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December 5 - 17, 2003

Family Bonds: New Films from Europe

We are pleased to present our fourth annual festival of New Films from Europe featuring innovative new works from the continent. This year’s program includes a diverse slate of films that address questions of national identity, with many directors choosing to explore these issues through the lens of familial relationships. The festival features the work of established veterans such as France’s Patrice Chéreau and the late Portuguese master João Cesar Monteiro as well as works from promising first-time directors including Italy’s Costanza Quatriglio, England’s Sarah Gavron, and Greece’s Penny Panayotopoulou.

The program for this year’s festival was assembled with the generous assistance of the Kokkalis Program at Harvard University, Fréderic Martel and Eric Jausseran of French Cultural Services, Claudia Hahn-Raabe and Karin Kolb of the Goethe Institut Boston, Dino Siotis of the Consulate General of Greece, Marianne Gerber of the Consulate of Switzerland, Paolo Martins of the General Consulate of Portugal, Consul General of Spain Enrique Iranzo, Lucia Lovison of Circolo Italiano di Boston, and Gunnar Almér of the Swedish Film Institute.


December 5 (Friday) 7 pm

His Brother (Son frère)

Directed by Patrice Chéreau
France, 2003, color, 95 min.
With Bruno Todeschini, Eric Caravaca, Nathalie Boutefeu
French with English subtitles

Director Patrice Chéreau (Queen Margot) provides a stark and uncompromising portrait of the ravages of illness as he delicately explores the fine line between love and obligation in sibling relationships. The title refers to either one of the two brothers who are the main focus of the film. With a difficult history between them, they are further challenged to resolve their differences when one develops a terminal illness. Thomas is content to accept his fate and die gracefully but Luc, who has been alienated from his brother in part due to his homosexuality, must come to terms with the challenge of caring for someone whose life is near its end.

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December 5 (Friday) 9:30 pm

Jesus, You Know (Jesus, Du weisst)

Directed by Ulrich Seidl
Austria, 2003, color, 87 min.
German with English subtitles

This unusual documentary opens with a prayer for the film to fulfill itself and even a blessing for us, the audience about to experience the work. Director Seidl has deployed the simplest of means to record the very private ways in which six devout believers approach the intimacy of conversing with God. Seidl, a lapsed Catholic who is nonetheless open to the positive influences of faith, refuses to take the easy path by focusing on the hypocrisies or authoritarianism of organized religion. Instead, he tries to observe the daily vicissitudes of the faithful and in the process reveals the subtle ways in which adversity and good fortune by turns shape our lives and our understanding of a divine presence at work in the world.

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December 6 (Saturday) 7 pm
December 12 (Friday) 9:15 pm

Beyond the Border (Oltre il confine)

Directed by Rolando Colla
Switzerland, 2002, color, 104 min.
With Anna Galiena, Senad Basic, Giuliano Persico
Italian with English subtitles

Set in 1993 in the border city of Turin, this latest film from Italian-Swiss director Rolando Colla focuses on an architect who is called home to care for her aging father. At the nursing home, she meets an undocumented Bosnian refugee working as an orderly who forms a special bond with her father until a mischievous night lands him in prison. Although the architect tries not to become involved in the refugee’s life, she finds herself drawn into the personal and familial tragedies he has suffered and in the process unearths a pathway to her own tumultuous childhood in postwar Europe. In its moving, straightforward exposition, Beyond the Border provides a topical reflection on the consequences of war and loss for the modern European family.

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December 6 (Saturday) 9 pm
December 15 (Monday) 9 pm

Work in Progress (En Construcción)

Directed by José Luis Guerín
Spain, 2001, color, 125 min.
With Antonio Antar, Iván Guzmán Jimènez, Juan López López
Spanish/Catalan with English subtitles

 

Crossing the line between fiction and nonfiction, director Jose Luis Guerín presents a neorealist portrayal of life in a working-class Barcelona neighborhood. Guerín spent eighteen months documenting (and frequently staging sequences of) the construction of a new apartment complex in a rundown section of the city. This semi-documentary features a colorful cast of characters that includes a squatter couple facing displacement and a determined group of construction workers, all of whom provide fresh insight into the human changes that renovation and gentrification bring about in the changing urban landscape.

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December 7 (Sunday) 7 pm

Come and Go (Vai e vem)

Directed by João César Monteiro
Portugal/France, 2003, color, 179 min.
With João César Monteiro, Rita Pereira Marques, Joaquina Chicau
Portuguese with English subtitles

The late João César Monteiro both directed and starred in this portrait of a solitary widower. Through a series of striking tableaux, Monteiro follows his protagonist through a daily routine that keeps him markedly distanced from his fellow residents in a picturesque section of Lisbon. His only meaningful communication begins when he looks to hire a woman to clean and maintain his extensive collection of books. The isolation is disrupted further when his son is released from prison and impels the father to unexpected action. Paying homage to such legendary film comedians as Charlie Chaplin and W. C. Fields, Monteiro balances the gravity of the material with an often salacious sense of humor.

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December 12 (Friday) 7 pm
December 13 (Saturday) 9 pm

Evil (Ondskan)

Directed by Mikael Håfström
Sweden, 2003, color, 114 min.
With Andreas Wilson, Henrik Lundström, Gustaf Skarsgård
Swedish with English subtitles

Mikael Håfström’s adaptation of one of the most beloved books in modern Swedish literature (a memoir by journalist Jan Guillou) offers a vivid portrait of the class system at work in mid-century Sweden. Set within the teeming microcosm of an exclusive boys’ prep school, Evil follows the entry of a new student into this exclusive world of privilege. Working with Ingmar Bergman’s production designer for Fanny and Alexander, the director opts for a spare style in his exploration of the supposedly civil world of well-bred elitism that, in short order, reveals itself to be an arena of violence and hypocrisy.

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December 13 (Saturday) 7 pm
December 14 (Sunday) 9:15 pm

This Little Life

Directed by Sarah Gavron
UK, 2002, color, 80 min.
With Kate Ashfield, Linda Bassett, Anthony Borrows

This riveting first feature, winner of the Dennis Potter Screenwriting Award, structures its narrative around a diary kept by a woman during the weeks that her premature baby was kept in a neonatal intensive care unit. Director Sarah Gavron brings a visual intensity and single-minded focus to her study that perfectly captures the subjective experiences of the mother while gradually allowing the viewer to glimpse the imaginative relationship she conjures up with her child. This Little Life left audiences in tears at recent festival screenings with its deeply moving and beautifully rendered tale of the travails of new life.

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December 14 (Sunday) 7pm

Hard Goodbyes: My Father (Diskoli apocheretismi: O babas mou)

Directed by Penny Panayotopoulou
Greece, 2002, color, 113 min.
With Giorgos Karayannis, Stelios Mainas, Ioanna Tsirigouli
Greek with English subtitles

10-year-old Elias, a boy living in Athens, makes a pact with his father to watch on television man's first landing on the moon. The two regale each other with stories of Jules Verne and flights of the imagination. They are adventurers and explorers. But chocolate bars left by a father gone on too many business trips are counted, while the countdown to the moonlanding has already begun. The year is 1969. A spaceship takes off, and man soon takes leave of planet earth. And so does Elias' father. It is the imagination and their shared love of storytelling that allow Elias to transcend the unimaginable. (Film description courtesy of Sipapu Films)

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December 16 (Tuesday) 7pm

The Island (L’Isola)

Directed by Costanza Quatriglio
Italy, 2003, color, 103 min.
With Veronica Guarrasi, Ignacio Ernandes, Marcello Mazzarella
Italian with English subtitles

Director Costanza Quatriglio depicts everyday events in the lives of two siblings who reside on an island off the coast of Sicily that also houses a prison in which the inmates are free to roam beyond the walls of confinement. As the annual tuna fishing ritual approaches, both brother and sister experience a distinct rite of passage. In the tradition of the great Italian neorealists, Quatriglio employs an observational visual style that captures events on location with non-professional actors. In so doing, she provides a charming and authentic rendering of the often awkward transition from childhood to adolescence amidst rugged environmental factors.

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December 16 (Tuesday) 9 pm

Forest (Rengeteg)

Directed by Benedek Fliegauf
Hungary, 2003, color, 90 min.
With Rita Braun, Barbara Csonka, Balint Kenyeres
Hungarian with English subtitles

Best First Film winner at the Hungarian Film Awards, Forest hovers provocatively between off-beat humor and sinister drama. Bookended by images of a crowd outside a Budapest shopping mall, Forest glimpses into a series of lives in seven vignettes, with several unnerving turns along the way: a stranger invades a woman’s apartment, insisting she take his dog; a father expresses concern for his maturing daughter that degenerates into an unhealthy obsession/repulsion with her body; a young woman is haunted by the memory of her grandmother. Fliegauf's probing camera zeroes in on faces, hands, telling gestures, and uncomfortable moments, creating an unexpectedly spooky, claustrophobic mood from the seemingly mundane.

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December 17 (Wednesday) 7 pm

Distant Lights (Lichter)

Directed by Hans-Christian Schmid
Germany, 2003, color, 103 min.
With Ivan Shvedoff, Sergej Frolov, Anna Janovskaja
German/Polish/ Russian with English subtitles

The border between Germany and Poland, formed by the river Oder, provides an intriguing setting for this exploration of the boundaries of national and personal identities. Director Hans-Christian Schmid interweaves five narrative threads: a group of Ukrainian refugees beg and bargain for entry to the “golden West”; a businessman loses everything he owns only to find something of much greater value; a young cigarette smuggler defies his father and brother to free the girl he loves from a detention center; an interpreter risks her career and her freedom to help an illegal refugee; and an architect meets his former girlfriend and discovers that they have both changed too much to find common ground. With a deep humanist empathy, Schmid provides a sensitive yet realist portrait of characters searching for individual freedom in an often hostile world.

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