The 2023 HIFF (Habitat International Film Festival) is set to offer an impressive line-up of over 60 award-winning and critically acclaimed movies from more than 20 countries. This year’s festival, which runs from March 17th to 26th with Entry open to everyone, promises to provide a unique communal watching experience. The festival, which returns after a hiatus of 2 years (due to the COVID-19 pandemic), will showcase a diversity of cultures, languages, and voices, bringing a broader understanding of commonalities of concern and complexities of issues from around the world.

One of the highlights of this year’s HIFF is Focus Country, Australia, which will showcase six of the finest contemporary films from 2022 and 2023, including The Dreamlife of Georgie Stone, which tells the story of a teen activist’s historic fight for transgender rights.

Additionally, the festival will feature a cutting-edge VR Section for the first time, including a Virtual Reality Program that explores experimental themes and forms, focusing on female and non-binary creators from around the world.

Another exciting addition to the festival is the Kieślowski Film School Documentary Workshop, a four-day hands-on workshop for aspiring documentary filmmakers. The workshop will be led by a faculty of experienced Festival Directors, Filmmakers, and Editors, including Grzegorz Paprzycki, an acclaimed new voice in contemporary Polish cinema and a Kieslowski Film School alumni.

In the following list, I have curated 10 movies that really pique my interest and feel like must-sees:

1. Triangle of Sadness

HIFF 2023 Movies - Triangle of Sadness

Ruben Östlund’s Palme d’Or-winning film presents a scathing commentary on the relationship between power and beauty. In this wickedly funny satire, social hierarchy is upended when celebrity model couple Carl (Harris Dickinson) and Yaya (Charlbi Dean) are invited on a luxury cruise for the ultra-rich, captained by an unhinged Woody Harrelson.

Initially, the experience appears to be the perfect opportunity for the couple to flaunt their glamorous lives on Instagram, but things soon take a dark turn. The cruise ends in catastrophe, where the onboard people must fight for their very survival.

Through its clever and incisive storytelling, Östlund’s film reveals the tawdry reality behind the facade of beauty and wealth, making for a biting commentary on contemporary society.

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2. Perfect Number

Must See Movies HIFF 2023 - Perfect Number

In Perfect Number, Krzysztof Zanussi returns to his signature themes of intellect, faith, and love, presenting them in the form of an unexpected intellectual thriller.

The film follows Joachim (Andrzej Seweryn), a wealthy and successful man who has already achieved everything in life and no longer feels the need to prove anything to anyone. One day, he meets David (Jan Marczewski), a mathematical genius who abandoned a promising career abroad to find a way to use his talents in Poland. As the two men’s paths cross, complications arise with the arrival of Ola (Julia Latosinska) in David’s life.

Despite their vastly different life experiences, Joachim and David must learn from each other as they navigate the challenges of choosing between intellect, faith, and love. Through its compelling storyline and expertly crafted characters, The Perfect Number offers a thought-provoking exploration of the human experience and the choices we make throughout our lives.

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3. Leila’s Brothers

Must See Movies HIFF 2023 - Leila's Brothers

Leila, a 40-year-old woman, has devoted her entire life to taking care of her parents and four brothers. However, her family is constantly at odds and struggling with overwhelming debts in a country under international economic sanctions.

In a bid to help her family, Leila devises a plan to start a family business that could potentially lift them out of poverty. But just as they need a financial boost the most, Leila discovers that her father, Esmail has been keeping a family heirloom hidden in secret.

4. EO

EO, a grey donkey with a soulful gaze, embarks on a remarkable journey filled with wonder and peril, encountering a diverse cast of characters, some kind, and others not so much.

Despite the hardships and twists of fate that come his way, EO remains steadfastly true to his nature, never losing his innocent perspective on the world. This heartfelt tale offers a unique and moving perspective on the human experience, as seen through the eyes of an animal.

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5. In the Mood for Love

In 1962 Hong Kong, Mrs. Chan and Mr. Chow lead separate lives as they move into adjacent apartments on the same day.

Despite their initial formal and polite interactions, a surprising revelation about their spouses ignites a deep and intimate connection between them, transcending societal norms and expectations in Wong Kar-wai’s masterful In the Mood for Love.

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6. The Worst Person in the World

Worst Person in the World

As her thirtieth birthday approaches, Julie finds herself at a crossroads in her life. Living in the vibrant city of Oslo, she is confronted with a series of choices that challenge her to rethink her priorities and discover new perspectives.

As she embarks on a journey of self-discovery, Julie navigates through the complexities of love, relationships, and existential uncertainty, all while grappling with the question of who she wants to become. Over the course of four years, she learns that the path to personal growth is rarely a straight line and that true fulfillment can only be found by embracing the unexpected twists and turns of life’s journey.

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7. Crimes of the Future

Saul Tenser, a renowned artist, pushes the boundaries of the human body by publicly showcasing the transformation of his organs in daring and avant-garde performances. His partner, Caprice, joins him on this journey of exploration and self-discovery.

However, their radical approach to art draws the attention of Timlin, a young investigator tasked with monitoring their movements, as well as a shadowy group with an agenda to uncover the next phase of human evolution.

As Saul and Caprice navigate the risks and rewards of their art, they find themselves caught in a web of intrigue and danger that forces them to question the very nature of their work and its impact on society.

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8. The Novelist’s Film

A celebrated novelist reunites with a former protégé who now runs a quaint bookstore. During a leisurely stroll with a renowned film director and his enigmatic wife, the author’s creative musings are ignited.

As she crosses paths with a talented actress, she becomes determined to collaborate with her on a new project, navigating the twists and turns of the entertainment industry along the way.

Related to HIFF 2023 – The Novelist’s Film (2022) Review: Looking back at the inspirations found in the simplest of comforts

9. Boy from Heaven

Adam, the son of a humble fisherman, is presented with a rare opportunity to study at the prestigious Al-Azhar University in Cairo, the epicenter of Sunni Islam.

As he immerses himself in his studies, he becomes entangled in the political and religious power struggles of Egypt’s ruling elites. Adam must navigate a world of conflicting ideologies and shifting alliances, where his faith and his future hang in the balance.

10. Alcarràs

As the scorching summer sun beats down on their backs, the Solé family returns to their ancestral peach orchard in Alcarràs, Spain, a place that has been their sanctuary for generations.

But this year, their beloved land is under threat as they face eviction to make way for a solar panel project. The family’s unity is shattered as they grapple with the possibility of losing not only their home but also their way of life. With tensions running high, the Solé family must come to terms with an uncertain future and confront the difficult choices that lie ahead.

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