MIDDLEBURY, Vt. - Beginning Saturday, June 14, and continuing through Saturday, Aug. 9, the Middlebury College Language Schools International Film Festival will feature a major film in each of the following languages - Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Hebrew and Russian. The films, which are subtitled in English, will be shown at Dana Auditorium in the Sunderland Language Center, located on College Street (Route 125) and are free and open to the public. Showings are at 7 and 9:30 p.m. Guests are asked to minimize their use of English in the presence of Language School students. A schedule of the film festival is available online.
Friday, June 13, marks the beginning of the Middlebury College Language Schools summer sessions. This year, approximately 1,350 students will come to Middlebury throughout the summer to participate. During the course of the schools' 93-year history, more than 40,000 students - including more than 11,000 advanced degree holders - have attended the language programs.
Filmgoers from the community are invited to participate in a discussion after the 7 p.m. screening each week. The discussions will be conducted in English and closed to the Language Schools' students because of their Language Pledge, a formal commitment to speak only the language of study for the entire session.
The films are selected to provide a wide variety of genres and themes that will appeal to a diverse audience. In addition to the recent release "Under the Same Moon," about a young Mexican mother seeking a better life for her son, this year's selections include a documentary on a Japanese student abducted by a North Korean agent in 1977; a Belgian man's search for his true family in Quebec; a young German sent to do his civil service in Auschwitz; an Italian tale of a family's religious conflict; and a six year old Russian orphan in search of his birth mother.
For more information contact Middlebury College Language Schools at 802-443-5510.
2008 International Film Festival schedule:
Saturday, June 14, **only one showing at 7 p.m.**
"Omaret Yakobean" (Yacoubian Building)
Directed by Marwan Hamed
Color, 161 min. Arabic with English subtitles.
Like the novel ostensibly set in 1990 at about the time of the first Gulf War, the film is a scathing portrayal of modern Egyptian society since the coup d'état of 1952. The setting is downtown Cairo, with the titular apartment building (which actually exists) serving as both a metaphor for contemporary Egypt and a unifying location in which most of the primary characters either live or work and in which much of the action takes place. The stories of each of the primary characters are intertwined, at times colliding or converging with one another. Together, they give a biting condemnation of a nation that has squandered its promise and which has been forced to compromise its own principles, resulting in a corrupt and undemocratic political system dominated by a single party (the fictitious "Patriotic Party", a thinly-veiled version of Egypt's National Democratic Party). The unlikely pairing of the elderly roué and the disillusioned young girl that ends the film provides a closing grace note that can be seen as a ray of hope against the death and unhappiness that has befallen the other characters.
Saturday, June 21, 7 and 9:30 p.m.
"Abduction: The Megumi Yakota Story"
United Kingdom/United States, 2006
Directed by Chris Sheridan and Patty Kim
Color. 85 min. Japanese with English subtitles.
This documentary tells the story of Megumi Yakota, a Japanese student abducted by a North Korean agent in 1977. The film is told through the eyes of Megumi's mother and father, retelling their thirty-year investigation of the facts of Megumi's abduction.
Saturday, June 28, 7 and 9:30 p.m.
Directed by Zhang-Ke Jia
Hong Kong/China, 2006
Color. 108 min. Chinese with English subtitles.
This film tells the story of Han Sanming, a coal-miner from the province of Shanxi who has returned to the city of Fengjie, near the Three Gorges Dam, in search of his wife who ran away sixteen years ago. When he is told his wife and daughter work downriver, he decides to remain in the city, working on a demolition crew, tearing down old buildings, and hoping for his wife's return. We then meet Shen Hong, a nurse also from Shanxi, in search of her husband who left her two years earlier. Enlisting the help of her husband's friends, she searches for her husband, hoping he has remained faithful during their time apart.
Saturday, July 5, 7 and 9:30 p.m.
Directed by Philippe Falardeau
Color. 106 min. French with English subtitles.
Blood diamonds, world expos, electric cars, long-lost fathers and emus. Such is the stuff of the unlikely world of surefire crowd-pleaser Congorama. Michel, an underachieving inventor trading on the name of his famous and ailing father, leads a life of unremitting frustration. So when said father reveals to Michel that he is not Belgian, but is instead an adopted Canadian, Michel finally uses one of his well-intentioned yet ultimately pointless inventions as cover for a quest to find his biological family. Ostensibly trying to sell cable deicers to the government of Québec, Michel lights in the rural hamlet of Saint-Cécile, where a series of chance encounters will change his fortunes forever. Director Philippe Falardeau's second feature playfully interweaves the implausible with the poignant to produce a uniquely satisfying wry comedy. Unlike other films that use intersecting, engineered narratives to offer pedantic views of politics or culture, Congorama uses the form towards a richer aim - humor - with tongue planted firmly in cheek. Even lead actor Olivier Gourmet, the supremely talented Belgian player associated with serious fare such as the Dardennes' The Son and The Promise, sheds his characteristically brooding persona to deliver a pitch-perfect dry comedic performance in this existential, quasi-mystical tale of transformation and invention.
Saturday, July 12, 7 and 9:30 p.m.
"Die Fälscher" (The Counterfeiters)
Directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky
Color. 98 min. German with English subtitles.
This film documents the true story of the largest counterfeiting operation in history, set up by the Nazis in 1936. Salomon Sorowitsch is the king of counterfeiters and lives a mischievous life of cards, booze and women. His luck runs dry when arrested by Superintendent Friedrich Herzog. Thrown into the Mauthausen concentration camp, Salomon exhibits exceptional skills and is soon transferred to the upgraded camp of Sachsenhausen where he again comes face to face with Herzog, there on a secret mission. Hand-picked for his unique skill, Salomon and others are forced to produce fake foreign currency. The team is given luxury barracks for their assistance. Faced with a moral dilemma, Salomon must decide whether his actions, which could prolong the war and risk the lives of fellow prisoners, are ultimately the right ones.
Saturday, July 19, 7 and 9:30 p.m.
"L'ora di religione" (The Religion Hour)
Directed by Marco Bellocchio
Color. 102 min. Italian with English subtitles.
Ernesto is a successful artist who has his life turned upside down by his family's wishes for the canonization of his murdered mother. His extreme dislike for her ignorant ways brings about a greater connection with his insane brother who killed her, while his other brothers favor her beatification. There is a struggle of wills and will power.
Saturday, July 26, 7 and 9:30 p.m.
"La Misma Luna" (Under the Same Moon)
Directed by Patricia Riggen
Color. 106 min. Spanish with English subtitles.
This film tells the parallel stories of nine-year-old Carlitos and his mother, Rosario. In the hopes of providing a better life for her son, Rosario works illegally in the U.S. while her mother cares for Carlitos back in Mexico. Unexpected circumstances drive both Rosario and Carlitos to embark on their own journeys in a desperate attempt to reunite. Along the way, mother and son face challenges and obstacles but never lose hope that they will one day be together again. Riggen's film is not only a heartwarming family story; she also offers subtle commentary on the much-debated issue of illegal immigration.
Friday, August 1, 7 and 9:30 p.m.
"O Ano em Que Meus Pais Saíram de Férias" (The Year My Parents Went on Vacation)
Directed by Cao Hamburger
Color. 104 min. Portuguese, with English subtitles.
Set in 1970, this film tells the story of Mauro Stein, the son of Daniel and Bia Stein, two political activists on the run from the military government. Unable to care for their son, the Steins leave Mauro with his grandfather, Mótel, who lives in Born Retiro, a working-class neighborhood of São Paulo inhabited mostly by Jewish families. Unfortunately, Mótel dies on the same day that Mauro arrives in the city, so Mauro is left under the care of Shlomo, a close neighbor and friend of Mótel's. Not knowing when his parents will return, Mauro befriends the members of the neighborhood, all the while anticipating the coming World Cup.
Saturday, August 2, 7 and 9:30 p.m.
"Michtavim Le America" (Dear Mr. Waldman)
Directed by Hanan Peled
Color. 90 min. Hebrew with English subtitles.
Set in the early 1960s, this film tells the story of Hilik, a ten year old boy who lives in Tel Aviv, whose goal in life is to make his parents happy and compensate for the grief and loss they suffered during the Holocaust. Moishe, Hilik's father, chooses to believe that his lost son, from his first marriage, didn't die in Auschwitz, and somehow escaped to America to become President Kennedy's assistant. As Moishe has never really accepted the fact that he is the only survivor from his family, he is sinking back to his past. Torn between his fear that his father might abandon him, and the wish to make his father happy, Hilik chooses to test his father's love, while accepting the potential risk of losing him.
Saturday, August 9, 7 and 9:30 p.m.
"Italianetz" (The Italian)
Directed by Andrei Kravchuk
Color. 99 min. Russian with English subtitles.
Vanya is a 6 year old orphan living in a rundown orphanage in a remote Russian village. For Vanya and the other children, life is without hope, unless, of course, they are adopted by wealthy foreigners. For Vanya, hope comes in the form of an Italian couple. But while arrangements are being made an incident occurs when the mother of another child appears, seeking her son. Vanya begins to wonder what would happen if his own mother reappeared, and he was living in Italy. With the assistance of older children, Vanya is able to access his records and find the possible whereabouts of his mother. He escapes and travels across the country, pursued by the adoption agents.