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World Cinema: Fall Fortnight, 14 Foreign-Language Films to Watch at Autumn Fests

World Cinema: Fall Fortnight, 14 Foreign-Language Films to Watch at Autumn Fests

Say goodbye to superheroes, pirates and Al Gore; it’s mid-August, and the film industry is turning to the fall. With the Venice, Telluride and Toronto Film Festivals just weeks away, flights and hotels are being booked, distributors and sales agents are already discussing what’s next on the menu, and Oscar talk begins in earnest. Foreign-language films are few and far between in U.S. theaters nowadays, but the autumn will bring a light breeze of new releases, including Pedro Almodovar‘s “Volver,” and two high-profile multi-lingual films, Michel Gondry‘s “The Science of Sleep,” and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu‘s “Babel.”

Smaller, but no less significant flicks from IFC First Take, such as Fabien Belinsky‘s “The Aura” and Hans-Christian Schmid‘s “Requiem” will get a chance in theaters, along with Zeitgeist Films‘ surreal twofer “Lunacy,” from Czech stop-motion master Jan Svankmayer, and “The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes,” from the Brothers Quay.

At this fall’s festivals, a tantalizing collection of new auteur cinema hits screens, and while most studio specialty divisions have largely left foreign-language films for dead, some of us are still excited. To help sift through the hundreds of new films on display, here is a sampling of 14 far-flung fest premieres that indieWIRE will be tracking (in alphabetical order):

After the Wedding” (Susan Bier, Denmark, IFC Films handling U.S.)
World Premiere: Toronto (not confirmed)
Already released in Scandinavia, this latest drama from Danish director Susanne Bier (“Brothers,” “Open Hearts“) stars Mads Mikkelsen (“Casino Royale“) as Jacob, a man who runs an orphanage in India and reluctantly agrees to meet Jorgen, a financial backer in Copenhagen. Back in Denmark, at the wedding of Jorgen’s daughter, Jacob’s past comes back to haunt him. Reviewed after the film’s Danish theatrical release and Cannes market screening, Variety called the film “emotional and engaging.”

Black Book” (Paul Verhoeven, Netherlands, sales: Content International)
World Premiere: Venice (in competition)
After an over 20-year hiatus from working in Europe, the Dutch-born Verhoeven, famous for his early auteur cinema (“The Fourth Man“) and subversive pop-culture schmaltz (“Showgirls“), returns to the homeland for this period epic set during World War II. Dutch beauty Carice van Houten stars as a Jewish cabaret singer that goes into hiding in the Netherlands and joins the Resistance movement against the Nazis. Murder, seduction, deceit and tragedy ensue.

Blindsight” (Lucy Walker, UK, sales: The Little Film Company)
World Premiere: Toronto (documentary)
Director of Amish-run-amok doc “Devil’s Playground,” Lucy Walker journeys to the Himalayas for this epic portrait of a group of blind Tibetan teenagers who climb a section of Mount Everest, lead by famed blind climber Eric Weihenmayer.

The Boss of It All” (Lars von Trier, Denmark, sales: Trust Film Sales)
World Premiere: Copenhagen International Film Festival
Never one to follow the rules, Lars von Trier will launch his latest film – a “comedy” – as the opening night of the Copenhagen International Film Festival rather than at a more significant international launch pad. In February, von Trier issued a statement to explain his decision. “I want to launch my products on a scale which matches the more ascetic nature of the films, and aimed at my core audience,” he said. Starring Danish stalwarts Jens Albinus, Peter Gantzler and Iben Hjejle, the film follows the owner of an information tech firm who wants to sell his company, but runs into trouble when he hires a failed actor to play the part of the boss. For its international premiere, the film will be bypassing Toronto for Montreal’s Nouveau Cinema festival in October.

The Go Master” (Tian Zhuangzhuang, China, sales: Fortissimo)
World Premiere: Toronto (not confirmed)
Originally expected at Cannes 2006, this latest drama from acclaimed Chinese director Tian Zhuangzhuang (“The Blue Kite,” “Springtime in a Small Town“) is based on the true story of the world’s most renowned master of the ancient game of Go, Wu Qingyuan. Set against the tumultuous history of 20th Century Sino-Japanese relations, Wu stayed in Japan in spite of the political upheaval, continuing to pursue his passion for the game. Chang Chen (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon“) stars as Wu, with cinematography by Wang Yu (“Purple Butterfly“) and costume design from Oscar-winner Emi Wada (“Ran“).

A scene from Lucy Walker’s “Blindsight,” which will screen at the upcoming Toronto International Film Festival. Image courtesy of the Toronto International Film Festival Group.

I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone” (Tsai Ming-liang, Taiwan-France-Austria, sales: Fortissimo)
World Premiere: Venice (in competition)
Malaysian-born Taiwanese auteur Tsai Ming-liang (“The Wayward Cloud,” “What Time is it There?“) travels to Kuala Lumpur to tell this multi-ethnic story about a homeless Chinese man, a Bangladeshi worker, a Chinese-Indonesian waitress and an old mattress, starring frequent Tsai collaborators Lee Lang Sheng and Chen Shiang Chyi.

Ghosts of Cite Soleil” (Asger Leth, Haiti-Denmark-U.S., sales: Nordisk Film)
World Premiere: Toronto (documentary)
Son of Jorgen Leth (“The Five Obstructions“), Asger Leth takes his camera to the mean streets of Cite Soleil, Haiti for this thrilling portrait of two brothers caught in a cycle of political violence. As leaders in President Aristide‘s secret army of slum gangs, one wants to fight for the president, the other wants out.

The Golden Door” (Emmanuele Crialese, Italy-France, sales: Memento Films International)
World Premiere: Venice (in competition)
Italian newcomer Crialese (“Respiro“) returns to Venice for this story of a Sicilian family who leaves Italy in the early 1900s in search of a better life in America. Charlotte Gainsbourg co-stars, with cinematography by French notable Agnes Godard (“Beau Travail“) and art direction from Carlos Conti (“The Motorcycle Diaries“).

Hula Girls” (Lee Sang-il, Japan, sales: Fortissimo)
World Premiere: Toronto
Based on a true story, “Hula Girls” is a comedy set in a fading coalmining town in 1965. One man dreams up a plan to save his small town by building Japan’s first “Hawaiian village,” recruiting a Tokyo dance instructor to teach the local daughters the hula dance.

The Lives of Others” (Florian Henckel-Donnersmarck, Germany, Sony Pictures Classics handling U.S.)
Festival Premiere: Locarno
Already the winner of 7 German Lolas, including best film, director, actor, supporting actor and screenplay, this German drama was surprisingly absent from lineups in Berlin and Cannes, and is finally bowing at fests this fall before Sony Pictures Classics bets on a foreign-language Oscar nomination and a February ’07 release. The story focuses on an East German secret police officer and the playwright and actress he spies on just before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Reportedly without the historical breadth of German hit “Downfall,” early trade reviews have celebrated the gripping storyline and deft characterizations.

Private Property” (Joachim Lafosse, Belgium-Luxembourg-France, sales: Films Distribution)
World premiere: Venice (in competition)
Co-writer of Benoit Mariage‘s enigmatic and enthralling “The Missing Half,” Belgian filmmaker Joachim Lafosse‘s second feature “Private Property” stars Isabelle Huppert as a woman who lives alone with her twins in an old farmhouse. Although divorced many years ago, she and her husband continue tearing each other apart in front of their children — two young adults incapable of looking after themselves.

Retribution” (Sakeba) (Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Japan, sales: Lions Gate International)
World Premiere: Venice
Critically acclaimed Japanese auteur Kurosawa (“Pulse“) tells this tale about a detective haunted by the image of a woman in a red dress and the notion that he might be a killer himself. It’s more eerie, ghostly fun from the J-horror maestro, along with hit producer Taka Ichise (“Ringu,” “The Grudge“).

Syndromes and a Century” (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand-France-Austria, sales: Fortissimo)
World Premiere: Venice (in competition)
From the impressionistic mind of Thai arthouse maven Weerasethakul (“Tropical Malady,” “Blissfully Yours“), “Syndromes and a Century” explores “how we remember” and “how our sense of happiness can be triggered by seemingly insignificant things,” according to sales company Fortissimo. The film is split into two parts, set during different time periods, each focusing on a character inspired by the filmmaker’s parents before they became a couple.

The Untouchable” (Benoit Jacquot, France, sales: Pyramide International)
World Premiere: Venice (in competition)
Written as a vehicle for French actress Isild Le Besco, Benoit Jacquot’s latest collaboration with the starlet (after “A tout de suite“) recounts the story of a young actress who learns her father is an Indian “untouchable.” After taking a role in a movie to finance her trip to India, she finally sets out for South Asia in search of her father.

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