6 Best Movies to Watch From VPRO

Staff & contributors

, 2021

When Amin sits down for a tell-all interview about his troubling past, his memories come to life in vivid animation. Sometimes they are sweet and intimate, like when he recounts his time as a playful boy in a much freer Afghanistan. But often, they’re marred by the unbelievable horrors of refugee life. Now a successful academic and soon-to-be husband, Amin discovers the inescapability of his status and identity, the reality of which continues to threaten his safety to this day.

Relevant and vital, Flee sheds some much-needed light on an often-overlooked phenomenon. More than just displaying factoids and numbers, it relays the specific unease and constant vigilance that comes with fleeing one’s home. But as Amin’s story, it is also richly detailed and wonderfully personal; for all its harsh exposés, the film leaves enough room for Amin’s stirring realizations about love, identity, and sexuality.

Genre: Animation, Documentary

Actor: Behrouz Bigdeli, Belal Faiz, Bo Asdal Andersen, Daniel Karimyar, Elaha Faiz, Fardin Mijdzadeh, Jean-Pierre Pernaut, Mikhail Belinson, Milad Eskandari, Rashid Aitouganov, Tormod Ringnes

Director: Jonas Poher Rasmussen

Rating: PG-13

While being known for co-writing the Dogme 95 manifesto, Lars von Trier’s first film after breaks his rules with built sets and music added in post. Still, Breaking the Waves has plenty of von Trier’s thematic preoccupations, challenging the notions between faithfulness and sexuality by positing a married couple who cannot indulge in marital pleasure, due to being paralyzed. While the premise leads to explicit scenes, it’s more harrowing than sexy, really. It’s terribly heartbreaking as Bess does all she can for her marriage, first by praying for her husband’s return, and then following his perverse wish, partly from guilt, but partly from pleasure, even when it goes contrary to her repressive church and community. Breaking the Waves may not be an easy watch, but regardless of what you personally feel about the morality of Bess’ actions, von Trier will nevertheless bring you to empathy.

Genre: Drama, Romance

Actor: Adrian Rawlins, David Bateson, Dorte Rømer, Emily Watson, Finlay Welsh, Gavin Mitchell, Jean-Marc Barr, John Wark, Jonathan Hackett, Katrin Cartlidge, Mikkel Gaup, Phil McCall, Robert Robertson, Roef Ragas, Sandra Voe, Stellan Skarsgård, Udo Kier

Director: Lars von Trier

Rating: R

Murdering your spouse is bad, so it’s slightly bizarre how Drowning by Numbers has an unbothered, even amused, attitude towards its murders. Moments seem randomly placed, like the first scene of a girl jumping rope while listing the stars by name, and the film can be hard to follow, even if the production design and cinematography keep you drawn in. But as the film progresses, and Madgett’s son Smut enumerates the fictional games as if he was a historian of sorts, writer-director Peter Greenaway meticulously crafts a quirky, twisty crime comedy, where, like children’s games and the men in their lives, the murdering wives do what they do because they can get away with it. Drowning by Numbers cleverly plays with the way we treat folklore, structure, and rules, even down to the very medium Greenaway works with.

Genre: Comedy, Crime

Actor: Arthur Spreckley, Bernard Hill, Bryan Pringle, David Morrissey, Edward Tudor-Pole, Ian Talbot, Jane Gurnett, Janine Duvitski, Jason Edwards, Joan Plowright, Joanna Dickens, Joely Richardson, John Rogan, Juliet Stevenson, Kenny Ireland, Michael Fitzgerald, Michael Percival, Natalie Morse, Paul Mooney, Roderic Leigh, Trevor Cooper, Vanni Corbellini

Director: Peter Greenaway

Rating: R

Lauren Greenfield’s film follows the Siegel family’s decline from opulent abundance to gaudy ruin. Mega wealth, delusions of grandeur, and grotesquely opulent taste—the Siegel family were the perfect subjects for the film, which sets out to document their most lavish expense: their Versailles home, a mansion sprawling more than 85,000 square feet and modeled after the Palace of Versailles.

The Siegels, no doubt, are entirely out of touch with reality. David Siegel, the owner of one of the world’s largest timeshare developers, married Jackie, a former Mrs. Florida who is 30 years younger. The Versailles home is to be Jackie’s castle, an enormous home for her eight kids and numerous pets.

But the 2008 recession does not spare the Siegels, and their company is devastated. After layoffs and desperate attempts to recover financially, the family struggles to pay back the banks. Construction halts. The Versailles home remains vacant and unfinished.

While the film does not sympathize with the Siegels, Greenfield creates a space where pity is possible as well as criticism. And from there comes the universal: desperation, longing, hope for better, if not also more, more, more.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Actor: Jacqueline Siegel, Virginia Nebab

Director: Lauren Greenfield

This Dutch movie is a wonderful family story about a young boy who meets a peculiar girl while on vacation. He helps her find out more about her father who she has never met.

In its essence, this story is an uplifting coming-of-age story, not only because it was based on a young adult novel by Dutch writer Anna Woltz, but also because of a Moonrise-Kingdom-like staging. But like all great movies of its kind, it carries an emotional twist that packs enough depth even for not the not so young adult. 

Genre: Drama, Family

Actor: Guido Pollemans, Hans Dagelet, Jennifer Hoffman, Johannes Kienast, Josephine Arendsen, Julian Ras, Sonny Coops van Utteren, Suzan Boogaerdt, Terence Schreurs, Tjebbo Gerritsma

Director: Steven Wouterlood

The House I Live In is a truly exceptional documentary, directed and narrated by Eugene Jarecki, focused on America’s long-standing “War on Drugs”. Jarecki travels America to interview various individuals and families on both sides of the law, examining many personal experiences related to drug offenses, unjust legal policies and excessive incarceration. He further provides a fascinating historical account of the political and socioeconomic developments that brought about the formation of many depressed communities overrun by drug trade, as well as the interrelated political, legal and private-interest infrastructures that continue to both depend upon and profit from drug-related sentencing. An utterly stunning film that every American should see to truly understand all of the elements at play in the ongoing prohibition against drugs in America.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Barack Obama, Betty Chism, Bill Clinton, David Simon, Dennis Whidbee, Eugene Jarecki, George H. W. Bush, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, John McCain, Lyndon B. Johnson, Mark W. Bennett, Martin Luther King, Martin Luther King Jr., Michelle Alexander, Nancy Davis Reagan, Nancy Reagan, Nannie Jeter, Nelson Rockefeller, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Rudolph Giuliani

Director: Eugene Jarecki

Rating: Not Rated