10/10: Sky Hopinka

The director of małni — towards the ocean, towards the shore, now playing in Virtual Cinemas, shares his ten favorite films from the last ten years.

(in no particular order)

1. The Story of Milk and Honey (Basma Alsharif, 2011) If there was a film that blew my mind and showed me the possibilities of text and music and sound, and how moving image can be a tool of validation, it’s this film and the rest of her body of work.

2. A Symptom (Ben Balcom, 2014) As a filmmaker that primarily works in digital video, this was a film that inspired me to think more about what 16mm film can do, and ways to work through questions of philosophy and text through cinema, how the process of filmmaking can be a deliberate and meditative space. And this film is so beautiful and such a fun ride.

3. Kaili Blues (Bi Gan, 2015) I love everything about this film – the shooting, the acting, the story, the duration, it’s stuck with me since I first saw it. The camera movements and compositions and pacing are done so perfectly it’s hard to not become entranced by this film.

4. Ears, Nose, and Throat (Kevin Jerome Everson, 2016) I remember reading an interview with Kevin Jerome Everson in 2013 and he just said all the things that I needed to hear, about intervention, about power, about representation, and about handheld camera movements. I can’t think of a more prolific filmmaker, and this film I’ll always remember. It’s a film about loss and about survival, done with such nuance and mastery and care.

5. Inaate/Se (Adam Khalil & Zack Khalil, 2016) Before I knew the brothers Khalil, I was a fan of this film. It was exciting and inspiring to see Indigenous filmmakers making work that questions the authority dynamics of documentary in such direct, thoughtful, and challenging ways. There’s something playful and sharp about their work that’s so necessary.

6. The Prison in Twelve Landscapes (Brett Story, 2016) This film is brilliant, and so well done, and the framing of the carceral system in the United States through geography and landscape does so much to illustrate the entrenched systems influencing so much of the spaces around us – figurative and literal.

7. This Action Lies (James N. Kienitz Wilkins, 2018) James is one of my favorite filmmakers and this is one of my favorite of his films. He weaves together so many ideas so fluidly and so intimately and tenderly that it’s easy to get drawn in and lost in the story and lost in his voice and forget your looking at a single image the entire time.

8. Terror Nullius (Soda Jerk, 2018) Soda Jerk does so many amazing things with editing and composing scenes and films that are lyrical and so concise in their commentary on pop culture, cinema, and problems with national identity through those medias.

9. The Giverny Document (Ja’Tovia Gary, 2019) This film exists as a single channel and as an installation and those variations describe the versatility and complexity of Ja’Tovia’s work. But no matter the form you see it in, she deftly weaves together archival material and her own footage, alongside a score and a history that underscores questions of safety and agency of Black women through media.

10. The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open (Elle-Maija Tailfeathers & Kathleen Hepburn, 2019) The long take that formally frames the film is amazing, bolstered by their brilliant camera movements, acting, and choreography. All of which serves to emphasize the significance and power of this story about two Indigenous women living their separate lives that become entwined by epigenetic trauma, and the challenges of trust and friendship.

Sky Hopinka’s małni — towards the ocean, towards the shore is now streaming.

10/10 is an ongoing series in which we ask cinephiles to name their ten favorite films from the last ten years (currently, between 2011 and 2021).