What to Watch

10 Must-See Films at Frames of Representation 2021

As the latest edition of the ICA's experimental festival returns to London, we highlight our picks for the most essential features...

It's that time again: the ICA's Frames of Representation is back in London and will run between 25 November and 4 December. The hugely unique festival presents 20 premieres by filmmakers from 16 different countries from around the globe – a selection of timely, humanist films that blur the lines between fiction and nonfiction in unusual, often experimental ways.

To celebrate the opening of the festival, we've selected our must-see titles from 2021's exciting line-up. It's not an exhaustive list, by any means, and there are plenty more films worth checking out than the ones highlighted here (for a full list of titles and showtimes, visit our dedicated festival page). In partnership with the ICA, we're also offering a discount on tickets – but hurry, there are only a limited amount available!

 

A Night of Knowing Nothing

When it's on: 25 November, 20:00

The festival's Opening Night film, which won the Best Documentary Award at Cannes, also includes an Q&A with director Payal Kapadia. An exploration of contemporary Indian culture, framed around fictional letters sent from a young woman to her lover, it blends found footage and sketches to paint an evocative picture of a changing landscape (get tickets).

 

Seeing Red

When it's on: 26 November, 18:20

Argentinian filmmaker Toia Bonino follows up her 2017 film Orione with this sequel, a deconstruction of toxic masculinity assembled through a mix of smartphone footage and home movies, in which he man mourns the death of his brother through a series of violent fantasies. It's the second movie in a planned trilogy (get tickets).

 

El Gran Movimiento

When it's on: 26 November, 20:15

This film from director Kiro Russo, true to the festival, defies easy explanation, blending the real and the fantastical in order to paint a hypnotic portrait of working class life in the city of La Paz, Bolivia. Utilising everything from dance sequences to non-professional actors, it tells a very contemporary story with the air of the strangest dream (get tickets).

 

Dirty Feathers

When it's on: 26 November, 20:15

This debut feature from Carlos Alfonso Corral sets out to grapple with the homeless experience in his hometown of El Paso, Texas. Documentaries about homeless people can, at times, take on the air of the exploitative, though that isn't the case here. Told with real empathy, in collaboration with his subjects, it's a moving chronicle of a painful epidemic (get tickets).

 

Il Palazzo

When it's on: 27 November, 17:30

Il Palazzo, a condo in the heart of Rome, serves as meeting place for artists, dreamers, and procrastinators to spend their days. Following the death of one of its key members, filmmaker Federica Di Giacomo turns her camera on a community she was once part of, at time of crucial change, meditating on the artistic process, crushed dreams, and the spirit of community (get tickets).

Bulletproof

When it's on: 28 November, 18:15

This work from filmmaker Todd Chandler is about American gun violence, and yet it finds a unique approach into the subject matter, looking at the daily preparations, rituals and lockdowns that take place in US schools on a daily basis, and the industries that now profit from the collective fear of gun violence All to ask: how did we get here?  (get tickets).

 

I'm So Sorry

When it's on: 1 December, 18:15

Filmmaker Zhao Liang returns to sites of tragedy for this insightful and poetic work about the spectre of nuclear fallout. It serves as both a requiem for the disasters at both Chernobyl and Fukushima, while serving as a warning – and an apology – to future generations who are living in the shadows of such catastrophes (get tickets).

 

The Last Shelter

When it's on: 1 December, 20:15

Ousmane Zoromé Samassékou's film finds it subject in the “House of Migrants,” a waystation located on the edge of the Sahara. It's here that those entering or returning from the vast and uncompromising desert can take refuge, making it the perfect focus for a fly-on-the-wall documentary about the modern migrant experience and the dreams that go with it (get tickets).

 

To the Moon

When it's on: 2 December, 20:15

Tadhg O’Sullivan's evocative, poetic film serves as a beautiful and enrapturing ode to the Moon, blending archive footage with specially-shot landscapes as to highlight the ways in which our lives are all connected by its lunar cycles. And of course, there is a sequence soundtracked to Debussy's timeless piece “Clair de Lune” (get tickets).

 

The Tale of King Crab

When it's on: 4 December, 20:15

The title of this one alone is enough to warrant a viewing. The festival's Closing Film is a metafiction that begins in Italy, described as a “modern-realist picaresque novel.” It hones in on a drunken outsider, tracking his exile from a small village to the South American mainland in search of treasure. The result is a playful, mysterious migrant tale that's impossible to pin down (get tickets).

Frames of Representation 2021 runs from 25 November to 4 December. For more information, visit the official site.

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Reviews

Sharp Stick review – Lena Dunham coming-of-ager leans on lowbrow hijinks

The Girls creator's second film as writer-director is oddly impersonal, devoid of the smart observations that made her famous

Living review – miraculous remake of a Japanese masterpiece

Bill Nighy gives one of his greatest performances in this beautiful and emotionally ripe redo of Akira Kurosawa's 1952 classic Ikiru

Amulet review – Romola Garai’s elegant slow-burn horror

Sickly, beautiful, though somewhat slight, this debut feature from the actor-turned-director works familiar tropes in an effective way

Parallel Mothers review – uneven but compelling melodrama of birth and death

Pedro Almodóvar's latest feels minor in comparison to his best works, but it's still often irresistibly soapy and colourful