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Director: Nadine Labaki
Cast: Claude Baz Moussawbaa, Layla Hakim, Nadine Labaki, Antoinette Noufaily, Yvonne Maalouf
Country: France / Lebanon / Italy / Egypt

An enchanting, brilliant, and heartbreaking film about civil war and its indelible legacy, this Lebanese masterwork utterly slayed me. By turns romantic, funny, wrenching, and playful, Labaki’s film plays like a legend (it is basically a re-telling of Lysistrata) but has all the immediacy of real life. A tiny village is cut off from the surrounding countryside by a blown out bridge, and there is little radio or TV reception to speak of. Half of the inhabitants are Muslim, half are Christian. All have finally put aside their differences and are breaking bread together, but there is always the spectre of sectarianism creeping around them.

Director: Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Cast: Muhammet Uzuner, Yilmaz Erdogan,Taner Birsel, A. Mumtaz Taylan,Ercan Kesal
Country: Turkey / Bosnia and Herzegovina

A languid, patience-testing three-hour police procedural that spends its entire first 90 minutes in the literal (and, of course, figurative) dark, this one is not for everyone. Indeed, the Cannes press crowd was divided about this picture, and there were reports of derisive laughter and sarcastic applause when, about 100 minutes in, the first real plot point was uncovered. No, there isn’t much story—and what story there is is yours to tease out of the thing since little of significance is ever spoken aloud—and much of the film demands you to become as tired and frustrated as the police on their endless all-night search for a buried body in the Anatolian hillsides. But, if you stick it out, you may just find that you’ve seen among the more memorable pictures of the year.

Director: Jonathan Sagall
Cast: Clara Khoury, Nataly Attiya, Daniel Caltagirone, Moran Rosenblatt, Ziv Weiner
Country: Israel / United Kingdom

The story of two Palestinian refugees (one Christian and one Muslim) and their tumultuous, tortured relationship over 30 years, this provocative picture almost works. Set in both present day London and Ramallah in the late 1980s, the story is told in snatches and grabs. The principal character and occasional narrator is Lara (Clara Khoury), a repressed alcoholic living a lie as a housewife to a man she doesn’t love in a great big sterile home in suburban London. The morning after her birthday, she is visited by her old lover Inam (Nataly Attiya), and memories of their troubled childhood start to flood to the surface. In particular, Lara recalls the night the two of them slipped past the checkpoint to see a film and came across two young male Israeli soldiers, after which, things got complicated. But, what really happened that night?

Director: Bryan Wizemann
Cast: Lauren Ambrose, Audrey Scott, Dylan Baker, Penelope Ann Miller, Adina Porter, David Conrad
Country: USA

Think of Me (Bryan Wizemann)
Lauren Ambrose (Six Feet Under) gives a breakout film performance as a single mother struggling to make ends meet in seedy Las Vegas. Working two jobs while trying to wrestle child support out of her ex-, slipping out for hits of meth from her upstairs neighbour, having anonymous sex with the guys she picks up at the local strip bar (and then awkwardly suggesting they could like maybe pay her a hundred bucks?), and generally being a terrible mother to her already troubled eight-year old daughter, Ambrose plays a young woman caught up in intractable problems. Plus, she is completely alone.

Director: Julia Loktev
Cast: Gael García Bernal, Hani Furstenberg, Bidzina Gujabidze
Country: USA / Germany

The kind of movie that is much more fun to talk about than to watch (at least for me), this archetypal art house film follows two mostly non-verbal tourists as they hike through the Caucuses under mostly overcast skies. Their local guide, slightly more loquacious, prattles on from time to time, offering random (sometimes plainly fabricated) bits of information.

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