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Foreign Films

Foreign Films

  1. book cover
    Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner
    directed by Zacharias Kunuk

    Adapted from an Inuit legend, The Fast Runner centers on Atanarjuat, a charismatic young hunter struggling for the affections of Atuat. However, Atuat has already been promised to Oki, the son of the camp's leader. When Atuat chooses Atanarjuat, Oki seems to accept it, but later events turn his anger and hatred into a murderous spite. This story is framed by the daily lives of the Inuit-a struggle for survival that is both simple and vivid, foreign yet immediately understandable. No one in the cast is a professional actor, but the performances are direct and compelling, telling a story that is both epic and intimate.

    star rating 125 minutes
  2. book cover
    Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
    directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan

    A night spent gathering evidence of a killing reveals a great deal about both the criminals and the men bringing them to justice in this drama from Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan. Kenan and Ramazan are two men who have confessed to murder, and Naci is the police detective who has been assigned to wrap up the details of the case. With several of his colleagues in tow, Naci heads out to the woods with the killers in order to find and recover the body. Over the course of a long night, the men talk about many different aspects of life, and their conversation explores their attitudes about life in Turkey and the human condition in general.

    star rating 150 minutes
  3. book cover
    directed by Gavin Hood

    A murderous little punk from a Johannesburg slum pulls off a carjacking only to discover an infant in the backseat; instead of ditching the baby he impulsively makes off with it, and the experience of caring for someone so helpless reawakens his humanity. Adapted from a novel by Athol Fugard, this powerful South African drama turns on the debut performance of young Presley Chweneyagae as the hood, and it's magnificent: a stone-faced killer in the opening scenes, he becomes an open book as the story progresses, as frightened, confused, and needy as the baby he drags around town in a shopping bag.

    star rating 94 minutes
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    The Clay Bird
    directed by Tareque Masud

    The Clay Bird is an affecting portrait of a family dealing with the impact of religious belief on their lives during the struggle for Bangladesh's independence from Pakistan in the late 1960s. Anu, a shy young boy from rural East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) is sent away by his father Kazi, an orthodox Muslim, to a Madrasah - or Islamic- school. Far from his family and the warmth of his region's Hindu festivities, Anu struggles to adapt to the school's harsh monastic life. As the political divisions in the country intensify, an increasing split develops between moderate and extremist forces within the Madrasah. Back in the village, these same tensions create a growing divide between the stubborn but confused Kazi and his increasingly independent wife, Ayesha.

    star rating 95 minutes
  5. book cover
    directed by Javier Fuentes-León

    This touching film by Javier Fuentes-Leon puts a supernatural spin on the familiar premise of the bisexual love triangle. Set in a Peruvian seaside village, it's the story of a married fisherman who has an affair with a gay painter while waiting for his wife to give birth. When the painter is killed in a swimming accident, his spirit haunts the fisherman, whose grief for his dead lover is exacerbated by his guilt over having betrayed his wife and his embarrassment over nude paintings of him discovered in the artist's studio. Heartfelt performances, sly humor, and beautiful scenery complement the offbeat but romantic ghost story.

    star rating 100 minutes
  6. book cover
    The Syrian Bride
    directed by Eran Riklis

    A family deals with the typical anxieties of a wedding day while also confronting the political turmoil of the Middle East in this drama, a collaboration between Israeli and Palestinian filmmakers. Hammed is a leading political figure in Majdal Shams, a Druze community that has been under Israeli occupation since the late '60s. Years ago, Hammed arranged for his daughter Mona to marry Tallel, who has since become a successful actor in Syria. Hammed has gathered the family together to see Mona off, but the occasion is a bittersweet one - given the combative relationship between Israel and Syria, once Mona crosses the border with her husband, it's unlikely she will ever be able to return.

    star rating 97 minutes
  7. book cover
    Waltz with Bashir
    directed by Ari Folman

    Animation may be the ideal medium for replicating dreams, and in this unsettling 2008 feature it also proves well suited to autobiography. Hoping to uncover his repressed memories of combat in the first Israeli-Lebanese war, Ari Folman consults two psychotherapists and tracks down veterans with whom he may have served. Their testimony and nightmares combine with his own recurring flashbacks, revealing the tragic experiences of the unseasoned young soldiers. In his controversial association of Nazi concentration camps with the Israeli-controlled internment camps for Palestinian refugees, Folman reflects on the roots of Israel's militarism and its role in the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacres committed by its Christian allies in Lebanon.

    star rating 90 minutes
  8. book cover
    In Darkness
    directed by Agnieszka Holland

    Leopold Socha was a Polish sewer worker who took advantage of his position to shelter nearly two dozen Jews below street level during the Nazis' liquidation of the Lvov ghetto in 1943; at first he charged for his silence, but after the refugees ran out of money he and his wife fed and cared for them until the Soviets liberated the city 14 months later. This dramatization of Socha's story follows the same playbook as Schindler’s List, tracing the gentile protagonist's emotional journey from opportunist to savior.

    star rating 145 minutes
  9. book cover
    directed by Joseph Cedar

    A glowering Talmudic professor at Hebrew University, whose scholarship dead-ended years earlier, bristles at the brilliant success of his son also on the faculty; their long-simmering professional tension reaches a boil after the father is notified by mail that he's won the prestigious Israel Prize and the son learns that the letter was intended for him.

    star rating 103 minutes
  10. book cover
    Before the Rain
    directed by Milcho Manchevski

    Telling three interconnected stories set in Macedonia and London, the film begins with a girl hiding out in a Macedonian monastery and then shifts to the emotional conflicts of a woman in London leaving her husband and coming back into contact with a former lover, a Macedonian war photographer just back from Bosnia. The final story deals with the photographer's return to his native country.

    star rating 113 minutes
  11. book cover
    Monsieur Lazhar
    directed by Philippe Falardeau

    In this French Canadian feature by Philippe Falardeau, a standard liberal tale about an inspirational teacher gradually deepens into a quiet study of how grief works its way through a community. The death of a young grade school instructor shocks her students and colleagues alike. Into this cauldron walks the title character, a gentle Algerian refugee with his own history of terrible loss, and as he tries to take over the dead woman's class, his rocky relationship with the kids pushes both him and them to new levels of empathy, understanding, and forgiveness.

    star rating 94 minutes
  12. book cover
    The Scent of Green Papaya
    directed by Tran Anh Hung

    In this Academy Award nominated film, little things mean a lot in the world of 10-year-old Mui, a girl who's trained to be a house servant in 1950s Vietnam. As Mui grows up in pre-war Saigon, she finds quiet love with a family friend. Dialogue seems almost tertiary in this film that celebrates the senses, as the young girl discovers the world around her and marvels at every new sight, sound and scent she experiences while going about her workday life.

    star rating 104 minutes