10 Movies Like As Above So Below (2014)

Staff & contributors

Between 1967-1975, a group of Swedish filmmakers traveled to America to document the Black Power movement. The resulting archival footage of Black activists and intellectuals, including Bobby Seale, Huey P. Newton, Eldridge Cleaver, and the amazing Angela Davis, was hidden in an archive until it was unearthed and woven together by Göran Olsson, a Swedish director. Angela Davis also supplies some contemporary voice commentary alongside many others, such as Erykah Badu, Harry Belafonte, and The Roots drummer and rap culture's No. 1 record keeper Questlove, who also co-scored the film. This adds to the mixtape feel of the film as does the raw and unfiltered piecing together of the historic footage, giving the viewer an authentic impression of the movement and the struggles of the time. Being Swedish, the filmmakers dared to go where American mainstream TV might have never gone.

Genre: Documentary, History

Actor: Angela Davis, Bobby Seale, Erykah Badu, Harry Belafonte, John Forte, Kathleen Cleaver, Melvin Van Peebles, Sonia Sánchez, Stokely Carmichael, Talib Kweli

Director: Göran Olsson

Rating: Not Rated

Without context, Minbo, or the Gentle Art of Japanese Extortion seemed like a goofy satire, especially when the silly trumpet score pops up, and unfortunate hotel employees Suzuki and Wakasugi flounder around trying to solve the hotel’s yakuza problem on their own. And when Nobuko Miyamoto shows up as the brilliant lawyer, it’s so satisfying to see her turn the tables on the yakuza purely through words, strategy, and knowledge of law. It’s hilarious, but Minbo doesn’t just poke fun– it demystifies the gangster as a cool and untouchable figure, portraying them instead as loudmouthed bullies that we can handle. It also shows us how much can be done, only if we, as a group, perhaps as a whole nation, can muster the courage to fight.

Genre: Comedy, Crime

Actor: Akio Tanaka, Akira Nakao, Akira Takarada, Guts Ishimatsu, Hideji Ōtaki, Hōsei Komatsu, Kōji Sekiyama, Masahiko Tsugawa, Noboru Mitani, Nobuko Miyamoto, Shigeru Yazaki, Shirō Itō, Takehiro Murata, Tetsu Watanabe, Toshiro Yanagiba, Yasuo Daichi, Yuji Miyake

Director: Jūzō Itami

, 1987

Celebrated Malian filmmaker Souleyman Cissé crafted Yeelen (which means ‘brightness’) as an explicit antidote to the “ethnographic” lens through which Western directors often told Africa-set stories. That intention is certainly felt, because Yeelen doesn’t trouble itself to translate its folklore-drawn premise for audiences unfamiliar with 13th-century Malian myths. Rejecting Western storytelling conventions, it instead uses those of the culture it depicts — a looping approach to time and matter-of-fact magical realism — to present the tale of Nianankoro (Issiaka Kane), a supernaturally gifted young man whose sorcerer father (Niamanto Sanogo) plots to kill him because of the threats he poses to the elder man's power. 

 A basic primer to the customs central to Yeelen is provided in the opening titles, but knowledge of the culture it communicates through isn’t a prerequisite to watching and enjoying the film because its epic conflicts — both Oedipal (father versus son) and religious (flesh versus spirit) — and otherworldly sensibilities make it both instinctively familiar and mesmerizing. A deserved winner of the Cannes Jury Prize, though the fact that it was the first African film to win one of the festival's awards — 40 years into its existence — makes this an unjustly belated milestone.

Genre: Drama

Actor: Aoua Sangare, Balla Moussa Keita, Ismaila Sarr, Issiaka Kane, Niamanto Sanogo

Director: Souleymane Cissé

Rating: NR

The Grand Seduction, a remake of 2003 French-Canadian film La Grande Séduction (2003), is a lighthearted comedy about the residents of the small fishing village of Tickle Head, Newfoudland attempting to convince a young doctor to become its long-term caregiver in order to secure a contract for a new petrochemical facility. Desperate to guide the town out of its impoverished conditions and lack of employment opportunities, the citizens band together to pull ever bit out of deceit and chicanery out of their hats (in often laugh-out-loud fashion) in order to sway the young doctor Paul (Taylor Kitsch) into believing that Tickle Head is where he belongs. It’s a lighthearted and funny story, despite undeniably familiar shades of The Shipping News, Doc Hollywood and Funny Farm. Brendan Gleeson is particularly good as the new mayor of town and Paul’s head “seducer”. He gives the film that extra bit of humanity and wry humor that lifts it above the familiar plot points and into “notable recommendation” territory.

Genre: Comedy

Actor: Brendan Gleeson, Cathy Jones, Gordon Pinsent, Janelle Hickey, Kevin Lewis, Lawrence Barry, Liane Balaban, Margaret Killingbeck, Mark Critch, Mary Walsh, Matt Watts, Michael Therriault, Natalia Hennelly, Percy Hynes White, Pete Soucy, Peter Keleghan, Sean Panting, Steve O'Connell, Taylor Kitsch

Director: Don McKellar

Rating: PG-13

Bill Forsyth, an acclaimed Scottish director best known for his films Local Hero and Gregory’s Girl, directs an underrated masterpiece with the 1987 drama Housekeeping. Adapted from Marilynne Robinson’s outstanding novel, Housekeeping is the story of two sisters, Ruthie and Lucille, who are orphaned and raised by their peculiar Aunt Sylvie. 

As the young sisters grow apart, Ruthie gravitates toward her transient aunt. This is a movie about not quite fitting in—about feeling like your life exists just outside of modern time, somewhere off to the side of railroad tracks running over frozen water. Sylvie shows Ruthie that there is more to life than their small, cold town of Fingerbone. In fact, there is a whole world out there, calling to misfits like them.

Housekeeping is deftly directed, balancing both humor and tragedy. Christine Lahti’s performance is also, with no exaggeration, one of the greatest of all times, as she conveys so much of Sylvie’s yearning to go, go, go with as little as a glance toward the beckoning horizon.

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Actor: Andrea Burchill, Anne Pitoniak, Betty Phillips, Bill Smillie, Bob Hughes, Brian Linds, Christine Lahti, Dolores Drake, Georgie Collins, Karen Elizabeth Austin, Leah Penny, Margot Pinvidic, Sara Walker, Sheila Paterson, Wayne Robson

Director: Bill Forsyth

Rating: PG

A 40 minute, often jaw-dropping movie about an innocent man accused of killing a teenage girl and the attempt to clear him from the murder. The man in question is Juan Catalan, a young father of two who had had a fair share of interactions with the law. His brother had recently been convicted for another murder case, and the witness to his brother's trial was the girl that Juan Catalan would be accused of killing. The fight to prove that he is innocent goes through different phases, one of which amazingly includes Curb Your Enthusiasm and Larry David himself. It's a crazy story told in a very straightforward manner. Don't expect the impact of Making a Murder or anything like that - but if you're in it for the story, you will not be disappointed.

Genre: Crime, Documentary

Actor: Jacob LaMendola, Juan Catalan, Juan Rodríguez, Kym Whitley, Larry David, Melissa Catalan, Miguel Catalan, Tasha Boggs, Tim Gibbons, Todd Melnik

Director: Jacob LaMendola

Rating: TV-14

Even with its occasional technical hitches and structural rough edges (maybe because of how personal it is), Last Flight Home makes for a difficult but important look at the process of assisted death. The most important insight this documentary offers is how often and how certainly family patriarch Eli Timoner gives his consent to his family to help him die. It may be hard to fathom such a thing especially if one comes from a tightly-knit family or collectivist culture, but Last Flight Home emphasizes how this decision does come from a place of love, constant communication, and deep self-reflection.

Genre: Documentary

Director: Ondi Timoner

When talking about resistance against colonial powers, nonviolent resistance, inspired by Mahatma Gandhi, is oftentimes touted as the most righteous and morally correct path to take. However, most people forget that this violence is done in response to the violence enacted upon them, and that violent resistance has worked alongside the non-violent path, with a serious rationale behind their methods. The Legend of Bhagat Singh remembers one of the Indian revolutionaries that devoted their lives to the cause, though in a different way from Gandhi. The film has some inaccuracies, and it emphasized the romance he might have had with the unmarried woman later known as Bhagat’s widow, but the Legend of Bhagat Singh is an interesting portrait of a revolutionary that needs to be discussed more.

Genre: Crime, Drama, History

Actor: Ajay Devgan, Akhilendra Mishra, Amrita Rao, Bhaswar Chatterjee, D. Santosh, Farida Jalal, Mukesh Tiwari, Raj Babbar, Sitaram Panchal, Sushant Singh, Swaroop Kumar

Director: Rajkumar Santoshi

A very cool documentary about old ladies living in a forbidden zone near Chernobyl. They just came back to their homes in the "stalker zone" few years after the accident and kept living their lives care-free for a staggering 30 years. All of them seem healthy and they love telling jokes. It's a completely different view on this zone and you just find yourself full of admiration for these old ladies for their will and humorous way of living despite the circumstances. Home is home after all.

Genre: Documentary

Director: Anne Bogart, Holly Morris

Rating: Not Rated

Unfortunately, it isn't enough to have cartoonishly attractive people do silly things in the name of love for an entire feature film. This premise is undeniably fun at first: the pace is snappy, the locations are pretty, and there are more than a few intentional laughs buried within the film's fast-paced dialogue. But the longer Love Tactics 2 goes on, the more idiotic its characters seem and the more it feels like they don't actually deserve the love they supposedly earned in the previous movie. It greatly underestimates how frustrating it is to watch people fail to communicate over and over again, not out of any goodwill, but out of pure pride and jealousy. Sure, the leads provide plenty of eye candy, but after seeing how little they actually get to work with, watching them becomes an act of secondhand embarrassment.

Genre: Comedy, Romance

Actor: Atakan Çelik, Bora Akkaş, Ceyhun Mengiroğlu, Demet Özdemir, Deniz Baydar, Hande Yılmaz, İpek Tuzcuoğlu, Kerem Atabeyoğlu, Melisa Döngel, Şükrü Özyıldız

Director: Recai Karagöz

Rating: PG-13