Ever feel like there’s too much to watch, and you don’t know where to start? Well don’t worry. Our Film & TV editor Hidzir Junaini will be rounding up only the very best things to hit your screens at the end of every month! Skip the mediocre and delve right into the good stuff.
This fantastic documentary unravels the strengths and flaws of American democracy through the microcosm of a summer camp for politically-inclined youths. Boys State (and Girls State) is an annual program that gathers young people and immerses them in the political process as they try to build a representative government from the ground up. This film follows one such program in Texas as we witness a thousand 17-year-old boys campaign. As exciting as sports and as riveting real elections, Boys State is one of the finest political documentaries ever made.
Written and directed by Karen Maine (Obvious Child), Yes, God, Yes follows a devoutly Catholic 16-year-old schoolgirl named Alice in the early 2000s, who discovers masturbation after an AOL chat turns racy. Struggling with sexual awakening and new urges, this witty comedy traces this coming-of-age story of adolescent female desire and religious repression without objectification. It trades in raunchy teen sex comedy tropes for refreshing sincerity in its depiction of confusion, shame and lust. Smart, sweet and funny, this Natalia Dyer-led comedy is absolutely winsome.
Centred on the Philippines’ former first lady Imelda Marcos, The Kingmaker examines, with intimate access, the Marcos family’s improbable return to power. This documentary explores the disturbing legacy of the Marcos regime and chronicles Imelda’s present-day push to help her son, Bongbong, win the vice-presidency. To this end, Imelda attempts to rewrite her family’s history of corruption, replacing it with a narrative of a matriarch’s extravagant love for her country. This portrait of an unrepentant, grotesque manipulator is as insightful as it is queasy.
Macedonian documentarians Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska make a visually poetic and carefully observational debut with this sumptuous, wistful portrait of a lone rural beekeeper. Honeyland tracks the life of Hatidze, a 50-something peasant woman who harvests wild honey. Shot over three years, with no voiceover or interviews, this documentary begins as a gorgeous anthropological study, before stumbling into a conflict when new neighbors move onto the land, threatening Hatidze’s solitude and livelihood with their less nature-conscious farming methods.
Envisioning a contagious mental disease where the afflicted believe they’ll die by morning, Amy Seimetz’s beguiling apocalyptic thriller taps into a timeless anxiety with hilarious and disquieting results. She Dies Tomorrow combines existential devastation with gruesome body horror and Lycnhian surrealism to paint disparate portraits of vulnerable people grappling with mortality. What begins a psychodrama about a woman on the verge of nervous breakdown spreads into a dizzying narrative as we follow others infected through bouts of paranoia and soul-searching.
Russian filmmaker Egor Abramenko’s feature debut delivers a visceral extraterrestrial story that feels like the Soviet-era version of Alien. Set in the early 1980s, Sputnik revolves around a cosmonaut who returns to Earth with a being inside him. The creature leaves its host at night to feed, leaving Russian researchers uncertain whether to fear the new arrival or harness it as a weapon. This gory yet heady midnight movie isn’t just a fun creature feature, it raises prudent questions about whether governmental forces are worse than the monsters in their crosshairs.
Kim Yong-hoon crafts a suspenseful Coen Brothers-eque crime thriller with his debut feature, Beasts Clawing At Straws. Divided into five non-linear chapters following hard-luck characters ranging from loan sharks and a customs agent, to assassins and a prostitute – their desperate search for quick riches intertwine in a cascading chain of violent events. With a Louis Vuitton bag stuffed with cash serving as the catalyst, unexpected connections between characters are discovered as timelines merge, causing plenty of double-crosses and murders along the way.
Nicole Newnham and Jim LeBrecht’s eye-opening documentary focuses on Camp Jened, a summer camp for teens with disabilities. Heartwarming and insightful, Crip Camp is in part about the kids who found a home at Jened from the 1950s-70s, thanks to its staff of sympathetic counselors. But it’s also a galvanizing tale of a national movement sparked by Jened’s former campers to bring disabled rights into the American mainstream. Refusing to be marginalized, this film is an inspiring portrait of people whose dogged persistence enacted sweeping change.
This hilariously dark coming-of-age dramedy lays bare the bleak realities of teenage life in the wreckage of Britain’s forgotten places. In My Skin follows 16-year-old Bethan who is trying to hide the truth about her mother’s bipolar disorder, father’s alcoholism and chaotic home life from her friends. Heavily drawing from her own experiences growing up, Kayleigh Llewellyn’s series may be bleak, but it’s also filled with tenderness and caustic wit. From the authenticity of its tone to the vivid grittiness of it’s Cardiff setting, In My Skin is a brutally relatable show that cuts deep.
Set inside a magically endless train where each car contains a different and wonderfully bizarre universe, Owen Dennis’ cartoon is a consistently inventive ride. As we’ve learned, the puzzles and dangers within each world are designed to help kids trapped aboard to work through their emotional issues, before they can leave. But what happens when some passengers don’t want to grow or disembark? This third season delves deeper into the mythos of the train by following a group called The Apex – anarchic youths who see the train as an escape rather than a prison.
Based on Matt Ruff’s novel, Lovecraft Country presents a vision of 1950s America where the horrors of H.P. Lovecraft’s cosmic monsters and secret cabals intertwine with the daily horrors of anti-Black racism during Jim Crow. Centered on a pulp fiction-obsessed war veteran named Atticus, his best friend Letitia, and his uncle George – we follow the African-America trio on a road trip across the deep south in search of Atticus’ father. Determined not to cower before the white establishment, the three find themselves targeted by a cult in this gripping and eerie story.
Office lady Retsuko has spent two seasons of her hilarious and relatable anime series expelling her professional and romantic frustrations via death metal karaoke. But in this third season, financial woes have forced our hapless red panda into the world of J-Pop! In addition to the stressful demands of her job and continued misadventures in love, Retsuko now finds herself moonlighting for an idol group. But despite the exhausting toll of workplace politics and added responsibilities – this new environment might be just what Retsuko needs to reevaluate her life.
This six-part docuseries offers a complex view of the American immigration system, combining in-depth research, empathetic storytelling and bold investigative journalism into a uniquely urgent humanitarian appeal. Immigration Nation follows ICE as it ramps up its operations and deportations in response to Trump’s rhetoric. While it offers unprecedented access to officers and bureaucrats throughout the system, the series is also focused on the human cost of policy. Its filmmakers sit down with many detainees, and their personal stories of grief are wrenching.
Following season one’s apocalyptic finale, this time travelling second season picks up where we left off – with the exceedingly weird superpowered Hargreeves family thrown back to 1960s Dallas. With each sibling stranded in different years (and another world ending threat to avert), this season explores the damage and growth of its eccentric heroes as they attempt to build lives away from each other. Featuring better pacing, inventive imagery, oddball humour and more thoughtful character exploration, The Umbrella Academy’s sophomore effort is a triumph.
An epic animated fantasy trilogy – which began with Trollhunters and 3Below – now concludes with Wizards, a fast-paced and lighthearted magical saga that ties together the characters from previous series. This time, the heroes from Arcadia Oaks (human, supernatural and alien alike) find themselves skipping across time, facing off against the heroes and villains of King Arthur’s Camelot. Action-packed and filled with humor, Guillermo del Toro’s climax to Tales of Arcadia continues to feature a densely imagined mythology, alongside a bevy of compelling characters.
While the setting stays the same (Room 104 of a nondescript motel), every episode features a different story – with the tone, plot, characters, and time period, changing with each installment. Exploring a variety of genres, from dark comedy to sci-fi, to the series’ first-ever animated effort, this fourth and final season of The Duplass Brothers’ anthology continues to surprise with its inventiveness. This batch of short stories include an estranged performer giving a one night only performance, a woman battling her dark past with addiction, a dollhouse, time-travel, and more!
There’s nothing else in 2020 that will make you feel warmer than Ted Lasso. Jason Sudeikis stars as an American college football coach who goes to England to manage a Premiership soccer team. While the comedy leans into the fish out of water scenario, the heart of this sweet series lies in the coach’s sincere kindness and can-do attitude. He may know nothing about soccer, but genuinely want to help his players to be the best version of themselves (in life or sport). Buoyed by relentless optimism and decency, you can’t not root for the loveable cornball.
When it comes to Dead to Me season two, fans shouldn’t be concerned about a sophomore slump. Christina Applegate and Linda Cardellini’s dark comedy is even better in its second season, and new characters and twisty plotlines only add to the fun. With a detective hot on their heels and a new visitor coming to town, Jen and Judy struggle to hide their many secrets from their friends, family, and each other. Dead to Me keeps its world small and cliffhangers high, keeping us invested in its characters’ powerful emotional beats and tumultuous friendship.
On the heels of triumphs like RuPaul’s Drag Race and Pose, Legendary is a reality competition show inspired by New York’s ballroom scene. Competing for a cash prize, eight “houses” are judged in fashion and dance challenges by a panel that includes Jameela Jamil, Megan Thee Stallion, Leiomy Maldonado and Law Roach. What separates Legendary from other competition shows is its vibe. You feel immersed in an actual ballroom, and it all werks on a fuel of voguing, hairography, face and shade. The creativity and athleticism of the teams are wonders to behold.
Based on the life of rapper-comedian Dave Burd (aka Lil Dicky), Dave is a crass and clever dramedy about a nerdy Jewish kid who seeks to convince everyone he’s the best rapper. While it may begin as puerile with toilet humour and penis jokes aplenty, Dave evolves into a smarter, more sensitive show. As witty as his verses, rhymes and wordplay are, Dave’s talent is matched by his delusions, and the series pointedly deconstructs both the rapper’s self-parodying persona and the real man(baby) to achieve compelling poignance for him, and those surrounding him.