Matangi/Maya/M.I.A (dir. Steve Loveridge)

Featuring a wealth of personal footage from throughout M.I.A's life, Matangi/Maya/M.I.A is an absorbing portrait of a pop star who changed the game with her unflinching and controversial politics. Charting everything from her refugee childhood to being sued by the NFL, the doco is furiously alive with M.I.A's unwavering spirit, and makes excellent use of her thrilling, worldly music.

Zama (dir. Lucrecia Martel)

Gently unfolding the story of a Spanish colonial captain stranded in a purgatorial South American town, this gently surreal, impossibly lush existential nightmare is almost punishingly languorous, but the rewards are many for those who vibe with its peculiar rhythms. A fascinating examination of crumbling masculinity wrapped in some truly wondrous cinematography.

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We the Animals (dir. Jeremiah Zagar)

A free-spirited tale of boyhood centred on Jonah, a Puerto Rican child who forges a different identity to the hardened exteriors of his brothers and father. Though beautifully rendered on 16mm film, the largely plotless narrative relies a little too heavily on dazzling visual tricks – but eventually evolves into a cathartic coming-of-age tale by the third act.

Woman at War (dir. Benedikt Erlingsson)

A delightfully odd crowd-pleaser that occasionally overdoses on quirkiness, the film focuses on eco-warrior and total badass Halla as her plans to destroy an electrical grid are upset when a child unexpectedly comes into her life. Frequently hilarious, the film commendably never loses sight of what is at stake, hammered home in an arresting final image.

The Harvesters (dir. Etienne Kallos)

A brooding slow-burner, The Harvesters' tale of family ties and brotherly rivalry is perhaps a little too gloomy for its own good. The themes of toxic masculinity and societal roles start strong, and lead actor Brent Vermeulen is hypnotically good – but the film's power is slightly diluted by its muddled narrative.

Island of the Hungry Ghosts (dir. Gabrielle Brady)

Harrowing and astonishingly beautiful, this Australian documentary draws parallels between the Christmas Island asylum-seeking prisoners and the island's massive population of migratory crabs. Poetic and impressionistic, this is urgent, angry filmmaking that reaches for something transcendent in its exploration of the conflict between precarious, precious nature and deeply human evil.

Transit (dir. Christian Petzold)

The filmmaker behind modern classics Barbara and Phoenix returns to perhaps too-familiar territory with this story of a Jewish man evading Nazi forces awaiting a passport to safer territories in seaside Marseilles. Evoking Casablanca, this tragic romance is gorgeous to look at and often thrilling, its central gimmick of telling a historical story in the modern day paying off surprisingly well.

Holiday (dir. Isabella Eklof)

Daring in both design and execution, this story of a young woman who embarks on a seaside holiday with an abusive gangster is not for the faint of heart. Posing thorny questions that confront ideas of complicity and masochism, Holiday features several shockingly graphic sequences broken up by outwardly glossy cinematography. This one sticks with you.