10. Angry Inuk

Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, Canada

Before you condemn, you must understand. That is the message Alethea Arnaquq-Baril urged our audience when she Skyped in for a Q&A following a screening of her stunning, eye-opening documentary, Angry Inuk. Baril's exploration surrounding the plight her people face against those who oppose the seal hunt is an exceptional example of a filmmaker shedding light on a human rights issue that will never make broadcast headlines.

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9. Loving

Jeff Nichols, USA

One of the most important American filmmakers working today, Jeff Nichols's (Take Shelter, Mud) fifth feature film paints a delicate and subdued portrait of Richard and Mildred Loving, whose challenge to Virginia’s anti-miscegenation laws led to the Supreme Court’s legalization of interracial marriage throughout the United States in 1967. With a true break-out performance from 2016 Oscar-nominee, Ruth Negga as Mildred Loving, Nichol's take on this true-life story is, that at the very minimum, the most important aspect in life is the right love and choose our life partners. A battle that's still waging.

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8. The Lobster

Yorgos Lanthimos, Greece

The master of absurdist (but not that far off), dystopian comedy, Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth, Alphas) establishes his unique and darkly insightful voice in his first American film, a hilarious tale of twisted romance in a modern world. The Lobster stars Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz in this completely original story about love and its consumer-based transformation.

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7. Divines

Uda Benyamina, France

A remarkable debut feature from French director Houda Benyamina, Divines is a coming-of-age story that's fresh, fierce, featuring empowered female perspectives about generational displacement and creating a new path. Starring exciting young actress, Oulaya Amamra, Divines was a big hit in Cannes and was quickly gobbled up by Netflix. You can stream it there now!

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6. Hell or High Water

David Mackenzie, USA

Premiering in Cannes then a major hit as SWIFF's closing night film, David Mackenzie's Hell or High Water stars Chris Pine and Ben Foster as bank robbing brothers doing wrong to right the system. Set in Texas, amidst the back drop of the the financial crisis, Mackenzie's heist tale is a faster paced, thrill inducing version of the Cohen Brother's classic No Country for Old Men. A smart script from actor turned screenwriter Taylor Sheridan (Sons of Anarchy, Sicario) and an Oscar-nominated performance from Jeff Bridges, Hell or High Water is a wild ride and the next American classic.

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5. Arrival

Denis Villeneuve, USA

Canadian Denis Villeneuve has left a mark on our national cinema with Polytechnique, Enemy and the Oscar-nominated Incendies (one of the greatest Canadian films ever made) and now he's established himself as one of the most important filmmakers working in Hollywood today with his latest effort: the genre-bending, smartly-crafted, instant sci-fi classic, Arrival. Nominated for eight Academy Awards and featuring another nuanced performance from Amy Adams, Arrival defies convention and demands your patience all the while establishing a terrifying suspense. The narrative weaves in and out through time with artful fluidity and a climax that's complex and brilliant.

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4. Personal Shopper

Olivier Assayas, France

When French director Olivier Assayas last teamed up with Kristen Stewart for 2013's Clouds of Sils Maria, it was the performance of Stewart's career. Premiering in Cannes and later screening in at TIFF Personal Shopper is an artful ghost-story with modern sensibilities. Nearly in every minute of the film, Stewart gives another another complex, subdued and nuanced performance. Stewart is arguably the most interesting actor working today.

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3. Moonlight

Barry Jenkins, USA

One of the most acclaimed films of 2016, and one that rocked our SWIFF audience, Moonlight is both a revelation and a film that feels past due. Set on the streets of 1980's Miami, Barry Jenkins second feature film is one in three acts that unravels the story of a young African-American boy struggling with identity--his sexuality, his manhood and his place in the community. Beautiful, inside and out, Moonlight was nominated for eight Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Supporting actor nods for two incredible, career-making turns from Naomi Harris and Mahershala Ali. While most are predicting La La Land to take home the Oscar, my vote for the best dramatic film of the year is also the most important film of the year.

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2. Toni Erdmann

Maren Ade, Germany

If you talked to me about film in 2016, one thing that constantly came out of my mouth was, "Don't miss out on Toni Erdmann." Just released in Canada in February, Maren Ade's “German comedy of embarrassment” comes in at a whopping 162min! Don't let the runtime stop you! Toni Erdmann is without a doubt the funniest film I've seen in the last ten years. It's smart and so damn hilarious. It's so good, Hollywood is jumping all over it with a remake starring Jack Nicholson and Kristin Wiig. Erdmann blends road-movie, Andy Kaufman-esque humour and laugh-out-loud situational comedy but at its core, Maren Ade's comedic masterpiece delivers a simple, heartfelt narrative about a father simply trying to connect with his daughter.

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1. O.J. Simpson: Made in America

Ezra Edelman, USA

Toni Erdmann feels like a snapchat compared to Ezra Edelman's epic and thorough masterpiece that's indeed about "the trial of the century" but actually serves as a masterclass on race in America. Nominated for best Documentary at Sunday's Oscars, O.J. Simpson: Made in American is part of ESPN's award-winning 30 for 30 series. It's incredibly ambitious, innovative and so full of depth, you could peel the layers off for days. Incredible access to the living members of the defence team, F. Lee Bailey and Barry Scheck with candid insights from lead prosecutor, Marcia Clark and notoriously bigoted former detective, Mark Fuhrman, Edleman does an impressive job of providing context and insight into the case but magnificently weaves through the story that establishes a narrative that's much bigger than O.J. himself. Made in American is about the ongoing systemic problem with race, fame and identify in America. The filmmaking here is absolutely brilliant, always leaving the audience in awe and wanting more with catastrophic observations and head-scratching reveals. It's a marathon that is without-a-doubt worth running.

(You can stream all five parts at the link below)


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Ravi Srinivasan

Executive Director

Ravi Srinivasan was born and raised in Sarnia, Ontario. Ravi serves as Programming Associate for the Toronto International Film Festival and the Hot Docs Canadian International Film Festival. Ravi is the Executive & Artistic Director of the South Western International Film Festival.