The Movies The Film Festivals of 2018 Told Us to Watch

Already drowning in conversation about the same handful of films for Awards Season?

Film Festivals

As those of us who love film voluntarily and involuntarily immerse ourselves in Awards Season, we find that conversations about the same 10-15 competing films/performances quickly become over-worn, milquetoast, socio-political banter with exponentially waning energy. And the weight of that dismal debate—wrought with immediate banality—can feel both crushing and totally insignificant all at once. Between every city’s critics’ choice awards, the literal Critics’ Choice Awards, BAFTA, DGA, PGA, SAG, WGA, the Golden Globes, the Academy Awards, and every publications’ “Best [Qualifier] of 2018” lists, we notice a trend: relative uniformity. Why? Studios lobby Hollywood power players and voters as unrelentingly as Halliburton lobbied for privatized warfare once upon a time. This is a huge problem. It’s absolutely unethical. It guarantees that films with the most money and power (Mary Poppins Returns, Bohemian Rhapsody) will pay their way into ceremonies they don’t belong at, and that smaller and/or pre-November films won’t be given a fair shake, whether for lack of finances, studio power, professional lobbyists, or pop culture intrigue.

Not to mention, armchair aficionados, professional critics, and anyone who clues into the Film Twitterverse see and participate in a relatively static conversation, which prioritizes the significance of a handful of films and completely forgets about the rest. There’s nothing unethical going on there, but there’s no denying that it contributes to a cyclical culture of conversation around the same films, which basically lock themselves in as unshakeable contenders in early-mid December. We get stuck in an autocratic deliberation process. By the time nominations are being announced (early-mid January) for most ceremonies, no one is actually considering all films from 2018. We’re considering the films that have been most prominent in year-end lists, minor awards ceremonies, social media conversations, advertising, and prediction pieces. In that sense, Awards Season’s perspective on the year’s best films is about as comprehensive as a blinder-wearing horse’s perspective of the whole track. We can only see what we’re directed to look at. We can’t look back and there are no peripherals.

There’s plenty of fun to be had amidst Awards Season, but it’s more like the kind of fun you’d have while watching Aquaman get turnt to 11 after toking with your pals. It’s a way to tap into the cultural vein of the popular (and slightly critical) American film scene. On top of that, American film awards ceremonies do a remarkably poor job of recognizing documentaries, non-American films, animated films, and new filmmakers. So the question becomes: how do we get an all-encompassing perspective on the year in movies? The answer is simple: film festivals. In looking back at the year’s most significant film festivals, we get a less political and more holistic perspective on the year in film. Each festival has at least one jury made up of professionals across the filmmaking, film criticism, and filmgoing communities. It’s not a perfect system by any means, but as a unified whole, the festivals are more diverse in taste, representation, time of year, and actual awards given. In that light, a look back at the awards donned at 12 major film festivals around the world offers a much more compendious, democratic vision of 2018’s best films and filmmakers, many of which will not be mentioned at all over the next three months.


Cannes Film Festival

Palme d’Or: Shoplifters, Hirokazu Kore-eda

Grand Prix: BlacKkKlansman, Spike Lee

Best Director: Pawel Pawlikowski, Cold War

Best Actor: Marcello Fonte, Dogman

Best Actress: Samal Yeslyamova, Ayka

Special Jury Prize: Nadine Labaki, Capernaum

Screenplay (tie): Happy as Lazzaro, Alice Rohrwacher; 3 Faces, Jafar Panahi & Nader Saeivar

Toronto International Film Festival

People’s Choice Award: Green Book, Peter Farrelly

People’s Choice Award (Documentary): Free Solo, E. Chai Vasarhelyi & Jimmy Chin

People’s Choice Award (Midnight Madness): The Man Who Feels No Pain, Vasan Bala

Platform Prize: Cities of Last Things, Ho Wi Ding

FIPRESCI Discovery Prize: Float Like a Butterfly, Carmel Winters

FIPRESCI Special Presentations: Skin, Guy Nattiv

Eurimages Audentia Award for Best Female Director: Fig Tree, Alamork Davidian


Sundance Film Festival

U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize Award: The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Desiree Akhavan

U.S. Dramatic Audience Award: Burden, Andrew Heckler

U.S. Dramatic Directing Award: The Kindergarten Teacher, Sara Colangelo

U.S. Dramatic Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award: Nancy, Christina Choe

U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Outstanding First Feature: Monsters and Men, Reinaldo Marcus Green

U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Excellence in Filmmaking: I Think We’re Alone Now, Reed Morano

U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Achievement in Acting: Benjamin Dickey, Blaze

U.S. Documentary Grand Jury Prize Award: Kailash, Derek Doneen

U.S. Documentary Audience Award: The Sentence, Rudy Valdez

U.S. Documentary Directing Award: On Her Shoulders, Alexandria Bombach

U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Social Impact: Crime + Punishment, Stephen Maing

U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Creative Vision: Hale County This Morning, This Evening RaMell Ross

U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Filmmaking: Minding the Gap, Bing Liu

U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Storytelling: Three Identical Strangers, Tim Wardle

World Cinema Dramatic Grand Jury Prize: Butterflies, Tolga Karacelik

World Cinema Dramatic Audience Award: The Guilty, Gustav Moller

World Cinema Dramatic Directing Award: And Breathe Normally, Isold Uggadottir

World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Acting: Valeria Bertuccelli, The Queen of Fear

World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Screenwriting: Time Share, Julio Chavezmontes & Sebastián Hofmann

World Cinema Dramatic Special Jury Award for Ensemble Acting: Dead Pigs, Cathy Yan

World Cinema Documentary Grand Jury Prize: Of Fathers and Sons, Talal Derki

World Cinema Documentary Audience Award: This Is Home, Alexandra Shiva

World Cinema Documentary Directing Award: Shirkers, Sandi Tan

World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award: Matangi/Maya/M.I.A., Stephen Loveridge & M.I.A.

World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Cinematography: Genesis 2.0, Peter Indergand & Maxim Arbugaev

World Cinema Documentary Special Jury Award for Editing: Our New President, Maxim Pozdorovkin & Matvey Kulakov


Berlin Film Festival

Golden Bear for Best Film: Touch Me Not, Adina Pintilie

Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize: Mug, Małgorzata Szumowska

Silver Bear Alfred Bauer Prize: The Heiresses, Marcelo Martinessi

Silver Bear for Best Director: Wes Anderson, Isle of Dogs

Silver Bear for Best Actress: Ana Brun, The Heiresses

Silver Bear for Best Actor: Anthony Bajon, The Prayer

Silver Bear for Best Screenplay: Manuel Alcalá and Alonso Ruizpalacios, Museum

Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution, Costume or Set Design: Elena Okopnaya, Dovlatov

Best First Feature: Touch Me Not, Adina Pintilie

Berlinale Glashütte Documentary Prize: The Waldheim Waltz, Ruth Beckermann


Venice Film Festival

Golden Lion for Best Film: Roma, Alfonso Cuarón

Silver Lion Grand Jury Prize: The Favourite, Yorgos Lanthimos

Silver Lion for Best Director: Jacques Audiard, The Sisters Brothers

Volpi Cup for Best Actress: Olivia Colman, The Favourite

Volpi Cup for Best Actor: Willem Dafoe, At Eternity’s Gate

Best Screenplay: Joel and Ethan Coen, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Special Jury Prize: The Nightingale, Jennifer Kent

Lion of the Future Award for a Debut Film: The Day I Lost My Shadow, Soudade Kaadan

Marcello Mastroianni Award for Best Young Actor/Actress: Baykali Ganambarr, The Nightingale


SXSW Film Festival

Grand Jury Winner (Narrative Competition): Thunder Road, Jim Cummings

Special Jury Recognition for First Feature (Narrative Competition): Carly Stone, The New Romantic

Special Jury Recognition for Writing (Narrative Competition): Niljla Mu’min, Jinn

Grand Jury Winner (Documentary Feature Competition): People’s Republic of Desire, Hao Wu

Special Jury Recognition for Best Cast (Documentary Feature Competition): This One’s for The Ladies, Gene Graham

Special Jury Recognition for Best Feminist Reconsideration of a Male Artist (Documentary Feature Competition): Garry Winogrand: All Things are Photographable, Sasha Waters Freyer

SXSW Luna Bar Gamechanger Award for Narrative: First Match, Olivia Newman

Special Jury Recognition: Unlovable, Suzi Yoonessi

SXSW Luna Bar Chicken & Egg Award for Documentary: On Her Shoulders, Alexandria Bombach

Special Jury Recognition: ¡Las Sandinistas!, Jenny Murray

Louis Black “Lone Star” Award: Daughters of the Sexual Revolution: The Untold Story of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, Dana Adam Shapiro

SXSW Adam Yauch Hörnblowér Award: Prospect, Zeek Earl & Chris Caldwell

Audience Narrative Feature Award: First Match, Olivia Newman

Audience Documentary Feature Award: TransMilitary, Gabriel Silverman & Fiona Dawson

Audience Headliners Award: Isle of Dogs, Wes Anderson

Audience Narrative Spotlight Award: All Square, John Hyams

Audience Documentary Spotlight Award: The Dawn Wall, Josh Lowell & Peter Mortimer

Audience Midnighters Award: Upgrade, Leigh Whannell

Audience Festival Favorite Award: Science Fair, Cristina Costantini & Darren Foster


Hong Kong International Film Festival

Firebird Award in the Young Cinema Competition: Girls Always Happy, Yang Mingming

Firebird Award in the Documentary Competition: Of Love & Law, Toda Hikaru

FIPRESCI Prize: Girls Always Happy, Yang Mingming

Audience Choice Award: An Elephant Sitting Still, Hu Bo

Special Mention Award: Mama, Jin Xingzheng


Full Frame Documentary Film Festival

Reva and David Logan Grand Jury Award: Hale County This Morning, This Evening, RaMell Ross

Special Jury Award: Of Fathers and Sons, Talal Derki

Full Frame Audience Award: Minding the Gap, Bing Liu

Center for Documentary Studies Filmmaker Award: Of Fathers and Sons, Talal Derki

Charles E. Guggenheim Emerging Artist Award: América, Erick Stoll & Chase Whiteside


Annecy International Animated Film Festival

Cristal Award (Feature Film): Funan, Denis Do

Jury Award (Feature Film): The Breadwinner, Nora Twomey

Jury Distinction Award (Feature Film): The Wolf House, Cristóbal León & Joaquín Cociña

Audience Award (Feature Film): The Breadwinner, Nora Twomey


BFI London Film Festival

Best Film Award: Joy, Sudabeh Mortezai

Sutherland Award for Best First Feature: Girl, Lukas Dhont

Grierson Award for Documentary Feature: What You Gonna Do When the World’s on Fire?, Roberto Minervini

Special Mention Award: Birds of Passage, Cristina Gallego & Ciro Guerra


Locarno International Film Festival

Golden Leopard for Best Film: A Land Imagined, Yeo Siew Hua

Leopard for Best Direction: Too Late to Die Young, Dominga Sotomayor Castillo

Pardo for Best Actress: Alice T., Andra Guti

Pardo for Best Actor: Hotel by the River, Ki Joobong

Prize for Best Emerging Director: Dead Horse Nebula, Tarik Aktas

Special Mention Award: Ray & Liz, Richard Billingham


Tribeca Film Festival

Founders Award for Best Narrative Feature: Diane, Kent Jones

Best Actress in a U.S. Narrative Feature Film: Duck Butter, Alia Shawkat

Best Actor in a U.S. Narrative Feature Film: O.G., Jeffrey Wright

Best Cinematography in a U.S. Narrative Feature Film: Diane, Wyatt Garfield

Best Screenplay in a U.S. Narrative Feature Film: Diane, Kent Jones.

Best International Narrative Feature: Smuggling Hendrix, Marios Piperides

Best Actress in an International Narrative Feature Film: Virgins, Joy Rieger

Best Actor in an International Narrative Feature Film: The Saint Bernard Syndicate, Rasmus Bruun

Best Cinematography in an International Narrative Feature Film: Obey, Albert Salas

Best Screenplay in an International Narrative Feature Film: The Saint Bernard Syndicate, Lærke Sanderhoff

Best Documentary Feature: Island of the Hungry Ghosts, Gabrielle Brady

Best Cinematography in a Documentary Film: Tanzania Transit, Niels van Koevorden

Best Editing in a Documentary Film: When Lambs Become Lions, Frederick Shanahan & Jon Kasbe & Caitlyn Greene

Best New Narrative Director: To Dust, Shawn Snyder

Best New Documentary Director: Bathtubs Over Broadway, Dava Whisenant

Luke bleeds film and music, got his master's in film & ethics at Duke, and thinks every occasion should include one of the following: whiskey, coffee, gin, tea, beer, or basketball.