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Focus On World Cinema at Fort Lauderdale

The focus is on world cinema, as the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival enters its final week of international and independent offerings. Films from around the world make up a considerable share of the premieres at the Festival, and offer South Florida audiences the unique opportunity to see films that may never open commercially.

The range of international films on tap for Monday alone is impressive. The program begins with the Florida premiere of the Dutch film JOHAN, directed by Nicole van Kilsdonk. In this bittersweet comedy, a young man must find his own way amidst the expectations of his soccer-obsessed father and 10 brothers (who make up their own soccer team). Pressured to join the team and participate in the family mania for sports and competitiveness, Johan, possessing a more artistic nature, finds his own way of expressing himself by becoming a guitarist and a singer. The clash of macho versus artistic values makes for fine drama in this wonderfully evocative film. JOHAN screens three times on Monday, at 1:00pm, 5:00pm and again at 9:00pm at Las Olas Riverfront.

A similar conflict between what is expected and what is desired is at the center of the effecting drama BEAUTY AND THE BASTARD by Finnish director Dome Karukoski. In this wonderfully acted drama, a young woman on her way to medical school spends her days dreaming about a career as a singer. At the same time, a young man from a rough neighborhood longs to become a hip hop dj. When these two dreamers cross paths, they enable and encourage one another to follow their individual dreams, despite the pressure from friends and family to follow a more traditional road. The film stars Pamela Tola, a Finnish pop singer, and contains a wonderful soundtrack of contemporary Finnish music. BEAUTY AND THE BASTARD screens three times on Monday, at 1:30pm, 5:30pm and 9:30pm at Las Olas Riverfront.

A once-upon-a-time romance from Taiwan is at the core of director Yun Chan-Lee’s movingly effective THE SHOE FAIRY. In this modern day Chinese riff on THE LITTLE MERMAID, a young woman born without use of her feet, eventually does learn to walk and begins collecting beautiful shoes. When she meets a handsome but shy dentist, she begins to understand the true meaning of love and compassion. The film boasts highly imaginative fantasy sequences, set in a pastel-colored art director’s dream, which offer a child-like tale of love, sacrifice and understanding. THE SHOE FAIRY screens twice on Monday, at 3:00pm and 7:00pm, at Las Olas Riverfront.

A delightful period comedy from Spain, UNCONSCIOUS, by acclaimed Spanish director Joaquin Oristell, is another example of the high quality of the new Spanish cinema. In the early 20th century in Barcelona, sexual taboos are being broken as psychoanalysis becomes all the rage when Sigmund Freud visits the city. A brother and a sister-in-law looking to find her missing husband venture through hypnosis, psychological intuition and sexual awakening as the tides of modernism overwhelm the old social order. Leonor Watling, one of Pedro Almodovar’s favorite actresses, shines in the lead role, along with esteemed Spanish actor Luis Tosar. The couple’s considerable chemistry gives this wonderfully liberating film a special spark and sparkle. UNCONSCIOUS screens twice on Monday at 3;30pm and 7:30pm at Las Olas Riverfront.

Rounding off Monday’s international showcase is the humanist drama TWO PLAYERS FROM THE BENCH by Slovenian director Dejan Sorak. When a Serbian military official is indicted by the Hague Tribunal of War Crimes escapes criminal justice, two unlikely comrades, one Croat and the other Serb, join forces to find the missing war criminal. The film mixes elements of a dramatic thriller with dark comedy to portray the lunacy of war and the complexity of retribution. The film is the first in the former Yugoslavia to openly deal with the issue of war crimes. It’s final screening is on Monday at 8:00pm at the Cinema Paradiso, with director Dejan Sorak in attendance.

Monday’s films take audiences around the world and back with a group of films that appeal to both the eye and the ear, and bring a dose of human understanding to the conflicts and complexities of foreign cultures. Passports not required…..

Sandy Mandelberger
Online Festival Dailies Editor

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