By Phil Hall | December 20, 2005

As the year draws to a close and the inevitable silly season of Top 10 lists and movie awards begins anew, Film Threat steps back from celebrating the year’s high-profile, excessively-publicized offerings to pay special tribute to the separate cinema of films which did not get a wide release. Here, from both sides of the spectrum, is the 2005 edition for Film Threat’s listings for the Ten Best and Worst Unseen Films of the Year.


This year, there was an uncommonly strong surplus of films that flew so far under the radar that they went undetected by most people. In order to provide a fair celebration of films that were barely seen by the general public (let alone the cinema elite), more stringent controls were placed on the listing. Wonderful flicks such as The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, The Girl From Monday, Ethan Mao and Mojados: Through the Night may not have enjoyed the depth and scope of exhibition of, say, King Kong, but nonetheless they were seen in some festivals and limited theatrical engagements; all are widely available on DVD, too. In previous years, they would’ve been on the Ten Best Unseen List. But this year, there are many other fine candidates which never got as far as those aforementioned titles in regard to being seen and appreciated. Those films deserve an extra shout out. And those films are:

1. THE LAST EVE Young Man Kang’s brilliant reinterpretation of the Adam and Even legend audaciously imagines the story in an avant-garde triptych spanning the post-apocalypse, a Korean underground fight circuit and the L.A. hedonism orbit. A wealth of stunning imagery, an endlessly original screenplay and a strong ensemble (particularly Chris Torres as the demon Leviathan) makes this an invigorating masterwork.

STATUS: Currently on the festival circuit.

2. MAD COWGIRL Gregory Hatanaka follows up his 2004 triumph “Until the Night” with this stunningly visceral mind f**k about a meat inspector (the amazing Sarah Lassez) who may be dying from mad cow disease? Yet why is her world so violently surreal and emotionally baffling? Are we seeing things through her POV, or is this a dream, or is Hatanaka toying with our senses? Whatever the case, the film is utterly remarkable for its high-octane energy and willingness to take (and win) wild gambles in style and substance.

STATUS: Currently on the festival circuit.

3. THE GREATER CIRCULATION Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Requiem for a Friend” is the foundation for this marvelous drama from underground film legend Antero Alli. The film bifurcates between the tensions surrounding the theatrical staging of Rilke’s work and flashbacks to the pain and suffering which Rilke experienced when creating his classic poem. Not unlike the best of Alli’s films, this production is a marvel of mature emotion and deep wisdom; few films have been able to explore the issues surrounding death with such grace and intelligence.

STATUS: Currently on the festival circuit.

4. WHISKY From Uruguay comes this deceptively simple but endlessly wise comedy from the filmmaking team Juan Pablo Rebella and Pablo Stoll. A none-too-successful sock factory owner gets his loyal secretary to pretend she is his wife in a masquerade to impress his estranged brother, a prosperous businessman living in Brazil. What might have been a silly farce instead becomes an amazingly original meditation on dashed expectations, wobbly perceptions, and the inability to communicate with those closest to us. The film is a symphony of small gestures, throwaway glances, brief exchanges of unexpected observation and silences which actually say more than pages of dialogue, and Mirella Pascual’s richly enigmatic performance as the secretary is an extraordinary work of art.

STATUS: Currently on in limited theatrical and non-theatrical release; expect a DVD release in 2006.

5. MIND GAME Three cheers and a tiger to New York’s Museum of Modern Art for doing something no distributor bothered to do: giving a screen to the year’s best animated feature. Masaaki Yuasa’s wild tale of a slacker who gets a second chance at life after being gunned down during a hold-up is both lunatic and brilliant – a daring mix of diverse styles wrapped around a zany story which encompasses everything from slam-bang car chases to a sojourn into a whale’s stomach to a conversation with a very unusual God. This one has to be seen to be believed.

STATUS: Not playing currently; expect a DVD release in 2006.

6. HOME MADE DAD Baltimore dynamo Jimmy Traynor scores a personal best with this very cute comedy short about a trio of young siblings (Alex, Nechole and Brenton Pak) who alleviate the loneliness caused from their workaholic father’s absence by inventing a robot facsimile of their absent parent. Needless to say, the metallic alternative doesn’t quite function as planned. The Pak siblings are truly adorable and Peechee Neric, who co-helmed the film with Traynor, is hilarious in a cameo role as a too-lazy babysitter.

STATUS: Currently on the festival circuit.

7. WHO GETS TO CALL IT ART? Peter Rosen’s magnificent documentary details the evolution of America’s modern art scene and how it came together thanks in large part to Henry Geldzahler, a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. Using rare footage and spiced with interviews of the royalty of the art world, this fascinating feature is a tribute to one man’s mania for individual artistic _expression and his ability to share his enthusiasm with the world. This is a must-see for anyone with a passion for the arts.

STATUS: To be released theatrically in February.

8. CHRIS JALALI: THE REAL ME The idea of sitting through a three-hour documentary on an unknown bodybuilder may not seem stimulating, but there’s a major surprise to be found in Joe Lobell’s study of 22-year-old up-and-coming muscle star Chris Jalali. Shot over a four-year period, the documentary details Jalali’s intensive workout regimens, follows his seemingly ephemeral spin on the competitive stage, and goes into surprising depth about his artistic talents – complete with an unexpected exhibition of his paintings. Not unlike its subject, the film is quirky and entertaining.

STATUS: Available on DVD from

9. THE BEST OF THE RICKY MESTRE SHOW This collection of sketches from a Connecticut public access program is among the funniest productions released this year. Ricky Mestre, backed by a madcap ensemble of gifted comic actors, wickedly lampoons popular culture icons and pokes fun at his own alleged egomania with a skein of genuinely laugh-out-loud entertainment. Why can’t more independently produced comedy be this hilarious?

STATUS: Available on DVD from Musical Fish Productions.

10. AND I LIVED First-time filmmaker Ryan Dacko took the very-familiar “Romeo and Juliet” storyline and updated it to a suburban high school setting. What might have been retreading on well-worn ground is, under Dacko’s imaginative direction, refreshing in its sincerity and scope (the tale has been updated to make the chasm an economic gap between rich kids and working class youth). The gifted young ensemble cast is wonderful and Dacko’s screenplay and direction hits all of the correct emotional buttons.

STATUS: Currently on the festival circuit.

HONORABLE MENTION: David Giardina evoked Val Lewton’s style with his wonderfully creepy Taffy Was Born; Matt Zoller Seitz brought a meeting of minds and manners (both good and bad) to a memorable dinner party in “Home”; funnymen Ryan Ondreizek and Jeremy Mongillo wickedly parodied educational films in their hilarious Living Healthy and Safely – The Safety Video; Ian Allen served up a delightfully campy remake of the silent propaganda kitsch Trapped by the Mormons; Michael Joshua gave the search for love a smart twist in With Nobody; Paula Heil Fisher’s operatic documentary Fighting Eleazar hit all of the right notes; and the kaiju genre got a thoroughly vulgar send-up in the tastelessly funny adult film Giant Muscle Matt: A Superior Force!

The story continues in part two of THE TEN BEST/WORST UNSEEN FILMS OF 2005>>>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join our Film Threat Newsletter

Newsletter Icon
Skip to toolbar