10 Favourite Films for the Sight & Sound Directors' Greatest Films Poll 2012

Laura WaddingtonDirectors Poll, Sight & Sound Film Magazine, BFI, London, UK, 2012.

In response to the request:

“Every ten years Sight & Sound magazine conducts a poll of the world’s finest film directors to find out the Ten Greatest Films of All Time … I would like to invite you to take part in the 2012 poll … Please draw up a list of ten films only, in order of preference or, if you’d rather, alphabetically … As for what we mean by ‘Greatest’, we leave that open to your interpretation. You might choose the ten films you feel are most important to film history, or the ten that represent the aesthetic pinnacles of achievement, or indeed the ten films that have had the biggest impact on your own view of cinema … we also invite you to add a short commentary explaining your choices …”

Man with a Movie Camera by Dziga Vertov (1929)
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp by Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger (1943)
When a Woman Ascends the Stairs by Mikio Naruse (1960)
The House is Black by Forough Farrokhzad (1962)
Gertrud by Carl Theodor Dreyer (1964)
The Sorrow and the Pity by Marcel Ophuls (1969)
79 Primaveras by Santiago Alvarez (1969)
Salo or the 120 Days of Sodom by Pier Paolo Pasolini (1975)
Yol by Serif Goren & Yilmaz Guney (1982)
The Ditch by Wang Bing (2010)


They say that Vertov became a bitter man. However when I watch Man with a Movie Camera, what I see is his amazing faith in cinema – that of a genius determined to bring images to his people. 
Sitting on the ground in the pouring rain, an Afghan man who had lost everything, spoke to me of his love for the poetry and the courage of Forough Farrokhzad. 
All over Turkey when I mentioned my love of Yilmaz Guney’s films eyes lit up and hearts opened; they spoke about him as a hero. 
Naruse’s portrait of the hostess Keiko and Dreyer’s Gertrud communicated more to me about being a woman than any woman ever has. 
Santiago Alvarez’s revolutionary energy burst everything open. 
The discovery of Pasolini at nineteen changed the course of my life. He foresaw our present; I read his words like messages from a prophet. 
Michael Powell and Emerich Pressburger’s films are the only thing to have made me love my country. 
I worry about Europe when men like Marcel Ophuls will no longer be around. His polyglot, intransigent mind is our conscience and our memory.

When I think about what these filmmakers share, they are “exiles”. Each one confronted their society head on and something in the rhythm of their shots or the way they filmed a face makes me believe they never turned away or backed down. Poets; stubborn and subversive, they carved out a language, taking nothing for granted. Their films taught me about freedom, love of life, resistance, betrayal, horror… and explode the notion that to be political a work must be above aesthetics; a vision separate from form. Among them, I barely dare see Salo again. The few times I watched it, were followed by weeks of deep depression. But how often do you encounter a work so terrifying it throws everything into question?

I thought that cinema was exhausted. Then, in a Chinese desert, Wang Bing showed, by shifting things very slightly, that all is reinvented.

(Laura Waddington, June 2012)
The 2012 Sight & Sound Directors’ Top Ten

The 2012 Sight & Sound Critics’ Poll Top 50 Films of all time