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by Peter Knegt
November 17, 2010 7:55 AM
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Big Screen | This Week's Top 5: IDFA, Claire Denis, "Made in Dagenham" and More

A scene from Claire Denis' "White Material." [Image courtesy of IFC Films]

Each week here at indieWIRE, five recommendations for theatrical viewing pleasure are being offered up, tackling everything from new releases, to film festivals, to curated series, and events around North America. This week, a doc fest giant, Claire Denis and "Harry Potter" are among those making up those five best bets:

1. International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam
One of - if not the - most important documentary film festival in the world, International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), kicks off today and should offer audiences a peak at some of the documentaries certain to make a splash on the international doc fest circuit over the next year. Last year, for example, Lixin Fan's "Last Train Home" was one of the big breakouts. Check out the festival's website for a peak at what's screening in the main competition. Among them is Eva Mulvad's "The Good Life," which indieWIRE profiled earlier this week.

2. White Material (criticWIRE page)
Venerable French director Claire Denis follows up her lauded "35 Shots of Rum" with this devastating story of Maria (Isabelle Huppert), a failing coffee plantation owner in an African country increasingly torn apart by escalating civil war violence. A debut on the fall festival circuit last year, IFC Films is bringing "Material" to America this month. The fact that it's directed by Claire Denis and it stars Isabelle Huppert should be enough to get anyone in a theater, but if more is needed for whatever reason, read indieWIRE's glowing review out of last year's Toronto Film Festival. An excerpt:

"Postcolonial critiques are not wholly unexpected in French art filmmaking, and neither are dramatizations of war-torn Africa from white perspectives uncommon. Yet with Claire Denis at the helm, this is hardly the same old story. While less abstract than many of her other works, “White Material” is similarly open-ended and purely experiential, and its way of playing with viewer identification with its protagonist is reminiscent of such works as “L’Intrus” and “I Can’t Sleep.” In this case, one might assume initially that the film’s strong Caucasian female lead is in some ways a surrogate both for its implicitly white audience and its, well, strong Caucasian female filmmaker. The growing disconnect we feel to the irrational, stubborn Maria, however, makes “White Material” a frustrating and illuminating experience."

Check out the trailer:


3. Made in Dagenham (criticWIRE page)
"Dagenham" is a dramatized account of the 1968 strike at the Ford Dagenham assembly plant, where female workers walked out in protest against sexual discrimination. Directed by Nigel Cole ("Calendar Girls"), it has quite the cast in Sally Hawkins, Miranda Richardson, Rosamund Pike and Bob Hoskins. Offering fantastic performances and more than enough heart-warm to go around, if you like predictably inspirational, issue-oriented British films, then "Dagenham" was probably made for you.

Check out the trailer:


4. Other Israel Film Festival
Presented by The Israel Film Center at The JCC in Manhattan, Other Israel Film Festival kicked off last Thursday, November 11th and continues through this Sunday, November 21st. Featuring the best in Israeli cinema in the past year, the schedule includes Shlomi Eldar's doc "Precious Life," Noa Ben Hagai's "Blood Relation," Yaron Shani and Scandar Copti's "Ajami," and the US premiere of the Israeli television version of "The Office." Check out the festival's website for more information.

5. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I
Any other film opening this week has got to be kidding itself if it thinks it's debuting outside of the shadow of the "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part I." The beginning of the end for the decade-long, billion and billion dollar grossing series based on J.K. Rowling's novels, it's garnered some of the better reviews of the series and probably doesn't need much introduction.

But check out the trailer (again):

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