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Thread: The 2007 Miami International Film Festival

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    The 2007 Miami International Film Festival

    Greetings from sunny Miami. Local filmgoers await with excitement the signature film event in our city. The 2007 Miami International Film Festival will take place from March 2nd to March 11th at 6 venues throughout the city. The festival is divided into several sections. 17 films from established directors, which are typically shown out of competition, are screened at the majestic 1400-seat Gusman Theatre in the downtown area. Dramatic and Documentary features competing for awards usually receive three screenings at smaller venues located in South Beach, Coral Gables, Little Havana, and North Miami. This year the Festival opens with the screening of Paul Verhoeven's Black Book and closes with the world premiere of The Heart of the Earth, the new film by Antonio Cuadri.

    The Festival will show well over 100 films from throughout the world, with a continued concentration on documentaries and films from Iberoamerica. The Festival's Film Exchange Program focuses on a different Latin American country each year with exhibition of films, panel discussions and events. This year, films from emerging Colombian filmmakers will be shown, and the festival will bring to Bogota a group of film industry advisors to share experience and knowledge with Colombian film students and filmmakers.

    In 2007, the Festival bestows its Career Achievement Award to the world-famous director Luc Besson. His latest film, Angel-A, will be screened following a tribute.
    Let the films begin!

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    CHOKING MAN (USA)

    Choking Man is set in Jamaica, Queens, where reportedly 140 different languages are spoken. Rick, a sympathetic Greek man, is the owner of Olympic Diner. His quiet wife is the cashier; a surly Mexican cooks; there's Jerry, a jokester from Philadelphia who did time for selling drugs, and middle-aged, long-suffering waitress Teri. The film's protagonist is Jorge, a pathologically shy busboy from Ecuador. When Rick hires a new waitress named Amy, a cute and vivacious Chinese girl, friction develops between Jerry and Jorge.

    Choking man is quite a departure for Steve Barron, who directed groundbreaking music videos in the early 80s and went on to make Electric Dreams, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Coneheads. His latest feature is an independent, low-budget film, based on his own script, that depicts a young immigrant "choking on the American Dream". One can't imagine the extremely introverted, near-mute Jorge managing anywhere, and one can't imagine a more inaccessible protagonist. Barron responds to the challenge by finding novel ways to get inside Jorge's head. At first it seems that the handsome guy inside Jorge's dingy studio is his roommate. Gradually it becomes apparent he is a type of mental projection, perhaps Jorge's alter ego, or his subconscious, or an alternative personality kept locked inside his psyche. On the outside, Barron illustrates Jorge's thoughts and imaginings via brief animated sequences. As a result, Choking Man manages to create a rich character study of an individual cinema rarely bothers to portray. The excellent ensemble cast features Mandy Patikin as Rick, and newcomers Octavio Gomez Berrios and Eugenia Yuan. Choking Man was named "Best Film Not Playting at a Theater Near You" at the Gotham Awards.

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    COCALERO (Bolivia)

    Cocalero is a term used in Bolivia to describe coca leaf growers or members of the union they formed to advance their interests. Coca growers became politicized after the Bolivian government, pressured and financed by the USA, began a campaign to eradicate coca plantations. The key person in this union movement is Evo Morales, a bachelor of indigenous descent (Aymara tribe) who is now the President of this South American country. Native populations have historically been subjected to all types of abuses and discrimination throughout the Americas. Morales states he understood the degree of hatred towards indians when, in 1981, he witnessed a Quechua man being burned alive by soldiers not far from his small farm.

    Documentarian Alejandro Landes was given unprecedented access to the charismatic but simple leader. Cocalero's footage was shot over the course of a year, but focuses mainly on Morales during the 2-month campaign as the presidential candidate from the "March Toward Socialism" party. Landes shows him getting a haircut at a tiny barbershop, taking a back-country swim in a river, ordering breakfast at a food stall, and casually chatting with townfolk. Morales is a populist who seems quite humble, lacking the arrogance and self-importance of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, his major ally in the region. We watch him at campaign meetings and political demonstrations, rallying workers with a fiery speech and appeasing business and military leaders. As we follow the candidate, the viewer gets an overview of Bolivian society although, lamentably, Cocalero pays no attention to the opposition or those who disagree with his socialist platform. Of particular interest are scenes involving several indigenous women of limited education who have been elected to political posts, and a scene in which Morales is publicly subjected to racial slurs. Cocalero ends with a caption that reports that Morales won the election with 54% of the vote in his favor. Over the closing credits, we watch a tailor making a business suit for the president. His first one.

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    SALVADOR (PUIG ANTICH) (Spain)

    The titular character is the last person to be sentenced to death in western Europe. It happened, naturally, at the conclusion of the Franco regime in Spain, the last country in the region to embrace democracy. The film opens immediately after Salvador (Daniel Bruhl, who was born in Barcelona and speaks unaccented Spanish and Catalan) was brought to jail. He meets with his lawyer Arau (Tristan Ulloa) and recounts in flashback the last three years of his life. At the beginning of the 1970s, the MIL, a left-wing group made up of a handful of Spanish college students and French militants, commits a series of robberies in Catalonia to fund the more radical sectors of the workers' movement. At first, their success gives the young, giddy MIL members a feeling of invulnerability. Their actions come to a sudden end in September 1973 when members of the Socio-Political Brigade set a trap for two of the group's key members. During the arrest, there is a shootout in which a police inspector dies. Salvador is seriously injured and, after a time in hospital, is sent to Modelo prison in Barcelona to await trial. Salvador depicts the camaraderie between the friends/partners-in-arms and the protagonist's intermittent family life and romantic liaisons.

    Director Manuel Huerga (Antartida, Gaudi) maintains a fast pace during the fist half of the film via quick edits and skillful deployment of handheld cameras. The vibrant, saturated colors give way to a palatte of somber grays and blues during the last hour of Salvador. Arau and Salvador's sisters race against the clock to save him from "the garrote", Franco's very brutal method of execution. However, on 20 December 1973, an ETA bomb kills Admiral Carrero Blanco, a high government official. Huerga's film proposes that Salvador Puig Antich became the scapegoat for a sector of Franco's regime bent on revenge. As Salvador prepares to die, he develops a close relationship with Jesus (Leonardo Sbaraglia), a prison guard who moves from brutality to empathy as he gets to know the young militant. All the efforts to save his life, including an improbable and bizarre escape attempt, are in vain and Puig Antich is executed on March 2, 1974. Towards the end, Salvador (Puig Antich) becomes somewhat repetitive and sentimental. The filmmakers' aim to highlight the tragedy and gravity of the event is commendable, but I find that the change in pace serves to lessen the film's impact and diffuse its undeniable power. Salvador (Puig Antich) received 11 Goya nominations and won the award for Best Adapted Screenplay.

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    TWO HOMELANDS, CUBA AND THE NIGHT (Germany)

    This documentary aims to answer the question: what's it like to be gay in 21st century Cuba? Producer/director Christian Liffers made two trips to the island to interview six individuals that constitute a cross-section of the gay community. The six portraits alternate with readings of poems by Reinaldo Arenas (1943-1990), the renowned gay writer whose life was dramatized in the acclaimed film Before Night Falls. There are also brief musical interludes, most of them original compositions. A former friend of Arenas finds acceptance and sense of community among practicioners of African-based religions; an artist and intellectual complains about the government censoring his provocative photo exhibit; a 19 year old social worker gives a tour of the clandestine gay meeting places in the outskirts of Havana; an HIV-positive man struggles to make a living as a drag performer; a transexual living with a dozen relatives finds brief respite from prejudice at nightly get-togethers along Havana's waterfront; an unemployed 30 year-old relates how a private party was infiltrated by an undercover cop who made a video that was shown to party officials, his own father among them.

    The violent repression of gay life experienced by Arenas in the 70s is no longer the government's policy, which was oficially amended in the late 80s. The current practice is to keep gays (and lesbians) marginalized, outside of "official" society. For instance, there are no establishments of any kind that cater to gays, no gay organizations, no freedom to express explicitly gay viewpoints or depict aspects of gay lifestyle, and no educational campaigns aimed at reducing homophobia or HIV infection. The poems and novels written by Arenas remain unpublished on the island. Clandestine copies of his works are still subjected to expropriation. These issues are not explored beyond what is divulged by the six men. As a matter of fact, a significant amount of material they share deals with the universal theme of the search for happiness and lasting romance. Two Homelands would gain heft and gravity by moving beyond the anecdotal to explore and perhaps confront the barriers to progress for gay Cubans.

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    THE 12 LABORS (Brazil)

    Heracles (Sidney Santiago) has spent a couple of years at a reformatory for petty theft. The handsome 18 year-old from the slums of Sao Paulo wants to renounce a life of crime. "Depending on where you were born, your story is written before it starts", he comments in voice-over. His cousin Jonas (played by Madame Sata's Flavio Bouraqui) provides him with an opportunity: to join him as a motorcycle courier for Olimpo Express. Heracles is hired on a trial basis and sets out to prove he can handle the task. During the course of one day, Heracles is entrusted with both assignments and impromptu requests from clients. Heracles navigates the city of 17 million on a beat-up motorcycle trying to meet the 12 challenges. Changing his fate will require a Herculean effort.

    Indeed, The 12 Labors's structure is inspired by a tale from Greek mythology. Writer/director Ricardo Elias has previously shown a particular interest in impoverished young men trying to "do the right thing" and enter mainstream society. He offers an alternative to a slew of films that exploit the violent, criminal lives of ghetto youth for thrills (City of God being the most prominent). The threat of violence is palpable here, but it never manifests itself. It merely lurks somewhere on the periphery of the action. Consequently, some viewers may find the plot less compelling than anticipated. Instead, The 12 Labors explores the potential obstacles that keep lower-class youth mired in a life of crime and deprivation, and creates a comprehensive snapshot of Sao Paulo via Heracles' contacts with a variety of its residents. To that end, Elias gives artistic license to his protagonist, who narrates brief biographies of several individuals he meets throughout the day as if he really knew them. The dynamic mise-en-scene is enhanced by a knockout soundtrack that incorporates orchestral passages, Brazilian hiphop, and samba-infused electronica. The final scene pays homage to Truffaut's The 400 Blows and draws parallels between Heracles and Antoine Doinel. The 12 Labors took home the Horizons Award at the San Sebastian Film Festival and the Best Actor award at the Rio de Janeiro Film Festival.

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    RADIANT CITY (Canada)

    Throughout his career, writer/director Gary Burns has developed the theme of people trapped in dehumanizing environments in his native Calgary. He debuted with The Suburbanators, a comedy about 20-somethings living in cookie-cutter residential developments and hanging out in strip malls. His best film to date, Waydowntown, is set entirely in the grid of downtown office buildings interconnected by glass-enclosed walkways that dominate the city's center. Now Burns has teamed up with journalist Jim Brown to make a documentary about life in Calgary's newest suburban enclaves.

    Radiant City combines interviews of city planners, architects and sociologists with a presentation of the daily life of the Mosses, a family who moved from the inner city to a new suburban development a year earlier. The experts provide interesting data about the increasing amount of private space required by North Americans over time, and how it compares with other industrial nations. The sacrifice of community for the sake of privacy and security, the way house design has changed to deter social interaction, and the effects of the cost of land and energy are major issues explored, although not always with sufficient depth. Moss family members discuss their lifestyle-altering decision to move to the suburbs, and the inherent gains and losses. Some drama is generated when dad decides to act in a community play, a musical comedy that pokes fun at suburban living. His wife disappoves and ends up refusing to attend. The filmmakers have a trick up their sleeve, a last-minute revelation that warrants discussion but cannot possibly be revealed without spoiling the surprise.

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    SATANAS (Colombia/Mexico)

    Debut feature by Colombian director Andi Baiz, a New York University graduate. Satanas (Spanish for Satan) is an adaptation of a popular novel by Mario Mendoza based on real events that took place in Bogota in 1986. Baiz presents three separate plot threads that converge at the conclusion. Each thread is dominated by a precisely drawn character struggling with "the evil within" or the dark aspects of their personalities. Eliseo is a trilingual, cultured man who served in the US Army for 13 years, including tours of duty in Vietnam. He is about 50, single, and works as a private English tutor. Eliseo lives with his elderly mother, with whom he constantly bickers. He has an obsession with order and cleanliness_he carries a bottle of hand desinfectant wherever he goes and eschews cloth towels for disposable, paper ones. Eliseo is courteous but not kind; meets a friend for chess regularly but treats him with great reserve; he is obviously troubled but can't express it. Paola, a sexy 20-something, makes a living by meeting men at ritzy clubs and spiking their cocktails so her accomplices can steal from them. Returning alone from a club one night, she gets raped by two men. She takes revenge with help from her crime buddies, then feels remorse. She vows to change her lifestyle and gets a job as a waitress. Ernesto is a portly priest disappointed by his failure to keep a parishioner from committing a serious crime, and tormented by his lust for his cleaning lady. One night he takes his frustrations on a persistent beggar. Eventually, he realizes he's lost his vocation for the priesthood. He takes the cleaning lady out to dinner at a restaurant where he will run into Paola and Eliseo.

    Satanas is an auspicious debut for Mr. Baiz, who was obviously ready for feature-length work after directing several well received shorts. The style of the film is straightforward, never calling attention to itself. The suggestive, piano-based score by Angelo Milli is a major asset in sustaining a portentous mood. The script, also written by the director, is tight and economical. Satanas is truly a character-based piece. Its ace-in-the-hole is Damian Alcazar, winner of 6 Mexican Academy Awards and known to American audiences via films like Herod's Law, Chronicles, and The Crime of Father Amaro. His Eliseo is a particularly difficult part because he must merely suggest a storm brewing inside while presenting a placid emotional facade. I don't claim expertise in distribution matters, but it seems obvious to me that Satanas has wide commercial appeal. Satanas is having its world premiere at the festival before opening in Colombia next June. Distributors should heed my advice and start bidding.

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    SOMEONE TO RUN WITH (Israel)

    This adaptation of David Grossman's bestselling novel juggles two timelines that are kept separate for most of the film. Tamar, a 16 year-old girl, gets her head shaved in preparation to go "underground". She joins the homeless teens of downtown Jerusalem accompanied by Dinka, her Labrador retriever. Tamar makes a living by singing and playing songs on her acoustic guitar while looking for a boy whose connection to Tamar is kept secret. Her months-long street adventure alternates with the story of Assaf. He is a gangly teenage boy who takes a summer job at the city's dog pound. His first assignment is to track down the owner of a Labrador retriever that has been picked up on the street. Dinka leads him to what turn out to be Tamar's usual haunts. Among them, a convent and a home for wayward youth run by a villanous, Fagin-like drug dealer. Assaf, partly functioning as audience surrogate, pieces together the details of the girl's situation over the course of two eventful days. Then they finally meet.

    Someone to Run With is the sophomore effort of director Oded Davidoff, whose familiarity with his native Jerusalem pays dividends. Neophytes Bar Belfer and Yonathan Bar Or were cast in the lead roles. Their performances speak well of Davidoff's skill as a director of actors. The film is stylishly shot on HD video (transferred to 35 mm) by Yaron Scharf (who photographed last year's fest hit Close To Home). Just about everything else is a mess. Foggy behavioral motivations, continuity problems, poorly developed characters,and inexplicable plot twists abound. I was about to place most of the blame on first-time scriptwriter Noah Stollman when I learned that the 2-hour theatrical cut is an hour shorter than a version intended to be shown only as a miniseries on Israeli TV. Anyway, I can only judge this theatrical version and it's not very good. The fact that Someone to Run With was nominated for 9 Israeli Academy Awards is perhaps indicative of the poor state of Israeli cinema at this juncture.

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    ALATRISTE (Spain)

    Diego Alatriste is a courageous soldier who's the protagonist of a popular series of novels written by Arturo Perez-Reverte. They are set in the first half of the 17th century, when the power of the mighty Spanish empire began to decline. Alatriste (Viggo Mortensen) is a common soldier, but he is nicknamed "Captain" by his buddies because of his skill and leadership qualities. Alatriste opens at dawn as a group of soldiers silently wade through waist-deep water to ambush a Dutch contingent during the War of Flandes. Alatriste becomes entrusted with the care of Inigo, the son of a soldier who dies in his arms, and gains notoriety when he saves the life of a duke. He returns to Madrid wounded. Once recovered, he is commisioned by the Grand Inquisitor (Blanca Portillo) to intercept two "heretic" foreigners at the city's entrace and kill them. Alatriste accepts then decides not to obey orders, as one of the foreigners turns out to be the Prince of Wales, visiting to forge an alliance with the Spanish Crown. Meanwhile, Alatriste reignites an on-going affair with Maria de Castro (Ariadna Gil), a famous and married actress. The film jumps 10 years when Inigo, now in his 20s, becomes Alatriste's squire and falls in love with the aristocratic and conniving Angelica (Elena Anaya). Alatriste proceeds to depict conspiracies, court intrigue, and war battles, as Spain strives to maintain its hegemony. Throughout, Alatriste and Inigo struggle to maintain relationships with the compromised women they love.

    Alatriste is the most expensive production in the history of Spanish cinema, and you can see where the money went. The film looks gorgeous, a winner of Goyas for Best Costumes, Production Design, and Production Direction. The period recreation is stunning, the battle scenes imposingly realistic. The cinematography of the indoor scenes uses a color palette and lighting scheme based on epochal paintings by Velasquez and his contemporaries. Mortensen, who speaks Spanish since childhood, is perfectly cast as the sedate and noble soldier who anchors the film and gives it a sense of continuity. The decision to cast an actress in the role of the Inquisitor is the sole unconventional choice in a film that otherwise adheres to the conventions of the historical epic film. Despite excellent production values and good execution, Alatriste was doomed from the start to be average by the decision to condense material from the five novels published into a single film. A number of secondary characters are insufficiently developed, consequently their motivations are sometimes obscure. Alatriste entertains with its eventful narrative, but feels somewhat underdeveloped and rushed. Many critics who watched the film when it premiered in Venice and Toronto last September share my opinion. Consequently, director Agustin Diaz Yanes added 12 minutes of footage to the original 135-min version. Although I haven't seen the shorter version, I'm convinced the added running time improves the film, but not enough to make it memorable.
    20th Century Fox will distribute Alatriste in the US.

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    MEANWHILE (Argentina)

    A month after her mother's death, Eva comes to Buenos Aires to work as a maid. She rents a room in the humble home of Violeta, a childhood acquaintance who is separated from her husband Mono. Violeta is considering a reconciliation with Mono, who plans to bring her and their young daughter to Ibiza. Meanwhile, she works in a restaurant where a co-worker shows romantic interest in her. Eva cleans two houses. In one she's disparaged by the employer and made to clean dog poop. In another the lady keeps warning Eva not to steal, but her son Dalmiro is very kind. Dalmiro is a lonely bachelor who has a small studio where he makes pottery to sell at the crafts market. Sergio, a friend of Mono, wants to realize his wife's dream of having a child of their own. Their doctor tells them he is "sub-fertile" and recommends adoption, because other options are beyond their means. By the conclusion, these characters make crucial decisions about the course their lives will take.

    Meanwhile is the sophomore feature by Diego Lerman, the 30 year-old who made a splash at festivals worlwide with Suddenly (2002). The new film confirms Lerman's talent for depicting the lives of working-class people in a thoroughly naturalistic manner. It takes a lot of planning and skill to give the impression a film was put together on the fly, without a blueprint. There's an organic feel to the transformations and realignments of characters in a Diego Lerman film. This is more true of Meanwhile than the highly praised debut. That film includes a scene in which a parachutist improbably lands on a road in the middle of the night, gets run over, and dies in the arms of a protagonist. There's nothing of the kind in Meanwhile (and no lesbian girls who call each other Mao and Lenin). Moreover, Meanwhile evidences a refinement of technique. For instance, in Meanwhile, Lerman and crew are more skillful at shooting using only existing sources of light (Suddenly looked murky and underlit in spots). The new film has a greater number of characters, all of which are introduced early on. This could cause the viewer to become temporarily disoriented and lose patience. Those who stick it out will be rewarded by a low-key but substantive slice-of-life.

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    BACK HOME (USA)

    Autobiographical documentary directed by J.B. Rutagarama, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide. He relates how, as a 17 year-old, he managed to escape across the border to a refugee camp when the violence reached his town. News footage provides historical background. Evidence that occupying Belgian forces manufactured hostility and segregation between the Hutu and Tutsi tribes is particularly convincing. They planted the seeds to a civil conflict that erupted in most brutal carnage during the 1990s. Some scenes recreate J.B.'s perilous escape. Upon reaching the camp, he befriended two London-based ABC News correspondents. The women practically adopted him, helping him move to Britain where he earned a college degree. J.B. got a job as a cameraman for Fox News in New York. A month later, the Twin Towers were attacked. It had a profound effect on J.B., opening old wounds. He decides to reconnect with his homeland, search more diligently for his lost mother and brother, and make a film of the experience. Back Home details with great care J.B.'s ambivalent feelings about returning to Rwanda and the painful confrontation with its violent legacy.The search and reunion with his mother is quite moving, particularly when he learns of the courageous Hutu man who risked his life to bring his mom and nearly 200 other Tutsis to the Hotel Milles Collines (the one in the fiction feature Hotel Rwanda). The most interesting aspect of the film is the depiction of the "gacaca", the traditional Rwandan approach to justice. It consists of open-air town meetings in which the guilty confess, seek forgiveness, and agree to perform work for the benefit of the comunity. J.B. and his mother visit a work camp and interview several Hutus involved in the massacre. It's a decidedly difficult emotional experience for both sides, and compelling to witness. Rutagarama comments that "Reconciliation is awkward, imperfect, and slow, but it is possible".

    Rutagarama chooses not to deal with the issue of his Hutu father, who was poisoned by tribal propaganda and reported his wife to the militia that perpetrated most of the acts of genocide. The director reveals this during the opening minutes, and never mentions his father again. It would also be of great interest to explore why it took him two years to get a visa to visit the country, and why representatives of the current administration seized his equipment and footage he had shot. This information about government interference is contained in the production notes made available to the press, but Back Home ignores it completely. It's seemingly relevant to the future prospects of the country. Addressing these topics would make the film more thorough and satisfying.

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    A TON OF LUCK (Colombia)

    Hollywood films invariably top the Colombian box office year after year. In 2006, this local, populist entertainment was the country's highest grossing film. It's based on a real event that took place in 2003, when a battalion of 147 soldiers found $46 million hidden deep in the jungle by narco-guerrillas and decided to divvy up the untraceable loot. Rodrigo Triana's sophomore effort reduces the number of soldiers involved to a manageable 30 and focuses on four of them who are close friends.

    At the opening, the wife of Porras (Manuel Jose Chavez) travels with their small daughter as she reads a letter sent by her husband. It instructs her to travel to a remote town at the edge of the Amazon forest. A Ton of Luck flashes back to the foursome at a strip joint prior to going on a mission. The scene establishes Perlaza's dream of marrying exotic dancer Dayana and Porras as devoted married man. Suprisingly, the sequence culminates with an inconsequential melee that is poorly staged. The mise-en-scene improves once the troops enter the jungle and the adventure begins. After a few skirmishes and long days battling the elements with inadequate resources, they discover piles of cash buried inside plastic containers. Porras is the only one who takes the moral high ground. The soldiers are ill-equipped to handle their sudden riches. After barely missing being caught at the military base, they get a day off and go to the city. These poor, uneducated, young soldiers can't help but flaunt and squander the money with obvious consequences. A Ton of Luck returns to Porras' wife for the surprising finale. The film often assumes a light tone, with attempts at humor achieving mixed results and performances that never rise above merely competent. A Ton of Luck is worth watching but unremarkable. It received a nomination for "Best Spanish-language Foreign Film" at the Spanish Academy Awards. It's Colombia's submission to the Oscars yet simply not good enough to have a chance at getting a nomination.

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    SEPTEMBERS (Spain)

    Director Carles Bosch was visiting a friend at a detention facility near Madrid when he stumbled on inmates singing karaoke on stage. They were practicing for a singing competition held every September within Spain's penitentiary system. Bosch decides then that the follow-up to his Oscar-nominated documentary Balseros would focus on these men and women. Septembers is less concerned with the competition than with the personal tragedies, hopes and dreams of the participants. Adalberto is wanted for theft in his native Argentina and hopes to avoid extradition so he can live with his lover in Barcelona. Rudolf is a Lithuanian accused of making counterfeit bills; he's sad because his Ukranian girlfriend has lost interest in him. Arturo is a proud gypsy with a tattoo of his wife's face on his arm who worries about his three sons growing up without a father. There's a Mexican woman who tried to enter Spain with a substantial amount of cocaine; she's won the "festival of song" the past two years. An attractive Bolivian woman feels ambivalent about a liaison with an older Spanish man. There's a woman from Valencia who bought heroin for her addicted son, and a drummer for a once-famous rock band.

    Bosch's primary focus is on the love lives of a dozen inmates and their expression through song. Bosch doesn't editorialize or make generalizations but, because of the variety of subjects from several prisons, Septembers manages to comment on the nation and its penal system. It's clear that Spain's healthy democracy and economy have attracted a high number of immigrants in the past decade, and that they often experience difficulty adjusting. I was quite impressed with the physical condition of the penitentiaries (very clean and spacious), the opportunities for rehabilitation available, and the dignity with which inmates seem to be treated. Granted, these facilities don't hold the most dangerous criminals_only one documentary subject is guilty of a violent offense, but what's on view is indicative of a humane and efficient penal system. Septembers is very coherently edited and consistently engaging. It's having its world premiere at the festival.

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    PRINCESS (Denmark)

    Shortly after he returns to Copenhagen, the sister of a missionary named August dies of a drug overdose in a brothel. He picks up his young niece Mia and brings her to live with him. It soon becomes evident that Mia has been subjected to physical and sexual abuse while living with her mother, the porn star known as Princess. The devoutly Christian August vows to take revenge. With assistance from Mia, he proceeds to shoot, maim, burn, torture and bomb anything and anybody connected with the "smut empire" built by Mia's ex-boyfriend Charlie, who may or may not be Mia's father.

    The film is mostly animated, with character and background drawing below the standards of current American and Japanese animation. Animated sequences are interspersed with live-action flashbacks from Augustís camcorder, an original approach that enriches the film by providing detailed backstory regarding August, Charlie and Princess.
    From animator and author of children's books Anders Morgenthaler's statement: "To enjoy a porno film one must either be very dumb or be able to abstract from the fact that one is watching real people". Princess is an expression of its creator's religious, anti-porn crusade. Even those who support his views might wince at the way he glorifies and justifies all sorts of gory, vigilante violence. Perhaps there's an audience out there for Princess. I just don't want to meet them.

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