Culture outlook / Global
If you’re the sort of person who likes to mark things in the diary then you’ve fallen on the right few pages: here are the books, programmes, films, albums and exhibitions that should make your 2017 a year to remember. It will certainly be a year perfectly punctuated by class acts, from the silver screen to the small one, from enriching visits to your local bookseller to swooning nights out at a gig. Rearing their angelic heads above the starry firmament are our faces to watch for next year too: one we know you will love; the rest we hope you’ll thank us for.
Netflix is following up the global success of its crime documentary Making A Murderer with a look at the world of hostage-taking. Captive looks at the challenging negotiations involved in resolving high-profile cases from the eyes of the victims, negotiators and kidnappers. The eight-part series is produced by Lightbox, the firm established by Man on Wire producer Simon Chinn, and Hypnotic, set up by Swingers director Doug Liman.
Below the Surface
Speaking of hostages, The Killing creator Søren Sveistrup has teamed up with Borgen creator Adam Price on Danish crime drama Below the Surface, which is set to breathe new life into Nordic noir. The eight-part series, which will air on Denmark’s Kanal 5, follows 15 people held hostage in a subway train by three armed men. Directed by Dicte’s Kasper Barfoed, Below the Surface is being sold around the world by Studiocanal.
Midnight Sun is the first drama co-production between Sweden and France, with SVT and Nice Drama representing the former and Canal+ and Atlantique Productions representing the latter. The eight-part drama follows a French detective, played by Leïla Bekhti, who moves to deepest, darkest Scandinavia to partner a Swedish cop, played by Gustaf Hammarsten, on a murder case. The show was created by Mårlind & Stein, the team behind The Bridge.
Star Trek: Discovery
The long-running sci-fi franchise is heading back to the small screen with Hannibal creator Brian Fuller and Alex Kurtzman, who was involved in the rebooted feature films Star Trek and Star Trek: Into Darkness, helming the project. The show, which will introduce a number of new characters to the Gene Roddenberry-created universe, has been produced for CBS All Access, the first show ordered for the digital streaming service, and will air on Netflix worldwide.
Producer on the up
Issa Rae is a star on the rise. The lauded author and web-series producer has taken her sharp comedic skills to the small screen with a hit series on HBO called Insecure. Rae’s writing relishes the off-beat, sometimes unremarkable moments in her characters’ lives, making them relatable and sidestepping the tropes of black women in US media. Under the HBO spotlight, Rae’s skills with her own production company are finally getting the attention they deserve.
Writers on the rise
Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers
Indie film-makers Sarah-Violet Bliss and Charles Rogers have taken to the small screen to premiere Search Party on TBS. The series is an unconventional, comedic coming-of-age story set in New York against a backdrop of murder mystery. A major television network might not seem a likely fit for two off-beat writer-directors but with US writer and producer Michael Showalter, the duo have been given carte blanche to bring this zany dark comedy to fruition.
Over the past decade, Pablo Larraín has made many of the best films ever to come out of Chile, from the character curio Tony Manero (2008) to his priest-disgrace drama The Club (2015). For his English-language debut he has cast Natalie Portman as Jacqueline Kennedy, in the days before and immediately after her husband’s assassination. As a haunting peek into the widow’s private world, it won rave reviews and the best screenplay prize at the Venice Film Festival. Portman, meanwhile, is strongly tipped for another Oscar nod.
Niche genre of the year
You wait years for a decent film about chess to come along and then you get two. The crowd-pleaser is Mira Nair’s Queen of Katwe, a Disney-produced biographical drama about the Ugandan prodigy Phiona Mutesi (newcomer Madina Nalwanga), whose tuition under David Oyelowo’s sympathetic mentor enables her talent to grow and international tournaments to take notice. Lupita Nyong’o, as her tough young mother, turns in her strongest work since 12 Years a Slave. Then there’s Magnus, a documentary from Benjamin Ree about the Norwegian player Magnus Carlsen – often dubbed the Mozart of chess – who became world champion in 2013, aged 22. Taking us back to his difficult childhood, isolated and bullied for being bad at sport, the film plunges us inside the thought processes of this unique mind.
Igniting uproar in its native Brazil and some of the most positive notices in Cannes this year, Kleber Mendonça Filho’s drama concerns a retired music teacher (Sônia Braga) who refuses to submit to the badgering efforts of land developers to drive her from her Recife apartment. The film’s political overtones – plus the open protests of its makers against Dilma Rousseff’s ongoing impeachment – have made it a very hot potato for Brazil’s Oscar selection committee.
Hollywood’s Golden Age
La La Land
Fresh off the combative jazz duet Whiplash, writer-director Damien Chazelle was finally able to finance his dream project: a musical romantic comedy, lavishly indebted to the golden age of Jacques Demy and MGM, about the efforts of an aspiring actress (Emma Stone) and down-on-his-luck pianist (Ryan Gosling) to juggle happiness and career ambitions in Hollywood. Success for both comes at a price in a film with more starry-eyed faith in its medium than anything we’ve seen since The Artist.
The true story behind Lion will wipe out almost all who see it – all the film needs to do is not screw it up. In 1986 a five-year-old Indian boy was separated from all who knew him when he misadventured onto a decommissioned passenger train that whisked him thousands of miles away from home. In adulthood he’s played by Dev Patel in a stingingly emotive performance – and Nicole Kidman enriches things with great nuance as his altruistic foster mother.
Nation on the rise
Chinese cinema is in for a big 2017 regardless of the speculation about its annual box office finally surpassing the US. Alongside the release of The Great Wall and Ferryman, avid readers of Chinese writer Liu Cixin are eagerly awaiting The Three-Body Problem, the first instalment of the film adaption of his bestselling sci-fi trilogy Remembrance of Earth’s Past.
In the freezing depths of January, Helsinki’s residents need something special to persuade them to leave the warmth of home. Lux Helsinki offers just that: a citywide spectacle of contemporary-art and design commissions that make use of light in myriad ways. The festival was launched in 2012 by the City of Helsinki and has grown every year since. Maps and multilingual guided tours ensure that Lux appeals to both tourists and residents alike. In 2016 temperatures plummeted as low as minus 25C but the festival still attracted some 500,000 visitors across five days – and 2017’s instalment (5 to 9 January) looks set to be bigger and even better.
Hong Kong’s newest cultural destination has been a decade in the making but Tai Kwun is sure to be worth the wait. The historic renovation of 16 former police and judicial buildings – and the addition of two jazzy new structures designed by Herzog & de Meuron – will serve a big shot of erudition at the boozy east end of Hollywood Road. The space will include an art gallery, a 200-seat auditorium and two impressive public spaces: the former prison yard and parade ground.
Hong Kong’s development as an arts and cultural hub must be getting serious when a major property developer dedicates a new spot in prime central real estate to flogging paintings rather than financial services.
H Queens is a 24-storey building with high ceilings that has been specially designed by Hong Kong architect William Lim to house a mix of studios, galleries and auction houses. Influential New York art dealer David Zwirner is the anchor tenant taking up two floors. Never fear: shopping and eating will also be in there.
Excursus: Homage to the Square3
Robert Irwin has returned to Dia:Beacon, for the first time since designing the centre’s gardens and grounds when it opened in 2003, with Excursus: Homage to the Square3. The artist’s interior maze is on display in May 2017: Gossamer screens stand four metres high and create a labyrinthine structure that visitors wander through while silhouettes of fellow maze-goers play around them. A version was previously exhibited at Dia’s Chelsea outpost but here the project has been adapted to fill the space.
I Hear Your Voice, Kim Young-ha
I Hear Your Voice is an English translation of a 2012 novel by South Korean star writer Kim Young-ha. A prolific author of fiction, Kim also translates English into Korean (he has translated The Great Gatsby). This tale of two orphans growing up on the streets of Seoul was translated by Korean-US writer Krys Lee, whose How I Became a North Korean was recently published to critical acclaim.
Andrea Camilleri and Nicola Lagioia
Southern Italy, with its ancient myths and colourful history, has long been fertile ground for homegrown authors in search of inspiration. The most recent source is Naples, the setting for Elena Ferrante’s quartet of novels about two girls growing up in a rough neighbourhood marked by Mafia vendettas and violence. This spring, fiction fans eager for more tales from Italy’s Mezzogiorno can enjoy the English translation of The Revolution of the Moon from Andrea Camilleri. The latest work from the creator of the Inspector Montalbano series follows a widowed marquise as she takes on the patriarchy in 17th-century Palermo. Another page-turner expected to draw interest is Ferocity from Pugliese author Nicola Lagioia. Winner of the 2015 Strega prize, the country’s pre-eminent award for literature, his suspense-driven piece set in the 1980s follows a brother in search of answers after a sibling’s bloody death.
I Am Dogboy, Karl Hyde
For 25 years Underworld have been globetrotting to support their intelligent electronica being got-on-down-to from Glastonbury to Fuji, and Karl Hyde – the St Paul of the duo – has been writing regularly from the road (as well as founding design firm Tomato). Here’s his diary: thoughts, essays, “found” visuals and poetry (but not too much). Hyde is an explorer who’s happier in the rural or urban wilds of the places that he pitches up in, rarely confined to the 50th floor of a five-star hotel. This book is good company: waspish, urbane and humble.
The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead
US author Colson Whitehead’s new novel The Underground Railroad is a genre-bending read. It reimagines the 19th-century American South by transforming the metaphorical network that helped free about 100,000 slaves into a physical railway, delivering teenage slave Cora and her friend Caesar to the north.
Of course freedom isn’t within easy reach: slave-catcher Ridgeway, bounty hunters and informers are in hot pursuit. The painfully revealing yet thrilling story stays with you weeks after you’ve turned the last page.
The Reykjavik Assignment, Adam LeBor
With this book, UK journalist Adam LeBor’s electrifying Yael Azoulay trilogy comes to an end. His sharp, gripping narrative delves into the intricacies of geopolitics, following UN covert negotiator Azoulay to Reykjavík for a secret summit between the US and Iran. When events take a terrifying turn it’s up to Azoulay to confront both her enemies and her past.
Arboreal education: 1
The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben
After reading German forester Peter Wohlleben’s novel, a walk through the forest will never be the same again. His book reveals that trees not only have senses but communicate with each other via the “woodwide web”. Acacias in the African savannah, for example, pump toxins into their leaves and give off a warning gas to save themselves and neighbouring trees from greedy giraffes. Scientific tales like this one abound in Wohlleben’s book and lend more urgency to the preservation of forests across the globe.
Arboreal education: 2
A Tale of Trees, Derek Niemann
It is said that in the space of 30 years more than a third of the UK’s ancient woods were destroyed; Derek Niemann writes about the struggle to save them. He equates forests to national treasures and asks the question: “If the paintings of the National Gallery were at risk, would we be happy with a response that said Britain has lots of paintings?” His book celebrates the ancient woods and those who fight for their survival every day.
Young Narrators in the Breakers, Pavo Pavo
Five songwriters from Brooklyn have come together to make a wonderful debut with a horrible title that sounds a bit like Todd Rundgren getting to grips with Abba – and who doesn’t want to hear what that sounds like? The only band ever to have scored number ones with songs written by each member are Queen and these peeps share a similar fondness for the rococo. See you in 2017.
Spacebound Apes, Neil Cowley Trio
Neil Cowley was a piano prodigy; knocking out Shostakovich at the age of 10 before going on to perform with Zero 7 and the Brand New Heavies and becoming pianist of choice to Adele and Emeli Sandé. Anything with Cowley on the cover is worth a spin but this latest needs no story to make sense as a wonderful album of jazz playing.
Feeling Good: Funk, Soul, & Deep Jazz Gems, The Supreme Sound of producer Bob Shad
There’s always a name that you don’t know, that “Zelig”-like character always present at the birth of every musical moment. So it is with Bob Shad, who was producing Oscar Peterson, Charlie Parker and Sarah Vaughan before finding something special in performers who turned out to be Lou Reed and Janis Joplin. Rock’n’roll, jazz, blues, funk, psychedelia, soul and jazz all keep cool and dry under his umbrella. But it was really jazz for Bob and that’s mostly the meat of this best-of.
The best of a good bunch
Jazz returned and everything else could go home.
The Midnight Sun
This Scottish composer is Mac Melody himself.
Lost En Los Angeles
The best hip-hop album all year had fun at its own party.
A wash of minimal piano perfection, refound.
One to watch
The Munich-born actor, best known for his role as Stefan Aust in The Baader Meinhof Complex and Generation War’s Wilhelm Winter, is to swap terrorism and war for the roaring Twenties in his latest role.
Bruch is fronting Babylon Berlin, a German period drama written and directed by A Hologram for the King and Cloud Atlas director Tom Tykwer. The 36-year-old plays Gereon Rath, a police inspector in Berlin in the late 1920s, a time when the city was the capital of art, crime and political extremism. The show is based on a series of novels by Volker Kutscher that are being adapted for TV by various companies.
The €40m series, which has shades of UK gangster thriller Peaky Blinders, is set to catapult Bruch to global stardom, joining Jonas Nay from Deutschland 83 as the latest German actor to make it in Hollywood.
Babylon Berlin, which was shot in Studio Babelsberg’s new “old Berlin” backlot in April, will air on Sky Deutschland in early 2017 before airing on ARD in 2018. It will be sold around the world by Beta Film.
One to be wary of
Twenty-year-old English actress Florence Pugh made a first impression that was hard to forget: as a self-possessed schoolgirl in Carol Morley’s The Falling (2014), she goosed the whole plot into motion and we missed her when she was gone. Now she ascends to a lead role in a thrilling debut.
Lady Macbeth is a black period drama from director William Oldroyd. Relocating Nikolai Leskov’s Russian novel Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk to the English countryside in 1865, screenwriter Alice Birch gives Pugh the sort of role that most actresses would kill for.
Killing is the main pursuit that this heroine shares with her Shakespearian namesake. As Katherine, a teenage trophy bride, she gets her Lady Chatterley on with a rugged stable boy and then ruthlessly goes after what she wants. Pugh makes the character so brazen that you regularly snort with laughter, even while she’s doing truly appalling things.
Pugh will play a paranormal detective in the haunted-house chiller Hush and just shot a conspiracy thriller, The Commuter, opposite Liam Neeson and Sam Neill.
One to bank on
Eddie Peng is a Taiwanese actor with a string of Chinese starring roles under his belt and a shot at the bilingual big time in 2017.
Next year cinema-goers in the US and Europe will get to see him in The Great Wall, a US-China co-production directed by Zhang Yimou of House of Flying Daggers fame, penned by Bourne screenwriter Tony Gilroy and starring Matt Damon, Willem Dafoe and Andy Lau. Filmed in English on location in Qingdao, the Chinese historical epic is generating plenty of hype as the Middle Kingdom’s first international blockbuster and a little bit of criticism for casting westerners in the hero roles. Once Earth has been saved grateful fans around the world may find themselves transfixed by the acting chops and leading-man looks of Peng, who at 34 is more than a decade younger than the other leading men.
Peng came to acting late when as a student studying economics in Canada, a family bereavement called him home and eventually led to him being cast in a Taiwanese TV series. He made the leap to the big screen four years later and has put in a number of promising performances in the past decade, from a romantic lead in A Wedding Invitation to a cyclist in sports movie To the Fore. In 2014 he payed homage to martial-arts legend Wong Fei Hung in Rise of the Legend, training for nine months to be able to chop and slice his way through a part previously played by Jet Li and Jackie Chan. Similar dedication to his craft has seen him learning sign language and swimming with dolphins. This year he has been deputising for his film idols Aaron Kwok, Tony Leung Ka-fai and Chow Yun-fat in Cold War 2 and Zhang Hanyu in Chinese film Operation Mekong.
Crossover stars such as Peng should be in big demand as Hollywood copies The Great Wall’s co-production model to circumvent mainland China’s strict quota on foreign films and tap into upgraded facilities (and generous financial incentives). Longtime fans of Peng can look forward to seeing him in Hong Kong new-wave director Ann Hui’s new film The Great Escape, in which he stars alongside Chinese actress Zhou Xun. Meanwhile fans of the Cold War films will hope that he finds room to reprise his rare bad-boy role in the third (and hopefully final) instalment. Peng’s part as dutiful son is becoming more central to the cops-and-corruption thriller so don’t be surprised to see his name grab equal billing alongside ageing Canto-megastars Kwok, Leung and Chow. Prepare for the big time, Mr Peng.
One to see
Ulla von Brandenburg
German artist Ulla von Brandenburg, who lives and works in Paris, made her name with an eclectic practice. With a background in scenography, she is also known for her fondness for the tableaux vivant, influences of which are seen in her films. Her work often takes cues from the late 19th century, interpreting theatre, occultism, colour theory and even pre-Freudian psychoanalysis in a modern way, picking at social norms.
Von Brandenburg is known for her madcap works that foray into mediums such as film, photography, installation and performance. Her project room showing at the Pérez Art Museum Miami (Pamm) from November to June is no different. Curated by Pamm’s María Elena Ortiz, it will showcase selected works from the artist, including watercolours on cardboard and painted fishing rods.
Her playful films employ the use of curtains to challenge the relationship between actors, audience and stage. It Has a Golden Sun and an Elderly Gray Moon questions social hierarchy by mixing colour, textiles, dance, ritual and architecture.
One to visit
Within Mexico City’s gallery scene one name stands out: José García. He studied graphic design in Monterrey while working for magazine Celeste and when it moved to Mexico City, he followed. He became editor and started his own publication, Baby, Baby, Baby. Then in 2005 he opened his own gallery, Proyectos Monclova. Eight years and 15 represented artists later, he was joined by two business partners. They tried to expand too fast and it became increasingly commercial so last year García sold his share. His artists encouraged him to open his own gallery. “The only way to capitalise on the gallery’s history was to do something with my name,” he says.
Joségarcía mx opened in La Juárez in October 2015 and 13 of García’s artists went with him. Having investors from the start allowed him to open an additional gallery in 2016, an open-roof space in subtropical Mérida that hosts sculptors such as Marie Lund, whose work weathers over time. García made a decision to be part of Mexico City’s transition into an art hub. His space there continues to thrive and one day he plans to relocate entirely to Mérida.
One to read
Haruki Murakami is a 67-year-old Japanese novelist, the author of contemporary classics and a perennial favourite to win the Nobel prize for literature. He can shift a million copies in Japan in a matter of days and his fans queue overnight to get their hands on a new publication.
A private man with a wry sense of humour, he sits outside the literary establishment. He loves music, cats, running and ironing. When asked once what he likes about being a novelist, he said: “No commuting, no meetings, no boss.”
Men without Women, a new collection of short stories translated into English. First published in Japan in 2014, these stories have all the wit, melancholy and Tokyo references that fans will relish. Several originally appeared in Japanese magazine Bungei Shunju (and subsequently, in translation, in The New Yorker). Murakami casts his eye over tales of men who find themselves without a woman. This is classic Murakami turf: “Vanishing cats and smoky bars, lonely hearts and mysterious women, baseball and the Beatles.”
One to dance to
Kero Kero Bonito
Three arched-eyebrowed kids from south London seem to have arrived fully formed as a living mixtape of all their favourite musical references honed into chart-worrying perfection: Gus Lobban, Jamie Bulled and Anglo-Japanese frontgirl Sarah Midori Perry. Oh, and they’re named after the onomatopoeic way in which the Japanese enunciate a frog’s croak: “kero-kero”.
Their debut album Bonito Generation is a mad, charming genre-buster that throws J-Pop, K-Pop, dancehall, bubblegum pop, hip-hop, house and arcade-game sound effects on top of a half-English, half-Japanese lyrical listing of youthful concerns: wanting to do nothing all day, needing a lie-in, throwing a party, having a go at falling in love. There is no way that this should work, sounding, as it does, like a Japanese schoolgirl doing karaoke in a super stylised world of heavy stereo. Well, that might work for some people.
Bonito Generation is out now.
You will be hearing more from Kero Kero Bonito in 2017. Festival fame beckons; this stuff could make any rainy field at 04.00 feel like Harajuku at midnight.
One to swoon over
Confidently using just her surname as her nom de plume (et chanson), Cherie Jones is another major new talent who’s smiled slightly shyly into the light at the end of the year (why did you take so long, 2016?). Jones might have collaborated with The XX’s producer – and Sam Smith loves her, which is all very nice – but the vision, writing and execution is very much her own.
Jones’s debut LP is New Skin, a cool, confident take on modern love and falling out of it done with minimum fuss and a cool electro feel that owes as much to The Blue Nile as The XX. There is no “taking it to the bridge” and no crockery-worrying choruses. Twelve tracks, 40-odd minutes and no filler: New Skin feels like it’s been around for a while – rather than cooked up in London in 2016 – in a very good way. In an interview as part of a live session for Monocle 24, Jones told us that she very much had an idea in mind for her debut album: “I love soul music and I love electronic music; I love the classic stuff such as Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye and I like the modern stuff such as Grimes and Little Dragon. So I guess I wanted to merge those two worlds.”
New Skin is on sale now and Jones will be touring next year.