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Global Lens 2006

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Presented by Cinema/Chicago, this series of international films screens Friday, May 5, through Friday, May 12, at Landmark's Century Centre. Tickets are $9, $6 for Cinema/Chicago members; a $30 festival pass is good for four admissions, or six admissions for members. For passes or more information visit www.chicagofilmfestival.com.

FRIDAY 5

Max and Mona

Teddy Mattera wrote and directed this sly South African farce (2004) about a young man who's inherited his grandfather's talent for unleashing mass grief and serves as the ritual mourner for his village. After the village elders send the young man to Johannesburg to earn a medical degree, his unscrupulous uncle tries to exploit his gift as part of a scheme to pay off a debt to a local gangster. The movie takes a scattershot, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach and runs out of steam before the end, but it's engaging nonetheless, and the cast is charming. In subtitled English, Tswana, Afrikaans, and Zulu. 98 min. (Reece Pendleton) a 5:15 PM

Cinema, Aspirins and Vultures

Marcelo Gomes, who cowrote Madame Sata, makes his feature directing debut with this rambling, low-key Brazilian drama (2004). A young German avoids serving in World War II by touring the bleached Brazilian outback as a traveling salesman, and after he picks up a hitchhiker bound for Rio de Janeiro the two men gradually become friends. The salesman peddles aspirin to the natives, and as he shows them 16-millimeter films about its curative power, cinema becomes a metaphor for both drugs and dreams: in one particularly vivid image the dirt-poor hitchhiker thrusts his hand in front of the lens and, for a moment, holds the world in his palm. The leads are attractive, the dialogue minimal, and the mood downbeat--the title scavengers seem to portend the death of not any one character but civilization itself. In Portuguese with subtitles. 101 min. (AG) a 7:15 PM

R Border Cafe

Iranian director Kambozia Partovi--celebrated screenwriter of The Circle, Deserted Station, and I Am Taraneh, 15--creates a feminist heroine in a less tragic mold in this story of a widow determined to survive on her own. Local custom demands that the recently bereaved Reyhan (Fereshtei Sadre Orafaei) marry her brother-in-law; having no desire to become his second wife, she resists the pressure and reopens the cafe she ran with her husband. Taking in strays and cooking her heart out, she soon attracts a devoted international trucker clientele, stealing business away from her enamored in-law in the process. A well-observed script, faultlessly nuanced acting, and a sharply delineated sociopolitical sense make this film as enjoyable as it is intelligent. In Greek, Farsi, and Turkish with subtitles. 111 min. (Ronnie Scheib) a 9:15 PM

SATURDAY 6

R Border Cafe

See listing for Fri 5/5. a 3 PM

R The Night of Truth

This riveting 2004 tragedy from Burkina Faso is set in a fictitious African country trying to recover from a decade of civil war. The ruling Nayaks have accepted an olive branch from the insurgent Bonandes, but no one is assuaged by this peace settlement--not the president's widow, mad with grief over her murdered son; nor the rebel leader, who's plagued by nightmares; nor especially the ubiquitous machete-wielding village idiot. Limbless children and graphic murals bear witness to the recent carnage, but these atrocities are only a warm-up for the movie's savage climax. Fanta Regina Nacro directed. In French, Moore, and Dioula with subtitles. 94 min. (AG) a 5 PM

Stolen Life

The exquisite Zhou Xun (Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress) stars as a Beijing girl resentful at being given over to her grandmother and aunt's care by parents who reside in a remote province. She can hardly wait to leave for university, but on her very first day there she falls prey to a mendacious young deliveryman who will exploit her in an especially cruel and insidious way. Director Li Shaohong uses handheld video to probe the squalid quarters and inner isolation of the protagonist, who becomes more cut off as her fortunes decline, but neither filmmaking technique nor Xun's meticulous performance rescues this indictment of Chinese misogyny (2005) from sinking under the weight of its melodrama. In Mandarin with subtitles. 94 min. (AG) a 7 PM

Cinema, Aspirins and Vultures

See listing for Fri 5/5. a 9 PM

SUNDAY 7

Global Shorts

Short narrative films from Argentina, Burkina Faso, China, India, and Mexico/Venezuela. a 2 PM

R Border Cafe

See listing for Fri 5/5. a 4 PM

In the Battlefields

Danielle Arbid's first feature is set in 1983 Beirut, where the isolated 12-year-old heroine and her dysfunctional, middle-class Christian-Arab family periodically rush off to bomb shelters. I have a hard time relating to narrative films shot largely in close-ups, even when they're directed by Carl Dreyer or Sergio Leone; Arbid's picture is so claustrophobic I couldn't process all the emotional interchanges. In Arabic with subtitles. 90 min. (JR) a 6:15 PM

Cinema, Aspirins and Vultures

See listing for Fri 5/5. a 8:15 PM

MONDAY 8

R Border Cafe

See listing for Fri 5/5. a 4:30 PM

R The Night of Truth

See listing for Sat 5/6. a 6:45 PM

R Thirst

Though less overtly political than Private or Paradise Now, this somber 2004 drama further distingushes the recent wave of Palestinian-themed imports. A father, shamed by the molestation of his eldest daughter, has spent the past decade keeping his family sequestered in an abandoned military outpost in an arid valley, where they earn a hard living burning stolen timber into charcoal. After building a water pipeline to their home, the father intensifies his campaign to shield them from the outside world, which leads to a showdown between him and his frustrated son. Tawfik Abu Wael directed his own script, eliciting spare and powerful performances from a nonprofessional cast. In Arabic with subtitles. 104 min. (AG) a 8:45 PM

TUESDAY 9

Cinema, Aspirins and Vultures

See listing for Fri 5/5. a 5 PM

R Almost Brothers

This 2004 Brazilian political drama follows two childhood friends whose lives intersect repeatedly over four decades despite their social backgrounds: Miguel was born to a middle-class white family, Jorge to black parents from the slums of Rio de Janeiro. The narrative jumps back and forth from the 1970s, when the two men find themselves in the same prison (Miguel for political activism, Jorge for robbery), to the present, when Miguel, a liberal politician, turns to Jorge, a powerful drug boss, for help on a personal matter. Despite the familiar setup, director Lucia Murat eschews melodrama, turning this into an effectively gritty and pointed take on Brazil's continuing racial and class struggles. The fine music, central to the story, is by Nana Vasconcelos. In Portuguese with subtitles. 102 min. (Reece Pendleton) a 7 PM

Max and Mona

See listing for Fri 5/5. a 9 PM

WEDNESDAY 10

R Border Cafe

See listing for Fri 5/5. a 5 PM

In the Battlefields

See listing for Sun 5/7. a 7 PM

Global Shorts

See listing for Sun 5/7. a 8:45 PM

THURSDAY 11

Cinema, Aspirins and Vultures

See listing for Fri 5/5. a 4:45 PM

R Thirst

See listing for Mon 5/8. a 6:45 PM

R Almost Brothers

See listing for Tue 5/9. a 9 PM

FRIDAY 12

Cinema, Aspirins and Vultures

See listing for Fri 5/5. a 5 PM

R Border Cafe

See listing for Fri 5/5. a 7 PM

Stolen Life

See listing for Sat 5/6. a 9:15 PM

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