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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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Capernaum (Chaos)

(Lebanon, English Subtitles): The film opens as Zain, who is “about 12 or 13”, is being examined by a doctor. Next, we are taken to the courtroom, where Zain and his attorney are suing his parents for “giving him life”. The rest of the movie tells the story of how Zain ended up in the courtroom. The director takes us on a journey through the lives of these people who live on the fringes of society in Lebanon, people (adults and children) who struggle to meet their basic needs and struggle for survival. The film is gritty and at times …

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Shoplifters

(Japanese, English subtitles): The film opens with a man and a young person exchanging brief hand signals, which is followed by both of them shoplifting groceries. On the way home from a shoplifting expedition one night, they happen upon a little girl, Juri, who appears to be abandoned on a porch. They take her home to their family living in a flat – Grandma, the dad’s wife, and his sister-in-law. The film serves as an exploration of a group of people who live “under-the-radar” of the larger Tokyo society. I loved this film and its series of surprises and twists …

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The Cakemaker

(Hebrew, German, and English with subtitles): This film from Israel is the story of Thomas, who owns a bakery in Berlin. Thomas is having an affair with Oren, a married man from Jerusalem. Oren is killed in an accident in Jerusalem, and Thomas goes there to learn more about Oren. He takes a job in the café run by Oren’s widow. I absolutely loved this film and the way the complete story unfolds. It is a very moving and unusual love story, and kudos to the screenplay writer (who is also the director) for crafting a story that comes together …

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