Hello, and welcome to another edition of the Ford On Film Awards 2020, where I’m crowning the Best Director of the year. Alejandro Landes took home the prize in 2019 for his Herzogian descent into the jungle Monos. In a year where lots of directors saw projects delayed, many of my favourite directors of the year first released their films in the US in 2019, before coronavirus killed the film industry. However, there have been a few trailblazers and heroes in the Covid-19 era. From creative newcomers directing over Zoom to old favourites returning with a bag of new tricks, 2020 has offered emerging and returning directors the chance to show their skills. As with every award this year, contenders are listed alphabetically and the winner is down below. Here are my picks for Best Director of 2020.
2020 was an excellent year for horror . Brandon Cronenberg lives up to his father’s reputation with the haunting Possessor, while Leigh Whannell uses wide spaces and terrific visual FX to terrifying effect in the excellent The Invisible Man. Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series offers many bold, powerful stories of black history in the United Kingdom, but his most immersive and impressive effort is depicting the joyous, raucous reggae party of Lovers Rock. Perhaps the most visually striking film of the year is Hylnur Palmason’s desolate, eerie A White, White Day, which captures the misty, ominous surroundings of a small Icelandic town in slow-burning detail. Finally, Christopher Nolan would be a winner in any other year for his crazy blockbuster direction on Tenet, but given he’s also disappeared up his own arse, he’s only getting an honourable mention.
Celina Sciamma – Portrait of a Lady on Fire
Celina Sciamma has made great films before, but Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a titanic leap forward for the French filmmaker. Setting the film on a gorgeous remote landscape provides Sciamma with plenty of beautiful images, but it’s in the delicate, restrained performances of her two lead actresses that Sciamma creates fireworks. The final shot of the film, an unbroken take of Adele Hanael watching a classical performance, is among the greatest endings to any film this year.