In 2000, Kiarostami traveled to Africa at the request of the United Nations to document a humanitarian crisis unfolding in Uganda, where 1.5 million children had been orphaned by civil war and AIDS. Working outside of Iran and shooting on digital video for the first time, he returned with this disarmingly hopeful look at a country where death hovers ever-present yet life— embodied by the playful spirit of the kids who peer curiously into his camera’s searching, humane lens—flows on undiminished. Part idiosyncratic travelogue, part ode to childhood wonder, ABC Africa is quintessential Kiarostami in its movingly philosophical reflection on human resilience in the face of adversity.
With his lush and sensual visuals, pitch-perfect soundtracks, and soulful romanticism, Wong Kar Wai has established himself as one of the defining auteurs of contemporary cinema.
Mathieu Kassovitz took the film world by storm with La haine, a gritty, unsettling, and visually explosive look at the racial and cultural volatility in modern-day France, specifically the low-income banlieue districts on Paris’s outskirts.
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An intoxicating, time-bending experience bathed in the golden glow of oil lamps and wreathed in an opium haze, Hou Hsiao-hsien’s gorgeous period reverie traces the romantic intrigue, jealousies, and tensions swirling around a late 19th century Shanghai brothel, where the courtesans live confined to a gilded cage, ensconced in opulent splendor yet forced to work to buy back their freedom.