Andrei Konchalovsky – Sibiriada aka Siberiade (1979)

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This ambitious 1979 Russian film attempts no less a feat than the encapsulation of the tumultuous history of Russia in the 20th century. Written and directed by Andrei Konchalovsky (Runaway Train, Tango and Cash), the film weaves an engrossing tale of three generations of two Russian families in the remote region of Siberia, each trying in their own way to find fulfillment in their lives as they seek to reconcile themselves with the ever-changing landscape of their homeland. Sandwiched between the chaotic events of the First and Second World Wars, as well as the Russian Revolution of 1917, the people of the small village find themselves at the cusp of great changes, from communications to the expanding infrastructure and the changes that brings, to the discovery of oil and the riches and perils that come with it. Konchalovsky juxtaposes archival footage with stunning cinematography and contrasts the assaultive changes of the modern world with the timeless impulses of family and the enduring need to adapt and survive. Reminiscent of such great films as Giant and 1900, Siberiade is a visually adept and stunningly effective epic about the price of a country’s history on its people. —Robert Lane
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Tizuka Yamasaki – Gaijin – Os Caminhos da Liberdade AKA Gaijin: Roads to Freedom (1980)

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The first film of Tizuka Yamasaki, a young Brazilian woman of Japanese ancestry, Gaijin: Roads to Freedom is based on the experiences of Yamasaki’s own grandmother in coming to Brazil in the wave of immigration at the turn of the century, when Japanese were encouraged to join the Brazilian labor force during that country’s coffee boom. In an effort to comply with the immigration agents’ preference for family units, a very young Titoe marries Yamada, a man whom she has never met, and the two leave for Brazil. Life on the plantation is close to slavery: workers, forced to buy food at the plantation store, are presented with falsified accounts, and at the end of the year are still in debt to the plantation. The film treats relations between Brazilian plantation owners and foremen and their Japanese laborers (a group which, traditionally, did not cause labor problems), as well as relations between the Japanese and other immigrant groups, in particular the Italians. A compelling story of a woman’s struggle to survive, spanning many years, is juxtaposed with the growing union consciousness among immigrant workers in Brazil. Continue reading

Arnaud des Pallières – Michael Kohlhaas aka Age of Uprising (2013)

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In this epic tale of wrongdoing and retribution set in 16th-century Cévennes, Michael Kohlhaas starts out as a successful, well-to-do horse trader with a loving family. The once unshakable feudal system is slowly declining, and when a local nobleman humiliates Kohlhaas and seizes two of his horses, he retaliates by gathering an army and embarking on a Robin Hood-esque mission to have his revenge against the baron. Kohlhaas’s actions become more and more violent and extreme, and the repercussions increasingly devastating. Based on Heinrich von Kleist’s classic German Romanticist novel, the story of Michael Kohlhaas previously inspired a 1969 film by Volker Schlöndorff. With gorgeous widescreen cinematography, skillful stunt work, and a powerful score, “Age of Uprising: The Legend of Michael Kohlhaas” is a stunning period piece that also raises important questions of faith and morality. ~ psfilmfest Continue reading

Lars von Trier – Medea (1988)

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Lars von Trier´s direction makes this film a shocking look into the disturbed mind of a woman who has been scorned and left. Medea´s revenge is horrible but never unbelievable. She does what every sane person would do, when deprived of all that she loves. The film burns itself into your mind and leaves you with a lasting impression of what human misery can be like. Continue reading

Mohammed Lakhdar-Hamina – Chronique des annees de braise AKA Chronicle of the Years of Fire (1975)

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As exciting as any Hollywood epic, Chronicles of the Years of Embers follows a poor peasant from his drought-stricken village through his first encounters with colonialism, his service in the French army in World War II and finally his participation in the nascent Algerian resistance movement. Rich and inventive, this wide-screen epic is an ambitious historical fresco of the years leading to the outbreak of the Algerian War of Independence. A rare treat this gem of world cinema has not been previously released commercially and has not been made available on video in the United States.
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Oles Sanin – Mamay (2003)

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Mamay draws on traditional Ukranian and Tatar folktales for its Romeo and Juliet-like love story and parable about chivalry and the struggle for freedom. Hundreds of years ago, in the wild steppes of Crimea that form an uneasy border between East and West, Europe and Asia, nomad and farmer, the proud Cossack Mamay falls in love with the Tatar beauty Omai. The title, like the storyline, holds a variety of different meanings taken from different cultures. In Turkic languages, it means “no one,” but it was also the name of a famous Mongol conqueror, the great grandson of Ghengis-Khan. In Persian legends, mamay literally means “the spirit of the steppes”. Continue reading

Emil Loteanu – Lautarii (1973)

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Leader of a traveling gypsy band from the steppes of Bessarabia (now Moldova), Toma Alistar is a skilled violinist whose fame takes him on tours around European capitals and royal courts. He remains obsessed with his first love, beautiful Leanca who was married elsewhere while Toma was traveling, and spends his life and fortune trying to find her. Written by Markku Kuoppamäki Continue reading