The Nightlight’s Top 10 Films of 2016

Indie cinema’s executive director picks the movies that moved him most.

by Kurtiss Hare, special to The Devil Strip


Some folks go to the movies just to be entertained. Most Nightlight-goers set their sights a bit higher, and some of us actually expect movies to change our lives. Of all those The Nightlight ran in 2016, here are the movies that had the biggest impact on me.

#1) The Fits – This debut feature by Ana Rose Holmer is almost too haunting and beautiful to describe, but it tracks a mysterious illness as it works its way through a Cincinnati-based high school dance crew, all while illustrating the metaphysical side of a young black girl’s adolescence.


#2) Moonlight – This movie takes so much care to highlight tenderness and affection between black men. Let that simple notion sink in and ask yourself if you’ve ever seen that on screen. If not, why not?


#3) Embrace of the Serpent – 2015’s best foreign picture contender from Columbia was an unexpected 2016 favorite, featuring (I believe) subtle allusions to Akron and the violent legacy of our mother industry: rubber. Also, it has one of the most interesting hallucinogen-induced sequences I’ve ever seen.

#4) The VVitch – Within minutes, this movie had me asking if I was seeing what I really thought I was seeing. (I was.) Graceful and disturbing, this movie explores the origins of evil with immense insight.


#5) The Lobster – It’s hard to describe the measure of pride I feel when Akron turns out in droves to see a dark, challenging movie by a foreign director. This movie scalds with both humor and pain, and it still manages to formulate a salve for the wounds of modern love.


#6) Miles Ahead – I’ll never forget working with Akron-based pianist Theron Brown (aka Herbie Hancock) to put on a screening/concert of this Don Cheadle-helmed biopic about the mercurial jazz (no, “social music”) trumpeter, Miles Davis. The film was brilliant in its fluid, interpretive approach to biography.


#7) Wiener-Dog – Todd Solondz can packs more characterization per ounce of cinema than most. I saw both this and Sausage Party this year, and I laughed so much more at this.


#8) Hunt for the Wilderpeople – The long-awaited next feature by the Kiwi director of 2015 favorite, “What We Do in the Shadows,” Taika Waititi. We only play a handful of “family-friendly” movies every year (– not our fault, the market for family-friendly indies is truly underserved –) and it’s always exciting when we do.


#9) Christine – Hudson-native Christine Chubbuck rattled the emerging if-it-bleeds-it-leads TV news world with her on-air suicide in 1974. This film broke me all the way apart. If only her act had done the same for TV news.


#10) The Birth of a Nation – This is a controversial pick, to be sure. I have no sanctioning words for the film’s director, but the film itself is a battle cry for emancipation that says as many interesting, complicated things about religion as it does about race.


(Featured image of The Nightlight tickets sign by Michelle DeShon/The Devil Strip)