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Honeyland

(Turkish, English Subtitles): This film documents the story of Hatidze who lives high in the mountains with her mother who is growing increasingly frail. Hatidze is a beekeeper; she and her mother appear to be the only two people who live in the area. They live close to nature, and Hatidze walks her honey to town to sell in the local markets. One day, an itinerant family with seven children sets up home next to her. At first, the father seems interested in understanding the art of what Hatidze does, but soon he and his family upset the balance of …

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The Farewell (Chinese with Subtitles)

The film begins with being “based on an actual lie”. The story is about a Chinese family whose matriarch (Nai Nai) is dying of lung cancer. The family decides to keep the truth from her and take on that responsibility themselves since the truth might kill her faster. Nai Nai’s children hasten the wedding of her grandson so as to bring the family together in China one last time. Although her parents told her she could not go, Billi (played excellently by Awkwafina), who has a special relationship with her grandmother, shows up anyway. I really love this film that …

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The Reports on Sarah and Saleem (Arabic and Hebrew, subtitled)

Sarah is Israeli and works in a cafe in Jerusalem, and Saleem is Palestinian and works as a deliveryman. Saleem delivers to her café, and at nights, they meet and have sex in his van. One night, Saleem invites Sarah to the West Bank to have a drink, a place where he feels that both can be together as regular people. But there is an altercation with one of the patrons of the bar, and soon Saleem finds himself arrested and being asked questions about his “recruiting” Sarah for political purposes. The film thoughtfully and expertly tells the story of …

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Burning

(Korean): Burning tells the story of three people. Lee, an unemployed writer, and recent college graduate, accidentally meets up with Shin, a young woman who is working at a department store. Shin claims she knows Lee, but Lee seems rather disinterested, yet he agrees to have dinner with her. They have sex, and she soon goes away on a trip to Africa; she asks Lee to watch her cat. Shin comes back with Ben, a guy who seems to come from a lot of money and who she met while stranded in an airport. The film is about the odd …

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Never Look Away

(German) This film is described as being loosely based on the life of abstract artist Gerhard Richter. It tells the story of Kurt Barnert’s life over about 30 years, beginning when he was a little boy just as the Nazis were coming to power and his beloved Aunt Ellie was taken away, through the beginnings of adult life in communist East Germany as a painter of propaganda murals, his falling in love with and marriage to Ellie, and his later years once his art career began to take off. I loved the film. The cinematography is breathtaking, and the score …

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What Will People Say?

(Norwegian) Nisha is a Pakistani teenager growing up with her family in Norway. At home, she conforms very closely to what is expected of her by her family and culture; away from home, she is the typical, westernized teenager. One night, her father discovers that she has her boyfriend in her room, and the price for this is that she is shipped off to Pakistan to live with her distant relatives. This is a really fine film with wonderful acting, especially by the actress who plays Nisha (this appears to be her first acting role) and the actor who plays …

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Everybody Knows

(Spanish) In this new film by two-time Oscar winner Asghar Farhadi (A Separation; The Salesman), Laura (Penelope Cruz) and her two children travel to Spain to attend the wedding of her sister. At the wedding, her daughter goes is kidnapped with only a note that no one should go to the police or her daughter will be killed. An old family friend Paco (Javier Bardem) becomes deeply involved in trying to find Laura’s daughter as well. While they search frantically for Laura’s daughter, personal secrets and family dynamics unfold. I really enjoyed the film. For the most part, the story …

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The Guilty

(Denmark):  Asgar has been assigned from patrol to a desk job answering 911 calls. He clearly doesn’t want to be there, has a chip on his shoulder, and doesn’t seem to care about the fate of the callers. Then a woman named Iben calls and claims she has been abducted. The entire film is shot in the police station where he takes the calls, and for almost the entire movie, Asgar is the only one you see. This is an amazing piece of film crafting. The film most closely resembles Locke, shot entirely in the car as Locke is driving; …

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Happy as Lazzaro

(Italy, English Subtitles): Lazzaro works alongside a couple of dozen other people as sharecroppers on a tobacco farm owned by an oppressive Marchesa de La Luna, who everyone calls “the Queen of Cigarettes”. Lazzaro is a young man who appears gullible and naïve while helping others with whatever they need or want. Lazzaro strikes up a friendship with Tancredi, the son of the Marchesa, and they orchestrate Tancredi’s abduction. I won’t say much more about the story since any more description would risk giving away the main plot twist. I loved the film. It is beautifully filmed, well-acted, and the …

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Cold War

Polish, English subtitles: Wiktor is a musician who travels post-War Poland to assemble a touring group who will perform Polish folk songs throughout the country. He discovers Zula, a headstrong young woman with a beautiful voice. The movie, inspired by the director’s own parents, follows their love affair across multiple countries – Poland, Russia, France – in Cold-War Europe. The film is a masterpiece in every way. The cinematography is gorgeous; as in the director’s previous film Ida, every scene is by itself an exemplar of light and shadow and composition. The use of black and white helps bring a …

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