It’s been a focused and hectic year of getting my head down and working on two new films. Not being on the road showing a project, as I have been in recent years means I’ve been able to do what I like best – actually making the films! I’ve been editing and finishing Panto! which went out on BBC4 this Christmas and I am almost finished on Orion after fundraising earlier in the year and shooting across the Southern US states in the Summer.

Apart from an obligatory visit to Sheffield Doc Fest, a brief but amazing trip to Beat in Moscow to talk to Russian filmmakers and my first IDFA where I was (unexpectedly) showing Sound It Out to warm audiences three years after its release – selected by Kim Longinotto as part of the Female Gaze season, her favourite recent film. Some interesting reading from IDFA about the frighteningly low % of women in the industry and making films. Something I have given a lot of though to this year.

I have not visited any other film festivals. It means that there are a lot less documentaries in my top ten than in previous years. I’m explaining this, as it feels tough to select a top ten. I haven’t seen everything or even close – I’m still looking forward to seeing Leviathan, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, Actress, Citizenfour and The Possibilities Are Endless.

It’s also taken all of my willpower to not break the rules this year, as I would love to include two of the things I’ve been most excited to watch/listen to. Both great storytelling. The Knick (directed by Steven Sodebergh) and the podcast Serial. Why does it have to be films only MarBelle?

From my own experience – My Panto! film was as much, if not more work than any of the films for the cinema I have made, it is feature length but does the distribution we chose – that it premiered on BBC Storyville for Christmas, mean it is TV not a film? I wouldn’t have made it any differently if it went to cinemas first. Why do films reign supreme over TV and radio? The Knick has a killer brooding soundtrack and complex characters that are arguably better than many films….

My husband has just interjected here that it’s a film top ten, so it simply has to be films rather than say, dogs or soup… but my point is about distribution.

Honourable mentions – because 10 is never enough. Love is All, Point and Shoot, Maps to the Stars, Guardians of the Galaxy, Attacking The Devil: Harold Evans and the Last Nazi War Crime and 12 Years a Slave.

Anyway, with all that in mind here is my “sticking to the rules” top ten.

10. PADDINGTON | Paul King

Because I laughed all the way through – silly and joyful.

9. COHERENCE | James Ward Byrkit

A lesson in less is more filmmaking that combines multiple identities, a time slip, a dinner party and Xavier from Buffy to create an unsettling and creepy horror on a micro budget.

8. MISTAKEN FOR STRANGERS

 | Tom Berninger

I don’t care how much of this film is real and how much is constructed – all reality in films is constructed, no? It’s just such an enjoyable watch – dysfunctional brothers showing that you’re never too old for sibling rivalry. Amp this up to 11 when one brother is part of The National, a successful band, at their peak on an international tour. Exec-produced by one of my favourite directors Marshall Curry.

7. JUDGEMENT IN HUNGARY | Eszter Hajdú

I was on the jury at Open City Docs in June – we awarded the best feature to this incredible, unfussy yet dynamic film. Our jury comments –

“Judgment in Hungary is a pure observational documentary and yet it has all the qualities of great drama: compelling characters, twists, turns, and moments of horror and even comedy.

By presenting the idiosyncrasies of the Hungarian legal system, it manages to capture the racism faced by the Roma community in Hungary. Like all great films, by focusing on something very narrow and specific it holds up a mirror to something universal.”

6. 20,000 DAYS ON EARTH | Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard

Artists Ian Forsyth and Jayne Pollard beautifully preserve and explore the glamour of Nick Cave, revelling in the allure of his status, with sidebar odd couple moments with Warren Ellis.

5. UNDER THE SKIN | Jonathan Glazer

Bold and strange in all the best ways, Johansson is brilliantly cast as an alien on the prowl in a white van in Glasgow. Filmed on hidden cameras, the film plays more like documentary than fiction.

4. BOYHOOD | Richard Linklater

Aside from the obvious epic scale of the filmmaking this is in my top ten because of Patricia Arquette. I was utterly moved by her performance and it made me think so much abut being a mother and my growing, almost as tall as me child at home. I sobbed.

3. WE ARE THE BEST! | Lukas Moodysson

This film made me want to be 13, cut my own hair and form a punk band. Utterly infectious and warm film. Hate the sport.

2. OF HORSES AND MEN | Benedikt Erlingsson

I urge you to find this film. You will be rewarded with an unsettling, eerie but darkly funny drama set in Iceland where human and equine stories intertwine. It also has a swimming horse, a darkly funny scene with a stallion and a scene that owes something to The Empire Strikes Back.

1. IDA | Paweł Pawlikowski

Ida plays like a long lost classic, beautiful, quiet with a whiff of the devil. A measured, heartbreaking and warm gem from Pawel Pawlokski

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