Sight and Sound reveal end of year poll winners

Sight and Sound, the BFI’s international film magazine, today announces that Joanna Hogg’s THE SOUVENIR PART II has been chosen as the Best Film of the Year. Hogg’s glorious follow up to THE SOUVENIR (2019) stars Honor Swinton Byrne, alongside Richard Ayoade, Tilda Swinton, Jaygann Ayeh and Harris Dickinson in this semi-autobiographical portrait of the birth of a filmmaker.

This bittersweet film, rich with Hogg’s typically incisive understanding of people, was developed and produced with the support of the BFI Film Fund using funds from the National Lottery and premiered at this year’s BFI London Film Festival to wide acclaim. This is the second time Joanna Hogg has topped the Sight and Sound annual poll, following THE SOUVENIR coming in first place in 2019 and the first time a woman has topped the Sight and Sound poll twice. It is also a great time for British film, with this being the third year in a row where the poll has been topped by a British film.

Also revealed today is Sight and Sound’s Best TV Series of the Year, the poll for which has been topped by Russell T Davies’ heartbreaking and poignant series IT’S A SIN (Channel 4). Starring an incredible ensemble case that includes Olly Alexander, Callum Scott Howells, Lydia West, Omari Douglas, Nathaniel Curtis, Keeley Hawes and Neil Patrick Harris, IT’S A SIN follows the story of AIDS in the 1980s, and charts the joy and heartbreak of a group of friends across a decade in which everything changed. Both the film and TV polls have been voted for by film and TV critics, programmers and academics who contribute to Sight and Sound.

Sight and Sound Editor in Chief Mike Williams said: “Congratulations to Joanna Hogg for topping our poll for a second time, becoming the first female director to do that. The list that she heads is wide-ranging and colourfully international, and it’s exciting to see such a plurality of voices being represented – proof if it were needed that while the pandemic may have impacted on the way we watch films, it’s not dimmed the brilliance of the people that make them. The Souvenir Part II is a powerful and personal film about the art, love and struggle of filmmaking as much as a story about grief and identity, and in a year where so much talk has been about the struggles and recoveries of the industry, its victory feels particularly apt.”

Second place in this year’s film poll is Céline Sciamma’s PETITE MAMAN,amysterious and delicate exploration of childhood and grief which follows eight-year-old Nelly as she deals with the death of her grandmother and befriends a little girl in a nearby forest. The first of two entries in this year’s top ten for director Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, DRIVE MY CAR comes in third place; this beautiful and haunting melodrama of grief and secrets is based on a short story of the same name by Haruki Murakami and won the awards for Best Screenplay and the FIPRESCI Prize at Cannes. Hamaguchi’striptych that centres on three women in seemingly disparate tales of coincidence, WHEEL OF FORTUNE AND FANTASY rounds out the top ten. Julia Ducournau’s TITANE comes in fifth place in this year’s poll – this twisted exploration of avant-garde body-horror became only the second film directed by a women to win the Palme d’Or, following Jane Campion, who won for THE PIANO in 1993; Campion’s latest film THE POWER OF THE DOG, which premiered at this year’s BFI London Film Festival takes sixth place.

Winner of the FIPRESCI Prize at Berlin, Georgian filmmaker Aleksandre Koberidze’s second feature WHAT DO WE SEE WHEN WE LOOK AT THE SKY? appears in seventh place; this romantic fable follows Lisa and Giorgi, who after a pair of chance encounters, find their plans for a date undone when they both awaken magically transformed, with no way to recognise or contact each other. In eighth place is the sole documentary in this year’s top ten, SUMMER OF SOUL (…OR, WHEN THE REVOLUTION COULD NOT BE TELEVISED), the directorial debut of musician, songwriter and producer, Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, which won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at Sundance. Using largely forgotten footage filmed in 1969, SUMMER OF SOUL is part music film, part historical record, created during the Harlem Cultural Festival, an epic event that celebrated Black history, culture and fashion, and featured concert performances by Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Gladys Knight & the Pips and many others. English language debut’s from Leos Carax and  Apichatpong Weerasethakul both make the top ten this year, with Weerasethakul’s Cannes Jury Prize-winning MEMORIA starring Tilda Swinton in fourth place, and Carax’s strange and beguiling musical, ANNETTE, which features a script and music by Ron and Russell Mael of Sparks, in ninth place.

After last year’s poll featured much fewer foreign-language films than usual (perhaps reflecting fewer opportunities for critics to see a broad-range of foreign-language films at festivals in 2020), the 2021 poll has seen a reversal of that shift. There are a wealth of films from international talent in the top ten, including 5 non-English language films and a further 2 films from stalwarts of world cinema making their English language debuts. The return of the festival circuit after over a year of lockdowns and uncertainty has once again allowed critics to see a huge variety of work, with many films that took top prizes at Festivals such as Cannes, Berlin, Sundance and Venice making it into the top ten. It is not surprising that the pandemic’s impact can also be felt in the subject matter this year’s top three, with THE SOUVENIR PART II, PETITE MAMAN and DRIVE MY CAR all dealing with grief.

Sight and Sound’s Best Films of the Year sees over 100 international critics, programmers and academics who contribute to the magazine voting for their top ten films from the year. The full results are available online today and the full Top 50 is published in Sight and Sound’s Winter issue, available digitally on Monday 6 December and on newsstands from Thursday 9 December.

Also revealed in the new edition of the magazine are Sight and Sound’s Best TV Series of 2021. Top of the TV Series poll is the poignant creation from Russell T. Davies, IT’S A SIN (BBC) followed by THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD (AMAZON PRIME) created and directed by visionary director Barry Jenkins and based on the 2016 Pulitzer Prize winning novel of the same name by Colson Whitehead. Rounding out the top three is MARE OF EASTTOWN (HBO) featuring a transformative performance from Kate Winslet as a Philadelphia police detective investigating the recent murder of a teenage mother. Further Best of 2021 lists revealed in the Winter issue of Sight and Sound include Blu-ray and DVD Releases of the Year and Books of the Year.

Sight and Sound’s top 10 films of 2021 are:

1.       THE SOUVENIR PART II (Dir. Joanna Hogg)

2.       PETITE MAMAN (Dir. Céline Sciamma)

3.       DRIVE MY CAR (Dir. Ryûsuke Hamaguchi)

4.       MEMORIA (Dir. Apichatpong Weerasethakul)

5.       TITANE (Dir. Julia Ducournau)

6.       THE POWER OF THE DOG (Dir. Jane Campion)

7.       WHAT DO WE SEE WHEN WE LOOK AT THE SKY? (Dir. Aleksandre Koberidze)

8.       SUMMER OF SOUL (…OR, WHEN THE REVOLUTION COULD NOT BE TELEVISED) (Dir. Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson)

9.       ANNETTE (Dir. Leos Carax)

10.   WHEEL OF FORTUNE AND FANTASY (Dir. Ryûsuke Hamaguchi)

Written and directed by Joanna Hogg, THE SOUVENIR PART II features stunning performances by Honor Swinton Byrne, Tilda Swinton, Jaygann Ayeh, Harris Dickinson, Ariane Labed and Richard Ayoade. The film comes full circle as Hogg’s predecessor THE SOUVENIR which was also developed and produced with the support of the BFI Film Fund using funds from the National Lottery topped the Sight and Sound’s Best Film of the Year in 2019.

Sight and Sound’s top 10 TV Series of 2021 are:

1.       IT’S A SIN (Channel 4)

2.       THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD (AMAZON PRIME)

3.       MARE OF EASTTOWN (HBO)

4.       THE NORTH WATER (BBC)

5.       TIME (BBC)

6.       SUCCESSION Season 3 (HBO)

7.       THE WHITE LOTUS (HBO)

8.       SQUID GAME (Netflix)

9.       WANDAVISION (DISNEY+)

10.   ONLY MURDERS IN THE BUILDING (HULU / DISNEY+)

IT’S A SIN was created by acclaimed writer Russell T Davies and portrayed an evocative, personal time capsule of an 1980s London beset by the AIDS crisis. Featuring powerful performances from the entire cast including Olly Alexander, Keeley Hawes, Omari Douglas and Lydia West, the show was a poignant and important love letter to 1980s gay culture.