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Parallel Mothers

(Spanish) Almodóvar’s latest film concerns two women – Janis, who is in her 40’s, and Teresa, who is a teenager – who strike up a bond while sharing a hospital room as both are preparing to give birth. That connection and how it happens is one storyline. In another storyline, Janis, a photographer, has an affair with Arturo, an archeologist who specializes in digs related to Spain’s civil war. Janis asks him to help her to organize a dig of a plot of land where many of her male relatives were murdered and buried. These two stories are woven together …

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The Hand of God

(Italy) This is a coming-of-age story centered around Fabietto, a young man who is trying to figure out what to do with his life. The film is essentially in two parts. The first is a rather slow and meandering look at Fabietto’s direct and extended family, including an aunt, Patrizia, to whom he has an odd attraction – a clearly physical one, but also one that is sympathetic to her condition. The family is full of characters – some cranky, some loving, and some rather mean-spirited – but they are all a family. A startling event ushers in the second …

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Lamb

(Iceland): Ingvar and Maria are sheep ranchers who live an isolated life. The opening scenes, which are mostly silent and expansive, reinforce a sense of loneliness, and you feel an underlying sadness to the daily routine the two find themselves in. One day, they are aiding one of the sheep in giving birth, and there is something different about the lamb; we don’t know what it is, but the two quickly swaddle it and bring it into the house. Over the next months, the two raise it as their own child. The movie premise is very strange, but the story …

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Titane

(France) As a young girl, Alexia was in a car accident that resulted in a titanium plate screwed onto her skull. Cut to adulthood: Alexia is heading to her shift at an auto show, a place where women dance erotically around cars for men who give them tips for their performances. A man follows her and wants her autograph, then a kiss, then tries to force himself on her. She stabs him through the ear with her metal hairpin, killing him. Next, she has sex with a car and becomes impregnated. And the absurdities continue – it turns out she …

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Flee

In this unusually told documentary, the filmmaker uses a combination of archival footage and minimalist animation to tell the story of Amin, who grew up in Kabul and became a refugee as a young teenager and ultimately made his way to Denmark. It is near the date that Amin is going to marry his soon-to-be husband, and his story is one that he has not told anyone, including his partner, and his not telling the story is becoming a problem in their relationship. Why he never told anyone becomes clearer as the film progresses. I liked the ingenuity displayed in …

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The Man Who Sold His Skin

(Syria, English subtitles): This film, which was Syria’s entry to the Oscars and made the shortlist, centers on Sam Ali, a refugee who agrees to have his back tattooed as a form of art in exchange for money, freedom, and a visa to Europe, where his girlfriend is betrothed to a member of the embassy. While uneven in its execution, the film works best as a commentary (and perhaps even satire) on the question of art and its commodification (as well as the commodification of Sam). Sam exchanges his back for his freedom, but he comes to realize that he …

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Quo Vadis, Aida?

(Bosnia and Herzegovina, English Subtitles): This historical film is based on the massacre of thousands of men and boys in an ethnic cleansing operation in Bosnia in the mid-1990s. The event is told through the experience of Aida, a translator for the United Nations peacekeeping forces assigned to monitor a temporary cease-fire between the Bosnian Serbs and the Bosnian Muslims. Aria knows more about what is going on and what is about to happen, but she finds herself torn between the needs of her people and the activities of the UN overseers as well as the need to save her …

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The Mole Agent

(Chile, English Subtitles). The subject of this documentary is Sergio, a widower of 83 years, who applies for a job to go undercover in a nursing home. The private investigator has been hired by the daughter of one of the residents who believe the nursing staff is stealing from her. Sergio takes the job as a way to help deal with the loss of his wife. The film provides an insider look at life in the nursing home. It is rather sad, for the most part, how Sergio engages several of the residents and learns of the loneliness that many …

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Collective

(Romania, English subtitles): This fascinating documentary follows a sharp investigative journalism team that began by investigating a fire at a nightclub in Romania that killed about two dozen young people but went on to claim nearly 40 additional lives. This movie reminded me of the wonderful film Spotlight several years ago based on the team who cracked the story about one of the cardinals accused of sexually abusing boys. While that was a reenactment of the story, Collective is a documentary that follows the team as piece together several seemingly unrelated events – the nightclub fire, the resignation of the …

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Dear Comrades!

(Russia, English Subtitles): The film, based on a true story, takes place in 1962, when workers in a factory, complaining about high prices of food, food shortages, and low wages, went on strike. To break the strike, the government fires on the protesters, killing several, and went to extreme measures to cover up the murders. The film is shot in black and white, which gives it an interesting air of history and the times when most broadcasts were in black and white. It is a commentary on the extent that governments go to hide the truth, but the best part …

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