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Spotlight On American Indies At Troia FF

Friday, June 9---One of the most consistently popular sections at the annual Troia International Film Festival is devoted to American Independents. This year, six films, most having their European premieres at the event, will compete for the Dolphin Award.

The films are quite diverse in their genres, directorial styles and use of their regional base. In Anthony Ng’s 212, which had its world premiere at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, a diverse group of twenty-something New Yorkers grasp for love and intimacy in an age of cel phones and computers that are meant to foster communication but often result in reinforcing isolation. Ng’s film features an appealing cast of New York theater actors and a funny, endearing screenplay that goes into the dark heart of loneliness and longing in contemporary Manhattan.

The city is also the backdrop for Jeff Lipsky’s FLANNEL PAJAMAS, a 2006 Sundance sleeper. The film follows the courtship, marriage and eventual breakup of what seems to be a dream couple. However, the subtle cruelties of neglect, loneliness and inability to bridge the gap of expectations creates a wistful atmosphere of lost opportunity and the difficulty of keeping love alive in a modern metropolis. Lead actors Justin Kirk (ANGELS IN AMERICA) and Julianne Nicholson get it just right as ambitious New Yorkers who long for love but often don’t have the patience or will to nurture it.

A moving and disturbing look at how hatred can turn a sympathetic soul into an avenging angel is the subject of director Joseph Castello’s THE WAR WITHIN. Hassan is a Pakistani who has been educated in the West, whose heart turns hard when he attempts to avenge the brutal death of his brother, by agreeing to become a suicide bomber. His target? New York’s historical Grand Central Station, a bustling train terminal that is at the epicenter of the city’s fast-paced commuter experience. Hassan, wonderfully played by actor Ayad Akhtar, undergoes a crisis of conscience the longer he stays in the New Jersey home of his best friend, an assimilated Pakistani doctor who has benefited from the American dream. Like the similary themed PARADISE NOW, the film has no easy answers, other than recognizing the futility of violence to solve social ills.

Psychological terror is also at the heart of ROOM, director Kyle Henry’s metaphysical drama about a suppressed and unfulfilled woman who has disturbing visions that eventually lead her from her Houston home to New York City, to confront her demons. The film had its international premiere at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival in the Quinzaine des Realisateurs section, which led to its pickup by powerhouse distributor Celluloid Dreams. Theater actress Cyndi Williams received an Independent Spirit Award nomination as Best Actress for her riveting portrayal of a woman who little inner self-knowledge who is woefully unprepared for the transition into middle age.

Another character dealing with mortality is the protagonist of director Alex Steyermark’s moving comedy/drama ONE LAST THING. Michael Angarano gives an arresting performance as a sixteen-year-old who has to face his imminent end, as his cancer is in a terminal phase. When a charity organization offers to fulfill the teenager’s final wish, he surprises everyone with his declared desire to spend a weekend with a superficial super model. Avoiding jokey clichés and frat boy humor, the film, written by Barry Stringfellow, is surprisingly tender and wise, as the young man, and his parents, wonderfully played by Cynthia Nixon and an unaccredited Ethan Hawke, learn the important life lessons of savoring every last moment and not deferring the realization of one’s dreams.

Wistful moments abound in the film THINGS THAN HANG FROM TREES by Israeli-born director Ido Mizrahy. The film, written and based on a short novella by Aaron Louis Tordini, is set in the 1960s in St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest city in America. Deborah Kara Unger gives a marvelously understated performance as an emotionally unavailable mother, who spends her days modeling lingerie in the shop window of the family store. Her young son must deal with the disapproval and estrangement of the small, tight-knit community’s abhorrence of eccentricity in their midst. Director Mizrahy provides a wonderfully off-kilter Southern gothic atmosphere to this “memory film

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Online Dailies from the 22nd Troia International Film Festival

Dates: 2-11 June 2006

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