another form of WWII horrors. Nuns who have been raped by Russian soldiers are forced to cope with the ensuing pregnancies. It is a unique narrative.
Yet another compelling theme comes with No. 6, “Sonic Sea.” This film ran during the Film Center’s Environmental Festival, and addresses how shipping, drilling, and other human invasions of the world’s oceans affect marine life.
For No. 7, “Janis: Little Girl Blue” is an engrossing and effective documentary about the legendary singer Janis Joplin.
Part animation and part documentary narrative, “Life Animated” earns the No. 8 spot. With insight and compassion, it tells the story of an autistic child who develops into a functioning adult.
“Newtown,” which covers the horrific mass killing of Connecticut schoolchildren, wins the No. 9 position.
Finally, for No. 10, “Theeb” is a fascinating story of a Bedouin boy set in breathtaking desert scenery. A Best Foreign Film Oscar nomination, it immerses the viewer in the Arab world during WWI.
Runners-up include: “Embrace of the Serpent,” “Everybody Wants Some!!” “The Same Heart,” “A Man Called Ove,” “Weiner,” “Command and Control,” “The Danish Girl,” “Dark Horse,” “Southside with You,” “Eye in the Sky,” “Unlocking the Cage,” “The First Monday in May,” “Harry and Snowman,” and “Mustang.”