Disappearing Act V – full film line-up

1395 Days Without Red (1395 dana bez crvene), directed by Sejla Kameric, Anri Sala

UK, Bosnia & Herzegovina, 2011, 70min, no dialogue; original English version

Presented thanks to support from the Trust for Mutual Understanding

Cast: Maribel Verdu

Official Selection – Locarno Film Festival, Manchester International Festival

A cinematographic art project, 1395 Days Without Red is a collaboration between Bosnian artist Sejla Kameric and Albanian artist Anri Sala, who conceived the work together, resulting in two distinct films (presented here is the film by Sejla Kameric). The siege of Sarajevo lasted a brutal 1,395 days. The filmmakers recreate a woman’s daily journey through the city, walking and running between safe and dangerous spaces, desperately trying to avoid the deadly “snipers’ alley.” Atmospheric and deeply affecting, the film is shot completely without dialogue, the only companion on the journey being Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6, Pathétique, rehearsed by an orchestra somewhere in the city.

1395DaysWithoutRed3

Attenberg, directed by Athina Rachel Tsangari

Greece, 2010, 97min, in Greek and French

Presented by the Onassis Foundation (USA) and the Consulate General of Greece. A Strand Releasing release.

Cast: Ariane Labed, Evangelia Randou, Yorgos Lanthimos, Vangelis Mourikis

Official Selection – Venice Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival

A prime example of the new Greek cinema, Attenberg centers on a crucial moment in the life of a young woman parting with her beloved, terminally ill father and welcoming a man as a lover into her life. However, the latter seems less like a romantic encounter than a study of human sexual behavior out of one of Sir David Attenborough’s animal kingdom documentaries.The attempts of the heroine’s best friend to educate her in matters of sex dominate the storyline, but the film’s most affecting motif is the emotional growth of a young adult who is losing ground in sight of a major loss. Yorgos Lanthimos (director of Dogtooth) makes an appearance in the role of the curious lover.

Corpo Celeste, directed by Alice Rohrwacher

Italy, France, 2011, 98min, in Italian

Presented by the Italian Cultural Institute. A Film Movement release.

Cast: Yle Vianello, Salvatore Cantalupo, Pasqualina Scuncia, Anita Caprioli

Official Selection – Cannes Film Festival, Director’s Fortnight; New York Film Festival, BFI London Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival

“A quietly impressive debut feature,” Screen Daily wrote. A “startling” first film, said Film-Forward. These were the kinds of kudos that welcomed the arrival of Alice Rohrwacher on the cinematic scene. Corpo Celeste is an assured impressionistic study of a young girl’s coming of age set against the background of a relocation from Italy’s “modern” north to the country’s religious south. A mother moves with her two daughters back to the town of their birth, which brings about changes within the family, but most of all befuddles the younger daughter when she is forced to confirm to local Catholic traditions and undergo the rite of passage of confirmation.

Diamond Flash, directed by Carlos Vermut

Spain, 2011, 128min, in Spanish

Presented by Pragda as part of Cineart Spain, with additional support from Spain Culture New York

Cast: Eva Llorach, Angela Villar, Angela Boiz, Rocio Leon, Maria Victoria Radonic

An underground hit that became a sensation in Spain in spite of its DIY distribution via alternative screening venues, streaming and DVDs, Diamond Flash exemplifies the tendency of young filmmakers to take their careers into their own hands and produce their projects independently, without support from the state. In his feature directorial debut, Carlos Vermut expertly leads an excellent cast of theater professionals. Impossible to classify, the film straddles genre between mystery and personal drama, with hints of fantasy, while using an accomplished cinematic style. The story follows five women connected through one man, a mysterious character who forever changes all of their lives.

(trailer with no subtitles)

Dreileben, Parts 1–3

Germany, 2011

Presented by the Goethe-Institut New York

Official Selection – Berlin International Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, New York Film Festival

This film trilogy, shot in the distinctive styles of German directorial talents, Christian Petzold, Christoph Hochhaeusler, and Dominik Graf, reveals chapters of a larger narrative from three unique perspectives and genres.

Beats Being Dead (Etwas Besseres als den Tod), directed by Christian Petzold

88min, in German and Bosnian

Cast: Stefan Kurt, Jacob Matschenz, Luna Mijovic

“A convicted killer, released under police custody to pay his last respects to his late mother, escapes from a country hospital at the start of director Christian Petzold’s genre-bending, wonderfully unpredictable Beats Being Dead. But the film soon comes to center on the story of two star-crossed lovers: Johannes (Jacob Matschenz), a shy young hospital orderly, and Bosnian refugee Ana (Luna Mijovic), whom Johannes nobly rescues from the clutches of her abusive biker boyfriend. In the background, a police manhunt proceeds apace, while in the foreground Petzold reminds us there is sometimes nothing as dangerous as first love.” – New York Film Festival

Don’t Follow Me Around (Komm mir nicht nach), directed by Dominik Graf

89min, in German

Cast: Jeanette Hain, Susanne Wolff, Misel Maticevic

“In the trilogy’s second chapter, Jo (Jeanette Hain), a big-city police psychologist, arrives in Dreileben to aid in the ongoing investigation, whereupon she finds herself greeted cooly by the local authorities but welcomed with open arms by Vera (Susanne Wolff), a college friend who lives nearby with her husband, a pretentious author. As the girlfriends reminisce about bygone days and discover they were both once in love with the same man, director Dominik Graf deftly juxtaposes their personal drama against the search for a killer, a police corruption scandal, and a possible case of interspecies transmutation—all underlining the trilogy’s recurring themes of false appearances and deeply hidden truths.” – New York Film Festival

One Minute of Darkness (Eine Minute Dunkel), directed by Christoph Hochhaeusler

90min, in German and English

Cast: Stefan Kurt, Eberhard Kirchberg, Imogen Kogge, Timo Jacobs

“The Dreileben trilogy comes to a nail-biting close with director Christoph Hochhaeusler’s expert thriller, which also brings escaped felon Molosch—a peripheral character in the first two parts—into sharp focus. Hot on the killer’s trail, grizzled police inspector Marcus (Eberhard Kirchberg) tries to put himself inside the mind of the criminal, even as he begins to wonder if the condemned man really is guilty as charged. Meanwhile, as Molosch (brilliantly played by Stefan Kurt) flees deeper into Dreileben’s possibly enchanted forest, he has an unexpectedly tender encounter with a young runaway girl—scenes that echo the Frankenstein story and transform One Minute of Darkness into a dark, memorably strange fairy tale.” – New York Film Festival

Feed Me With Your Words (Nahrani me z besedami), directed by Martin Turk

Slovenia, 2012, 88min, in Slovenian and Italian

Presented by the Embassy of Slovenia and the Slovenian Film Centre

Cast: Sebastian Cavazza, Jure Henigman, Boris Cavazza, Masa Derganc, Miranda Caharija

Official Selection – Sao Paulo International Film Festival

Walking a fine line between mystery, thriller and psychological drama, Turk’s debut feature follows an estranged father and his older son on an anguished trip. The son answers a call from his father after 10 years of avoiding contact with him. He learns that his younger brother disappeared while on a research trip to Italy, leaving behind his mother, who suffers from dementia. Although their relationship is palpably tense, the two men try to solve the mystery of the disappearance, doing their best to ignore whatever happened between them in the past. For the development of his quiet and deliberately paced film, director Martin Turk received support from Cannes Cinefondation Residence and development labs of Rotterdam and Locarno festivals.

Flower Buds (Poupata), directed by Zdenek Jirasky

Czech Republic, 2011, 91min, in Czech

Q&A with the director

Presented by the Czech Center New York

Cast: Vladimir Javorsky, Malgorzata Pikus, Marika Soposka, Miroslav Panek

Official Selection – Czech Film Academy Award for Best Film

Breaking through with his feature film debut and receiving numerous awards from the Czech Film Academy (including Best Director and Best Film), director Jirasky narrates the story of a blue-collar family in a small town. The family finds itself on a brink of a breakdown with each member going in a different direction: the daughter plans to go away, knowing that neither the town nor her parents’ home can bring her the opportunities she yearns for; the son blindly follows his heart against all circumstances; and the mother, though still very much in love with her husband, finds her only solace in the companionship of old friends and nostalgia for the happy days of her youth. The father is a train wreck, whose addiction to slot machines puts his entire existence at risk.

(trailer with no subtitles)

Kuma, directed by Umut Dag

Austria, 2012, 93min, in German and Turkish

Q&A with actress Nihal G. Koblas

Presented by the Austrian Cultural Forum New York

Cast: Nihal G. Koldas, Begum Akkaya, Vedat Erincin, Murathan Muslu

Official Selection – Berlin International Film Festival

“Kuma” is the Turkish word for a woman who lives with a married man and his family, a frowned-upon custom in Turkey as much as in the rest of Europe. In Dag’s emotional film, a Turkish family in Vienna decides to resolve their precarious situation by taking in a second wife for the family’s aging patriarch. The young and beautiful bride marries the patriarch’s son in a traditional wedding staged in the bride’s Turkish village. Even before the family returns to Austria, though, emotions run high between the children and their new “mother,” while the wives themselves create a strong bond. Their love for each other, however, is put to a challenging test.

(trailer with original subtitles)

Living Afterwards (De leur vivant), directed by Geraldine Doignon

Belgium, 2011, 95min, in French

Presented by the Belgian Tourist Office – Brussels Wallonia

Cast: Christian Crahay, Mathylde Demarez, Yoann Blanc, Jean-François Rossion

Official Selection – Montreal World Film Festival, Sao Paulo International Film Festival

Meeting at their mother’s funeral, three adult children of a small hotel owner – two brothers and a sister – struggle with their hurt feelings when their father fails to attend. They plan to sell the property to run away from the painful memories of their beloved mother, yet each of the three is facing personal troubles with relationships and career choices. The father is overcome by grief and unhappy with his children’s plan. When a pregnant woman appears at the hotel’s doorstep seeking a room, she becomes a means to mending the family’s broken relationships and finding a way to bring everyone together.

Lena, directed by Christophe Van Rompaey

The Netherlands-Belgium, 2011, 119min, in Dutch and Polish

Presented by the EYE Film Institute Netherlands

Cast: Emma Levie, Niels Gomperts, Jeroen Willems, Agata Buzek

Official Selection – Toronto International Film Festival; Les Arcs European Film Festival (Best Actress Award)

The titular Lena is a 17-year-old girl who lives with her single mother, a Polish immigrant. Because of her appearance and the poor home she hails from, she feels like an outsider, but she lacks neither the strength  nor the will to fight for her dream. A little overweight – a source of constant nagging and arguments with her mother – she radiates a sense of calm and happiness in spite of her innate shyness. When an attractive boy sets his eyes on her and invites her to move in with him and his single dad, Lena happily leaves her disapproving mother to start her life anew. But the rapid action quickly takes a wrong turn as things turn out not to be as rosy as they seemed.

Made in Ash (Az do mesta As), directed by Iveta Grofova

Slovakia, Czech Republic, 2012, 80min, in Slovak, Czech and German

Presented by the Consulate General of Slovak Republic and the Slovak Film Institute with additional support from +421 Foundation

Cast: Dorotka Billa, Silvia Halusicova, Robin Horky

Official Selection – Thessaloniki International Film Festival, Torino Film Festival

In her feature film debut, Iveta Grofova follows a high school graduate as she journeys from her native Slovakia to the westernmost town of the neighboring Czech Republic. The 18-year-old Roma  is searching for work, independence and an exciting life, which she was missing back in her village. Finding work in a textile factory, she’s confronted with the mundane life the women lead in the factory and adjoining dorms, spiced up only by visits from their “German princes,” equally lost men from across the border. The Slovak young woman soon finds a “prince” of her own, but when she loses her job, she has to decide whether marrying an older German is better than going back home to her family and the boyfriend she left behind.

Mushrooming (Seenelkaik), directed by Toomas Hussar

Estonia, 2012, 93min, in Estonian

Presented by the Consulate General of Estonia

Cast: Raivo E. Tamm, Elina Reinold, Juhan Ulfsak

Official Selection – Toronto International Film Festival; Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

A black political comedy, Hussar’s film satirizes the far-too-frequent cases of corruption and abuse of political power for gain in Europe. When a journalist learns too much about his financial misconduct, a high-level politician sets out on a mushrooming trip with his wife. Along the way they pick up a hitchhiker who turns out to be a pompous rock idol. Through a mix of bad luck and arrogance, they get lost, and when they encounter a rude local redneck, all hell breaks loose.

Play, directed by Ruben Ostlund

Sweden, France, Denmark, 2011, 118min, in Swedish

Q&A with the director. Opening night film selection.

Presented by the Consulate General of Sweden

Cast: Kevin Vaz, Johan Jonason, Abdiaziz Hilowle, Yannick Diakité, John Ortiz, Nana Manu

Official Selection – Cannes Film Festival – Directors’ Fortnight; Rotterdam and New York Film Festival; winner of numerous awards

A meticulously shot, constructed and rehearsed piece of cinema, Ostlund’s film is based on real cases of bullying, in which a group of teens robbed other children by using an elaborate scheme verging on a theatrical play. Although no physical violence is exerted, the victims find themselves trapped, give up any attempts to escape, and go along with the scammers’ demands, while adults fail to intervene on multiple occasions. In his third feature, Ostlund employs an exquisite filmmaking style while unnerving the viewer with a moral tale that challenges our thinking. Where in his earlier work he studied the influence of the group on the behavior of an individual, here he observes the interactions between two groups against the backdrop of contemporary European society.

Rose (Roza), directed by Wojciech Smarzowski

Poland, 2011, 94min, in Polish and German

Presented by the Polish Cultural Institute New York

Cast: Agata Kulesza, Marcin Dorocinski, Malwina Buss, Kinga Preis

Official Selection – Toronto International Film Festival

The director of the acclaimed contemporary drama The Wedding (in competition at Locarno IFF in 2004 and winner of numerous Polish Academy Awards the same year), brings another foray into Polish society. But this time he turns his attention to a seldom-explored theme from post-WWII European history. This is no historical glossy tableau. Relying more on raw imagery than dialogue, Smarzowski tells the tale of a fight for survival by a widowed Masurian woman. Her life and farm are attacked from all sides, by looters from the Soviet Army as well as the new Polish establishment, until rescue comes in the form of a man who fought in the war on the opposite side of her husband, whose brutal death she had to witness. http://cosmopolitanreview.com/roza/

Small Crime (Mikro eglima), directed by Christos Georgiou

Cyprus-Germany-Greece ,2008, 88min, in Greek

Presented by the Consulate General of Cyprus with the kind support of the Cyprus Federation of America

Cast: Aris Servetalis, Viki Papadopoulou, Rania Ekonomidou, Erricos Litsis

Official Selection – San Francisco International Film Festival; Thessaloniki International Film Festival

On a small Greek island a young police officer is frustrated with his mundane tasks – chasing local kids speeding on the dirt roads and hounding naked tourists off the beaches. So when a local drunk, a former soccer star, is found dead at the foot of a steep hill, the officer is convinced it’s a homicide. The investigation leads him to a beautiful TV anchor who hails from the island and makes everyone proud whenever she appears on screen. It doesn’t take long before romantic feelings develop between the two, but the truth behind the mysterious death still needs to be resolved. Exceptionally beautiful cinematography adds another dimension to this cheerful, lighthearted comedy.

Stars Above (Tahtitaivas talon ylla), directed by Saara Cantell

Finland-Iceland, 2012, 101min, in Finnish

Presented by the Consulate General of Finland and the Finnish Film Foundation

Cast: Elin Petersdottir, Meri Nenonen, Irina Bjorklund

Director Saara Cantell chronicles Finnish society and its changing attitudes towards women through the lives of three generations set in 1942, 1978, and the present, depicted in vivid period detail. The film follows three women who settle on a family farm as they struggle with themselves and their relations with men. In all three cases, the farm serves as a refuge: first to the casualties of war, then as a place to restart one’s life, and finally as a place of escape from the outer world.

Summer Games (Giochi d’estate) directed by Rolando Colla

Switzerland-Italy, 2011, 106min, in Italian

Presented by the Consulate General of Switzerland in New York

Cast: Armando Condolucci, Fiorella Campanella, Alessia Barela, Antonio Merone

Official Selection – Venice International Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival

On summer vacation, everyone tries to be on their best behavior. But it doesn’t take long before the pretense vanishes. So goes the relationship of a blue-collar couple on the brink of divorce because the husband can’t control his violence.  It turns out that their son can’t control himself either, as he rules over a group of children at the summer campsite. When he meets a girl in pain because her father has abandoned her, they build a bond and emotional fortress by pretending that nothing can ever enter their world.

The Almost Man (Mer eller mindre mann), directed by Martin Lund

Norway, 2012, 80min, in Norwegian

Q&A with the director

Presented by the Norwegian Consulate General

Cast: Henrik Rafaelsen, Solvei Grimen Fosse, Janne Heltberg

Official Selection  – Karlovy Vary Film Festival (winner Best Film and Best Actor)

Having just acquired their first home, a thirty something couple  are expecting their first child. Yet their interactions—loaded with jokes and wisecracks as a way to avoid “serious talk”—suggest a yearning to preserve the freshness of their earlier, carefree days’. The young man (the excellent Henrik Rafaelsen, lead in the remarkable 2010 comedy Happy Happy) is more prone to escapism, and when his kindhearted partner invites friends and colleagues over for a pleasant evening with wine, he runs off to join his high school buddies for a night of wild drinking and making out with single women. On his return home, he has to face the core reasons for his immature behavior.

The Boy Who Was A King (Momcheto, koeto beshe tsar), directed by Andrey Paounov

Bulgaria-Germany, 2011, 90min, documentary, in Bulgarian and English.

Q&A with the director

Presented thanks to support from the Trust for Mutual Understanding

Official Selection – Toronto International Festival; River Run International Film Festival (Best Documentary Feature)

In the words of the filmmaker: “Royalty meets Reality: the biography of Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, the exile boy-king who gloriously returned as a republican politician to fall from grace in one of the greatest experiments of democracy today.” In his characteristic filmmaking style, Paounov (The Mosquito Problem) continues to study contemporary Bulgarian society and its 20th-century past. This time he scrutinizes the unique life of King Simeon II, who was crowned as a 6-year-old after the sudden death of his father, only to be dethroned by the Communists at age 9, and finally becoming Bulgarian prime minister some 50 years later. Through his excellent choice of rich archival footage and perfectly crafted staged scenes, Paounov expertly follows a typically European style of creative documentary making.

 The Exam (A vizsga), directed by Peter Bergendy

Hungary, 2011, 89min, in Hungarian

Q&A with screenwriter Norbert Kobli

Presented by the Hungarian Cultural Center

Cast: Zsolt Nagy, Janos Kulka, Peter Scherer, Andras Balogh, Gabriella Hamori

Official Selection – Karlovy Vary International Festival, Montreal World Film Festival

In the territory of secret agents, it’s never easy to know who is watching whom, who is the hunter and who is the hunted. In 1950s Communist Hungary, the secrets and enemy sides were aplenty and the stakes as high as they come. Loyalty to the state had to be proven and counter-revolutionaries uncovered, especially if they came in the form of a beautiful seductress. But who will be the last one left standing remains to be seen.

The Taste of Creme Brulee (O Sabor do Leite Creme), directed by Hiroatsu Suzuki and Rossana Torres

Portugal, 2012, 74min, documentary, in Portuguese

Presented by the Embassy of Portugal and Instituto Camoes

Official Selection – DocLisboa (main competition)

The filmmakers devote their film to the passing of time in a house occupied by two elderly sisters. Looking out from their old house to the street and the school where they both used to teach, the sisters share their unhurried life tending to the house, their garden, and each other. Only the garden reveals the passing of time and changing seasons as the film quietly observes what life brings in old age, through the sublime, affecting camerawork of Hiroatsu Suzuki.

still 1 O Sabor do Leite Creme

Tilva Rosh (Tilva Ros), directed by Nikola Lezaic

Serbia, 2010, 99min, in Serbian

Q&A with the director

Presented thanks to support from the Trust for Mutual Understanding

Cast: Marko Todorovic, Stefan Djordjevic, Dunja Kovacevic

Official Selection – Sarajevo International Film Festival (winner Best Film), Locarno Film Festival

The story is set in Bor, Serbia, once the pride of Yugoslav industry as the largest copper mine in Europe, now just the biggest abandoned hole in the ground. Two best friends kill time during their first summer after high school by enacting Jackass-like stunts and recording them on video to share with the world. Their friendship starts to unravel over their romantic interest in the same girl and tension due to the fact that only one of them has enough money to go to university. But the rising union protests in town bring them back together.  Traveling the worldwide festival circuit, director Lezaic is making his first New York public appearance with his debut feature at Disappearing Act.

Tomboy, directed by Celine Sciamma

France, 2011, 82min, in French

Presented by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy. A Dada Films release.

Cast: Zoe Heran, Malonn Levana, Jeanne Disson, Sophie Cattani, Mathieu Demy

Official Selection – Berlin International Film Festival (winner of Teddy Award)

Winner of numerous festival awards, Tomboy tells a story of finding one’s sexual identity. A 10-year-old girl takes advantage of her family’s move to a new neighborhood to present herself as a boy to her new friends. Her potential love interest, soccer teammates, and finally her parents find out what has been going on, but what ensues is one of the most tenderly resolved situations seen in the coming-of-age and LGBT film genre.

Tuesday, After Christmas (Marti, dupa Craciun), directed by Radu Muntean

Romania, 2010, 99min, in Romanian

Presented by the Romanian Film Initiative. A Kino Lorber release.

Cast: Mimi Branescu, Mirela Oprisor, Maria Popistasu, Dragos Bucur

Official Selection – Cannes Film Festival – Un Certain Regard

Radu Muntean is one of the filmmakers whose works gave birth to the Romanian New Wave. In a signature style, his films are carried out with careful attention to every word uttered and every moment of silence experienced with his characters. Never simplistic morality tales, the sympathies towards each character shift from one to the other as more details about their lives are revealed. So it is with this story of a middle-aged man in love with two women: his wife and mother of his only child, and his younger new lover. He’s set on leaving one of them before Christmas, and with every minute of the film the atmosphere gets heavier as the crucial moment draws near.

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Disappearing Act I – 2009 – full film line-up

Tobruk directed, written and produced by Vaclav Marhoul

Czech Republic, 2008, 100 min, in Czech, Slovak, Polish, German and English

With Jan Meduna, Petr Vanek, Martin Nahalka and Robert NebrenskyA humanistic story about Czech soldiers in exile who fought on the side of the Allies against Nazis and Fascists in the infamous battle of Tobruk in North Africa during WWII. A naïve young soldier joins the Czech troops. He soon finds out that there is only a very thin line between heroism and cowardice. Courage is the will power, which no man has enough to spare. When used, it is soon exhausted.

Watch the whole movie online (czech / no subtitles)

Delta directed and co-written by Kornel Mundruczo

Hungary, 2008, 93 min, in Hungarian

With Felix Lajko, Orsi Toth, Lili Monori, Sandor GasparMundruczo builds his tragic drama through quiet magnificent images of landscapes of the Danube Delta. Returning to his native village after a long absence, a nameless man builds a house on stilts in the middle of nowhere, aided by his half-sister whom he has just met, and ostracized by his mother and stepfather. Getting to know each other the siblings fall in love. Mundruczo’s drama traveled world festivals from the main competition in Cannes to official selection at Toronto IFF. He made his name with previous films at Locarno IFF (Pleasant Days) and Cannes IFF section Un Certain Regard (Johanna). The screening of this film is part of Extremely Hungary, a yearlong festival of Hungarian art and culture in New York and Washington, D.C.

Watch the whole movie on Netflix

Plastic Bags (Kese/Tasky) directed by Milos Tomic

Serbia / Czech Republic, 2007, 4.5 min, no dialogue

A love triangle between three plastic bags in a city park. Tomic, a Serbian PhD student of the Prague Film Academy, produced the film in the Belgrade studios of Dusan Makavejev, the legendary member of Yugoslav New Wave.

Watch the whole movie online

Vacation (Ferien) directed and written by Thomas Arslan

Germany, 2007, 91 min, in German

With Angela Winkler, Karoline Eichhorn, Uwe Bohm and Gudrun RitterDuring the course of the summer, several generations of a sprawling family come to a remote summerhouse. Things get off to a promising start with a pleasant round of long walks, swimming in the nearby lake, and family meals in the garden. But what looked like an idyllic sojourn is cut short when the grandmother falls seriously ill and needs to be cared for. Before long, the cracks in the relationship of the adult daughter’s marriage begin to become increasingly apparent. Even more confusion is caused by the visit of another daughter who lives abroad. The film was presented at the Berlin IFF’s Panorama special section and featured at other festivals as well.

La France directed and co-written by Serge Bozon

France, 2007, 102 min, in French

With Sylvie Testud, Pascal Greggory and Guillaume VerdierIn autumn 1917, during the height of the war, Camille leads a peaceful existence in the northeast of France, until she receives an unexpected letter from her husband who left for the front. That same day, the young woman decides to leave home disguised as a man, secretly hoping to find her husband again. Through a chance meeting in a forest, she succeeds in blending in with a small group of soldiers who have no idea of her true identity. A winner of Jean Vigo Award, the film was selected for the Directors’ Fortnight at the Cannes IFF and presented as part of the New Directors/New Films in New York where the NY Times Manohla Dargis praised it as pleasurable and mysterious and “a WWI movie like none other” where soldiers break mid-sentence into melodic riffs on a 1960s pop song.

Watch the whole movie on Netflix

Music (Muzika) directed by Juraj Nvota

Slovakia, 2008, 100 min, in Slovak

With Lubos Kostelny, Tana Pauhofova, Dorota Nvotova and Jan BudarSlovakia sometime in the 1980s, not far from a big city, just a few steps from the border of an evil capitalist country and in a place where all roads turn back to the numbing building of socialism – there begins a funny and blackish story about a man who hoped that his music would help him escape but who did not succeed. Director Nvota belongs to the mainstays of Slovak narrative cinema and his latest feature marked unprecedented box office success in his home country with numerous national awards and festival participations.

Il Divo Directed and written by Paolo Sorrentino

Italy, 2008, 110 min, in Italian

With Toni Servillo, Anna Bonaiuto, Piera Degli Esposti and Paolo GraziosiA difficult subject – the darkest chapters of Italian politics, which were never truly closed – told through a free and highly modern cinematic language. A portrait of the calm, ambiguous, inscrutable Andreotti who was a synonym of power in Italy for over four decades. At the beginning of the nineties, without arrogance or humility, immobile, ambiguous and reassuring, he advances relentlessly towards his seventh mandate as Prime Minister. The film premiered in the official competition at the Cannes IFF where it won jury award and traveled world festivals including the Toronto IFF.

Watch the whole movie on MUBI (check availability in your area on this link; U.S. currently unavailable, but may become available in the future)

The Paper Will Be Blue (Hirtia va fi albastra) directed by Radu Muntean

Romania, 2006

With Paul Ipate, Adrian Carauleanu, Dragos Bucur and Alexandru PotoceanThe story takes place in the confusion of the long night-day-night of December 22, 1989, the moment of Ceausescu’s overthrow and the uncertainty of its immediate aftermath. With no one sure who’s running the country or whether a counter-coup has restored the dictator to power, an armored military unit hunkers down in a quiet Bucharest suburb, awaiting orders but mainly trying to stay out of trouble. A gripping, taut rendition of the birth pangs of contemporary Romania, the film is history from the ground up – an attempt to re-create historical events as they were lived by the average Romanian. Presented in competition at the Locarno IFF. Muntean’s newest feature Boogie, which premiered at Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes IFF, marks another success for the young director. The screening will be introduced by Mihai Chirilov, film critic and director of the Transylvania International Film Festival.

Watch the whole movie on Netflix

Yella directed and co-written by Christian Petzold

Germany, 2007, 89 min, in German

With Nina Hoss, Hinnerk Schonemann, Devid Striesow and Barbara AuerYella is estranged from her possessive and violent husband, but he can’t quite bring himself to give her up. When the couple’s fraught interaction finally comes to a dramatic conclusion, Yella’s life takes an odd shift. She moves across Germany to find work in an effort to escape her disintegrating marriage, but has a hard time getting rid of her past. The film competed at the Berlin IFF, where it won the Silver Bear for Best Actress. Petzold’s newest feature Jerichow – featuring the same leading actress – was in official competition at the Venice IFF and other festivals. Petzold has been described as the rising star of German auteur film.

Watch the whole movie on MUBI

California Dreamin’ (Endless Nesfarsit) directed and co-written by Cristian Nemescu

Romania, 2007, 155 min, in Romanian and English

With Armand Asante, Razvan Vasilescu, Maria Dinulescu, and Jamie ElmanThis raucously dark comedy centers on a trainload of US marines bound for an important mission in Kosovo in 1999, until a corrupt stationmaster holds them on a customs technicality in a Romanian backwater. Welcoming them with open arms, the locals see their unexpected guests as tickets to political power, financial advantage, or romance. As the days drag on, however, patience wears thin and sparks fly. Director Nemescu tragically died before the final edit of the film (hence the word “endless” in the title). His feature debut nonetheless received premiere and an award in the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes IFF and traveled the world festivals including Toronto IFF. The screening will be introduced by Mihai Chirilov, film critic and director of the Transylvania International Film Festival.

Watch the whole movie on MUBI (check availability in your area on this link; U.S. currently unavailable, but may become available in the future)

Vaclav directed and co-written by Jiri Vejdelek

Czech Republic, 2007, 100 min, in Czech

With Ivan Trojan, Emilia Vasaryova, Jiri Labus and Jan BudarVaclav is the village looser, bordering on autism and still living with his widowed mother. He’s constantly fighting with his younger brother who’s ashamed of him and wants him to be put in an institution. Their fight over a mistress has criminal consequences for Vaclav, who cannot be excused as the village-fool anymore. The director made entrance to American festivals with his previous films Holiday Makers (Tribeca FF) and Roming (Toronto IFF). This film won two major awards at the Shanghai IFF.

Blind Loves (Slepe lasky) directed and co-written by Juraj Lehotsky

Slovakia, 2008, 77 min, in Slovak

Blind Loves is a non-fiction film about love between blind people. To find one’s place in this world is not an easy thing to do for people with good sight, but how much more difficult it can get for somebody who is blind? The “view” of blind persons is often pure and essential, and very often witty. It uncovers new dimensions of meaning of happiness. Lehotsky’s feature debut premiered at the Directors’ Fortnight at the Cannes IFF and since was presented in and out of competition in numerous international festivals including the Toronto IFF.

Watch the whole movie online

Girls (Lanyok) directed and written by Anna Faur

Hungary, 2007, 90 min, in Hungarian

With Fulvia Collongues, Helene Francois, Sandor Zsoter and Kornel MundruczoThe film was inspired by a story of a true crime committed in Hungary: two teenage girls killed a taxi driver. The director presents the fairly typical surroundings of a generation for which sex and sexuality have a previously unknown meaning. The traditional roles and taboos are long forgotten, and gone are the shyness and sensibility associated with sensuality. The story follows two societies on the fringes: one of the two girls living as petty criminals and the other of taxi drivers with no smaller criminal intents. After her film school graduation/feature debut with Girls, director Faur was invited to the residency of the Cinefondation-Cannes Film Festival.

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Scratch (Rysa) directed by Michal Rosa

Poland, 2008, 89 min, in Polish

With Jadwiga Jankowska-Cieslak, Krzysztof Stroinski, Ewa Telega, and Ryszard FilipskiIt’s present day in Krakow. The central couple lives a satisfied married life for 40 years until the wife discovers a dark page in her husband’s past through a videotape that holds an interview about the work of Polish state security in the 1950s and ’60s. She refuses to believe her husband is guilty and sets on a quest to find out the truth. The director describes the story as about original sin and that mercy is not compulsory. The film received several national awards including the award for best screenplay.

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Import/Export Directed and co-written by Ulrich Seidl

Austria, 2007, 136 min, in German and Ukrainian

With Ekaterina Rak, Natalja Baranova, Paul Hoffman, and Michael ThomasOne film about two fates. One is about Olga, a young nurse from the Ukraine. The other one is about Paul, a young hooligan from the Viennese suburbs. Both are unemployed, both are living on the edge of society. She believes that she will find her luck in the West, whereas he ends up in the East in the pursuit for love, happiness and a meaning of life. The latest feature from the director of Dog Days and Jesus You Know was presented in the official competition at the Cannes IFF and at the Toronto IFF among other festivals.

Watch the whole movie on MUBI  (check availability in your area on this link; U.S. currently unavailable, but may become available in the future)

The Session Is Open (L’udienza e aperta) directed by Vincenzo Marra

Italy, 2007, 75 min, in Italian

As if a companion piece to the current Italian film sensation Gomorrah, this documentary is a record of one day in the courthouse of Naples: the protagonists are a 70 year old justice of appeal, his associate judge, a vivacious and friendly 45 year old woman, and the greatest criminal lawyer in all of Naples. They are all involved in resolving a judicial proceeding on a camorra killing case. The film was presented at the Venice Days accompanying the official program of the Venice IFF and at the Toronto IFF. Director Marra’s previous film Vento di Terra was also a favorite of international festivals including Venice, Cannes and Toronto IFF.

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All Is Forgiven (Tout est pardonne) directed and written by Mia Hansen-Love

France, 2007, 105 min, in French and German

With Marie-Christine Friedrich, Paul Blain, Carole Franck and Constance RousseauA film in three parts starts in Vienna in 1992 with two 30 year-olds, Victor and Annette, and their young daughter Pamela. In spite of Victor’s drug addiction, the family manages to stay together and Annette hopes that their departure for Paris will improve the situation. However, in France, everything goes downhill and the couple breaks up. Victor falls in love and moves in with a young woman who supplies him with drugs, while Annette leaves him and disappears with their daughter. Twelve years later, Pamela discovers that her father still lives in Paris and decides to go to see him. Among other festivals the film was presented at the Directors’ Fortnight at the Cannes IFF and at the Rotterdam IFF.

Forever Never Anywhere (Immer nie am Meer) directed, co-written and co-produced by Antonin Svoboda

Austria, 2007, 88 min, in German

With Christoph Grissemann, Dirk Stermann, Heinz StrunkWhere there’s life, there’s hope. But what happens if hope is suddenly discovered to have been laid to rest years ago…? The story features three men trapped in their car after an accident on a remote road, who find out more about each other than they would ever be willing to consider… Director Svoboda is also a well-known producer of such successful titles as Darwin’s Nightmare, Lovely Rita and Falling. This feature was among official selections at the Rotterdam and the Toronto IFF.

It’s Me, Now (Teraz ja) directed and written by Anna Jadowska

Poland, 2006, 85 min, in Polish

With Agnieszka Warchulska, Maciej Marczewski, Ewa Szykulska, Elzbieta GrucaHanna is a confused young woman who suddenly leaves home for no obvious reason: she just goes out to do some shopping and does not come back. She gets on a bus and sets off on a trip around Poland. Her partner Pawel searches for her all over. During these two identical and separate journeys, they meet strange and fascinating characters along the way – people just like them, who cannot find their place in the world.

Disappearing Act II – 2010 – full film line-up

Men in a Rut (Muzi v riji) directed by Robert Sedlacek

Czech Republic, 2009, 120 min, in Czech

With Martin Huba, Jaromir Hanzlik, Jiri Labus, and Pavel Zednicek

This raucous comedy of communal politics is the second fiction feature of a talented filmmaker, a student of the enfant terrible of Czech non-fiction cinema Karel Vachek (whose other students Vit Klusak and Fillip Remunda directed the provocative Czech Dream). In a village that is so remote that even the road ends there, the locals decide that it’s time to get their dream of a new highway realized by bringing the attention of national politicians to their village in any way possible. They decide that their key to success is their local introvert, a national deer-calling champion, and they organize a European deer-calling championship with the prime minister as a guest. One is soon to realize, that the deer-calling enterprise is very close to any political campaign, yet much more laughable. Both of the film screenings will be followed by a Q&A with the director.

Rene directed by Helena Trestikova

Czech Republic, 2008, 90 min, in Czech

This raw documentary tells the story of Rene Plasil whose life has been captured on camera since he was seventeen. Trestikova, who specializes in long-form observational documentaries, follows his journey for over 20 years, between stints in prison and brief periods outside the prison walls. In 2008 the film comes to an end, leaving the charismatic and bright 37-year-old Rene diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and still getting into trouble with the law, but he is also the author of two published books. For this film, Trestikova received the Prix Arte for the Best European Documentary of the Year from the European Film Academy (competing with Man on Wire). Last year Trestikova also won the Media European Talent Award at Cannes for her next project, Miracle, which follows a now 35-years old man from his birth. Rene was presented in numerous festivals around the world (including HotDocs and SXSW) garnering multiple awards.

Watch the whole movie on MUBI

The Secret of the Grain (La Graine et le Mulet) directed and written by Abdellatif Kechiche

France, 2007, 151 min, in French, Arabic and Russian

Directed and written by Abdellatif Kechiche. With Habib Boufares, Hafsia Herzi, Farida Benkhetache, and Bouraouia Marzouk. This tale of a French-Tunisian immigrant family making the ends meet in a French Mediterranean port around the disappearing fishing industry is simply a masterful piece of cinema. The grain of the title – couscous – and fish are the traditional Sunday meal expertly cooked by the former wife of the patriarch of a large family, who supplies the fish but never comes to share the meal. Facing an imminent lay-off from the docks, he makes a plan to open a family restaurant great encouragement and support from the daughter of his current partner. To convince the immigrant averse bureaucrats to approve his plans, he invites them for a free dinner with musical entertainment. To quote the critics: “Kechiche’s bustling and brilliant film” (A.O. Scott) … “never slows, always engages, may continue too long, but ends too soon” (R. Ebert). It’s an experience not to be missed. Winner of almost 20 awards including several Cesars; traveled international festivals world over including Venice IFF where it premiered. IFC Films release.

Watch the whole movie online on MUBI (check availability in your area on this link; U.S. currently unavailable, but may become available in the future)

The Invisible Frame directed by Cynthia Beatt With Tilda Swinton

Germany, 2009, 59 min, followed by Cycling the Frame (1988, Germany) 27min, both in English and German

Berlin based British director Beatt set out to document the change her city of choice experienced over 20 years, in a very straightforward way: Tilda Swinton cycles along the former Berlin wall to witness the new life that has emerged from the path that once was the Berlin Wall and no man’s land surrounding it. The minimal structure of this film retraces an action that the director and Swinton undertook 21 years ago, when the actress cycled along the West side of the standing wall in 1988. The effectiveness of the experience of seeing both of these films back to back is stunning (screened in a reverse order emphasizing the passage of time) and it gives a material proof and emotional resonance to the historical events of 1989.

Watch the whole movie on MUBI (check availability in your area on this link; U.S. currently unavailable, but may become available in the future)

Hooked directed and written by Adrian Sitaru

Romania, 2007, 84 min, in Romanian

With Adrian Titienu, Ioanna Flora, and Maria Dinulescu. A bickering young couple takes a weekend trip to the countryside. The atmosphere is dense and the couple on the brink of a break-up. Matters get worse when their car hits a young prostitute, who seems to be dead. Convincing each other that hiding the body would be the best solution, the couple is shocked when the girl comes to and seemingly remembers nothing. She manipulates herself into their plans and nobody is sure about anything anymore. Shot completely in POV style, alternating fluidly between the perspectives of various characters, the film never lets up on its intensive suspense. Premiering at the Venice Film Festival, the film received several major awards for emerging talents including a prize at Palm Springs IFF and securing the director a Cinefondacion Residence to develop his next feature film project.

Cooking History directed and written by Peter Kerekes

Slovakia, Austria, Czech Republic, 2008, 88 min, in Russian, German, Serbian, Croatian, Hungarian, French, etc.

6 wars, 10 recipes, 60.361,024 dead – a documentary about army cooks and how the everyday needs of thousands of armed stomachs affect the victories and defeats of statesmen – is the website byline of this engrossing, unusual and entertaining documentary about European wars and enemies from WWII to the recent wars in the Balkans. Playfully and powerfully staging interviews with army cooks recalling their wartime memories woven together in episodes devoted to each war, Kerekes provides fascinating sociological insights and proves that he’s one of Europe’s major filmmaking talents. Winner of multiple awards including a Special Jury Prize at the HotDocs documentary film festival. NPR interview with the director taped on the occasion of the film’s screening at the SilverDocs film festival in DC is available at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=105606204&ft=1&f=1053.

Watch the whole movie on MUBI

A Call Girl (Slovenka) directed and written by Damjan Kozole

Slovenka, 2009, Slovenia, 90 min, in Slovenian

With Nina Ivanisin, Peter Musevski, and Primoz Pirnat. A university student of English by day, a money-counting call girl by night, that’s the title character, “one of the most coolly calculating anti-heroines to grace the silver screen.” (A. Simon, Variety). Loosing her sense of reality and appreciation of her body, she does it all for the dream of moving up the social ladder and living in a penthouse she bought with a high mortgage. On her weekend trips to the small town of her childhood visiting her aging-rocker father, nobody knows of the ‘big’ life she leads in the capital. The wake-up-call comes after one of her clients, a visiting foreign politician, dies of a heart attack in her presence. She’s overcome by fear, guilt and desperation when the police and a couple of thuggish pimps step into her insular world. Kozole’s previous feature Spare Parts and a number of his other films helped to put Slovenia on the contemporary film map. Both of his films are released in the US by Film Movement and both have been selected by numerous international festivals including IFF in Toronto and Rotterdam.

Watch the whole movie on Film Movement

Carmen of the North (Carmen van het noorden) directed by Jelle Nesna

The Netherlands, 2009, 100 min, in Dutch

With Tygo Gernandt, Sanguita Akkrum, Thom Hoffman. Inspired by the 1919 Dutch film of the same title, director Nesna transfers the story to the contemporary multicultural society in the Netherlands. Carmen, whose roots are in Southeastern Asia, becomes the object of desire of a police inspector, after she becomes a murder suspect. Absorbed by his love for Carmen, he leaves his fiancée and loses his job, but soon realizes that Carmen values freedom more than anything else. Hip hop music is a major element of this update of a classic story and apart from being a Dutch box office hit, the film also received national awards for music direction. Screening introduced by Thessa Mooij.

Summer Holiday (Boogie) directed and written by Radu Muntean

Romania, 2008, 102 min, in Romanian

With Dragos Bucur, Anamaria Marinca, Mimi Branescu, and Adrian Vancica. In all of his three released feature films (and the fourth currently in production) Muntean created leading roles for actor Dragos Bucur, the star of Police, Adjective, which recently premiered in US cinemas. In the title role of the thirty-something Boogie he’s cast opposite the excellent Anamaria Marinca (of 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days) as his wife. The young couple and their 4-year-old son go to the seaside on a May holiday weekend. A successful businessman Boogie is constantly drawn away by incessantly ringing cell phone and the feeling that he’s forced to enjoy a day with his family is quite palpable. Boogie becomes even more restless when the family runs into his high school friends. During a dinner they recall their freewheeling drinking and flirting vacations of the past which they try to relive during the night only to find out, that the world around them has already changed. Muted in its style, the brilliant acting by the entire cast contributes to the high satisfaction experienced from this universal story, which premiered in the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes IFF.

Watch the whole movie on Netflix

God’s Offices (Les Bureaux de Dieu) directed by Claire Simon With Nathalie Baye, Nicole Garcia, Beatrice Dalle and Isabelle Carre

France, 2008, 122 min, in French

Based on real life sessions in a family planning clinic, director Simon explores women’s sexual freedom by placing women of all ages in conversations with clinic counselors. Teenagers of all colors and backgrounds share the reasons why they can’t talk at home about sex and contraception, a family deals with their underage daughter undergoing abortion, an Arab boyfriend wants to get proof of his girlfriend’s virginity, and a married woman struggles with her decision to abort and the sex choices she made in the past. It’s all about the very business of life itself. The film premiered at the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes IFF and one of its strengths is also the stellar cast.

Camino directed and written by Javier Fesser

Spain, 2008, 143 min, in Spanish

With Nerea Camacho, Carme Elias, Marino Venancio, and Manuela Velles. Based on a true story, Camino is an emotional adventure set around a dazzling 11-year-old girl simultaneously faced with two completely new events in her life: falling in love and dying. “This extraordinarily bold, provocative work has already caused heated debate in Spain. With Camino lying in hospital bed, Fesser takes us back five months, to her life as a normal adolescent. When her illness strikes, her family, members of Opus Dei, encourage her to dedicate her suffering to God. Fesser’s powerful vision of the world seen by Camino and her family creates a very contemporary update of a very traditional Spanish film genre: the lives of the saints.” (From the Spanish Cinema Now program notes.) Regardless of the apparent controversy, the film succeeded in garnering multiple national awards including six 2009 Goya Awards (also for Best Film).

Lesson 21 (Lezione 21) directed and written by Alessandro Baricco

Italy, 2008, 92 min, in English

With John Hurt, Noah Taylor, Leonor Watling, and Clive Russell. In his debut as a film director, the accomplished Italian writer and essayist combines both of the fields of his study: philosophy and the piano. The eccentric university professor Mondrian Killroy is adored by his students; his most famous lecture is Lesson 21 in which he critically discusses the genesis and importance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. After the professor’s disappearance, his student Marta sets out to find him to hear the lesson once again. Conceived as a dream-like story unfolding in Marta’s mind, a series of bizarre characters representing period thought and opinions passionately argue the symphony’s merits with fascinated musicians. In a stylistically colorful way and with a very interesting cast, Baricco created the most unusual film about a well-known musical composition.

Revanche directed and written by Götz Spielmann

Austria, 2008, 121 min, in German

With Johannes Krisch, Irina Potapenko, Ursula Strauss, and Andreas Lust. Seemingly a suspense thriller plot centered around a bank robbery and revenge, the film quickly shifts to existential themes of guilt, the search for identity, loneliness and contrasts between city and country. In a ragged section of Vienna, hardened ex-con works in a brothel where he falls for Ukrainian hooker. Their desperate plans for escape unexpectedly intersect with the lives of a rural cop and his generous wife. With meticulous, elegant direction, Spielman creates a tense, existential, and surprising portrait of vengeance and redemption, and a journey into the darkest regions of human nature, in which violence and beauty exist side by side. Winner of numerous major film festival awards topped by an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film, the film was acquired and released in an unprecedented move by Janus Films and the Criterion Collection, placing it side by side with the rest of the classic cinema in their immense library. An honor that Spielmann’s film rightly deserves.

Watch the whole movie on MUBI

Moon Inside You (Mesiac v nas) directed and written by Diana Fabianova

Slovakia, 2009, 75 min, in English and Slovakian

Diana is not the only one for whom the monthly period is no fun at all. She asks herself why it is so widely accepted that women all over the world should feel so lousy on a regular basis? Entertaining and surprisingly inviting, The Moon Inside You takes viewers on an international trek exploring the myths, phobias, quackery, and physiology of menstruation. Combining personal experience with the social stigmas associated with basic female functions, this insightful documentary uses humor, spontaneous interviews, and even claymation to allay the fears of many viewers and offer welcome information and insight into many more. Premiered at the IDFA documentary film festival in Rotterdam 2009.

Watch the whole movie online (will be available soon)

Jerichow directed and written by Christian Petzold

Germany, 2008, 93 min, in German

With Benno Furmann, Nina Hoss, and Hilmi Sozer. “Money is the Fourth Party in a Romantic Triangle” was the title of A.O. Scott’s NY Times review of this somber feature named after the east German town where the story unfolds. The triangle in this variation on the classic story The Postman Always Rings Twice, consists of a former soldier down on his luck, a bored, blonde and beautiful wife, and her rich husband, a Turkish immigrant. Inevitably, the wife and the newcomer find passion for each other and want to find a way, how to get rid of the husband and keep his money. All three characters hide secrets from one another until everything culminates in an explosive final scene. A wonderful cast and underlying observations of modern German society makes this festival favorite (IFF in Venice, Toronto, Berlin, Edinburgh among others) a small gem.

Watch the whole movie on MUBI

Father’s Acre (Apafold) directed, written and edited by Viktor Oszkar Nagy

Hungary, 2009, 79 min, in Hungarian

With Janos Derzsi, Andrea Nagy, and Tamas Ravasz

An oedipal story shot in the best of Hungarian cinema traditions and in a visually stunning style, this film marks an impressive entry on the film stage by a young debuting director. A father returns from prison to his village home in hopes of reconnecting with his son after a long absence. The teenager, long used to fending for himself after his mother passed away, has no respect for his father. Their silent tandem tending to an acre of field the father acquired to turn both of their lives around, results in an impressive vineyard, but the reconnection faces hurdles that are hard to overcome. Winner of the foreign critics award at the 2009 Hungarian Film Week, Nagy convinces with his confident direction of actors including Derzsi, a veteran of many Bela Tarr’s films, in the leading role.

Watch the whole movie on Netlix

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Disappearing Act III – 2011- full film line-up

Czech Peace (Cesky mir) directed by Vit Klusak and Filip Remunda

Czech Republic, 2010, 100 min, in Czech

In 2007 the Czech government approved the installation of a U.S. antimissile system right in the heart of the country, on a site once occupied by another foreign superpower: during the Cold War, Soviet soldiers camped in the same area. The decision sparked the largest and most organized Czech protests since 1989, with unprecedented solidarity among groups ranging from traditional activists to heads of local governments and ordinary folks. Disapproval of the radar installation reached 70% among the country’s population. Directors Klusak and Remunda—whose first feature, Czech Dream, was a sensation both at home and abroad—document not only the anti-radar movement and the pro-radar side, but also the men behind the Czech-American deal. They bring the audience up close in the woods and streets that became a battlefield, but also to the White House and the back rooms of the Pentagon, starring Bush, Obama, and the like. 

Watch the whole movie online on Doc Alliance

The Happiest Girl in the World (Cea mai fericita fata din lume) directed and co-written by Radu Jude

Romania, 2009, 90 min, in Romanian

With Andreea Bosneah, Violeta Haret, Vasile Muraru, Andi Vasluianu, Serban Pavlu
For every teenager, the act of stepping out from your parents’ shadow and taking your own life into your hands is a trying time of life. For Delia, that moment comes when she disagrees with her parents on what to do with a car she wins in a lottery held as a marketing ploy for a soft drink. To Delia, the car represents freedom—from her parents and from her small town, so she can go study in the big city. Shooting the commercial she’s required to make as part of winning the prize becomes more and more tedious with every take and every sip of the sticky soda she has to drink—while in between takes she bickers with her ever-controlling parents. This directorial feature debut of Radu Jude (who has a background in commercials but also served as assistant director on The Death of Mr. Lazarescu) premiered at Berlinale and traveled the world festival circuit, including Cannes, Toronto, London, Buenos Aires, Los Angeles, and New Directors/New Films last year.

Lourdes directed and written by Jessica Hausner

Austria, France, Germany, 2009, 99 min, in French

With Sylvie Testud, Lea Seydoux, Bruno Todeschini, Elina Loewensohn.

A group of pilgrims, assisted by Order of Malta volunteers, travels by bus for the weekend to Lourdes. Several of them are wheelchair-bound, including the young quadrupledgic Christine. Her even younger assistant, Maria, one of the volunteers, is a constant reminder of the simple pleasures and opportunities in life that are out of reach for Christina. Only through a miracle could their roles reverse—and supposedly, miracles happen in Lourdes. But does a person like Christine, who confesses that traveling with pilgrims is her only way to see the world, deserve one? Sylvie Testud shines in the lead role with the quiet strength of her gaze. Hausner delivers in her third feature film a great comedy of manners, appreciated at festivals worldwide. A Palisades Tartan release.

Watch the whole movie on MUBI (check availability in your area on this link; U.S. currently unavailable, but may become available in the future)

Osadne directed ny Marko Skorp

Slovakia, 2009, 65 min, in Slovak

In one of Slovakia’s easternmost villages, on the border with Ukraine, unlikely alliances are forged for the sake of renewal. The village is slowly losing its inhabitants as young people flee for the city in search of jobs. The new Christian Orthodox priest, a young man of imposing stature, is set on turning the fortunes of his parish around. The village mayor who has been at the helm for over 30 years—which means he served under the Communists—becomes the priest’s unlikely accomplice. They decide their only chance is to pay a visit to their representatives in Brussels and win funding from the EU. What results is a heartwarming and funny travelogue, which may or may not end in success. Director Skop brought home second prize for best documentary from Karlovy Vary IFF and other festivals.

Watch the whole movie online on DokWeb

Troubled Water (De usynlige) directed by Erik Poppe

Norway, 2008, 115 min, in Norwegian

With Pal Sverre Valheim Hagen, Trine Dyrhold, Ellen Dorrit Petersen

A young man leaves prison after serving most of his sentence for killing a child. He returns to the town where it happened, which he left on the verge of adulthood. Finding refuge and a job as organist in the local church, it seems that when he befriends the priest—the single mother of a young boy who adores him—he may also be able to find forgiveness and peace of mind. This hidden gem of a film offers a powerful story with a remarkably complex screenplay and directing. Both leading actors shine with measured yet highly moving portrayals: Hagen in his lead feature debut, and Dyrhold in yet another standout performance as is  her turn in this year’s Oscar winner for Best Foreign-Language Film. A Film Movement release.

Watch the whole movie on Film Movement

“Troubled Water” Trailer

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Come Undone (Cosa voglio di piu) directed and co-written by Silvio Soldini

Italy, 2010, 126 min, in Italian

With Alba Rohrwacher, Pierfrancesco Favino, Teresa Saponangelo, Giuseppe Battiston

A young woman who thinks she has everything she needs (good career, nice family, caring and loving partner) suddenly finds herself embroiled in a passionate love affair with a married man she meets in a restaurant where he waits tables. Her well-ordered life is suddenly thrown into a spiral of secret meetings, stolen moments of happiness, growing anguish, and piles of lies. The waiter’s wife becomes suspicious and the lovers are faced with a decision that neither of them is ready to make. The luminous Alba Rohrwacher in the leading role is one of the most frequently cast Italian actresses of her generation, a testament to her acting prowess. “Soldini again crafts a handsome, well-considered relationship drama!” – Jay Weissberg, Variety. A Film Movement release.

Watch the whole movie on Film Movement

“Come Undone” Trailer

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The Girl (Flickan) directed by Fredrik Edfeldt

Sweden, 2009, 95 min, in Swedish

With Blanca Engstrom, Tova Magnusson-Norling, Mats Blomgren

In a strikingly awkward decision, the parents of “the girl” (left nameless by the director) leave their 10-year-old daughter behind during summer vacation while they depart with their older son on a long-awaited trip to Africa (to be “useful to the needy”). The aunt they call to the rescue proves to be more than unfit to care for the girl and soon also departs, as the result of a plot devised by the girl who clearly sees her aunt as an obstacle to freedom. A series of encounters ensues in which unreliable friends and adults alike turn the girl’s house into a puzzling and dizzying world of solitude, until a stranger comes to her rescue (Krystof Hadek in a cameo role). One of the film’s most striking features is the beautiful cinematography of Hoyte van Hoytema. An Olive Films release.

The Woman with a Broken Nose (Zena sa slomljenim nosem) directed and written by Srdjan Koljevic

Serbia, 2010, 105 min, in Serbian

With Nebojsa Glogovac, Anica Dobra, Branka Katic, Nada Sardin, Jasna Zalica

The bridge between New and Old Belgrade serves as site for the encounter of this film’s four protagonists: a taxi driver who picks up the woman with a broken nose, who jumps off the bridge, leaving a child in the taxi’s backseat; a teacher on her way to class who tries to help the woman, but fails, and instead picks up another woman of her age who asks her boyfriend to stop his car and help, and when he refuses breaks her engagement to him and runs away. As the story unfolds, the similarities of the characters’ lives emerges: all of them seem stuck, unable to move past the pain caused by events in their past. Koljevic, here directing his own script, also wrote the script of another powerful Belgrade drama, The Trap, a Film Movement release, which screened at BNH as part of the CINEMA BELGRADE series in October 2010.

Home directed and co-written by Ursula Meier

Switzerland, 2008, 98 min, in French

With Isabelle Hupert, Olivier Gourmet, Adelaide Leroux

This family of five—a stay-at-home mom, a working father, their confident young-adult daughter, a shy teenage girl, and an eight-year-old boy—live in a spacious house set right on the edge of a closed leg of a new highway. They use the road as their playground, parking lot, and resting place. It seems the highway may never open, until one day the workers come and the mother’s self-imposed seclusion in their out-of-the-way house becomes unbearable for the rest of the family. Isabelle Hupert’s remarkable acting choices help many smaller films to reach the spotlight. The cast, including Olivier Gourmet, the star of many Dardenne brothers’ films, make this metaphorical drama a delight. A Lorber Films release.

Watch the whole movie on Fandor

Dusk (Schemer) directed by Hanro Smitsman

The Netherlands, 2010, 91 min, in Dutch

With Matthijs van den Sande Bakhuyzen, Gaite Jansen, Robert de Hoog

Jessie likes Rico who is dating Frauk. She is a friend of Ilse, who dates Caesar, who is a friend and secret love interest of the closeted Mick. But Jessie is the one who pushes everyone’s buttons. On the surface, a typical high school story. But what exactly turns a group of teenagers against one another? Or rather, would they even kill in cold blood? With an intricate script and assured ensemble performances, this teenage angst drama, which premiered at San Sebastian IFF, attempts to find an answer to these hard questions.

The Father of My Children (Le pere de mes enfants) directed and written by Mia Hansen-Love

France, 2009, 100 min, in French

With Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, Chiara Caselli, Eric Elmosnino, Sandrine Dumas

The story unfolds with a happy husband and wife and their young kids spending their summer holidays in a romantic house in the picturesque countryside. The busy father, a film producer, commutes back and forth from Paris, dealing with his demanding job and even more demanding directors. But as his company begins to collapse, the tone of the film turns somber and colors take on a darker hue. Based on the true story of an admired French producer, Mia Hansen-Love depicts the struggles of a man devoted to his work yet beloved by his family and friends, who carry on his project when he’s unable to do so himself. An IFC Films release.

Watch the whole movie on MUBI

Tales from the Golden Age (Amintiri din epoca de aur) directed by Ioana Uricaru, Hanno Höfer, Razvan Marculescu, Cristian Mungiu, Constantin Popescu

Romania, 2009, 155 min, in Romanian

With Diana Cavallioti, Vlad Ivanov, Alexandru Potocean, Calin Chirila, Avram Birau, Ion Sapdaru

In a group of shorts set in the last decade under communism, five directors tackle six urban legends from the not-so-distant past, portraying betrayals both great and small while hitting hilarious as well as somber notes. All of the stories were penned by Cristian Mungiu, director of the acclaimed 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days, which became an unexpected foreign-language hit of sorts, despite being snubbed by the American Academy in the Oscars nominations. The film premiered in Cannes and traveled the world at festivals. An IFC Films release.

Watch the whole movie on MUBI (check availability in your area on this link; U.S. currently unavailable, but may become available in the future)

Bibliotheque Pascal directed and written by Szabolcs Hajdu

Hungary, 2010, 105 min, in Hungarian, Romanian, etc.

With Orsolya Torok-Illyes, Andi Vasluianu, Shamgar Amram, Razvan Vasilescu

In order to regain custody of her daughter, whom she left in the care of her fortune-telling aunt, Mona must tell a social worker her story. The tale she spins—and the movie we watch—is a wild, surreal adventure in which people are able to project and enter each other’s dreams, and the heroine is sold into slavery and lands in a swank, debauched Liverpool brothel where the patrons enact their literary/sexual fantasies with Lolita, St. Joan, and Desdemona. Rendered with dazzling tracking shots, striking CGI effects and a pulsing soundtrack, director Hajdu’s risk-taking fantasia has style to spare. But under the seductive surface lurks the very human story of a woman who uses fantasy to cushion the pain of life.
 Summary by Los Angeles Film Festival “…the work of an imaginative filmmaker with ambition and chutzpah…” –Mike Goodridge, Screen International

Watch the whole movie on MUBI

Kill Daddy Good Night (Das Vaterspiel) directed and co-written by Michael Glawogger

Austria, 2009, 117 min, in German

With Helmut Koepping, Sabine Timoteo, Ulrich Tukur, Itzhak Finzi

This film, based on a bestselling novel, begins with a telephone call: a pair of onetime lovers reconnect at the whim of a woman who calls from New York to invite her friend to come from Vienna right away and help her with a rebuilding project—the same sort of project that brought the couple together the first time, as students in Vienna. Without hesitation, the man sets off in his car to Munich to make the plane next day, setting in motion a sequence of events that will uncover secrets about the woman’s family she herself has never known. At end of the journey the man must decide if he can or cannot forgive a war-time criminal and reconcile with the hate he feels for his own father.

Me Too (Yo, tambien) directed and written by Alvaro Pastor and Antonio Naharro

Spain, 2009, 103 min, in Spanish

With Lola Duenas, Pablo Pineda, Isabel Garcia Lorca, Antonio Naharro

At first glance, this is a typical romantic comedy. Daniel meets Laura. She’s attractive, rebellious, and a little trampy. They hang out, have fun together, and he falls hard for her. The unexpected part is that 34-year-old Daniel has Down syndrome. While Daniel is definitely extraordinary—a college graduate who holds sophisticated conversations—he still has to deal with others’ perceptions of him. As Daniel and Laura grow closer, their emotions take them into unfamiliar territory. Part of the pleasure of the film is watching two complex, playful characters on-screen—both Pablo Pineda and Lola Duenas inhabit their roles completely and are dynamic together. But what this film beautifully realizes is the unconventional relationship between these two unlikely characters. Summary by indieWire.com. An Olive Films release.

Everyone Else (Alle Anderen) directed and written by Maren Ade

Germany, 2009, 119 min, in German

With Birgit Minichmayr, Lars Eidinger, Hans-Jochen Wagner, Nicole Marischka

Summer in Sardinia and a young German couple is spending their first holiday together. In fact they just barely met, but they have quickly become very close. The man, an aspiring architect staying at his mother’s summer house, is embarrassed by the house’s clutter and lack of taste in decor. His girlfriend thinks the personal touch is endearing. As they stumble through increasingly bigger misunderstandings, the couple find themselves at a crossroads, and don’t know which way they will choose to go. This meticulously timed and performed relationship microdrama, Ade’s first feature film, found fans from the moment it premiered at Berlinale, and made its way through festivals worldwide, reaching all the way to the New York Film Festival and a U.S. distribution deal. A release of The Cinema Guild.

Watch the whole movie on MUBI

The Blacks (Crnci) directed and written by Zvonimir Juric and Goran Devic

Croatia, 2009, 75 min, in Croatian

With Ivo Gregurevic, Kresimir Mikic, Franjo Dijak, Rakan Rushaidat

Winter 1991. The recent war in Croatia. Although a truce has just been signed, the members of the “Blacks”—a paramilitary squad who were used to doing the dirty work—are preparing to retrieve the dead bodies of their fellow fighters and blow up a dam upriver to disable the enemy. They are still under siege when they hear from headquarters in Zagreb that, due to the ceasefire, their squad will now be disbanded. In the grim space of a school building serving as military HQ, we find Commander Ivo and his soldiers at the moment when the ceasefire on one side, and their suffering over the death of their friends on the other, opens up a slight possibility for each of them to “turn a new page” and move towards redemption, despite the moral boundaries that each of them has crossed. Summary courtesy of the film’s website. The film was last year’s Croatian entry to the Oscars, and won acclaim at regional European festivals.

Watch the whole movie on MUBI

Snow (Snijeg) directed and co-written by Aida Begic

Bosnia and Herzegovina, 2008, 100 min, in Bosnian

With Zana Marjanovic, Jasna Beri, Sadzida Setic, Vesna Masic

Only women, children, and one old man remain in a remote Bosnian village, shortly after the 1995 Dayton Agreement that ended the war in Bosnia. We watch as they drive away the sorrow and pain of the loss of their husbands and fathers in the menial tasks necessary for survival, making jams and pickles from the fruits of the local gardens. Through their support for each other, they create an informal family. But their peace and camaraderie are disturbed when a pair of Serbian “money-men” offer to buy out the surrounding land, giving them a possible way out of the situation. Shot in long atmospheric takes, the film exhibits a quiet visual beauty, fortified by an effective script and strong performances. At its world premiere, the film received the Grand Prix in the Cannes Critic’s Week sidebar, spearheading its path to festivals around the world.

Mother Teresa of Cats (Matka Teresa od kotow) directed and written by Pawel Sala

Poland, 2010, 95 min, in Polish

With Ewa Skibinska, Mateusz Kosciukiewitcz, Filip Garbacz, Mariusz Bonaszewski

Two brothers—22-year-old Arthur and the adolescent Martin—are arrested for a serious crime. In this carefully scripted drama, the story unfolds entirely through flashbacks, peeling away the layers of events leading back to the crime and what preceded it. Along the way we learn how Arthur’s illusions of self-importance gave him control over Martin, and how their father’s indecision and absence from the family may have also contributed. Yet there is no simple explanation for the horrors the two boys inflict on their victim. Award-winning performances by Kosciukiewitcz and Garbacz (best known for their turns in All That I Love and Piggies, respectively), and the confident script, make the film a standout.

Disappearing Act IV – 2012 – full film line-up

The System (Das System – alles verstehen heisst alles verzeihen) directed by Marc Bauder – NY Premiere

Germany, 2011, 90 min, in German
Presented by the Goethe-Institut New York
Cast: Jacob Matschenz, Bernhard Schuetz, Jenny Schily
Official Selection – Max Ophuels Filmfestival Saarbruecken

Starring the captivating Jacob Matschenz, who appeared in the lead role of Beats Being Dead, Christian Petzold’s contribution in the Dreileben film trilogy, The System is a self-assured fiction feature debut about a young man who is seduced by power and money when he crosses paths with former agents of the East German secret police. The once popular seaside town of Rostock, now a bit empty and much less alluring, is where this 20-year-old lives with his widowed mother. He doesn’t know anything about his father or the circumstances of his death. Being a bit of a rebel and a petty thief, he’s easily convinced by a man in a flashy car and suit to become his apprentice.  He hopes to solve the mystery of his father’s death that his mother does not want to divulge. But as the full German title of the film suggests, understanding comes at a price.

Wasted Youth directed and written by Argyris Papadimitropoulos, Jan Vogel – NY Premiere
Greece, 2010, 98 min, in Greek
Presented by the Romanian Cultural Institute in New York
Cast: Harris Markou, Ieronimos Kaletsanos
Official Selection – Rotterdam Film Festival, Opening night film in 2011

The film takes place on a sweltering summer day in Athens on the backdrop of the financial crisis, and follows two characters from their morning routine to the events of the evening, which bring them together. The teenage skater Harry is on a mission to enjoy his summer break to the fullest, waking up after a possibly wild night in a comfortable villa of a family friend to later find himself in a cramped apartment with his disapproving father. The way we meet the middle-aged Vasilis suggests he leads a tiring life of a man troubled by a recent business flop and unhappy with the direction his life has taken. The tension builds up throughout the film to a sudden end when the two characters finally meet. The young directors took inspiration from a true story that sparked the December 2008 riots in Greece.

Police, Adjective (Politist, adjectiv) directed and written by Corneliu Porumboiu
Romania, 2009, 113 min, in Romanian
An IFC Films release, Presented by the Romanian Cultural Institute in New York
Cast: Dragos Bucur, Vlad Ivanov, Irina Saulescu
Official Selection – Cannes Film Festival, Un Certain Regard – Prix du Jury

Another quiet hard hitter of Romanian cinema, this time coming from the director of 12:08 Bucharest East. Porumboiu delves into the system of contemporary Romanian policing.  Described by A.O. Scott in his glowing New York Times review, this “is a story of law enforcement with a special interest in grammar.” But humor aside, the theme at the heart of the film is what we consider to be the role of the police in our society.  The central character – a young detective on a look out to catch an even younger hashish ‘dealer’ – doubts whether the task he’s been given is a police matter at all. His doubts increase with every day and every hour he spends on his pursuit, and when his conscience finally wins over his sense of professional duty, he decides to bring his conundrum up with the Chief of Police.

Watch the whole movie on MUBI (check availability in your area on this link; U.S. currently unavailable, but may become available in the future)

White White World (Beli, beli svet) directed by Oleg Novkovic
Serbia-Germany-Sweden, 2010, 121 min,in Serbian
Presented by the Romanian Cultural Institute in New York

Cast: Jasna Djuricic, Uliks Fehmiu, Hana Selimovic
Official Selection – Locarno Film Festival

Returning to the austere surroundings of the vast strip mine in the Serbian town of Bor, after he documented the local life and a group of miners who staged Bertolt Brecht’s Beggar’s Opera under the direction of Milena Markovic, Novkovic filmed an opera of his own in the same setting – or rather a Greek-like melodrama with songs. Penned by Markovic, the tragic story centers on a love triangle. A young woman awaits the return of her mother from prison. She was sent there for killing her husband and as a result her daughter was parentless throughout her lonely childhood, living with a weak grandfather who prefers the company of a bottle of alcohol.  She grew up longing for her mother but at the same time hating her for leaving her alone.  The drama begins when they meet again, but realize that they are in love with the same man, the local bar owner who goes by the nickname of King.

Our Beloved Month of August (Aquele Querido Mes de Agosto) directed and written by Miguel Gomes
A FiGa Films release, Presented by the Embassy of Portugal
Portugal-France, 2008, 147 min, in Portuguese
Cast: Sonia Bandeira, Fabio Oliveira
Official Selection – Cannes Film Festival Directors Fortnight

Deep in the Portuguese mountains, activities swell during the month of August. People come home, set off fireworks, fight fires, perform karaoke, jump off a bridge, hunt wild boar, drink beer, and make babies. Had director Miguel Gomes taken a straight forward approach to the subject, resisting the lure of the festivities, the synopsis for his film could be reduced to an account of the romantic relations of a father, his daughter, a cousin, and musicians in a dance hall band during the beloved month of August. Instead, Gomes has crafted a wonderfully chaotic hybrid of documentary and fiction which delicately captures the vibrant spirit of a local Portuguese community.

Watch the whole movie on MUBI (check availability in your area on this link; U.S. currently unavailable, but may become available in the future)

Negative History of Hungarian Cinema (Negativ Magyar filmtortenet) directed and written by Gyula Nemes – NY Premiere
Presented by the Hungarian Cultural Center
Hungary, 2010, 47 min, Documentary, in Hungarian

The history of cinema has its negative antipode, the plethora of films that were never finished or realized. Gyula Nemes set out to uncover these projects through interviews with the greats of Hungarian cinema such as Miklos Jancso, Sandor Pal, Judith Elek and more. The director also encourages his subjects to film little reconstructions of the lost projects in front of his camera, which results in visually rich and formally fresh work of non-fiction cinema.

Negative History of Hungarian Cinema

The Mouth of the Wolf (La bocca del lupo) directed by Pietro Marcello
Italy-France, 2009, 76 min, in Italian
Presented by the Italian Cultural Institute
Official Selection – Torino Film Festival, Best Film and FIPRESCI Award
Official Selection – Berlin Film Festival, Best Documentary Teddy Award, Caligari Award

A love letter to Genoa and a film about the love of Enzo and Mary would be the short description of this indescribable film, originally commissioned by the Jesuits of Genoa as part of their work for the marginalized in this beautiful old city. Marcello tells the story of Enzo, a giant with a soft heart, a man who spent 20 years in prison for killing two policemen, and the love of his life Mary, a junkie who he met in prison and who promised to wait for him and stay off drugs. Blended with this story are gorgeously photographed cityscapes of Genoa, current and archival, mostly from the time of Enzo’s youth in the 1970s.

The Misfortunates (De helaasheid der dingen) directed by Felix van Groeningen
Belgium, 2009, 108 min, in Dutch
Neoclassics Films release, Presented by Flanders House
Cast: Koen De Graeve, Kenneth Vanbaeden, Valentijn Dhaenens
Official Selection – Cannes Film Festival, Directors Fortnight

Considering depictions of dysfunctional families, the one at the center of this bitter comedy maybe be on top of the list: four lazy, binge drinking 30-something irresponsible brothers still living in their mother’s house. She’s the only corrective to their bad behavior and the only one looking after the 13-year old son of one of her offspring. The boy could truly testify to “the shitiness of things” which is the literal translation of the original title. But even in such a family, there are moments of tenderness and positive emotion, which eventually allow the young hero to become a successful writer. Based on one of the most popular contemporary novels in Dutch, the director employed a striking formal and visual style making this film as successful as its literary source.

Watch the whole movie on MUBI (check availability in your area on this link; U.S. currently unavailable, but may become available in the future)

Michael directed and written by Markus Schleinzer
Austria, 2011, 96 min, in German
Distributed by Strand Releasing, Presented by the Austrian Cultural Forum New York
Cast: Michael Fuith, David Rauchenberger
Official Selection – Cannes Film Festival

Meeting with rave reviews worldwide and upon its recent release in New York, Schleinzer’s directing debut has been dubbed a ‘triumph of uneasy cinema.’  This film is the quintessential example of films distributed in the U.S. that fall out of sight all too quickly. The topic is child abuse and the fact that it is based on several real life stories well publicized by Austrian media in the recent past, makes the experience even more chilling. Yet the drama is achieved through a serene, documentary style, by following the daily routines of the abuser and his very young captive, an innocent boy who cannot understand why would his parents not want him back and leave him alone in the basement of his abductor’s house.

Watch the whole movie on MUBI (check availability in your area on this link; U.S. currently unavailable, but may become available in the future)

Memory Lane directed and written by Mikhael Hers
France, 2010, 98 min, in French
Presented by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy
Cast: with Thibault Vincon, Dounia Sichov, Lolita Chammah
Official Selection – Locarno Film Festival

It’s the middle of summer in a Parisian suburb. A group of former high school friends, now in their mid twenties, rehearses music of their indie band on the quieted grounds of a school. Soon they find themselves assembled again with the rest of their childhood friends and revisiting their former haunts. Old alliances are rekindled and new ones slowly grow. The innocence of childhood and teenage years is gone, replaced by sincerity of adulthood. Suddenly everything in their lives carries much more weight – though the weight is not always a heavy load.

Medal of Honor (Medalia de onoare) directed by Calin Peter Netzer
Romania-Germany, 2009, 104 min, in Romanian
Presented by the Romanian Cultural Institute in New York
Cast: Victor Rebengiuc, Camelia Zorlescu, Ion Lucian
Official Selection – Palm Springs Film Festival

This is a tale about a retired man, who at 75 feels unappreciated by his wife and especially his adult son. When our hero receives a surprise letter informing him that he had been awarded a medal for his brave service in the army, things start looking up in his life. Maybe he would finally be able to lure his son back from Canada, where he took a job against the wishes of his father, and even started a family. Maybe he will be able to convince him to bring home his Canadian born grandson, with whom he can’t communicate, as neither knows each other’s language. But maybe, the medal brings more trouble than good. After all, it’s contemporary Romania, things change fast and one can’t ever be sure what the next day will bring.

The Little Room (La petite chambre) directed and written by Stephanie Chuat and Veronique Reymond – NY Premiere
Switzerland-Luxembourg, 2010, 87 min, in French
A special preview of a Cinema Libre Studios release. Presented by the Consulate General of Switzerland

Cast: Florence Loiret Caille, Michel Bouquet, Eric Caravaca
Official Selection – Locarno Film Festival

A young visiting nurse just returns to work after a tragedy befalls her family. Work brings her solace though her new patient is not being very cooperative. He’s an elderly man (in a quietly moving performance by the fabulous Michel Bouquet) who lives in denial of the fact that he’s losing his capability to live on his own.  Resisting his son’s wishes to move to a retirement home, the old man escapes with the help of his nurse who offers him her own house as a shelter.  The friendship of the man with the woman has redemptive powers and triggers the relief that they were both searching, though it comes for each of them in a very different form.

Just Between Us (Neka ostane medju nama) directed and written by Rajko Grlic. Presented by the Consulate General of the Republic of Croatia in collaboration with the Croatian Audiovisual Centre
Croatia-Serbia-Slovenia, 2010, 87 min, in Croatian
Cast: Miki Manojlovic, Bojan Navojec, Daria Lorenci, Ksenija Marinkovic
Official Selection – Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Best Director Award

Billed as a wicked indiscreet story from contemporary Zagreb, Just Between Us is a bitter comedy about two brothers and their wives, lovers, and their sexual escapades. The older son of a famous painter was always the handsome one, more popular with the ladies, more successful in business and an all around lucky guy. But he’s also the big trouble. Leading a complicated life with two concurrent families, it’s clear that his luck will run out soon. His younger brother lives in perhaps an even bigger mess, but in the end we find there is not much of a difference between them and that one should just try to find happiness in any form it comes.

Involuntary (De ofrivilliga) directed by Ruben Ostlund
Sweden, 2008, 98 min, in Swedish
Presented by the Consulate General of Sweden.
Cast: Villmar Bjorkman, Linnea Cart-Larny, Leif Edlund, and Sara Eriksson
Official Selection – Cannes Film Festival, Un Certain Regard

Much like with his latest film Play, an official selection of the New York Film Festival, Ostlund provides food for thought and robust discussion about contemporary society already in his invigorating second feature. Skillfully combining five stories of people who in one way or another adjust their behavior and succumb to the pressures of a group, the film is constructed from a series of one-shot scenes. The technique underlines the awkwardness of the situations and although the stories are independent in their narrative, they overlap in theme and reinforce each other’s message.

Watch the whole movie on Netflix

The Fatherless (Die Vaterlosen) directed and written by Marie Kreutzer – NY Premiere
Austria, 2011, 104 min, in German
Presented by the Austrian Cultural Forum New York
Cast: Andreas Kiendl, Andrea Wenzl, Emily Cox, Philipp Hochmair
Official Selection – Berlin Film Festival
Official Selection – Cannes Film Festival

Adult children rush to the deathbed of their mostly estranged father who lived in a grand old house in the rural area of Austria. It was a place where they lived as children, the offspring of a group of free thinkers living in a commune of hippies that existed for almost a decade. The oasis however ended one day and the group split up – in some cases easily, in others very painfully. Now adults themselves, the children are reconciling with the heartbreaking events that happened couple of decades ago and uncover old mysteries, which will finally help them to move on.

Eighty Letters (Osmdesat dopisu) directed and written by Vaclav Kadrnka – NY Premiere
Czech Republic, 2011, 75 min, in Czech
Presented by the Czech Center New York.
Cast: Zuzana Lapcikova, Martin Pavlus
Official Selection – Berlin Film Festival
Official Selection – Thessaloniki Film Festival, Silver Alexander and FIPRESCI Awards

In the late 1980s in communist Czechoslovakia, a teenage boy wakes up in an empty apartment frantically looking for his mother. His distress and overall dread of his status quo is increased with every silent minute of the film. He finds his mother on a bus going to the big city and joins her on a quest. They need to secure the paperwork necessary to be able to join the woman’s husband in England, where he recently defected. The debuting director, who based the story on the experience of his own childhood and the 80 letters his mother wrote to his father before the family got back together, uses every tool available to him to transfer the claustrophobic atmosphere of his youth to the audience, keeping the color palette to shades of grey and brown and the dialogue at a bare minimum.

Eastern Plays (Iztochni piesi) directed and written by Kamen Kalev
Bulgaria-Sweden, 2009, 83 min, in Bulgarian
Presented by the Romanian Cultural Institute in New York.
Cast: Christo Christov, Ovanes Torosian, Saadet Isil Aksoy
Official Selection – Cannes Film Festival, Directors Fortnight

The paths of two brothers cross during a fateful meeting one night on the streets of Sofia – the older Itso (played as a version of himself by the late Christo Christov) is an abstaining drug addict who’s trying to hang on for dear life, but has a hard time finding a reason to persevere. His teenage brother still lives with their domineering and insensitive father. He’s running with a gang of racist thugs and one fateful night marks his initiation. Though in themselves brutal, the night’s events help the brothers to realize where they stand in life.

Disco and Atomic War (Disko ja tuumasoda) directed by Jaak Kilmi and Kiur Aarma
Estonia-Finland, 2009, 80 min, Documentary, in Estonian, Finnish, Russian, English
An Icarus Films release. Presented by the Consulate General of Estonia.
Official Selection – Telluride Film Festival

One of the most popular documentaries in the library of the Icarus Films distribution company, Disco and Atomic War is an engrossing and entertaining account of the futile attempts of the Soviet media and its propaganda machine to counteract the influence of free media seeping through the air and borders of the Soviet Republic of Estonia from the coasts of Finland. Becoming virtual battlefield, Estonian airwaves were jammed from both sides, yet the pull of the Western TV broadcast for the entertainment-starved public proved to be too strong. J.R. and Dallas make a special appearance.

Watch the whole movie online

Dad (Oca) directed by Vlado Skafar – NY Premiere
Slovenia, 2010, 71 min, in Slovenian
Presented by the Consulate General of Slovenia
Cast: Miki Ros, Sandi Salamon
Official Selection – Venice Film Festival

With cinematography reminiscent of a pastoral painting, Dad tells a story of a father and a son who meet again and spend an afternoon together after a long time living apart. The son, barely a teen, surprises his father with intellectual and emotional maturity. Feeling guilty for abandoning his son at an early age, the father attempts to reconnect and assume again a role of a parent, and to blur the divisions that were created by his long absence.

Cinema Komunisto directed by Mila Turaljic
Serbia, 2010, 100 min, Documentary, in Serbian
Presented by the Romanian Cultural Institute in New York
Official Selection – San Francisco Film Festival

An absorbing account of the creation of the miracle of the Yugoslav film industry follows the history on the background of Yugoslav President Tito’s own cinephilia and fascination with every aspect of film production. Featuring Tito’s personal projectionist along with interviews of filmmakers, studio directors and film stars, director Mila Turaljic paints a vivid picture of the rise and fall of once mighty film studios. Rich in archival footage, the documentary also includes records of Hollywood film stars showing themselves off at the Pula film festival and being showered with attention by the local media and the Yugoslav president himself.

The Christening (Chrzest) directed by Marcin Wrona – NY Premiere
Poland, 2010, 86 min, in Polish
A special preview of a Palisades Tartan release
Presented by the Polish Cultural Institute New York

Cast: Wojciech Zielinski, Tomasz Schuchardt, Natalia Rybicka
Official Selection – Toronto Film Festival
Official Selection – San Sebastian Film Festival

In this slow-burning thriller, the 30-something protagonist is about to celebrate the christening of his first child. He’s living the life of a successful businessman, until an old friend arrives to become the child’s godfather and he gradually discovers, that his old underworld connections are coming back to haunt him, threatening an idyllic snapshot of family bliss. Wrona devoted his forceful film to a portrayal of masculinity, fatherhood, and a friendship that confronts the ultimate test.

Brownian Movement directed by Nanouk Leopold – NY Premiere
The Netherlands-Belgium-Germany, 2010, 102 min, in English and French
Presented in collaboration with the EYE Film Institute Netherlands
Cast: Sandra Hueller, Dragan Bakema
Official Selection – Berlin Film Festival

A young professional couple lives with their small son in Brussels. The woman, a medical doctor involved in clinical research, rents an apartment and turns her patients into research objects of a more private dimension.  She brings her subjects – men of all shapes, ages and sizes who absolutely don’t compare with her handsome husband – to her secret hideaway to have sex. The doctor’s private research comes to light, and she is about to lose it all, but the couple manages to save their marriage and stay together. Or at least that’s what it seems like before the husband succumbs to lingering doubts.

The Border (Hranice) directed by Jaroslav Vojtek – NY Premiere
Slovakia, 2009, 72 min, in Slovak and Hungarian, Documentary
Presented by the Consulate General of the Slovak Republic in collaboration with +421 Foundation and the Slovak Film Institute
Official Selection – Rotterdam Film Festival

In the Eastern most part of Slovakia lays the village of Slemence.  In 1946 it was brutally divided into two parts by a new border between Czechoslovakia and the Ukraine, which at the time was a state of the Soviet Union. Velke Slemence remained on the Slovak side, and Male Slemence ended up on the Eastern side of the border, which fitted with barbed wire ran through gardens, cemeteries, fields, and divided families and the village community. At one point the fence was even equipped with electric power, keeping citizens of two supposedly brotherly countries apart. After a time of relative calm and a relaxed regime, the border again becomes a heavily guarded area, as the independent Slovakia becomes a bordering country of the EU territory.

Watch the whole movie online

Amador directed and written by Fernando Leon de Aranoa – NY Premiere
Spain, 2010, 112 min, in Spanish
A special preview of a Film Movement release
Presented by Instituto Cervantes, The Cultural Center of Spain in New York, together with Spain Culture New York and the Consulate General of Spain, co-presented by Pragda

Cast: Magaly Solier, Celso Bugallo, Pietro Sibille
Official Selection – Berlin Film Festival
Official Selection – Guadalajara Film Festival, Best Picture and Best Actress Award for Iberoamerican film

A Latin American immigrant living in Spain, Marcela is ready to leave her live-in boyfriend. But she learns news that forces her to stay. To help out her boyfriend’s fledgling business, she gets a new job looking after the ailing Amador. They find an immediate connection and it seems like things are finally looking up in Marcela’s life. However things change quickly and in order to keep her job and her money, Marcela must tell a devastating lie. As noted by Jonathan Holland of Variety, the film “successfully blends black comedy, lyricism and social critique.”

Watch the whole movie on Film Movement

“Amador” Trailer

amador

The Big Trip (Le grand’tour) directed by Jerome Le Maire – NY Premiere
Belgium, 2011, 98min, in French
Presented by the Belgian Tourist Office – French Speaking Belgium – Brussels Wallonia in collaboration with Wallonie Bruxelles Images
Cast: Vincent Solheid, Patrick Humblet, Pierre Fontaine, Denis Burton
Official Selection – Cannes Film Festival

Filmed as a faux documentary about a troupe of carnival musicians, The Big Trip follows members of a brass band propense to heavy drinking and partying who set out on foot to the nearest big town festival.  On a whim, they decide to extend their trip, first on a detour to a carnival in Germany, and later to a more existential destination of permanent camaraderie and camping out in the woods while boozing and getting high.  Their new goal requires them to leave behind their daily lives, their wives and boring jobs. A wacky answer to the Hangover with its male bonding excursion, the film is a moving introspection into an exclusively male world.

the big trip

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