Release me: Barry Jenkins' "Medicine for Melancholy" is a yet-to-receive-wide-release San Francisco-made fan favorite. (Photo courtesy SFFS)

The Year in Film, 2008: Top Unreleased Films

Susan Gerhard December 30, 2008

Today’s feature collects the best films yet to fully arrive at a theater near you. It’s the second of our five-part Year-in-Film series, for which polled filmmakers, critics and other industry professionals on the films of 2008. Some of today’s choices are from far-flung festivals, others were seen via one-off screenings. A few are films that already have distribution in place for 2009. All are worthy films clearly meriting more of our attention.’s Top 10 survey, 2008: Best unreleased

Jeffrey M. Anderson

Critic, Cinematical, Combustible Celluloid

1. You, the Living (Roy Andersson, Sweden/Germany/France/Denmark/Norway)
2. The Man from London (Béla Tarr, France/Germany/Hungary)
3. Go Go Tales (Abel Ferrara, Italy/USA)
4. Fados (Carlos Saura, Portugal/Spain)
5. Medicine for Melancholy (Barry Jenkins, USA)

Rod Armstrong

Programmer, San Francisco Film Society

1. Silent Light (Carlos Reygadas, Mexico/France/Netherlands/Germany)
2. Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, USA)
3. The Class (Laurent Cantet, France)
4. Waltz With Bashir (Ari Folman, Israel/Germany/France/USA)
5. 35 Shots of Rum (Claire Denis, France/Germany)

Linda Blackaby

Director of Programming, San Francisco Film Society

1.34 Shots of Rum (Claire Denis, France/Germany)
2.Silent Light (Carlos Reygadas, Mexico/France/Netherlands/Germany)

Peter Canavese

Critic, Groucho Reviews

(Rob Nilsson, USA) (screened in full at Roxie and Smith Rafael, but not circulated widely)

Brian Darr

Critic, Hell on Frisco Bay

1. Easter Morning (Bruce Conner, USA)
2. Observando El Cielo (Jeanne Liotta, TK)
3. Secret Sunshine (Lee Chang-dong, South Korea)
4. The Anthem (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, TK)
5. *Casting a Glance (James Benning, USA)

Michael Fox

Critic,, SFWeekly, J.

1. In the City of Sylvia (José Luis Guerí­n, Spain)
2. Che (Steven Soderbergh, Spain/France/USA)
3. Waltz With Bashir (Ari Folman, Israel/Germany/France/USA) With Bashir

Susan Gerhard


1. Three Monkeys (Nuri Bilge Ceylon, Turkey)
2. Sugar (Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, USA)
3. Sleep Dealer (Alex Rivera, USA.)
4. The Art Star and the Sudanese Twins (Pietra Brettkelly, New Zealand)
5. 24 City (Jia Zhang-ke, China)
6. Lads and Jockeys (Benjamin Marquet, France)
7. Sita Sings the Blues (Nina Paley, USA)
8. Vasermil (Mushon Salmona, Israel)
9. Medicine for Melancholy (Barry Jenkins)
10. Touching Home (Logan and Noah Miller)

Max Goldberg

Critic,, Flavorpill, S.F. Bay Guardian

(In alphabetical order)
Actresses (Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, France)
Foster Child (Brillante Mendoza, Philippines)
Go Go Tales (Abel Ferrara, Italy/USA)
In the City of Sylvia (José Luis Guerín, Spain) *Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind (Brillante Mendoza, USA)

Pam Grady

Critic, Boxoffice Magazine, Filmstew, and

1. Pontypool (Bruce McDonald, Canada)
2. Anvil! The Story of Anvil (Sacha Gervasi, USA)
3. Edison and Leo (Neil Burns, Canada)
4. Lady Jane (Robert Guédiguian, France)
5. Who Do You Love (Jerry Zaks, USA)

Hilary Hart

Director of Publicity, SF Film Society

1. Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, USA)
2. The Class (Laurent Cantet, France)
3. Gomorrah (Matteo Garrone, Italy)
4. Waltz With Bashir (Ari Folman, Israel/Germany/France/USA)
5. Medicine for Melancholy (Barry Jenkins, USA)

Dennis Harvey

Critic, Variety,, SF Bay Guardian

1. Sugar (Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, USA)
2. A Complete History of My Sexual Failures (Chris Waitt, U.K.)
3. All Around Us (Ryosuke Hashiguchi, Japan)
4. Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild Untold Story of Ozploitation (Mark Hartley, Australia/USA)
5. La Memoire des Anges (Luc Bourdon, Canada)
6. Sounds Like Teen Spirit: A Popumentary (Jamie Jay Johnson, U.K.)
7. Pachamama(Toshifumi Matsushita, Bolivia/Japan/USA)
8. The Necessities of Life (Benoit Pilon, Canada)
9. En Plein Coeur (Stéphane Gehami, Canada)
10. For A Moment, Freedom (Arash T. Riahi, Austria/France)

Michael Hawley

Critic, Film-415, The Evening Class

1. Solitary Fragments (Jaime Rosales, Spain)
2. Jar City (Baltasar Kormákur, Iceland/Germany/Denmark)
3. I’m a Cyborg But That’s OK (Park Chan-wook, South Korea)
4. Slingshot (Brillante Mendoza, Philippines)
5. Nightwatching (Peter Greenaway, Canada/France/Germany/Poland/Netherlands/U.K.)
6. Secret of the Grain (Abdel Kechiche, France)

James T. Hong

Filmmaker, A Portrait of a Sino-American Friendship

1. Colossal Youth (Pedro Costa, France/Portugal/Switzerland) 2. Short videos by Artur Amijewski (Poland)

Marcus Hu

Co-President, Strand Releasing

1. Of Time and the City (Terence Davies, U.K.)
We adored this Terence Davies’ film and picked it up for US distribution.
2. 35 Shots of Rum (Claire Denis, France/Germany)
3. Sügisball (Veiko Óunpuu, Estonia)
4. Treeless Mountain (So Yong Kim, USA/South Korea)

Steven Jenkins

Director of Finance and Administration, San Francisco Film Society

1. Continental: A Film Without Guns (Stéphane Lafleur, Canada)
2. Lads & Jockeys (Benjamin Marquet, Switzerland/France)
3. The Class (Laurent Cantet, France)
4. Gomorrah (Matteo Garrone, Italy)
5. Sita Sings The Blues (Nina Paley, USA)

Mick LaSalle

Critic, San Francisco Chronicle

1. L’Autre (Patrick-Mario Bernard and Pierre Trividic, France)
French film about a woman who dumps her boyfriend and becomes schizoid when he gets another girlfriend.
2. The Feelings Factory (Jean-Marc Moutout, France)
Elsa Zylberstein doing speed dating
3. Shall We Kiss (Emmanuel Mouret, France)
Virginie Ledoyen film that starts out fluffy and turns dark
4. Un Giorno Perfetto (Ferzan Ozpetek, Italy)
About a woman being stalked by a crazy husband, told in the aftermath of some unspecified violence.

Graham Leggat

Executive Director, San Francisco Film Society

1. Cochochi (Israel Cárdenas and Laura Amelia Guzmán, Mexico/U.K./Canada)
2. Mutum (Sandra Kogut, Brazil/France)
3. Wonderful Town (Aditya Assarat, Thailand)
4. Flower in the Pocket (Liew Seng Tat, Malaysia)
5. Slingshot (Brillante Mendoza, Philippines)

Chris Metzler

Filmmaker, Plagues and Pleasures of the Salton Sea

1. Audience of One (Mike Jacobs, USA)
2. Bunnyland (Brett Hanover, USA)
3. Dear Zachary (Kurt Kuenne, USA)

Gary Meyer

Co-Director, Telluride Film Festival, owner, Balboa Theatre

1.The Class (Laurent Cantet, France)
2.Everlasting Moments (Jan Troell, Denmark/Finland/Norway/Sweden/Germany)
3.Flame & Citron (Ole Christian Madsen, Denmark/Czech Republic/Germany)
4.Gomorrah (Matteo Garrone, Italy)
5.The Good, the Bad, the Weird (Ji-woon Kim, South Korea)
6.Hunger (Steve McQueen, U.K/Ireland)
7.Kisses (Lance Daly, Ireland/Sweden)
8.O’Horten (Bent Hamer, Norway/Germany/France)
9.Prodigal Sons (Kimberly Reed, USA)
10.Revanche (Götz Spielmann, Austria)
11.Secret of the Grain (Abdel Kechiche, France)
12.Tulpan (Sergei Dvortsevoy, Germany/Kazakhstan/Poland/Russia/Switzerland)
13.Waltz With Bashir (Ari Folman, Israel/Germany/France/USA)
14.With a Little Help from Myself (François Dupeyron, France)

Jenni Olson

Filmmaker, The Joy of Life and Director, E-Commerce & Consumer Marketing, Wolfe Releasing

25 Cent Preview
(Cyrus Amini, USA)
Okay, this film was actually on the film festival circuit in 2007 and has yet to be released. It was the most original (and sexually explicit) gay film of the year with its portrayal of a pair of street hustlers in the Tenderloin who find friendship and more amidst the gritty realities of life on the streets. An astounding film that deserves to be seen more widely if anyone has the courage to release it.

B. Ruby Rich

Critic, author, and professor and chair of Community Studies at UC Santa Cruz

1.Sleep Dealer (Alex Rivera, USA/Mexico)
2.Calavera Highway (Renee Tajima-Pena, USA)

Best two releases of 2008 not made in this decade: Exiles (Rob Gereghty, Canada) Ashes of Time (Wong Kar-Wai , Hong Kong/China/Taiwan)

George Rush
Attorney, columnist

1. Medicine for Melancholy (Barry Jenkins, USA)
Actually think this was a pretty bad year for independent films. Most things I enjoyed eventually got distribution.

Matt Sussman

Critic, Flavorpill,, SF Bay Guardian

1. In the City of Sylvia (José Luis Guerín, Spain)
2. Silent Light (Carlos Reygadas, Mexico/France/Netherlands/Germany)
3. Full Battle Rattle (Tony Gerber and Jesse Moss, USA)
4. Go Go Tales (Abel Ferrara, Italy/USA)
5. Brenda Dickinson parodies (Deven Green, Youtube)

Chris Wiggum

Director of Public Relations and Business Development, Global Film Initiative

1. In the City of Sylvia (José Luis Guerín, Spain)
2. Paranormal Activity (Oren Peli, USA)
3. Pop Skull (Adam Wingard, USA)
4. Om Shanti Om (Farah Khan, India)
5. Slingshot (Brillante Mendoza, Philippines)
6. West 32nd (Michael Kang, South Korea/USA)


Gomorrah (Matteo Garrone, Italy)


1. Cowboy Angels (Kim Massee, France)
2. Frank Dead Souls (Rob Nilsson, USA)


Pig Hunt (James Isaac, USA)


Around the Bay (Alejandro Adams, USA)
The one that really comes to mind is Around the Bay, the Cinequest film fest debut by San Jose’s Alejandro Adams. The story of a tetchy reunion between a Los Gatos high-tech businessman and his estranged daughter, this great movie got praise from New York’s Philip Lopate, but was promptly ignored by most of the area’s press.

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