HOW TO BE A GOOD WIFE starring Juliette Binoche
HOW TO BE A GOOD WIFE starring Juliette Binoche

This year’s 2020 AFI European Union Film Showcase will take place as a virtual event from December 2–20 featuring 48 films representing 25 EU member states. Now in its 33rd year, the Showcase, one of the largest and long-running showcases of European cinema in the United States, has typically taken place at the historic AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in Silver Spring, MD.

The Showcase opens on December 2 with César winner Martin Provost’s (SÉRAPHINE, THE MIDWIFE, VIOLETTE) big-hearted feminist comedy HOW TO BE A GOOD WIFE, starring Juliette Binoche as a buttoned-up finishing school headmistress caught up in the revolutionary spirit of May 1968. The Closing Selection, scheduled to coincide with the 250th anniversary of Ludwig van Beethoven’s birth, is German director Niki Stein’s sweeping Beethoven biopic LOUIS VAN BEETHOVEN, starring Tobias Moretti (THE DARK VALLEY, THE GERMAN LESSON, A HIDDEN LIFE) and Anselm Bresgott (THE MOST BEAUTIFUL GIRL IN THE WORLD) as the great composer.

The lineup also highlights several high-profile titles by established European auteurs, including Thomas Vinterberg’s (THE CELEBRATION, THE COMMUNE) Cannes-and Toronto-selected dark comedy ANOTHER ROUND, starring Danish superstar Mads Mikkelsen (AFTER THE WEDDING, HANNIBAL, A ROYAL AFFAIR) in his first collaboration with the director since 2012’s Oscar®-nominated THE HUNT; the Czech Republic’s Oscar® submission CHARLATAN, Polish director Agnieszka Holland’s (EUROPA EUROPA, MR. JONES, SPOOR) acclaimed portrait of Czech healer Jan Mikolášek; French director François Ozon’s (BY THE GRACE OF GOD, POTICHE, SWIMMING POOL) deliciously sun-drenched, 1980s-set gay romance SUMMER OF 85; Berlin School auteur Christian Petzold’s (BARBARA, PHOENIX, TRANSIT) post-modern fairy tale UNDINE, starring Franz Rogowski (TRANSIT, VICTORIA) and Paula Beer (FRANTZ, TRANSIT), who won the Silver Bear for Best Actress at the 2020 Berlin Film Festival; and acclaimed stage director Phyllida Lloyd’s (MAMMA MIA!, THE IRON LADY) powerful Sundance-debuted HERSELF, about an Irish mother (Clare Dunne, SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME) who escapes her abusive spouse and embarks on building a “tiny house” for her family.

Additional highlights include anticipated new works from some of Europe’s rising talents, including Emmanuel Courcol’s (CEASEFIRE) Cannes-selected THE BIG HIT, about an unlikely troupe of prison inmates who stage Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot”; the U.S. premiere of BALLAD FOR A PIERCED HEART, Greek director Yannis Economides’ (KNIFER, MATCHBOX, SOUL KICKING, STRATOS) wickedly funny gangster comedy; the U.S. premiere of Małgorzata Szumowska and Michał Englert’s (MUG) NEVER GONNA SNOW AGAIN, Poland’s Oscar® submission; and the U.S. premieres of two whip-smart Italian satires, both set in Rome: the D’Innocenzo brothers’ (BOYS CRY, screenwriters on DOGMAN) dark suburban satire BAD TALES, winner of the Best Screenplay Award at the 2020 Berlin Film Festival; and actor-turned-director Pietro Castellitto’s (TWICE BORN) THE PREDATORS, winner of the Best Screenplay Award at the 2020 Venice Film Festival.

The Showcase also boasts several outstanding documentary selections, including the North American premiere of VIENNA SYMPHONY, Iva Švarcová and Malte Ludin’s delightful look at the inner life of one of the world’s greatest orchestras; LITTLE GIRL, Cannes award-winner Sébastien Lifshitz’s (ADOLESCENTS, COME UNDONE, GOING SOUTH, WILD SIDE) powerful and poignant documentary about the journey of a seven-year-old trans girl to be recognized by her school, her peers and her community; Romanian director Radu Ciorniciuc’s ACASĂ, MY HOME about a family displaced from their home on the Bucharest Delta, winner of a Special Jury Award for Cinematography at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival; Luxembourg’s Oscar® submission RIVER TALES, filmmaker Julie Schroell’s portrait of Nicaraguan actor and teacher Yemn Jordan Taisigûe López; and THE HIDDEN LIFE OF TREES, an adaption of German forester and author Peter Wohlleben’s best-selling 2015 book “The Hidden Life of Trees: What they Feel, How They Communicate: Discoveries from a Secret World.”



Special Presentation
North American Premiere

Married filmmakers Iva Švarcová and Malte Ludin take a close look at the extraordinary individuals who make up the heart and soul of one of the world’s great orchestras, the Vienna Symphony. The film features interviews with a diverse selection of the symphony’s members, including luminaries like conductors Philippe Jordan and Andrés Orozco-Estrada and concertmaster and star violinist Florian Zwiauer, as well as players from throughout the orchestra’s ranks. In these playful, intimate and often revealing interviews, a variety of men and women, some younger and some older, frankly discuss the highs and lows of their work: the fear of failure and performance anxiety; the demanding schedule and standards of excellence; the interpersonal dynamics that can make or break a career; and, for the transplanted talent, the quirks of living and working in Austria after having grown up in the bayous of Louisiana or in the former Soviet Union. DIR/SCR Iva Švarcová, Malte Ludin; PROD Kurt Mayer. Austria, 2020, color, 93 min. In German with English subtitles. NOT RATED


JUMBO (2020)
Young Jeanne (Noémie Merlant, PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE) spent her childhood at the amusement park. Now in her early 20s and living at home with her uninhibited and overbearing bartender mother (Emmanuelle Bercot, MY KING), she’s managed to score a job there, taking the graveyard janitorial shift. Despite her mother’s pleas to find a man, introverted Jeanne is content to tinker with electronics alone in her room, replicating the attractions of the park in miniature, but soon her late-night job awakens feelings she can’t explain. It’s not an infatuation with her new boss, Marc (Bastien Bouillon, DECLARATION OF WAR), who comes over at her matchmaking mother’s insistence. No, Jeanne has fallen for the newest attraction at the park, a ride that she’s nicknamed Jumbo, with “his” red lights, smooth chrome and oily hydraulics, and has sparked up a thrilling new intimate relationship under the cover of night. Inspired by real cases of objectophilia, Zoé Wittock’s cheeky love story is surprisingly sweet thanks in large part to Merlant’s wide-eyed performance and commitment to her character, as she takes a question Marc’s mother asked to its logical extreme: “Inanimate objects, do you have a soul which sticks to our soul and forces it to love?” Official Selection, 2020 Sundance, Berlin, Mill Valley, Sitges and AFI FEST film festivals. DIR/SCR Zoé Wittock; PROD Anaïs Bertrand, Annabella Nezri, Gilles Chanial. Belgium/France/Luxembourg, 2020, color, 93 min. In French with English subtitles. NOT RATED

The husband-and-wife filmmaking team of Jessica Woodworth and Peter Brosens (ALTIPLANO, THE FIFTH SEASON, KHADAK) return with the sequel to their 2016 comedy KING OF THE BELGIANS. Nevermind whether you’ve seen the first film: the sequel opens with a quick recap and eases you into the world of this wry political farce that variously recalls VEEP, THE DEATH OF STALIN and THE LOBSTER. When last seen, Nicolas III (Peter Van den Begin) and his loyal staff were in Turkey when news came that French-speaking Wallonia had declared independence from Belgium. Now in Sarajevo, Nicolas is injured during a recreation of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. He wakes in an odd sanatorium on the Croatian island of Brijuni — Josip Tito’s former summer residence! — run by the oddball physician Dr. Kroll (Udo Kier). Nicolas’ staff tries to prevent the fragile convalescent from hearing news of the European Union’s impending collapse — a domino effect following the Walloon secession — while taking part in the sanatorium’s quacky exercise and therapy regimens. Then a delegation from Vienna arrives requesting that the last King of the Belgians become the first Emperor of Nova Europa! Geraldine Chaplin shines in multiple, wacky roles: Lady Liz, Dr. Ilse von Stroheim and Mama Wakolux. DIR/SCR/PROD Jessica Woodworth, Peter Brosens. Belgium/Netherlands/Croatia/Bulgaria, 2019, color, 98 min. In English, Dutch, French and German with English subtitles. NOT RATED


This keenly observed comedy-drama is the debut narrative feature from Bulgarian-born, UK-based documentarians Mina Mileva and Vesela Kazakova (UNCLE TONY, THREE FOOLS AND THE SECRET SERVICE). Their film CAT IN THE WALL is a timely tale about immigration, gentrification and the international housing crisis, as well as people’s struggles to understand the world around them. Bulgarian émigré Irina (Irina Atanasova) lives in London’s Peckham district with her young son Jojo (Orlin Asenov). Trained as an architect, she currently works as a bartender. Her brother and roommate Vladimir (Angel Genov) is a historian, but he currently works installing satellite dishes. A dual crisis hits when their housing estate forces its tenants to pay for an expensive, unnecessary window replacement, at the same time that ownership of a local cat sets off a bitterly contested dispute between Irina and one of her neighbors. “This timely immigrants’-eye view of the UK certainly feels like a story which needed to be told.” – Screen International. DIR/SCR/PROD Vesela Kazakova, Mina Mileva. Bulgaria/UK/France, 2019, color, 92 min. In English and Bulgarian with English subtitles. NOT RATED

U.S. Premiere
Inspired by the life of his grandfather, this contemplative tone poem of a film from Kamen Kalev (EASTERN PLAYS, THE ISLAND) takes a look at a man’s existence at three distinct points in his life, at ages eight, 18 and 82. A young boy and his dog explore the fields and forest while his shepherd grandfather dozes; a young man marries his teenage bride before shipping off to sea with the navy; and an old man revisits the land of his youth, the same land but seen with new eyes, finding inspiration in nature and comfort in its cycles and repetitions. Kalev’s film features stunning landscape vistas courtesy of debut cinematographer Ivan Chertov and an evocative modern classical score by Petar Dundakov. DIR/SCR/PROD Kamen Kalev; PROD Céline Chapdaniel, Diane Jassem, Filip Todorov. Bulgaria/France, 2020, color, 125 min. In Bulgarian with English subtitles. NOT RATED


U.S. Premiere
MARE (2020)
In award-winning filmmaker Andrea Štaka’s (CURE: THE LIFE OF ANOTHER, FRÄULEIN) poignant domestic drama, Mare (Marija Škaričić, in her third collaboration with Štaka) is an emotionally neglected, hardworking, middle-aged housewife living in Dubrovnik with her indifferent husband and children. Although she lives right by the airport, Mare has never traveled, and the nearby roaring and humming of planes is a constant reminder that she’s not going anywhere. She spends her days caring for her family with quiet dedication, busy with the relentless demands of being a wife, homemaker and mother to three children and with no time to question whether she is happy with her life. That is, until she meets Piotr (Mateusz Kościukiewicz, MUG), a handsome young worker from Poland who rekindles Mare’s emotional life, reignites her joie de vivre and even takes the time to properly fix her washing machine. Like a social realist SHIRLEY VALENTINE, MARE is a powerful, intimate and frank portrait of female midlife dissatisfaction from an exclusively feminine viewpoint. Winner, Best Actress (Marija Škaričić) and C.I.C.A.E. Award, 2020 Sarajevo Film Festival. Official Selection, 2020 Berlin International Film Festival. DIR/SCR/PROD Andrea Štaka; PROD Thomas Imbach. Switzerland/Croatia, 2020, color, 84 min. In English and Croatian with English subtitles. NOT RATED

Czech Republic

Special Presentation
2020 Oscar® Selection, Czech Republic
In this richly drawn biopic, celebrated Polish filmmaker Agnieszka Holland (EUROPA EUROPA, MR. JONES, SPOOR) explores the exceptional life and work of Czech herbalist and healer Jan Mikolášek (1889–1973), who became widely known for his remarkable skill and expertise in applying natural remedies. Generous with his abilities, Mikolášek (Ivan Trojan, IN THE SHADOW) treats the poor and wealthy alike, never turning away a patient — even if that means accepting the occupying Nazi forces into his office. Prosecuted for charlatanism by the subsequent Communist government, Mikolášek finds his morals being put to the test as the secret police delve into his private life and his relationship with his assistant František (Juraj Loj), with whom he shares far more than a love of herbal medicine. With a screenplay by Marek Epstein (IN THE SHADOW), Holland once again explores the link between the private and the political, and the relationship between ideological machinations and the story of an extraordinary figure. Official Selection, 2020 Berlin, Sofia, Mill Valley and Chicago film festivals. DIR Agnieszka Holland; SCR Marek Epstein; PROD Šárka Cimbalová, Kevan Van Thompson. Czech Republic/Ireland/Poland/Slovakia, 2020, color, 118 min. In Czech with English subtitles. NOT RATED


Special Presentation
2020 Oscar® Selection, Denmark
With this hilarious and bittersweet tragicomedy, Danish auteur Thomas Vinterberg (THE CELEBRATION, THE COMMUNE, FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD) reunites with Mads Mikkelsen (AFTER THE WEDDING, TV’s HANNIBAL, A ROYAL AFFAIR) for the first time since 2012’s Oscar®-nominated THE HUNT. Once the most promising teacher at his high school, Martin (Mikkelsen) has lost his mojo in middle age. Lacking enthusiasm for educating, Martin is just going through the motions, causing concern among students and parents alike. Then, at a drunken party, Martin’s three closest colleagues (Thomas Bo Larsen, Magnus Millang and Lars Ranthe) propose that they test the theory that maintaining a constant level of alcohol in one’s blood is the key to happiness, creativity and success. With little to lose — and both his marriage and career on the rocks (pun intended) — former teetotaler Martin joins this unusual experiment. Featuring one of the best ending sequences of any film this year, ANOTHER ROUND is a feel-good/feel-bad comedy about friendship, family, getting hammered and growing up. Winner, Audience Award, Narrative Feature, 2020 London Film Festival; Winner, Feroz Zinemaldia Award, SIGNIS Award and Silver Seashell for Best Actor (Mads Mikkelsen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Magnus Millang, Lars Ranthe), 2020 San Sebastián International Film Festival. Official Selection, 2020 Cannes, Toronto, Rome, Vienna, Reykjavik, Moscow and Hamburg film festivals. DIR/SCR Thomas Vinterberg; SCR Tobias Lindholm; PROD Kasper Dissing, Sisse Graum Jørgensen. Denmark/Sweden/Netherlands, 2020, color, 117 min. In Danish and Swedish with English subtitles. NOT RATED

U.S. Premiere
UNCLE (2019) [ONKEL]
Kris lives on a derelict farm in a small Danish town, which she runs with her disabled and aging uncle. The two have a quirky but loving relationship mostly filled with daily routines and moments of comfortable silence. One day she finds herself miraculously saving the life of a newborn calf, and her dream of becoming a veterinarian, which she had put on hold to care for her uncle, is rekindled. In pursuit of her studies, she develops a friendship with the chatty veterinarian Johannes and begins to branch out into the world beyond her small farm, even starting a relationship with a young man in town. But the overprotective motherly role she plays with her uncle and the heavy workload she keeps to maintain their farm are getting in the way of her blossoming new life. This beautiful exploration of small-town Danish life is stunningly picturesque and quaintly endearing as it navigates young love and complicated relationships. Winner, Tokyo Grand Prix Best Film, 2020 Tokyo International Film Festival. Official Selection, 2020 Tallinn Black Nights and Göteborg film festivals. DIR/SCR Frelle Petersen; PROD Marco Lorenzen. Denmark, 2019, color, 106 min. In Danish with English subtitles. NOT RATED


2019 Oscar® Selection, Estonia
Tanel Toom’s directorial debut, adapted from a cornerstone of Estonian literature, has become the most successful film release of all time in Estonia — surpassing even James Cameron’s AVATAR. Toom gives suitably epic treatment to the acclaimed novel by Estonian author Anton Hansen Tammsaare, whose magnum opus, a sprawling five-part work written between 1926 and 1933, chronicles the changes in Estonian society as it moved from a small, rural province in the Russian Empire in the late 19th century to an independent, modernizing nation in the early part of the 20th. Toom’s film focuses mainly on “Part One” of Tammsaare’s novel, beginning in 1870, where the hearty and hard-working young farmer Andres Paas and his wife Krõõt turn around a failing farm at Robber’s Rise, battling not only the elements, but also their jealous and duplicitous neighbor, Pearu Tagapere. DIR/SCR Tanel Toom, from the novel by Anton Hansen Tammsaare; PROD Ivo Felt. Estonia, 2019, color, 149 min. In Estonian with English subtitles. NOT RATED


U.S. Premiere
HELENE (2020)
Based on Rakel Liehu’s 2003 novel of the same name, HELENE tells the real-life story of celebrated Finnish painter Helene Schjerfbeck and her star-crossed romance with art critic Einar Reuter, who later became her biographer. In 1915, Helene Schjerfbeck (Laura Birn, THE LAST ONES, PURGE, VOID) is a forgotten artist, living with her elderly mother in the Finnish countryside. Years have passed since her last exhibition, and while Helene continues painting, she has given up hope of pursing it as living. When an art dealer rediscovers Helene’s work and decides to organize a large solo exhibition, she is reinvigorated. And when she meets young amateur painter and art critic Einar Reuter (Johannes Holopainen, FORCE OF HABIT), a passionate admirer of her art, he becomes Helene’s confidante and, despite their age difference, the unfulfilled love of her life. A vibrant portrait of a bold, talented and fiercely determined woman, HELENE covers a key period in Schjerfbeck’s artistic development as we see her grow more independent and a stronger artist than ever before. Official Selection, 2020 Shanghai International Film Festival, 2020 Lübeck Nordic Film Days. DIR/SCR/PROD Antti J. Jokinen; SCR Marko Leino, from the novel by Rakel Liehun; PROD Mikko Tenhunen. Finland/Estonia, 2020, color, 122 min. In Finnish with English subtitles. NOT RATED


Opening Selection
Set in the months leading up to the nationwide protests of May 1968, César winner Martin Provost’s (THE MIDWIFE, SÉRAPHINE, VIOLETTE) big-hearted comedy takes place in the Van der Beck School of Housekeeping and Good Manners in Alsace. There, the immaculate and morally upright Paulette Van der Beck (Oscar® winner Juliette Binoche, THE ENGLISH PATIENT) and her husband train teenage girls to become perfect housewives with the help of her eccentric sister (Yolande Moreau, AMÉLIE) and the school’s formidable ex-Resistance nun (Noémie Lvovsky, JACKY IN THE KINGDOM OF WOMEN). After a tragic accident leaves the school without a patriarch, Paulette is forced to take charge, discovering that the institution is verging on financial ruin. She is also flustered by an encounter with her first love (Édouard Baer, MOLIÈRE), who yearns to rekindle their romance. Meanwhile, the protest movement sweeping the nation is beginning to infiltrate the school’s carefully maintained bubble, encouraging the pupils to challenge everything they’ve been told. And all this just as the school prepares to compete in a televised housekeeping competition. Sacré bleu! Striking a satirical yet tender tone that channels everything from THE SOUND OF MUSIC to BUT I’M A CHEERLEADER, this enchanting and escapist tale of female solidarity is just what the doctor ordered. DIR/SCR Martin Provost; SCR Séverine Werba; PROD Serge Hayat, François Kraus, Denis Pineau-Valencienne. France/Belgium, 2020, color, 109 min. In French with English subtitles. NOT RATED

Special Presentation
The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic in the southern Caucasus Mountains is a small breakaway country inaccessible by air. There is, however, an airport that has been inoperable since the escalation of war in 1990, with full facilities, employees and a runway that has still not been cleared for use. Alain (Grégoire Colin, BEAU TRAVAIL), an airport auditor, is sent from France to evaluate the situation and decide if it can open. Since conflict surrounds the small nation that signed a ceasefire in 1994 with neighboring nations Armenia and Azerbaijan, it must first be determined safe. As his investigation continues, Alain becomes enmeshed with the lives of the people of Karabakh, making his evaluation increasingly personal, with the people of the small republic counting on him to open them up to the larger world. Franco-Armenian director Nora Martirosyan shot the film in and around the real airport and based many of the characters on the people she met during her time there. Her debut feature shows a people full of hope, willing to believe the impossible is possible. (Note adapted from AFI FEST.) Official Selection, 2020 Cannes and AFI FEST film festivals. DIR/SCR Nora Martirosyan; SCR Guillaume André, Emmanuelle Pagano, Olivier Torres; PROD Julie Paratian. France/Belgium/Armenia, 2020, color, 100 min. In English, French, Armenian and Russian with English subtitles. NOT RATED

With SUMMER OF 85, François Ozon (BY THE GRACE OF GOD, FRANTZ, POTICHE, SWIMMING POOL) expertly mixes camp, queerness, dark humor and thriller elements into a sun-drenched romance-turned-tragedy set on the coast of Normandy in the 1980s. Alexis (Félix Lefebvre) is a working-class teenager deciding whether to join the workforce or continue his studies in literature. While out sailing, he capsizes during a storm and is saved by 18-year-old stranger David (Benjamin Voisin). David takes Alexis to his home, where they meet David’s forceful and charismatic mother (the hilarious Valeria Bruni Tedeschi). As David takes the helm of this new friendship, romance blossoms, and soon he is showering Alexis with attention and gifts, even giving him a summer job at his mother’s nautical store, which David took over after his father’s recent death. The chemistry between the two actors burns as their summer fling gives way to a dangerous obsession and David’s fixation on Alexis turns into something more deranged. SUMMER OF 85 is both a joyful celebration of desire and youthful sexuality and an astute exploration of infatuation, devotion and identity; CALL ME BY YOUR NAME meets PURPLE NOON with a killer ’80s soundtrack. Official Selection, 2020 Toronto, San Sebastián, Rome, Chicago, NewFest, Philadelphia and Stockholm film festivals. DIR/SCR François Ozon, from the novel “Dance on My Grave” by Aidan Chambers; PROD Eric Altmayer, Nicolas Altmayer. France/Belgium, 2020, color, 100 min. In English and French with English subtitles. NOT RATED

Special Presentation
Etienne (Kad Merad, THE CHORUS, WELCOME TO THE STICKS), an often out-of-work but endearing actor, runs a theater workshop in a prison where he brings together an unlikely troupe of inmates to stage Samuel Beckett’s famous play, “Waiting for Godot.” After months of working with the new actors to fine-tune their natural talents and much bargaining with the warden, he is given permission to take the colorful band of convicts on a tour into the outside world. Now, Etienne and his troupe finally have the chance to thrive. After the first rousing performance, each added show is a new success, and a unique relationship grows between this ad hoc group of actors and their director. But soon comes the final performance in Paris. Will their last night together be the biggest hit of them all? This winning comedy, based on a true story, features brilliant performances from the young, up-and-coming cast, as well as veteran actors from the Comédie Française, the oldest active theater company in the world. (Note adapted from MK2.) Official Selection, 2020 Cannes Film Festival. DIR/SCR Emmanuel Courcol; SCR Thierry de Carbonnières; PROD Marc Bordure, Robert Guédiguian. France, 2020, color, 105 min. In French with English subtitles. NOT RATED

Road movie, buddy comedy, summer romance or social commentary? All could equally describe Guillaume Brac’s highly entertaining and refreshing dramedy about an oddball trio who find themselves on an impromptu summer vacation to the south of France on a foolhardy romantic mission. Left lovelorn after the whirlwind one-night romance he shared with the beautiful Alma (Asma Messaoudene), Felix (Eric Nantchouang) must do something bold if he wants to hold onto her. Knowing she is leaving the next morning to spend the summer at a small riverside town more than 300 miles from his home in Paris, Felix intends to follow and surprise her there, convincing his best friend Chérif (Salif Cissé) and unwitting companion Edouard (Édouard Sulpice) to accompany him. When Alma is less than thrilled to see him, Felix’s romantic fantasies of their reunion suddenly seem to have been arrogant and impetuous all along. As he determines whether any hope remains in recapturing the spark with Alma, Chérif and Edouard explore the town free from expectation, embracing the bittersweetness of young love and the passing summer days. Winner, FIPRESCI Prize – Honorable Mention, 2020 Berlin International Film Festival. Official Selection, 2020 AFI FEST, Reykjavik and Odesa film festivals. DIR/SCR Guillaume Brac; SCR Catherine Paillé; PROD Grégoire Debailly. France, 2020, color, 95 min. In French with English subtitles. NOT RATED

In Cannes’ Queer Palm award-winner Sébastien Lifshitz’s (ADOLESCENTS, COME UNDONE, GOING SOUTH, WILD SIDE) powerful and poignant documentary, we meet seven-year-old Sasha, a girl from rural northeastern France who was born in a boy’s body, but has always identified as female. Initially resistant and confused, her parents have come to embrace what Sasha has known all along — at age two, she told them she wanted to be a girl when she grew up — and so begins their journey together in an often-ignorant world. Shot over the course of a year, LITTLE GIRL is a profound, intimate, heartrending and ultimately hopeful portrait of Sasha’s struggles to be recognized by her school, her peers and her community — and of her parents’ commitment to ensuring she is accepted for exactly who she is. Winner, Best Documentary, 2020 Chicago International Film Festival; Winner, Best Film, 2020 Ghent International Film Festival. Official Selection, 2020 Berlin International Film Festival. DIR/SCR Sébastien Lifshitz; PROD Muriel Meynard. France, 2020, color, 85 min. In French with English subtitles. NOT RATED


Special Presentation
UNDINE (2020)
The legend of an elemental water spirit who enters the human world in search of love has inspired a range of writers and artists through the millennia, from Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” to Paracelsus’ alchemical theories; to the romance “Undine” by Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué, Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale “The Little Mermaid” and the play “Ondine” by Jean Giradoux; to the musical compositions by Debussy, Sibelius, Fauré and Schoenberg that drew inspiration from the myth. Now Berlin School auteur Christian Petzold (BARBARA, PHOENIX, TRANSIT, YELLA) puts a postmodern spin on the age-old tale. Paula Beer plays Undine, a historian at the Berlin City Museum, who, after she has just been dumped, matter-of-factly informs her lover Johannes (Jacob Matschenz), “If you leave me, I’ll have to kill you.” While angered by his betrayal, Undine is still the master of her own fate, and focuses on her work and new independence instead. But after a fateful encounter with a diver named Christoph (Franz Rogowski), Undine is compelled to clean up loose ends in her love life. Winner, Silver Bear for Best Actress (Paula Beer), 2020 Berlin Film Festival. DIR/SCR Christian Petzold; PROD Florian Koerner von Gustorf, Michael Weber. Germany/France, 2020, color, 91 min. In German with English subtitles. NOT RATED

Based on the 1968 novel by Siegfried Lenz, considered to be one of Germany’s greatest post-World War II novelists (along with Günter Grass, Heinrich Böll and Martin Walser), director Christian Schwochow gives a visionary screen treatment to “The German Lesson,” working from a screenplay by his mother Heide Schwochow. Siggi Jepsen (Tom Gronau), an inmate in a juvenile detention center in the 1950s, is tasked with writing an essay on “The Joy of Duty.” He recalls his youth growing up on an island off the Baltic coast of northern Germany during the Nazi era and World War II, and begins to compulsively fill notebook after notebook as memories flood back. As a young boy (played by Levi Eisenblätter), Siggi had two very different role models: his father Jens (Ulrich Noethen), a conservative, punctilious village constable, and the expressionist painter Max Nansen (Tobias Moretti), a Bohemian freethinker. The two men had been lifelong friends, but after the Nazis banned Nansen’s art, labeling it as degenerate, Jens’ job dictated that he must carry out a stop-work order on his former friend and seize all of his paintings. Fascinated by Nansen’s canvases, Siggi hid several from being confiscated, setting up a terrible series of conflicts that would upend everyone’s lives. DIR Christian Schwochow; SCR Heide Schwochow, from the novel by Siegfried Lenz; PROD Ulf Israel. Germany, 2019, color, 125 min. In German with English subtitles. NOT RATED

Peter Wohlleben, a forester in Hümmel, Germany, has become an internationally acclaimed author for his insightful and inspiring books about ecology and the environment, none more so than his 2015 bestseller “The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World.” Wohlleben has been celebrated for his impassioned discussion of the wonders of tree life and the terrible mismanagement of modern forestry, as well as his ability to explain complex bioscience for the general reader, particularly how the exchange of nutrients and chemical information among trees might rightfully be thought of as a communication network. The forest ecologist Suzanne Simard would later coin the phrase the “Wood-Wide Web” to describe this phenomenon. Jörg Adolph’s documentary follows Wohlleben as he travels to Sweden to see the oldest tree in the world; visits a British Columbia company looking for a more sustainable approach to sourcing timber from Native lands; attends a demonstration against logging in Germany’s Hambacher Forest; gives classes and forest tours; and makes appearances around Europe to discuss his book and the wonders of trees. DIR/SCR Jörg Adolph, from the book “The Hidden Life of Trees: What They Feel, How They Communicate – Discoveries from a Secret World” by Peter Wohlleben; PROD Friederich Oetker. Germany, 2019, color, 98 min. In German with English subtitles. NOT RATED

2020 Oscar® Selection, Kosovo
EXILE (2020) [EXIL]
From producer Maren Ade (TONI ERDMANN) comes a thriller about paranoia and identity that’s simultaneously dark and surreal, with echoes of genre cinema and an unconventional sense of humor. Xhafer (Mišel Matičević, IN THE FACE OF CRIME), a 45-year-old, Kosovo-born pharmaceutical engineer living in Germany, is starting to feel a creeping sense of discrimination and bullying at work because of his ethnic background. When he finds a dead rat hanging from the gate in front of his home, it becomes clear to him that his racist colleagues have gone too far. Every occurrence, every word, every gesture is taken as evidence. Every day, Xhafer’s uneasiness grows. His German wife Nora (Sandra Hüller, TONI ERDMANN) is tired of him playing the racism card. She can’t help but wonder: do his colleagues simply dislike him? Are the instances of targeted cruelty and humiliation all in his head or are they really happening? The steadily growing threats and microaggressions that go beyond office politics could cost Xhafer everything as he walks a delicate tightrope between his life as an integrated, middle-class family man and a foreigner in his adopted country. Official Selection, 2020 Sundance, Berlin, Sarajevo, Zurich and Warsaw film festivals. DIR/SCR Visar Morina; PROD Maren Ade, Jonas Dornbach, Janine Jackowski. Germany/Belgium/Kosovo, 2020, color, 121 min. In German and Albanian with English subtitles. NOT RATED

Closing Selection
Niki Stein brings the life of Ludwig van Beethoven to the screen, just in time for the worldwide celebration of the 250th anniversary of the great composer’s birth. The film crosscuts between crucial moments in Beethoven’s life, from his early years as an eight-year-old musical prodigy (played by Colin Pütz) in Bonn, then called “Louis” and driven to excellence by his hard-drinking father Johann (called “Jean”); to his young adulthood (played by Anselm Bresgott) as a pupil of Joseph Haydn in Vienna, where he meets his hero Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, becomes inspired by romantic poetry and the revolutionary thinking of the American and French revolutions and falls in love with the highborn Eleonore von Breunig (Caroline Hellwig); to his later years as a famed composer (played by Tobias Moretti), losing his hearing but still hard at work, comfortably well-off but embittered by the missed opportunities in his life. DIR/SCR Niki Stein; PROD Ernst Ludwig Ganzert. Germany


U.S. Premiere
Set against the backdrop of the economic crisis and a rundown club scene in small-town Greece, Yannis Economides’ (KNIFER, MATCHBOX, SOUL KICKING, STRATOS) wickedly funny — and deliciously dark — gangster comedy expertly portrays a cast of characters on the verge of a nervous breakdown.Having had enough of her stuffy businessman husband Iraklis (Yannis Tsortekis, STRATOS, SUNTAN), Olga (Vicky Papadopoulou, SMUGGLING HENDRIX, STRATOS) elopes with pop singer-turned-nightclub-owner Manos (Vassilis Bisbikis, DIGGER) — but not without first pocketing a million of Iraklis’ secretly stashed euros. Feeling that his honor has been violated, Iraklis contacts the local mafia to help him get his cash back and dispense with the lovers. But when Olga decides to return the money — and return to her husband — Manos determines he must now vow revenge and find a way to keep the money for himself. As the bodies and double-crosses pile up, Olga’s infidelity triggers a fatal domino effect in the local crime world. Channeling the Coen brothers by way of Corneliu Porumboiu, Economides crafts a darkly funny tale full of explicit dialogue, laconic images and sudden outbursts of violence. DIR/SCR/PROD Yannis Economides; SCR Harry Lagoussis, Dimosthenis Papamarkos; PROD Panos Papahadzis, Christos V. Konstantakopoulos, Elie Meirovitz, Ingmar Trost. Greece/France/Germany/Cyprus, 2020, color, 140 min. In Greek with English subtitles. NOT RATED

DIGGER (2020)
Georgis Grigorakis’ visually striking feature debut is a tragi-comic contemporary Western set in the damp woodlands of northern Greece. Reclusive middle-aged farmer Nikitas (Vangelis Mourikis, ATTENBERG, BALLAD FOR A PIERCED HEART) has done his best to blend seamlessly into the forest, from his unobtrusive hand-to-mouth lifestyle to the camouflage of his small timber cabin. For years now, he has also been fighting with a mining company that has taken over the region and is destroying everything in its path, including the trees around Nikitas’ land, where he grows walnuts, chestnuts and apples, and rears chickens that he sells in the nearby village. Yet the greatest threat comes with the sudden arrival of his 20-something son, Johnny (Argyris Pandazaras) after a 20-year estrangement, who presents his father with the notice of his mother’s death and her will, entitling him to 50 percent of Nikitas’ property. As the two men struggle over the future of their shared land, they soon realize that whatever their decision, it will affect far more than their strained relationship. Produced by award-winning director and frequent Yorgos Lanthimos collaborator Athina Rachel Tsangari (CHEVALIER, ATTENBERG), DIGGER is both a highly specific father-son story and an environmental allegory with wide-reaching relevance. On both fronts, it heralds an exciting new voice in Greek cinema. Winner, C.I.C.A.E. Award, 2020 Berlin International Film Festival; Winner, Best Actor (Vangelis Mourikis), 2020 Sarajevo Film Festival. DIR/SCR Georgis Grigorakis; SCR Maria Votti, Vangelis Mourikis; PROD Athina Rachel Tsangari, Maria Hatzakou, Chrysanthi Karfi Koi. Greece/France, 2020, color, 101 min. In Greek with English subtitles. NOT RATED

2020 Oscar® Selection, Greece
APPLES (2020) [Μήλα] [MILA]
A pandemic is sweeping across Greece, but it’s not COVID-19. Thousands of cases of sudden amnesia are spreading. The malady isn’t deadly, but there is no cure, and no one has recovered. Therein lies the fascinating and surreal premise for this understated and visually stunning drama, the first feature of director Christos Nikou. The lucky amnesiacs are claimed by family members. The unclaimed ones are hospitalized indefinitely or offered a recovery program to help them establish new identities. Taciturn Aris (Aris Servetalis, L, THE WAITER) and ebullient Anna (Sofia Georgovassili, BLACK FIELD, URSA MINOR) tentatively navigate the world, trying to piece together who they might have been before their memories were wiped clean. Imagine a jot of Yorgos Lanthimos and a dash of Charlie Kaufman amid a wry, absurdist commentary on selfie culture and a moving meditation on loss. (Note adapted from AFI FEST.) Winner, Best Screenplay, 2020 Chicago International Film Festival; Winner, Best Director (Honorable Mention), 2020 Philadelphia Film Festival. Official Selection, 2020 Venice, Toronto, Zurich, Mill Valley, AFI FEST and Stockholm film festivals. DIR/SCR/PROD Christos Nikou; SCR Stavros Raptis; PROD Aris Dagios, Iraklis Mavroidis, Angelos Venetis, Mariusz Włodarski. Greece/Poland/Slovenia, 2020, color, 91 min. In English and Greek with English subtitles. NOT RATED


Thirty-nine-year-old Hungarian neurosurgeon Márta returns to Budapest after 20 years in the United States for a romantic rendezvous at the Liberty Bridge with János, a fellow doctor she met at a conference in New Jersey. Márta waits on the bridge in vain, but the love of her life is nowhere to be seen. When she finally tracks him down, the bewildered man claims the two have never met. This startling revelation throws Márta off completely and she’s determined to get to the bottom of it. She takes a position at a local hospital where her exceptional talent threatens the egos of the veteran employees, and she’s cast as an outsider for her lack of knowledge of the local culture. With graceful determination, she endures real and perceived slights while navigating the no man’s land separating love from madness. In her second feature, writer/director Lili Horvát evokes Sylvia Plath’s haunting villanelle, “Mad Girl’s Love Song,” and spins a delicate web of contrasts and silent explosions that shift the viewer’s understanding. Shot with impeccable symmetry on entrancing 35mm, it is an Orphic tale with echoes of Krzysztof Kieślowski’s THE DOUBLE LIFE OF VÉRONIQUE that reminds us while the heart is an abstruse trickster, the brain is our most complex organ. (Note adapted from the Toronto International Film Festival.) Winner, Gold Hugo, New Directors Competition, 2020 Chicago International Film Festival. Official Selection, 2020 Venice, Toronto and Denver film festivals. DIR/SCR/PROD Lili Horvát; PROD Dóra Csernátony, Péter Miskolczi. Hungary, 2020, color, 95 min. In English and Hungarian with English subtitles. NOT RATED


Special Presentation
Acclaimed stage director Phyllida Lloyd, whose previous films include MAMMA MIA! and THE IRON LADY, returns with a scrappy, tough-minded tale of perseverance and heartwarming community. After years of enduring the physical abuse of her husband Gary (Ian Lloyd Anderson), working-class mom Sandra (Clare Dunne, who co-wrote the screenplay) leaves with their two young daughters and finds temporary shelter in an airport hotel. Now on a three-year-long wait list to get public housing and start a new life independent of her tormentor, Sandra dreams of a better way. Aided by an internet how-to video and the generosity of Peggy (Harriet Walter), her part-time employer, Sandra takes on the project of building her own “tiny house” for herself and her kids. Official Selection, 2020 Sundance Film Festival. DIR Phyllida Lloyd; SCR Malcolm Campbell, Clare Dunne; PROD Rory Gilmartin, Ed Guiney, Sharon Horgan. Ireland/UK, 2020, color, 97 min. In English. RATED R

It’s during a semester studying animal euthanasia that veterinary student Rose (Ann Skelly, KISSING CANDICE) decides to contact Ellen (Orla Brady, AMERICAN HORROR STORY, TV’s COLLATERAL), the birth mother who gave her up for adoption. But Ellen, who is now a successful London-based actress, has no interest in revisiting her past. Undeterred, Rose begins to investigate the circumstances surrounding her birth, leading to discoveries that shake the fragile identity she has built for herself. Rose believes she has little to lose, but much to gain as she sets out to confront her biological father, Peter (Aidan Gillen, GAME OF THRONES, PEAKY BLINDERS, SING STREET). Directing duo Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor, also known as Desperate Optimists, have spent years making formally rigorous, atmospheric films (FURTHER BEYOND, HELEN, MISTER JOHN) that often deal with the uncanny effects of impersonation and the slippery nature of truth. With ROSE PLAYS JULIE, they have crafted a slow-burn thriller that builds a sense of dread inside an exquisite world of immaculate architecture, rendered through an icy performance style and enveloped by a claustrophobic soundtrack, as the film takes us through longing and revenge to arrive at the dark places of power and its abuses. This is frank, immersive and decidedly feminist filmmaking. (Note adapted from London Film Festival.) Official Selection, 2019 London Film Festival; 2020 Dublin, Galway, Melbourne and Hamptons film festivals. DIR/SCR/PROD Christine Molloy, Joe Lawlor; PROD David Collins. Ireland/UK, 2019, color, 100 min. In English. NOT RATED


U.S. Premiere
Based on the novel of the same name by author and anthropologist Giulio Angioni, the fifth feature from Salvatore Mereu (PRETTY BUTTERFLIES) is a powerful, slow-burn thriller set in the Sardinian countryside in the late 1990s. Following a devasting fire that has destroyed his agritourism farmhouse “Assandira” and killed his son Mario (Marco Zucca), former shepherd Costantino Saru (author and actor Gavino Ledda, PADRE PADRONE) recounts the events that preceded the suspicious blaze to the inspector assigned to the case (Corrado Giannetti, PIOVE DESERTO). Told in flashback, the mystery unfolds to reveal how Mario and his German wife Grete (Anna König, TV’s DARK) took over the abandoned Saru family farmhouse to turn it into a destination for European tourists wanting an “authentic” experience living among Sardinian shepherds. Initially resistant, Costantino finally relented, and the business became a big success, boosting the fragile local economy. But lurking beneath outward prosperity, deep fissures lie between father and son, nature and its commodification and cultural heritage and its appropriation. ASSANDIRA is a rural neo-noir, a psychological thriller, a classic detective story and an astute examination of tradition and modernity, all rolled into one. Winner, FEDIC Award – Special Mention, 2020 Venice Film Festival. DIR/SCR/PROD Salvatore Mereu, from the novel by Giulio Angioni; PROD Elisabetta Soddu. Italy, 2020, color, 128 min. In English, Italian, Sardinian and German with English subtitles. NOT RATED

U.S. Premiere
A twisted gothic fairy tale set in a southern suburb of Rome, the impressive second feature by the D’Innocenzo brothers (BOYS CRY, screenwriters of DOGMAN) transpires with the haunting atmosphere of a dream that gradually transforms into a waking nightmare. A group of families, connected in various ways, live their lives just outside of Rome in not-so-quiet desperation. Through a series of vicious vignettes, we see parents committing casual acts of cruelty against their children who, in turn, also wreak havoc. Beautifully realized, with a standout performance from Elio Germano (HIDDEN AWAY, LEOPARDI, LUCIA’S GRACE) as an unstable, unemployed father, BAD TALES builds to a memorable and cutting finale. Savage and certainly more bitter than sweet, this blackly comedic satire is the reward for the ambition and originality of its young filmmakers’ daring vision. (Note adapted from London Film Festival.) Winner, Best Screenplay, 2020 Berlin International Film Festival; Winner, Jury Award, 2020 Brussels International Film Festival; Winner, Silver Star, 2020 El Gouna Film Festival; Winner, Best Director and Best Screenplay, 2020 Golden Globes, Italy; Winner, Best Film, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design and Best Producer, 2020 Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists. Official Selection, 2020 Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival and London Film Festival. DIR/SCR Damiano D’Innocenzo, Fabio D’Innocenzo; PROD Agostino Saccà, Giuseppe Saccà. Italy/Switzerland, 2020, color, 98 min. In Italian with English subtitles. NOT RATED

U.S. Premiere
Actor-turned-director Pietro Castellitto’s (TWICE BORN) darkly hilarious feature debut, in which he also stars, explores — and pokes delicious fun at — the various absurd dramas of two very different Rome-based families: the working-class Vismaras, a family with fascist leanings and connections to the local mafia; and the bourgeoisie Pavones, a family of privileged and disconnected intellectuals who are absorbed by petty rivalries. When a couple of incidents set their disparate worlds on a path to collision, a series of unfortunate and grotesque events ensue, involving the unstable young intellectual Federico Pavone (Castellitto), his arrogant doctor father Pierpaolo (Massimo Popolizio, IL DIVO, THE GREAT BEAUTY) and self-absorbed director mother Ludovica (Manuela Mandracchia, SWEET DREAMS, WE HAVE A POPE), plus cocky gun shop employee Claudio Vismara (Giorgio Montanini, PARTLY CLOUDY WITH SUNNY SPELLS), his oafish brother Carlo (Claudio Camilli, THE END?) and their overbearing uncle Flavio (Antonio Gerardi, TUTTO QUELLO CHE VUOI). Castellitto’s relentlessly entertaining, fresh and fast-paced black comedy confirms that we are all predators in one way or another. Winner, Best Screenplay, 2020 Venice Film Festival. Official Selection, Rome and Busan film festivals. DIR/SCR Pietro Castellitto; PROD Laura Paolucci, Domenico Procacci. Italy, 2020, color, 109 min. In Italian with English subtitles. NOT RATED

Three sisters, eldest Stella (Denise Tantucci, soon to be seen in a new film from Nanni Moretti), tween Luce (Gaia Bocci) and youngster Aria (Olimpia Tosatto), live in a rambling, decrepit, boarded-up mansion with their domineering father (Valerio Binsasco). According to him, an apocalyptic event caused the sun to explode, killing most of the world’s population, and only strong men like himself have any hope of survival outside — it’s no place for a woman. While he ventures out each day to fetch food and supplies, the girls pass the time with games, old VHS videos and trying to remember the time when their mother was still alive. But after Aria wanders outdoors one day without incurring any injury, and after their father fails to return from his latest sojourn, the girls dare to venture outside to see the world for themselves. Filmmaker Emanuela Rossi dedicates her visionary science-fiction allegory “to all the girls who resist.” DIR/SCR Emanuela Rossi; SCR/PROD Claudio Corbucci. Italy, 2019, color, 96 min. In Italian with English subtitles. NOT RATED


In this delightful and beautifully animated tale, young Jacob isn’t happy to be spending part of his summer in Riga’s historical suburb of Maskachka with his overbearing cousin Mimmi and eccentric uncle Eagle (an ex-pirate) while his father travels for work. The transition from bustling city life to the quiet, sleepy suburbs is tough, and Jacob quickly argues with Mimmi, who loves her peaceful home. But when Jacob learns that Mimmi’s favorite park is about to be demolished to make way for a new skyscraper, he agrees to help his cousin with a plan to stop the construction — and it turns out that they can only do it with the help of a local band of talking dogs led by a pup named Boss. As Jacob and Mimmi take on the greedy businessman threatening the town’s quaint way of life, their adventures prove that anyone — even a pack of talking dogs — can make a positive impact on their community if they are willing to work hard and get creative. Official Selection, Giffoni, Hamburg and Cleveland film festivals. DIR Edmunds Jansons; SCR Liga Gaisa; PROD Sabine Andersone, Jakub Karwowski. Latvia/Poland, 2019, color, 72 min. In Latvian with English subtitles. NOT RATED; recommended for ages 6+

Dzintars Dreibergs’ adaptation of Aleksandrs Grīns’ World War I-set novel has become a major box office hit in Latvia — the most-watched film since the restoration of independence in 1991. After losing his mother and home to the invading German army, 16-year-old Artūrs joins the Latvian Riflemen of the Imperial Russian Army, along with his father and brother. He imagines that war will be a glorious affair, that their side is just and that victory will be swift. Artūrs is terribly mistaken on all counts and will spend the next several years enduring unimaginable horrors before finally returning to his beloved homeland to begin rebuilding his life, as well as the newly independent nation of Latvia, nearly from scratch. DIR/PROD Dzintars Dreibergs; SCR Boris Frumin, from the novel by Aleksandrs Grīns; PROD Inga Praņevska. Latvia, 2019, color, 120 min. In Latvian, German, Russian and Estonian with English subtitles. NOT RATED


Special Presentation
The debut feature from writer/director Jurgis Matulevicius is an elegant, era-spanning, time-jumping paranoid thriller chronicling the real-life massacre that took place at the Lietukis Garage in the Lithuanian city of Kaunas on June 27, 1941, and a post-World War II fictional story of intrigue about a director seeking to tell the story of Isaac, one of the Jewish victims. A story told in three parts, the film opens with a bravura 15-minute tracking shot filmed in stunning black and white with an unflinching look at the grizzly massacre. We then jump ahead 23 years to Soviet Lithuania as celebrated writer/director Gediminas Gutauskas returns from a long stint in the United States with a script in hand featuring uncanny details of the bloody massacre. Initially approved by local authorities, the production starts to see heavy scrutiny from a particularly disgruntled KGB agent who threatens not only to shut it down, but also to expose secrets that threaten the lives of all involved. In the final thrilling chapter, everything comes to a head in a Lithuania where even the slightest mention of the past atrocities overheard at a bar can mean your life. Mostly shot in gorgeously rendered monochrome, the film takes cues from Paweł Pawlikowski’s post-World War II black-and-white masterpieces IDA and COLD WAR, with some grit thrown in for good measure. Official Selection, 2019 Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival; 2020 Glasgow and Odesa film festivals. DIR/SCR Jurgis Matulevicius; SCR Saule Bliuvaite, Nerijus Milerius, from the short story by Antanas Skema; PROD Stasys Baltakis. Lithuania, 2019, color/b&w, 104 min. In Lithuanian, German and Russian with English subtitles. NOT RATED

Told through the eyes of 12-year-old Kovas (Matas Metlevski), Lithuanian-born, Washington D.C.-raised filmmaker Tomas Vengris’ powerful feature debut is a lyrical drama set in post-Soviet Lithuania. Shortly after the fall of the USSR, Viktorija (Severija Janušauskaitė, ISAAC) returns with her American-born son to reclaim her family estate, with the help of an old flame. It has been 20 years since she escaped. Although he speaks the language, everything is new for Kovas, but he is eager for the distraction of this summer vacation, and to see for himself a country he knows only from his mother’s nostalgic tales. But Viktorija has different plans. Consumed by renewed homesickness and tired from her failed marriage, she hopes to stay and start over with her unsuspecting son. But when mother and son finally arrive at their long-awaited destination, they find that their land is now the site of a run-down house occupied by an impoverished Russian family, and they must reconsider what it really means to come home. Winner, Best Baltic Film, 2019 Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival. Official Selection, 2019 Busan, Denver and Cleveland film festivals. DIR/SCR Tomas Vengris; PROD Uljana Kim. Lithuania/Latvia/Germany/Greece, 2019, color, 97 min. In English, Lithuanian and Russian with English subtitles. NOT RATED


2020 Oscar® Selection, Luxembourg
The San Juan River, located between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in Nicaragua, symbolizes 500 years of colonization and exploitation of resources and has seen more than 70 canal projects fail. Now a Chinese businessman is attempting to control the interoceanic route that Christopher Columbus had been seeking when he reached the West Indies, thus creating both discontent and hopes for a better life among the Nicaraguans. When actor and teacher Yemn Jordan Taisigûe López returns to his native village of El Castillo, he turns the fortress ruins that overlook San Juan into a stage for the local youth theater group, a sanctuary for open discussion and critical thinking. While their families struggle with poverty and are forced to migrate to neighboring Costa Rica to make ends meet, the kids rehearse and write a play about their river’s history. They improvise and embody the numerous travelers who tried to control the river: pirates meet Spanish conquerors; American engineers fight with Indigenous chiefs. Between reality and fiction, the kids reflect upon essential questions: What is their true identity? What can they learn from history? And at a time when freedom of speech has been repressed and a people’s revolt is brewing, where is their country headed? Winner, Best Environmental Documentary, 2020 Close Up Dokufest; Winner, Peripheral Visions Award, 2020 Galway Film Fleadh; Winner, Best Feature Film Award, 2020 Portland EcoFilm Festival. DIR/SCR/PROD Julie Schroell; PROD Jesus Gonzalez-Elvira. Luxembourg, 2020, color, 82 min. In Spanish with English subtitles. NOT RATED


North American Premiere
Writer/director Alex van Warmerdam (BORGMAN, SCHNEIDER VS. BAX) revisits and revamps his 2003 film GRIMM (“It’s my only movie I always thought I could have gotten more out of”), not only re-editing the film from scratch, but also creating a completely new sound mix and score. What starts as an absurdist, modern-dress take on legends from the Brothers Grimm mutates, dreamlike, into a road movie, a thriller and a quasi-Western. Brother and sister Jacob and Maria (Jacob Derwig and Halina Reijn – director of 2019’s INSTINCT) are abandoned in the forest by their poor father. They survive a frightening encounter with an odd couple whose hospitality comes with strings attached, then make their way to Spain to seek a better life. They believe they have found it when Maria falls in love with a wealthy doctor, Diego (Carmelo Gómez), and both brother and sister move into his mansion, also the home of Diego’s strange, silent sister Teresa (Elvira Mínguez). But further, freaky dangers await the siblings. DIR/SCR/PROD Alex van Warmerdam; SCR Otakar Votocek; PROD Marc van Warmerdam. Netherlands/Spain, 2003/2019, color, 93 min. In Dutch and Spanish with English subtitles. NOT RATED

In Dutch director Ivo van Aart’s smart and sassy revenge satire, Femke Boot (Katja Herbers, THE AMERICANS, WESTWORLD) is a successful columnist for a large news organization whose frank opinions on everything from the controversial “Black Pete” holiday tradition to the merits of soft-boiled eggs make her a popular — and polarizing — media figure. But as the climate becomes ever more divisive and anonymous harassments, accusations and death threats continue to flood her social media channels, Femke gradually becomes addicted to the vicious messages, hate-scrolling continuously through the nasty comments. Not only is this constant trolling affecting her motivation to write new articles, but she also needs to finish writing the novel she promised to deliver her publisher. One day, mad as hell and unwilling to take it anymore, Femke snaps. The ensuing act of revenge eases and inspires her — enabling her to write like never before and setting off a string of increasingly violent feats of righteous vengeance. “For audiences who have been eagerly awaiting news about Carey Mulligan’s long-delayed PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN, THE COLUMNIST could just be the film to fill that void.” – Bloody Disgusting. Official Selection, 2020 Fantasia, FrightFest, Chicago and Telluride Horror Show film festivals. DIR Ivo van Aart; SCR Daan Windhorst; PROD Sabine Brian, Ronald Versteeg, Kaja Wolffers. Netherlands, 2019, color, 86 min. In Dutch with English subtitles. NOT RATED


Special Presentation
U.S. Premiere
2020 Oscar® Selection, Poland
On a grey, foggy morning in a large, eastern European city, Zhenia, a masseur from the East, enters the lives of the rich residents of a gated community. Using magical, hypnotic techniques to get a residence permit, he starts working. The well-to-do residents in their cookie-cutter homes seemingly have it all, but they all suffer from an inner sadness, some unexplained longing. The mysterious newcomer’s hands heal, and his eyes seem to penetrate their souls. To them, the Russian accent of this attractive man from the authentic, exotic East sounds like a song from the past, a memory of their seemingly safer childhoods. The latest from writer/director couple Małgorzata Szumowska and Michał Englert (MUG) is an unclassifiable meditation on modern Europe’s issues of class and immigration, with touches of magical realism and moments of sober beauty and subtle humor. (Note adapted from Lava Films.) Official Selection, 2020 Venice Film Festival. DIR/SCR/PROD Małgorzata Szumowska, Michał Englert; PROD Viola Fügen, Agnieszka Wasiak, Michael Weber, Mariusz Wlodarski. Poland/Germany, 2020, color, 113 min. In Polish, Russian, French and Vietnamese with English subtitles. NOT RATED

Polish artist and self-taught animator Mariusz Wilczyński’s striking feature debut – 14 years in the making – is an eye-popping, hand-drawn fever dream pulling from the filmmaker’s recollections of his childhood in Łódź, his adulthood and the distortions caused by memory and time. The nightmarish narrative moves between Communist-era Poland and the present day, interweaving recollections of Wilczyński’s parents, his hometown and the sad souls that populated it with a stream of consciousness reflecting on his memories. “If you got higher than you’ve ever been in your whole life and then tried to draw all of your childhood memories on a series of Post-It Notes, the results might look a little something like Mariusz Wilczyński’s KILL IT AND LEAVE THIS TOWN, a psychotropic vision quest through the animator’s own past that blurs the living and the dead into a bittersweet orgy of squiggles and undefinable sadness.” – IndieWire. Winner, Special Jury Award, 2020 Annecy International Animated Film Festival; Winner, Grand Prize, Best Animated Feature, 2020 Ottawa International Animation Festival. Official Selection, 2020 Berlin and Toronto film festivals. DIR/SCR Mariusz Wilczyński; PROD Ewa Puszczyńska, Agnieszka Ścibior. Poland, 2020, b&w/color, 88 min. In Polish with English subtitles. NOT RATED


U.S. Premiere
Dreaming of great adventures and of standing up for his homeland, a young Portuguese man enlists in the army during World War I and is sent to the front line in Mozambique, Africa. Left behind by his platoon, he sets out on a grueling trek across the mystic Makua native land, walking for more than 1,000 kilometers, in search of his dream. Director João Nuno Pinto loosely based this dreamy and hypnotic tale on the life of his grandfather and his time in Mozambique with the 4th Portuguese Expeditionary Company, but this beautiful historical drama is really a look at the horrors of war and a reflection on Europe’s colonial past. As we follow the young soldier on his epic journey, the melding of the imaginary and the real is key to the exploration of the imaginary space left blurred by the collective historical amnesia of colonialism. Official Selection, 2020 International Film Festival Rotterdam. DIR/SCR João Nuno Pinto; SCR Fernanda Polacow, Gonçalo Waddington; PROD Paulo Branco. Portugal, 2020, color, 125 min. In Portuguese with English subtitles. NOT RATED


In the wilderness of the Bucharest Delta, an abandoned water reservoir just outside the bustling metropolis, the Enache family lived in perfect harmony with nature for two decades, sleeping in a hut on the lakeshore, catching fish barehanded and following the rhythm of the seasons. When the area is transformed into a public national park, they are forced to leave their unconventional life behind and move to the city, where fishing rods are replaced by smartphones and idle afternoons are now spent in classrooms. As the nine children and their parents struggle to conform to modern civilization and maintain their connection to each other and themselves, they each begin to question their place in the world and what their future might be. With an empathetic and cinematic eye, journalist-turned-filmmaker Radu Ciorniciuc, in his feature debut, offers a compelling tale of an impoverished family living on the fringes of society in Romania, fighting for acceptance and their own version of freedom. (Note adapted from Zeitgeist Films.) Winner, Special Jury Award for Cinematography, World Cinema – Documentary, 2020 Sundance Film Festival; Winner, Best Documentary, 2020 Krakow Film Festival; Winner, Human Rights Award, Documentary, 2020 Sarajevo Film Festival; Winner, Special Mention, International Documentary Film, 2020 Zurich Film Festival. DIR/SCR/PROD Radu Ciorniciuc; SCR Lina Vdovîi; PROD Monica Lăzurean-Gorgan. Romania/Germany/Finland, 2020, color, 86 min. In Romanian with English subtitles. NOT RATED


Slovakian writer/director Ivan Ostrochovský’s (GOAT) sophomore narrative feature turns a politically fraught moment in his nation’s history into what Variety calls an “impressively icy Iron Curtain noir,” crafting a sublimely shot, black-and-white seminary drama that plays out like an impeccably crafted thriller. Set in 1980 in a Catholic seminary in totalitarian Czechoslovakia, SERVANTS follows newly arrived students Michal (Samuel Polakovic) and Juraj (Samuel Skyva) as they navigate the Communist Party’s increasing infiltration of their school and face the stark choice between collaborating with the regime or undergoing constant surveillance by the secret police — or worse. Scripted by British screenwriter Rebecca Lenkiewicz (COLETTE, IDA), SERVANTS is an austere thriller in which the claustrophobic space of the seminary works as a palpable metaphor for the oppressive system closing in on the dissenting clerics. Winner, Best Original Music and Sound Design, 2020 Ghent International Film Festival; Winner, Special Jury Mention, 2020 Odesa International Film Festival. Official Selection, 2020 Berlin, Valladolid, Stockholm and New Directors/New Films film festivals. DIR/SCR/PROD Ivan Ostrochovský; SCR Rebecca Lenkiewicz, Marek Lescák; PROD Albert Malinovsky. Slovakia/Romania/Czech Republic/Ireland, 2020, color, 80 min. In Slovak with English subtitles. NOT RATED


The latest film from Metod Pevec (BENEATH HER WINDOW) explores the tensions between the old and new ways of doing things in independent, post-Communist Slovenia, centered on a family dispute over an inheritance. The free-spirited but emotionally troubled Frank (Janez Škof, STORIES FROM THE CHESTNUT WOODS), still an idealist about now-discarded socialist ideology, returns home for the reading of his late father’s will. His father was a leader in the country’s transition to free market enterprise, but Frank suspects that the inheritance money may have been earned through illicit dealings. Frank’s capitalist-minded brother Brane (Valter Dragan, SPARE PARTS) believes he has full right to the inheritance and retains lawyers and some of his father’s shadier cronies to ensure that he collects it. Meanwhile, the dormant love triangle among the two brothers and Brane’s wife Ines (Katarina Čas, THE GUARD, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET) comes back to the fore. DIR/SCR Metod Pevec; SCR Ivo Trajkov; PROD Danijel Hočevar. Slovenia/North Macedonia/Croatia/Serbia, 2019, color, 98 min. In Slovene with English subtitles. NOT RATED


Veteran actress and director Icíar Bollaín (EVEN THE RAIN, THE OLIVE TREE, YULI) crafts this crowd-pleasing comedy of self-realization starring Candela Peña (ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER, TORREMOLINOS 73, A GUN IN EACH HAND) as Rosa, the dependable mainstay, underpaid employee and selfless family member who suddenly decides to start living for herself… much to the dismay of everyone around her. As Rosa’s 45th birthday approaches, it begins to dawn on her that she’s never really cared for herself and has never learned to say “no,” or to truly love the person she is. Her solution? To elope and marry the one person she realizes she has neglected the most: herself. As shocked family members and friends slowly adjust to Rosa’s internal transformation and the wedding day looms, it becomes clear that changing her life is going to be anything but easy. Called “a feel-good film par excellence” by Screen Daily, ROSA’S WEDDING is a warm and laughter-filled tale of one woman’s journey to the ultimate self-acceptance. Winner, Special Jury Award and Best Supporting Actress (Nathalie Poza), 2020 Málaga Spanish Film Festival. Official Selection, 2020 Miami and San Sebastian film festivals. DIR/SCR Icíar Bollaín; SCR Alicia Luna; PROD Cristina Zumárraga, Lina Badenes, Fernanda del Nido, Pablo Bossi, Alexandra Lebret. Spain,/France 2020, color, 97 min. In Spanish and Valencian with English subtitles. NOT RATED

Spanish director Pilar Palomero’s debut feature, produced by Valérie Delpierre and Alex Lafuente (SUMMER 1993), is a ’90s-set coming-of-age tale which explores the tensions and anxieties of adolescence against the backdrop of Spain’s immediate post-Franco years. Fifteen years of democracy separate the country from the dictator’s rule, but the Catholic church with its prevailing moral code still dominates much of society. It’s 1992 and 11-year-old Celia (Andrea Fandos) lives in the provincial town of Zaragoza with her mother (Natalia de Molina, QUIÉN TE CANTARÁ). She studies at a strict religious school run by nuns and is a responsible student and considerate daughter. But when the impossibly cool Brisa (Zoe Arnao) arrives from the far more cosmopolitan Barcelona, the two girls unexpectedly become fast friends, and Celia soon finds herself swept up in a rebellious clique. With her eyes newly opened to the world, Celia begins to raise questions about her own family background, including the fate of her absent father. Winner, Best Film, Best Spanish Film and Best Cinematography, 2020 Málaga Spanish Film Festival. Official Selection, 2020 Berlin and Chicago film festivals. DIR/SCR Pilar Palomero; PROD Valérie Delpierre, Alex Lafuente. Spain, 2020, color, 97 min. In Spanish with English subtitles. NOT RATED


In Swedish director Joachim Hedén’s nail-biting and propulsive survival thriller, half-sisters Ida (Moa Gammel) and Tuva (Madeleine Martin) set out on a winter dive in a remote fjord on the Norwegian coastline. Tuva is a professional diver, whereas Ida is a little rusty and a lot less daring, but the sisters see the trip as a way to mend their fractured relationship and take Ida’s mind off her troubled marriage. Then, toward the end of the dive, a rockslide traps Tuva under water. As Ida surfaces to call for help, she realizes that they are completely cut off from any chance of outside rescue. Depleting oxygen, extreme pressure and freezing temperatures are just some of the problems the sisters will have to work through if they hope to make it out alive. As the frantic race for survival unfolds, Ida is forced to use every ounce of her intelligence and resourcefulness to become a tenacious heroine and find a way to do the impossible. Official Selection, 2020 Neuchatel International Fantastic Film Festival, Fantasy Filmfest, Reykjavík International Film Festival and Nightstream Film Festival. DIR/SCR Joachim Hedén; PROD Julia Gebauer, Jonas Sörensson. Sweden/Norway/Belgium, 2019, color, 82 min. In Swedish and Norwegian with English subtitles. NOT RATED

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