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As an exhaustive euphoria informs the concluding days of the festival, contemplating the vastness of the visual, emotional indulgences, one must recognize and applaud those who selected the filmic fare: Michael Kutza, President and Founder; Mimi Plauche, Programming Director; Anthony Kaufman, Programmer; Camille Lugan, Programmer; Sam Flancher, Programmer. Countless viewing hours, resulted in a festival worthy of a disparate, multi-faceted audience.

Additions to my already extensive list:

“Paulina” (Argentina, Brazil).(Winner of the Silver Hugo; Jury Prize). Director Santiago Mitre, actors Dolores Gonzi and Esteban Lamothe stagger audiences with a psychological dilemma; profound narrative revolves around issues of class, wealth, poverty;  catastrophic circumstances testing idealistic/ideological principles; beautifully subjective, heart-wrenching, complex scenario.

“How to Win Enemies” (Argentina). A dose of “fluff” to temper the troubled, traumatic themes infusing the festival; “revenge of the nerd”; a duped lawyer exercises creative tenacity in unearthing the source of his undoing; predictability actually enhances the entertainment value.

“We Are Francesco” (Italy). Director/writer Guendalina Zampagni’s remarkably poignant, illuminating tale of a young man, born without arms, shines as an outstanding example of how a festival can blast the mold of the mundane, shattering the accessible, enlightening the milieu of those living beyond the mainstream; a tour de force, deserving universal ovations.

“Umrika”  (India). Starring Suraj Sharma (“Life of Pi”). A native of a small Indian village, ceremoniously, joyously departs for the wonderment of America (“Umrika”); his brother (Sharma) and family live and yearn for his correspondence from the land of excess, success and opulence.  A scintillating scenario of lost illusions, dead dreams and unexpected surprises. Humor, warmth and fine acting inform this delicious slice of “masala” from India and the pulsating, magnetic lure of America.

“Why Me?” ((Romania, Bulgaria). Searing, intoxicating expose which takes place in 2002; a young, ambitious prosecutor, “Christian”, assigned to investigate a colleague, gone rouge, tainted by graft and fraud; as ideals and illusions are smothered and strangled by his superiors, Christian is cauterized from all he holds sacred. Based on a true story, under no circumstances exit, before the final darkness.

“Degrade” (Palestine, France). Metaphorically, the best of the fest; riveting action unfolds under the guise of normalcy; an assortment of women, in a beauty salon, wait their turn for shampoos, cuts, manicures, pedicures, waxings,; benignly routine, except it takes place in warring, lawless, bullet-infused Gaza. Life, death, hope flayed by a blighted would-be state.

“To My Beloved” (Brazil). A grieving widower discovers the clandestine, salacious, untoward actions of his “beloved”; what ensues is an innovative quest for answers and a circuitous, ingenious route to eventual closure.


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