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Doc Filmmaker Havana Marking’s Top Ten Films of All Time

This month, Havana Marking (the documentary filmmaker behind Afghan Star – Zeitgeist Films 06/26/2009) gave us her list (in alphabetical order). We present Havana Marking’s Top Ten Films of All Time as of June 2009.

Have you ever wondered what are the films that inspire the next generation of filmmakers? As part of our monthly IONCINEPHILE profile (interview with filmmaker with an upcoming theatrical release), we ask the filmmaker the incredibly arduous task of identifying their Top Ten list of All Time Films. This month, Havana Marking (the documentary filmmaker behind Afghan Star – Zeitgeist Films 06/26/2009) gave us her list (in alphabetical order). We present Havana Marking’s Top Ten Films of All Time as of June 2009.

Bio: Afghan Star is Havana Marking’s first feature documentary, shot over the 4 months in Kabul. She has produced TV docs (both factual entertainment and one-off polemics) for over 10 years now, although directing is relatively new to her: before AS she directed The Crippendales (2007)– a 30min film about the first troupe of disabled strippers winning the Channel 4@Sheffield scheme for New Talent.

Etre at Avoir – Nicholas Philibert
The most gentle and sensitive of contemporary documentaries. It proves that if the filmmaker is good enough, you don’t need violence, sex or hatred to make a compelling film. This film is engrossing, spellbinding and utterly lovely.

Grey Gardens – Maysles Brothers
It’s all about character. Whatever the story, whatever the drama, wherever the place it’s the documentary character that matters. The Edies in this film are so extraordinary, so wonderful and so mad you can’t not be affected. The Maysles brother’s style of both observing and engaging with them is naturally how I make films too.

La Haine – Mathieu Kassovitz
I was stunned when I saw this in 1995. The visual style, the use of music and the young brilliant angry actors. It was about injustice of race, poverty, contemporary life. It was furious and it meant something.

Hold Me Tight, Let Me Go – Kim Longinotto
Not just this film – all Kim’s films. She is the most inspiring of filmmakers in the British Documentary industry. I probably would have given up if I hadn’t seen Kim make stunningly moving films, be successful and still be a nice person.

In the Mood for Love – Wong Kar Wai
Beautiful Beautiful Beautiful. If a film I made even had one shot as stunning as one of Wong Kar Wai’s I’d be happy. Every scene throbs with the threat of repressed emotion exploding. It’s always the build up to emotion rather than the emotion itself that is the most moving.

Insignificance – Nicolas Roeg
The scene where Marilyn Monroe explains the theory of Relativity is sheer beauty. I love physics and she makes it easy. The power of film to inspire and illuminate.

Monty Python’s Life of Brian – Terry Jones.
When I was at school we would almost smuggle Monty Python videos like it was porn. My whole sense of humor was influenced by these bonkers blokes. Years later when I came to work on the Michael Palin Himalaya series it was a dream come true.

Thelma & Louise – Ridley Scott
Seems amazing that this stands out purely because the leads are strong women who won’t do a man’s bidding. If this is the standard there should be many, many more so-called feminist films.

Throne of Blood – Kurosawa
Stories, stories, stories. We tell the same ones over and over. This is Macbeth but not as you know it. There’s always a way to tell it differently, better, deeper.

Wild at Heart – David Lynch
No idea why I love this so much, but like all my selections I realize it shows that love triumphs over evil. The weirder and more disturbed the situation, the more innocent and true the love. David Lynch is the master of violent edge, again the threat of it, rather than the violence itself.


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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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