Behind the Sun (Brazil)
Based on the novel by Ismail Kadare, Broken Sun, this movie explores the relationship between violence and familial ties. It's set in 1910 in the desert of Brazil, where two families who own farms are battling over land on which to grow sugar cane. Violence, as dictated by tradition, is the only way to end the conflict, and a man is made to choose between killing his brother, or sacrificing himself.
* Dark Blue World (Czech Republic)
This is a mysteriously reassuring and emotionally accurate film exploring the life of a Czech WWII pilot (Franta) who fought alongside the British. The battle scenes are squirmy without being gratuitous, but the meat of the film lies in its examination of the war ripping people out of their natural and rightful context. Throughout, Franta's noble intentions end in a muddle of losses, freedom, love, friendship, and even his dog. The narrative voice of the film is his retrospection from a little-known forced-labor camp in Cold War Czechoslovakia. Despite the resounding doom of this fate, his sacrifices are presented with soulful serenity. (Marjorie Skinner)
David Hockney Secret Knowledge (Britain)
A documentary exploring artist David Hockney's hypothesis that the Renaissance artists used projections to make their paintings so life-like, and the sociological implications of that possibility.
How Harry Became a Tree (Ireland)
An absurdist story about a man who loses his son and wife and comes to the conclusion that if love will give him nothing, perhaps hate will be kinder. He chooses to hate the most powerful man in the village and sets out to destroy him.
I Love Beijing (china)
A recently divorced Beijing cab driver, Desi, has multiple short-term liaisons with women from different strata of society. The viewer sees the increase in capitalism in Beijing, and the consequences, as Desi drives through a frantically changing city landscape.
Kira's Reason (Denmark)
With the Dogme 95 aesthetic, this film explores Kira's tentative re-entry into society after a nervous breakdown and her husband's inability to help.
* Kissing Jessica Stein (USA)
See Review this issue.
Late Marriage (Israel)
Zaza is a 31-year-old man, earning his doctorate in philosophy. His parents keep hounding him to get married and set up multiple meetings with young virgins--keeping with their tradition. Zaza, however, is in love with a Morrocan woman with a daughter, and keeping his parents at bay is a continual struggle.
The Lawless Heart (Britain)
From funny to depressing, Lawless explores the emotional rollercoaster of unexpected death. In the normal Brit style, it makes light of everything, even death--by charting the impact of a single death on three different people, the film examines loss from all angles.
* Madness of Love (Spain)
Something of a legend in Spain, Queen Juana loved her husband Phillip so passionately, that she drove herself crazy. This is her story, and it is excellently acted by the adorable Pilar Lopez de Ayala. As Phillip becomes more and more of an asshole and starts cheating on Juana, she becomes even crazier. Phillip then uses her insanity as an excuse to dethrone Juana. Lots of exciting, climactic things happen in the end. As a side note, the translations in this film are often hilarious. Example: When Juana is reflecting nostalgically on her love of Phillip, she says, "I perceive the odor of his armpits." How funny is that? (Katia Dunn)
Much Ado About Something (Australia)
If you're into conspiracy movies, this is a must. This film posits the theory that all of Shakespeare's works were not really written by him, but by Christopher Marlowe, who was born in the same year but supposedly died long before all the great stuff was written. You be the judge.
* The New Country (Sweden)
So, this Somalian boy and his Iranian friend meet a former Miss Sweden after seeing some horrible violence and ditching the border patrol. No punchline could do justice to a set-up like that, so let's just say that this isn't your average road movie, it's an award-winning Swedish movie about friendship and love that crosses international boundaries.
Nine Queens (Argentina)
Here are some of the wimpiest con men you'll ever see. Their cons include finagling more change than they had coming at coffee shops and tricking old ladies into helping them out when their imaginary car breaks down. The "Big Score"--a mandatory part of any con game film--involves selling some rare stamps. Surprisingly, this material is interesting for a while--it's softness is oddly original, and even kind of sweet, but it also results in a severe lack of suspense in the film, which becomes more and more apparent as the characters become less and less interesting. (Justin Sanders)
An exploration of the life of 1880's children's novelist Nykke Van Hichtu. While she was married to her intellectual equal and socialist politician, husband Pieter Jelles Troelstra, he insisted that her place was in the home, squelching her to the point of a nervous breakdown. An exploration of gender roles a really, really long time ago.
Parallel Worlds (Czech Republic)
A 40-year-old architect becomes sick of his wife's insecurity and has an affair. Tereza, his wife, is unable to concentrate on her job as a translator because of his inability to communicate.
Pauline and Paulette (Belgium)
The story of four sisters: Martha, Cecile, Pauline, and Paulette. Pauline is mentally challenged and lives with Martha, who lovingly cares for her. When Martha dies, however, she leaves her money to her sisters, but under the condition that Cecile or Paulette care for Pauline.
* Rain (New Zealand)
New Zealand directors seem to have excellent relationships with their cinematographers. Their movies are beautiful to look at. The drawback is that sometimes it seems more energy was put into the image than the plot. Such is the case with Christine Jeffs' Rain, a darn good-lookin' film that captures the feel of summer in 1970s New Zealand. The story is about a transitional time in an adolescent girl's life, when her alcoholic mother starts drifting away from her father, with the implication that she may eventually follow in her footsteps. But the real reason to see it is to let the images wash over you. (Andy Spletzer)
The River (Finland)
The stories of six people in a small Finnish town intersect as a jet booms overhead. One character attempts suicide and murder, another falls in love, another solves a dispute, while another bungee jumps.
Safety of Objects (USA)
This film follows four neighboring families in an American suburb, as they grapple with the material world's obstruction of human intimacy in their lives. The film begins as a portrait of the overfed apathy and displacement of affection to objects, that manifests itself differently in each household's dynamic. Then, the mental tensions of each character swell, and everyone goes a little nuts. A boy falls in love with his little sister's Barbie, a lawyer leaves his job to coach a woman through a car contest at the mall. Its well-rounded perspective and judicious use of melodrama give this film emotional bite without being too cruel.
To Love, Too Much (Mexico)
Beatriz works a boring job in Mexico City, in hope of saving enough money to move to Spain and open a boarding house. However, an encounter with romantic Carlos opens her eyes to the possibilities that surround her, in love and life, and causing her to shift her priorities.
Under the Moonlight (Iran)
Seyyed, a novice cleric in Tehran, goes on an uncharacteristic trip to the city and encounters a group of homeless people living under a bridge. When he sees the love born of squalor, he is forced to question his faith and figure out how to use it.
* Violet Perfume, Nobody Hears You (Mexico)
Happy endings are boring, but following this horribly tragic, dark, and violent film, a sweet ending would be a relief. There is no relief here, however, everything just gets worse and worse. A troubled pre-teen, Yessica, couldn't have a more horrid life: Her family hates her, she gets picked on at school, raped regularly by her step-brother's friend, all the women in her life are unsympathetic harpies, and, to top it off, she wears glittery makeup and eyeliner. The only shining moments in her life happen when she's with her best friend, Miriam, who she eventually rips off. Go see this film if you are already planning to off yourself later this evening. (Kate Mercier )
A comedy about a confused team of boy synchronized swimmers, who get help from a group of drag queens and a local aquarium owner wackjob in order to perform the big finale.