Rafa Sales Ross

Freelance Critic & Programmer

Voted for

Limite1931Mário Peixoto
Ikiru1952Akira Kurosawa
Titicut Follies1967Frederick Wiseman
Harold and Maude1971Hal Ashby
Ordinary People1980Robert Redford
Taste of Cherry1997Abbas Kiarostami
Y TU MAMÁ TAMBIÉN2001Alfonso Cuarón
The City of God2002Fernando Meirelles
Melancholia2011Lars von Trier


Last year, Brazilian filmmaker Kléber Mendonça Filho made a plea at the Cannes Film Festival where he was part of the jury: the Brazilian Cinematheque was in danger at the hands of Bolsonaro – more needed to be done in order to preserve the country's cinematic history. Mere days later, the filmmaker's warning became a pained premonition as flames engulfed the Cinematheque.

As the country's government allowed for culture to be literally burned to the ground, Brazilian cinema took the form of a rising phoenix. New voices emerged from the ashes, such as Iuli Gerbase, Madiano Marchetti and Flávia Neves, and experienced filmmakers employed politics to create modern masterpieces, as was the case with Filho and his 2019 genre-bending Bacurau (co-directed by Juliano Dornelles). As I lay awake, restlessly worrying about the future of Brazilian cinema, artists went to work. Cinema resisted. And it will continue to resist.

Art often flourishes under threat. It prods wounds, making them bleed in order to expedite recovery. Art changes you. Moulds you. Makes you.

This thought has guided me over the last few weeks as I rummaged through memories to choose the ten films from this list. Every single one of them has bifurcated my life and contributed to my understanding of cinema as an art form. Being able to cast a vote for each of them is an honour I dare not take lightly.

As my runner-up list expanded, I became giddily aware of how much greatness is out there. How some of the most beautiful moments of my life have been punctuated by films. I imagine this to also be the case for my fellow voters, who, like me, have probably spent hours and hours tweaking their lists. These hours in agony and joy unite us all – as does cinema. What a lovely thing.