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artwork by Amy Lauren McGrath

It has, somehow, been a year. And while this year hasn’t allowed us to seek refuge in front of the big screen as often as we might like, and though many of the most anticipated releases of the last twelve months have been deferred to 202-dot-dot-dot-question-mark, we still have been able to enjoy some truly exceptional films at a time when we really needed them. Using Irish release dates, the Film In Dublin team have come together to pick out ten of the best of 2020. Films that helped us to escape. Films that served as a funnel to feel through *all this*. Films with pet hyenas in them. So a broad spectrum as always.

What films made your own personal Best of 2020 list? As ever, we’d love to hear from you. Leave us a comment below or hit us up on Twitter and Instagram and let us know what movies moved you over the last year, and let us know what you make of the list below.

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One of the best things about the raging success of Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite is the potential knock on effect it might have. People who would never ordinarily pay their money to see a subtitled film were doing so, as the critical acclaim drove Parasite into mainstream chain cinemas. This was significant, as such pictures are usually reserved for releases in art house theatres, and although the audiences who usually see them are loyal, they often come in significantly smaller quantities. As an unfortunate but understandable consequence, there can be difficulties associated with getting the right funding to bring international features to Western audiences, on the basis that the people who make the commercial decisions have the “one inch barrier of subtitles” in the back of their minds when sanctioning off projects. Memories of Murder is a reason why the above circumstances are a real shame. While there are always occasions when  directors make their best films early on, Bong Joon Ho’s mystery crime thriller is an example of how many films crawl so others can walk.

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Director: Bong Joon-ho Starring: Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam, Lee Jung-eun, Chang Hyae-jin Running Time: 132 minutes

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The long anticipated Parasite from acclaimed director Bong Joon-ho has arrived on Irish big screens right at the end of what has turned out to be an incredible run of Oscar contenders. While in many ways the Academy Awards could well be regarded as an over inflated industry award, it is difficult not to get caught up in all of the fuss surrounding what is unquestionably the most notable event of the year in film. Similarly, while it might make more sense to maintain objectivity when reviewing films, it’s often challenging to suspend your own excitement for films that you’ve been personally routing for. On it’s own merit, I had been eagerly anticipating the release of Parasite for months. As someone who was first introduced to the now well-established perceptive craft of Bong Joon-ho since The Host in 2006, I was even more delighted that his latest work seemed to be getting the level of international traction that many South Korean films in the last year have undeservedly lacked. Casting memory back through the last couple of years, there seems to have been at least one highly impressive hit coming out of the country every year. In 2016 there was Train to Busan, a frantic and kinetic zombie movie tracking the desperation of a father and daughter to escape a lethal viral outbreak. In 2017 there was Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden, a stylish period thriller that picked up the BAFTA for Best Film Not In The English Language. Then there was Lee Chang-dong’s Burning in 2018, a slow burning psychological mystery. All of these features could more than match the weight of any Oscar winning Hollywood films in recent years, but many were regrettably limited to selected art house screenings.

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The 92nd edition of the Academy Awards took place last night, and amid much speculation and fanfare, ̶S̶i̶n̶n̶ ̶F̶é̶i̶n̶ ̶w̶e̶r̶e̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶b̶i̶g̶ ̶w̶i̶n̶n̶e̶r̶s̶   Parasite was the big winner on the night, adding a surprise Best Picture win to victories in the categories of Best International Feature, Best Original Screenplay and Best Director for Bong Joon-ho. On a night where Ireland’s own Eímear Noone conducted the ceremony, there was the usual mix of overdue wins, rambling speeches and head-scratching choices, but the successes for Parasite will ensure that cranks like Film In Dublin’s head writer still talk about the Oscars while insisting they’re not important.

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There was much discussion about the jokes that Ricky Gervais made at the expense of Hollywood superstars at this year’s Golden Globes. However, what stood out for me was what should have won an award for the “golden quote” of the night. It came from the director of the highly anticipated South Korean film Parasite, Bong Joon-ho. He gave the much needed reminder that:

 

“Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films”.

 

This really spoke to me- and not just in English. If I could add one addendum to this brilliant insight, it would be that viewing international films also exposes you to different cultural fabrics, different challenges and, different experiences. Aside from that, they’re also very entertaining and remain such an underappreciated cinematic art by large chunks of Western audiences. So in order to help you get over the horrific inconvenience of subtitles, and in light of Bong Joon-ho’s golden quote. Here are 20 international films to watch in 2020.

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