February 2005 Indie Preview
By Dan Krovich
February 3, 2005

February may be the shortest month, but the indie releases provide an opportunity to take a world tour of cinema. In just 28 days, you can see nine movies from nine different countries comprising a long filmic journey of over 33,500 miles (over 54,000 kilometers) beginning in Tokyo, Japan and ending in Prague, Czech Republic with stops in North and South America as well as the Middle East in between. If you choose to accept this trip, your itinerary in order of release date follows.

Nobody Knows (Tokyo, Japan)
opens February 4th

Director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s latest film is loosely based on true events. A young mother worried about appearances sneaks her four children into her new apartment and keeps them hidden from her neighbors because they each have a different father. Then when she disappears, the four children who have no connection to the outside world are forced to survive on their own while still obeying their mother’s rules. The young star, Yuya Yagira, won the Best Actor award at Cannes for his performance as the eldest child who must take charge, and the film was Japan’s official entry for the Academy Awards (though it was ultimately not nominated.)

Rory O’Shea Was Here (Dublin, Ireland)
opens February 4th
Tokyo to Dublin: 5966 miles (9602 km)

Released in the UK under the title Inside I’m Dancing, Rory O’Shea Was Here looks to successfully walk the line of being a feel-good comedy without slipping over into overly sentimental sap. The film takes place in a Dublin home for the disabled where Michael Connelly, who has cerebral palsy, lives a lonely existence. Then Rory O’Shea, who has a rebellious spirit despite his muscular dystrophy, shows up and befriends Michael, helping embolden him and giving him confidence. While the plot itself could sound sickly sweet, it does come from the producers of Billy Elliot, suggesting that it is able to successfully deliver.

Inside Deep Throat (Los Angeles, CA)
opens February 4th
Dublin to Los Angeles: 5172 miles (8323 km)

Filmed in six days for $25,000, it went on to gross over $600 million. The movie is Deep Throat. More than just a porn film, it became a cultural phenomenon and a flash point for issues such as freedom of speech, censorship, and sexual liberation. In 1972 when it was released, many political and legal officials tried to have the film banned. As is often the case, their efforts just added to the film’s publicity and spurred it on to even greater box office and cultural status. The current climate seems like an appropriate time to revisit the First Amendment issues raised by Deep Throat, and Universal is thankfully releasing the film with an NC-17 rating because, well, anything else would be absurd.

My Mother’s Smile (Rome, Italy)
opens February 4th
Los Angeles to Rome: 6353 miles (10224 km)

This film from Italian master Marco Bellocchio was made in 2002, but is just now receiving a release stateside. Perhaps the fact that it was deemed blasphemous by the Roman Catholic Church upon its release in Italy had something to do with the delay. The story focuses on Ernesto, a successful painter and devout atheist who still holds resentment towards his deceased mother. So when the church seeks his assistance in the canonization of his mother for sainthood, he’s not exactly a willing participant, but he is forced to reexamine his thoughts on faith and his old conflicts with his mother.

Masculine Feminine (Paris, France)
opens February 4th
Rome to Paris: 694 miles (1117 km)

Rialto Pictures releases a new print of Jean-Luc Godard’s 1966 film, Masculine Feminine. The film depicts something of a battle of the sexes amidst protests against the battles in Vietnam as the young idealistic Paul pursues the wannabe pop star Madeleine. Godard explicitly brings the politics of socialism and communism and of the anti war movement into one of his films in a direct way for the first time. With Godard’s latest film Notre Musique currently making the rounds, this provides the opportunity to revisit one of his earlier works, and it’s always nice to see new prints of old classics on the big screen.

Turtles Can Fly (Iraqi/Turkish border)
opens February 4th
Paris to Iraq: 2406 miles (3873 km)

(Though we know that turkeys can’t). Iran’s Oscar entry this year comes from director Bahman Ghobadi, who previously directed the acclaimed A Time for Drunken Horses. This film takes place in Ghobadi’s native Kurdistan, near the border of Iraq and Turkey on the eve of the US invasion of Iraq. As is not uncommon, the cast is made up of local non-actor children. Thirteen-year-old “Satellite” is the leader of a group of children who await their fate while trying to obtain news about Saddam from Baghdad and clearing the local minefields. The film is also noteworthy because it was the first film to be made in Iraq following the fall of Saddam.

Nina’s Tragedies (Tel Aviv, Israel)
opens February 4th
Iraq to Tel Aviv: 559 miles (900 km)

A comic drama (or a dramatic comedy) coming of age tale set in Tel Aviv. When fourteen-year-old Nadav loses both his father and his uncle, he moves in with his aunt to help take care of her. He doesn’t particularly mind because he quickly develops a crush on her as they comfort each other. However, as time passes and his aunt moves beyond her grief to begin a relationship with a new man, Nadav must deal with his feelings of betrayal and mature through his growing pains.

The Other Side of the Street (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)
opens February 4th
Tel Aviv to Rio de Janeiro: 6349 miles (10217 km)

The writer of the Oscar nominated Central Station makes his directing debut with a film that stars Fernanda Montenegro (the Oscar nominated star of Central Station) as a neighborhood snoop who feeds her scoops to the local police. In Rear Window fashion, she thinks she spies a judge committing a murder, but when the police don’t believe her she continues the investigation on her own. As she tries to get to the bottom of things, the aging judge becomes attracted to her setting up a romance between the two lonely elderly people.

Up and Down (Prague, Czech Republic)
opens February 4th
Rio de Janeiro to Prague: 6091 miles (9803 km)

The Czech Republic Oscar submission takes a look at both sides of the tracks in current day Prague, a city still grappling with the post communist transition to a consumer culture and globalization. Otto, a modestly wealthy professor has separated with his wife and child and is now living with a much younger woman who works in a refugee aid center. When he suffers a heart attack, he seeks a reunion with his estranged wife and son. Meanwhile, a poor couple unable to conceive desire to have a child together, and their only opportunity appears to be to purchase one from the local pawn shop that deals in children left behind by illegal immigrants.

Marty Doskins's February 2005 Preview
Kim Hollis's February 2005 Preview