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Eight films to watch in February

  • The Wind Rises

    The Wind Rises is written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki, whose Spirited Away won an Oscar. The Japanese animator has announced this will be his final feature film. A fictionalised biography of Jiro Horikoshi, who designed the Zero fighter plane used by Japan in World War II, the animated historical fantasy attracted controversy in Japan, with some viewers labelling it the work of a “traitor”. The first Miyazaki film to be centred on an historical figure and real events, it is short on the whimsy for which he’s known. Released 20 February in Russia, 21 February in the US and 6 March in New Zealand.

  • Omar

    Nominated for this year’s Oscar for best foreign language film, this Palestinian drama is both a thriller and love story set against the backdrop of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It is directed by Hany Abu-Assad, who earned an Academy Award nomination for his controversial 2005 film Paradise Now which depicted the recruitment and training of two suicide bombers. Omar features amateur actors and follows a young Palestinian man trying to evade Israeli security services while earning the love of his girlfriend. Released 21 February in the US.

  • RoboCop

    Facing criticism from fans of Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 original, this remake of the violent thriller is directed by Brazilian director José Padilha, who carried off the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival in 2008 for Elite Squad. Set in 2028 Detroit, it stars Joel Kinnaman (The Killing, Safe House) as the part-human, part-robot police officer alongside Gary Oldman and Michael Keaton. Released 5 February in France, 6 February in Australia and 12 February in the US.

  • The Monuments Men

    A Dirty Dozen for art historians: George Clooney co-wrote and directed this WWII movie based on a true story, in which he stars as the man who puts together a mission to rescue works of art stolen by the Nazis. The team of curators and architects who are dropped into occupied territory includes Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman and Hugh Bonneville, while Cate Blanchett also appears as a French Resistance operative. Released 7 February in the US, 14 February in Sweden and 20 February in Singapore.

  • Last of the Unjust

    Claude Lanzmann left someone out of his landmark, nine-and-a-half-hour film Shoah. The 1985 documentary, which eschewed historical footage for first-hand testimony, did not feature the controversial figure Benjamin Murmelstein. He was the last president of the Jewish Council at Theresienstadt, the ‘model’ concentration camp used by the Nazis to disguise the nature of the Holocaust, and he spoke to Lanzmann on camera for the first time in 1975. If Lanzmann had included Murmelstein’s testimony, he told The Guardian, “Shoah would have had to be 20 hours long.” Lanzmann’s 1975 interviews with the man who called himself “the last of the unjust” are woven with visits to the sites that marked Murmelstein’s wartime experiences in this documentary. Released 30 January in Israel and 7 February in the US.

  • Labor Day

    Jason Reitman (Juno, Up in the Air, Thank you for Smoking) directs Josh Brolin as an escaped prisoner who takes shelter in Kate Winslett’s home. Labor Day is based on a novel by Joyce Maynard, who submitted her manuscript to publishers under an anonymous identity after her 2008 memoir sparked controversy (it revealed details of a relationship with JD Salinger when she was 18 and he 53). Released 31 January in the US, 6 February in Australia and 13 February in Portugal.

  • Child’s Pose

    The winner of the Golden Bear at the 2013 Berlin Film Festival, this study of one mother’s obsessive love blurs the lines between compassion and self-deception. Cornelia (Luminiţa Gheorghiu) tries to keep her son out of jail after his reckless driving kills a child. Both a psychological drama and a comment on post-Ceaușescu Romania, as Cornelia attempts to bribe her way out of trouble, this is the latest film in the Romanian New Wave to win over critics and film festival juries. Released 5 February in Belgium, 19 February in the US and 7 March in Poland.

  • The Lunchbox

    Winner of the Critics Week Viewers Choice Award at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival, this is a feelgood love story enabled by Mumbai’s incredible system for delivering lunchboxes to the city’s workers. Lonely housewife Ila (Nimrat Kaur) sends a tiffin box by courier to her disinterested husband, but it ends up at the desk of Sajaan, played by Irrfan Khan (Life of Pi). Played out through notes hidden in the box, their romance was a hit at the Indian box office; there was an outcry when the film was not chosen as the country’s Foreign Language Oscar entry. Released 14 February in Poland and 28 February in the US.

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