Sight & Sound: the Summer 2020 issue

Our bumper anime special issue takes flight with cover star Totoro and a soaring survey of the triumphs of Japanese animation, including 50 key titles from Akira to Your Name. Plus the Covid-19 lockdown diaries of filmmakers including Pedro Almodóvar and Roger Corman, and the reactions of leading figures across the British film industry; reflections on public information films past and present; Spike Lee on Da 5 Bloods; Netflix drama Ozark; and reviews of the latest films and TV series.

Updated: 6 January 2021

Sight and Sound
Sight & Sound Summer 2020 issue

Our bumper anime special issue takes flight with cover star Totoro and a soaring survey of the triumphs of Japanese animation. Sixteen anime experts help us choose 50 key anime titles to open up this world of riches, and we investigate how anime developed into a global powerhouse, its thriving world of small-screen series and franchises, the stories of its female artists and Japan’s independent animators, and the prospects for anime in a globalised world.

Also in this issue: the Covid-19 lockdown diaries of filmmakers including Pedro Almodóvar and Roger Corman, and the reactions of leading figures across the British film industry; a look at public information films past and present; an interview with Spike Lee on Da 5 Bloods; David Thomson peruses Netflix drama Ozark; and reviews of the latest films, TV series, Blu-rays, DVD and film books.

Anime special features

50 essential films

The Anime Special section in Sight & Sound Summer 2020

From the breakthrough of Akira in 1988 through the exquisite films of Miyazaki Hayao to the recent blockbuster Your Name, Japanese animation has captivated audiences around the world. But anime’s history runs deeper still. Here we select 50 titles that celebrate its full, fascinating riches. [[embed type­link nid=63481 title=”Introduced by Nick Bradshaw”]].

+ Back to square one: the seeds of anime

The international anime phenomenon was fired in a Japanese crucible of changing technology, financing and demographics in the years after World War II. By Jonathan Clements.

+ Parallel lines: independent animation

Far from the commercial mainstream, Japanese animators have been experimenting with the form since the early years of cinema – an eclectic tradition that’s still thriving. By Jasper Sharp.

50 key anime in Sight & Sound Summer 2020

+ A show of hands: women and anime

The scarcity of women at the highest levels in Japanese animation has traditionally left female characters at the mercy of male preconceptions and fantasies – a state of affairs a new generation is eager to draw to a close, writes Serena Scateni.

+ Tick tick… boom: anime goes global

With Japan’s anime market close to saturation and its global fanbase continuing to expand, canny producers are creating works with an increasingly international flavour, writes Alex Dudok de Wit.

50 key anime in Sight & Sound Summer 2020

+ TV trailblazers: strength in numbers

The small screen is where anime began and where it made its greatest impact, building the franchises that support the art and the industry. By Helen McCarthy.

+ Public anime: where to learn more

Your heart’s content of anime books, podcasts, websites and blogs.

More features

Ozark Season 3 in Sight & Sound Summer 2020

In Ozark

The Netflix drama Ozark plunges its lead family into a spiralling nightmare as they try to pay off a debt to a Mexican drug cartel in the backwaters of Missouri. But more than just a bracing thriller, it’s a sweeping portrait of a society and its engines, writes David Thomson.

+ “Never judge your character”

Ozark star Julia Garner talks to Kaleem Aftab.

Spike Lee on Da 5 Bloods

Blood ties

Spike Lee negotiates landmines, snakes and a stash of buried loot as he reflects on the legacy of the Vietnam War in his action-adventure tale Da 5 Bloods. Here he talks to Christina Newland about taking stock of the experience of black American soldiers during the conflict and his determination to humanise the traditional demons of Hollywood cinema, the North Vietnamese.

+ Spoils of war

Vietnam veterans on screen.

The Central Office of Information’s films featured in Sight & Sound Summer 2020

Get the message

The Covid-19 crisis has revived discussion about the role of public information films – films produced by the Central Office of Information, until its closure in 2011. As the BFI releases a new Blu-ray collection of the best of the COI’s output, Robert Hanks looks back over the history of the agency, and asks what their films have to teach us in our present moment.



The new normal


Our Rushes section

Filmmaker lockdown diaries

#1: Pedro Almodóvar

The great Spanish director records the raptures and griefs of life in lockdown.

Almodóvar’s 11 films for quarantine cheer

#2: Jia Zhangke

In China, the director of A Touch of Sin contemplates the new reality with the help of ancient thoughts.

#3: Roger Corman

At 94, the master of cult cinema is down to working on just three films at once due to the pandemic.

Corman’s lockdown movie album

#4: Athina Rachel Tsangari

Is seclusion a childhood dream come true or a trap? The director of Chevalier and Trigonometry still doesn’t know which.

How Athina Rachel Tsangari is keeping busy

#5: Kirsten Johnson

The cinematographer and director on the ‘long middle’ – the part of a shoot when you’re waiting for an ending to show up.

Our Rushes section

Lockdown lessons: coping with Covid-19

With the Covid-19 pandemic shutting down the film industry, we surveyed a range of organisations to gauge the impact on film culture in the UK, and to learn what the future holds. Interviews by Trevor Johnston and Isabel Stevens with:

  • Kelly Jeffs, CEO, Light House, Wolverhampton
  • Susannah Shaw, CEO, Curzon Community Cinema, Clevedon, Somerset
  • David Evans, Rex Cinema, Wareham, Dorset
  • Holli Keeble, Tyneside Cinema
  • Ben Luxford, BFI Audiences Fund
  • Ben Roberts, BFI CEO
  • Georgia Stride, Film Hub Scotland
  • Clare Binns, Picturehouse Cinemas
  • Catharine Des Forges, Independent Cinema Office
  • Cíntia Gil, Sheffield Doc/Fest
  • Katharine Ford, The Cinema Museum, London
  • Eve Gabereau, Modern Films
  • Mehelli Modi, Second Run DVD
  • Joy Gharoro-Akpojotor, Producer
  • Charlotte Tillieux, Mubi
  • Angela Doane, BFI director of collections

The numbers: digital releasing

Lockdown has transformed the video-on-demand market, but what difference it will make in the long term is anybody’s guess. By Charles Gant.

Interview: Gina Prince-Bythewood

The director of The Old Guard has shown that female-centred, gender-aware kickass action needn’t be a contradiction. By Hanna Flint.

Dream palaces: Neues Off, Berlin

The director Christian Petzold recalls the snowy night in West Berlin when Michael Cimino’s The Deer Hunter taught him to love cinema.

Interview: Oliver Hermanus

Skin colour wasn’t the only marker of difference weaponised for repression under apartheid, as South African film Moffie reveals. By Ben Walters.

Wide angle

Our Wide Angle section

Primal screen: Enfant terribles

The early decades of cinema were littered with films about hilarious, unrespectable women, and at last they are being rediscovered. By Bryony Dixon.

Eight films featuring some ​of the worst-behaved women in silent film

Profile: The music of silence

The wordless dream logic of Maya Deren’s films can transport an audience to places language can’t reach. By Tamsin Cleary. 

Revival: Funeral Parade of Roses

Matsumoto Toshio’s Tokyo-set retelling of the Oedipus myth blurs, bends and shatters genders and genres. By Julian Ross.

Restoration: A dance to the music of time

At a time when the world has slowed down and the boundaries of community are being tested, Béla Tarr’s masterpiece Sátántangó has traction. By Jonathan Romney,


Our Reviews section

Film of the month

plus reviews of 

  • Ava
  • Beastie Boys Story
  • Casting
  • Coincoin and the Extra Humans
  • The County
  • Days of the Bagnold Summer
  • Dreamland
  • Echo in the Canyon
  • Extraction
  • Fanny Lye Deliver’d
  • Infinite Football
  • Joan of Arc
  • The Orphanage
  • A Rainy Day in New York
  • Selah and the Spades
  • Take Me Somewhere Nice
  • Tigertail
  • The Whistlers

Television of the month

Normal People

plus reviews of 

  • Devs
  • The Eddy
  • Hollywood
  • Killing Eve: season 3
  • My Brilliant Friend
  • Ozark: season 3
  • Quiz
  • Unorthodox
  • Upload

Home cinema features

Our Home Cinema section

Cautionary tales: Forbidden Fruit – The Golden Age of the Exploitation Picture

The titillating exploitation films of the 1930s and 40s offer us rare glimpses of an America not sanitised by Hollywood decorum. By Nick Pinkerton.

Rediscovery: It Couldn’t Happen Here

Charged with making a film to publicise their new album, the Pet Shop Boys instead conjured up a quaint, quixotic folly. By Sukhdev Sandhu.

Rediscovery: Phobia

Long seen as a low point in John Huston’s career, Phobia emerges as a testament to the financial pull of Canadian tax incentives. By Tony Rayns.

Revival: Dance, Girl, Dance

How a romantic comedy in trouble became a landmark film about how women live with the male gaze. By Pamela Hutchinson.

Lost and found: Unman, Wittering and Zigo

Fragile masculinity, a rigid class system and conscience-free public schoolboys – Giles Cooper’s creepy drama evokes a lost world. By Andrew Nette.

Archive television

Robert Hanks on The Year of the Sex Olympics

Streaming: international rescue

Film archives of the world, now online

plus reviews of

Antonio Gaudí
Beat the Devil
Beyond Therapy
Buster Keaton: 3 Films Volume 2
Cyrano de Bergerac
The Elephant Man
Pink Films Vol. 1&2
Secret Friends


Our Books section

Apropos of Nothing by Woody Allen (Arcade Publishing) reviewed by Farran Smith Nehme

Conclusions by John Boorman (Faber & Faber) reviewed by Philip Horne

Sharing a House with the Never-Ending Man: 15 Years at Studio Ghibli by Steve Alpert (Stone Bridge Press) reviewed by Jasper Sharp


  • Missing the cinema experience
  • Reviving cinemas for film, not live theatre
  • Melodrama vs “failed drama”
  • La Haine’s world now
  • La Haine’s Vinz and Saïd, correctly accounted
  • A defence of The Invisible Man
  • Armageddon movies to haunt us now


Our Endings section

Only Yesterday

The close of Takahata Isao’s exquisite 1991 animated tale takes the shape of a Hollywood ending but reins in their usual excesses. By Alex Dudok de Wit.

Originally published: 25 May 2020