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World Cinema: 10+ Foreign Productions to Watch For at Winter Fests

Indiewire By Anthony Kaufman | Indiewire January 9, 2007 at 9:2AM

The New Year's hangover has passed, and now the real work begins: Sundance, Rotterdam, Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, Goeteborg, Tromso, and, of course, Berlin and the European Film Market. And that's just in the first weeks of the year. The beginnings of 2007 bring forth dozens of new movies from all over the world. Which ones are gems, destined to break out of their domestic borders and wow the globe? And which ones are over-hyped, big-budget Hollywood-wannabes fated to die an early death? No one knows yet, for sure. But over the next couple months, hours of celluloid and digital video will be unveiled to seal the fortunes of many a feature film.
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The New Year's hangover has passed, and now the real work begins: Sundance, Rotterdam, Rendez-Vous with French Cinema, Goeteborg, Tromso, and, of course, Berlin and the European Film Market. And that's just in the first weeks of the year. The beginnings of 2007 bring forth dozens of new movies from all over the world. Which ones are gems, destined to break out of their domestic borders and wow the globe? And which ones are over-hyped, big-budget Hollywood-wannabes fated to die an early death? No one knows yet, for sure. But over the next couple months, hours of celluloid and digital video will be unveiled to seal the fortunes of many a feature film.

In United States theaters, foreign film aficionados can look forward to the releases of those that have survived the festival roller coaster, including Bong Joon-ho's political monster-movie masterpiece "The Host" (Magnolia releases on March 9), Ken Loach's Cannes winner "The Wind That Shakes the Barley" (IFC First Take, March 14), Andrea Arnold's haunting tale of revenge "Red Road" (Tartan, April 6) and Jafar Panahi's Iranian tale of feminist struggle and soccer fans "Offside" (Sony Pictures Classics, April 6).

But abroad (and in Park City), it's the next batch of movies that is grabbing the industry's attention. To help sift through the hundreds of new titles that are available, here is a sampling of some possible foreign fest contenders that indieWIRE will be tracking (in alphabetical order):

"Angel" (Francois Ozon, France)
World Premiere: Berlin (unconfirmed)

French renegade Francois Ozon's English-language turn-of-the-century British film hasn't been confirmed for a spot at Berlin as of press time, but the director has been a regular at the German fest with "Water Drops on Burning Rocks" in 2000 and "8 Women" in 2002. "Angel," formerly known as "The Real Life of Angel Deverell" stars UK up-and-coming actress Romola Garai ("Scoop," "Amazing Grace") as the poor, but passionate Angel Deverell, who climbs the social ladder by becoming a celebrated romantic novelist. Also starring Sam Neill and Charlotte Rampling. Celluloid Dreams is handling international sales.

"Blame it on Fidel" (Julie Gavras, France)
World Premiere: 2006 Deauville Film Festival

Already released in France, and screening at both the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema market and Sundance's world dramatic competition section, this drama from the daughter of Costa Gavras has been getting solid reviews at festival screenings in Deauville and Rome. The story concerns a 9-year-old girl who must contend with the political activism of her parents, Spanish exiles, in early '70s Paris. Variety's Lisa Nesselson wrote Gavras "makes the political personal with a light, painless touch that should translate into offshore niche play."

"Don't Touch the Axe" (Jacques Rivette, France)
World Premiere: 2007 Rendez-Vous with French Cinema

Hot on the heels of his first U.S.-held retrospective and the American premiere of his 12-hour-plus 1971 opus "Out 1," the 78-year-old New Wave veteran will unveil his latest feature at the Rendez-Vous with French Cinema market in Paris next week. Co-written by frequent collaborators Pascal Bonitzer and Christine Laurent ("Va Savoir") and running a relatively short 137 minutes, the film stars familiar French faces Jeanne Balibar, Guillaume Depardieu, Bulle Ogier, and Michel Piccoli. Adapted from a novella "The Duchess of Langeais" that's included inside Honore de Balzac's "History of the Thirteen"--which is the same source-work for the "Out 1" films--"Don't Touch the Axe" is also said to continue themes in the director's 1966 work "The Nun."

"I Am a Cyborg But That's OK" (Park Chan-wook, South Korea)
World Premiere: 2007 Berlin International Film Festival (competition)

Already released in South Korea, Park Chan-wook's "I Am a Cyborg But That's OK" tells the story of a young woman in a psychiatric hospital who falls in love with a man (Korean pop star Rain) who thinks he can steal people's souls. The latest from the acclaimed director of "Oldboy" and "Joint Security Area" wasn't exactly welcomed at home, where the film performed modestly at the box office, but critics, distributors, and fans of the director will be sure to check it out.

"I Am Waiting for Someone" (Jerome Bonnell, France)
World Premiere: Berlin (unconfirmed)

Bonnell's delicately directed first features "Olga's Chignon" and "Pale Eyes" were heralded by critics, and this latest film, due for release this spring in France, includes a high-wattage French cast (Emmanuelle Devos, Eric Caravaca). The film tells three different stories: a man returns to a town after two years of separation from his wife and child; a childless couple find a dog in a square; and the father of a seven-year-old boy regularly frequents a prostitute. Produced by Anna-Dominique Toussaint ("Respiro," "Ghosts"), "I Am Waiting" could finally be the film that gets Bonnell the attention he deserves.

"The Inner Life of Martin Frost" (Paul Auster, U.S.-France-Portugal)
World Premiere: Berlin (unconfirmed)

Okay, so Auster isn't foreign, but the Brooklyn author's latest directorial effort since 1998's "Lulu on the Bridge" is officially a European production. Set in Portugal, with backing from Euro-based companies, the film stars Brit David Thewlis as a well-known American writer who holes up in a borrowed house after the publication of his latest novel, and upon waking on his first day, he is shocked to find a strange woman (French actress Irene Jacob) in bed with him.

"The Night Buffalo" (Jorge Hernandez Aldana, Mexico)
World Premiere: 2007 Sundance Film Festival

Written and produced by screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga ("Babel") based on his own novel, Venezuelan director Aldana's feature debut follows a 22-year-old schizophrenic man ("Y Tu Mama Tambien's" Diego Luna) who, before committing suicide, plots revenge on his girlfriend and his best friend, who were having an affair together. With Ariaga's stock likely to go up with an Oscar nod later this month, this dark, sexy drama has the chance to be a Latin American breakout.

"Once" (John Carney, Ireland)
World Premiere: 2006 Galway Film Fleadh

Written and directed by John Carney (2001's "On the Edge"), this low budget modern-day musical has oodles of goodwill going into its Sundance world competition U.S. premiere. Set on the streets of Dublin, the story follows a busker (the Frames' singer Glen Hansard) and an immigrant (Marketa Irglova) who fall in love over an eventful week, as they write, rehearse and record a number of songs together. Festivals organizers and fans of the film have touted the title as an understated little crowdpleaser, which should give both audiences and distributors pause for consideration.

"Son of Rambow" (Garth Jennings, UK)
World Premiere: 2007 Sundance Film Festival

From acclaimed British music-video duo Hammer & Tongs (Garth Jennings and Nick Goldsmith), who created last year's sci-fi adaptation "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," "Son of Rambow" is an '80s-set coming-of-age story about two boys--one who is escaping his religious upbringing--as they attempt to make a prequel to "Rambo: First Blood" in their backyard. The British press is frothing at the mouth for this one. Celluloid Dreams is handling international sales at Sundance, where the film plays in the Premieres section.

"La Vie en rose" (Olivier Dahan, France, domestic distribution: Picturehouse)
World Premiere: 2007 Berlin International Film Festival (opening)

One of the most coveted titles at last summer's Cannes Market, "La Vie en rose," an adaptation of singer Edith Piaf's life starring French starlet Marion Cotillard ("A Good Year") was snapped up by Picturehouse amid fierce competition and has garnered the prestigious opening slot of the Berlin Film Festival. The film traces the long and storied life of the famous French warbler and features a cast of French notables, including Gerard Depardieu, Sylvie Testud, Pascal Greggory, and Emmanuelle Seigner.

"Yella" (Christian Petzold, Germany)
World Premiere: 2007 Berlin International Film Festival (competition)

Prolific German filmmaker Petzold returns to the Berlinale after competing in the festival's 2005 edition with "Ghosts" and winning a FIPRESCI Critics prize in 2002 for "Wolfsburg." His latest "Yella" chronicles the journey of a young woman (Nina Hoss) from East Germany who escapes her failed marriage and crosses into the west where she seemingly finds success. Not one of Petzold's features has been released in the U.S., but he is one of the most distinctive new voices in German cinema.

This article is related to: World Cinema