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Independents' Day

Where have all the good German guys gone? Lavinia Wilson is caught between a rock and a hard place in Julietta.
Beta Cinema

For founder and director J. Hunter Todd, WorldFest Houston isn't just a job, it's an adventure. And over the past 13 months, it's been even more of a cliffhanger than usual.

"Last year, we were booted out of our Galleria offices by the new management company," Todd says. "We had to move just a month before the festival started. We figured, 'Things couldn't get any worse than this.' And then, sure enough, they got worse."

Thanks to an unfortunate confluence of bankruptcies, corporate downsizings and post-9/11 economic downturns, Todd claims, he has lost approximately $280,000 in financial contributions and in-kind donations: "We lost Compaq, Perry Ellis, American, Continental -- and that little energy company downtown, you may have heard of it, called Enron." Budgets were slashed; paid staffing was cut.

So much for the bad news. The good news -- the maybe even miraculous news -- is that, on the eve of WorldFest 2002, Todd claims to have a stronger-than-usual schedule of shorts, documentaries and dramatic features. "In fact," he says, "the shorts program -- we have 136 of the suckers -- is the strongest we've ever had in the entire history of the festival."

But wait, there's more: Houston-born actress JoBeth Williams (Poltergeist, The Big Chill) is scheduled to be on hand for the festival's opening-night attraction, The Rose Technique, Jon C. Scheide's indie comedy about an offbeat psychiatrist eager to launch her own TV series. And on closing night, Dennis Hopper is expected to introduce a retrospective screening of his groundbreaking Easy Rider.

In between, Todd promises a diverse array of regional and world premieres. "When you get right down to it," he admits, "we're showing weird foreign and independent movies, most of them starring no one that anybody's ever heard of, directed by no one that anyone's ever heard of, the titles of which no one has hardly read anything, anywhere about."

But, hey, that's exactly what draws folks to a film festival. The list of then-unknown auteurs who brought their first films to WorldFest includes Ang Lee (Pushing Hands) and Joel Coen (Blood Simple). And the list of then-unknown movies that were launched after winning major WorldFest awards includes Miracle Mile, Cutter's Way, Salvador and Night on Earth. Be adventurous, and you just might discover the next big thing.

The 2002 WorldFest Houston International Film Festival unspools April 5 through 14 at the EFW Meyerland Plaza Cinema, 610 Loop at Beechnut. -- Joe Leydon

Editor's note: Not all of WorldFest Houston's films were available for screening. Below is a complete list of the feature films showing at this year's festival; some are short reviews, others offer only a synopsis. Reviews are by Lauren Kern, Dylan Otto Krider, Joe Leydon, Craig D. Lindsey and John Suval. * designates a film recommended by the Houston Press.

Alexandria Decades after moving away from Egypt, a wom-an returns home to hear her mother's story of a long-ago love affair in Maria Ilioú's romantic drama. Saturday, April 6, 9:30 p.m.; Sunday, April 7, 5 p.m.

Amnesia Dutch newcomer Martin Koolhoven's first feature is a psychological thriller about a reunion between estranged twin brothers that brings disturbing secrets from the past bubbling back to the surface. Monday, April 8, 3 p.m.; Sunday, April 14, 3 p.m.

*As Far as My Feet Will Carry Me The recounting of this real-life, three-year journey of an escaped Nazi soldier after World War II takes Clemens Forell (Bernhard Bettermann) an astounding 8,000 miles, mostly on foot, from a Siberian prison camp to his wife and children. (He has a brief affair with an Eskimo girl along the way, but what can you do?) In a brilliant stroke of storytelling, director Hardy Martins conveys the isolation of this labor camp by dwelling for some time on the train voyage there. Huddled in crowded cars, with daily rations to sustain them, many don't make it. When they finally arrive, one prisoner marvels, "No fences, no watchtowers -- where would you go, anyway?" The film lulls you into believing it's simply the story of a man wanting to go home, but the irony of Nazis in near-concentration camp conditions can't be ignored. Forell is helped on the last leg of his journey by a Polish Jew who offers not forgiveness -- he's blunt about the fact that Forell's justifications of ignorance and following orders don't cut it -- but assistance. In order to condemn, he must prove to himself that he would never make the same excuses. Saturday, April 6, and Monday, April 8, 9:30 p.m. (D.O.K.)

Be My Valentine Taiwanese filmmaker Yankee Zhou's comedy-drama deals with the complex relationship between two brothers sent to live with their aunt after the tragic deaths of their parents. Wednesday, April 10, 5 p.m.; Thursday, April 11, 7:15 p.m.  

The Big Secret A Spanish-produced animated adventure. Sunday, April 7, 5 p.m.

Briar Patch Dominique Swain, Henry Thomas and Arie Verveen head the cast of director Zen Berman's debut feature, a modern Southern Gothic tale of desperation, betrayal and murder. Monday, April 8, 7:15 p.m.; Wednesday, April 10, 9:30 p.m.

Brooklyn Family Tale Documentarian Roger Weisberg (Road Scholar) takes a look at a colorful Brooklyn clan. Saturday, April 13, 5 p.m.

*Casablanca A restored archive print of the classic World War II movie starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. Sunday, April 14, 7:15 p.m.

Children of Kosovo Visiting Hungarian documentarian Ferenc Moldovanyi offers a "personal view" of postwar Kosovo. Sunday, April 7, 5 p.m.; Friday, April 12, 5 p.m.

*Children on Their Birthdays Playwright-screenwriter Mark Medoff (Children of a Lesser God) makes his debut as a feature filmmaker with this unassumingly charming period piece based on Truman Capote's classic short story about an eventful summer in small-town Alabama, circa 1947. Thirteen-year-old Billy Bob Murphy (Joe Pinchler) develops the first major crush of his life when Lily Jane Bobbit (Tania Raymonde) moves into the rooming house next door with her mute mother. Lily Jane is a pretty and self- possessed Southern belle in the making with impeccable manners, and she expects Billy Bob to behave like a gentleman at all times. But it's hard for Billy Bob to resist the bad influence of Preacher (Jesse Plemons), his rough-and-ready best friend. And it's even more difficult for the youngster to accept the budding romance between his war-widowed mother (an atypically wholesome Sheryl Lee) and a gregarious mechanic (Christopher McDonald, also cast against type). Medoff gets some fine work from his actors -- take note of Tom Arnold's amusing oiliness as a grandiloquent con man -- and manages to transcend obvious budgetary restraints to enhance his movie with evocative period flavor and detail. All in all, a promising first effort. Now let's see Medoff try something a tad darker: like, perhaps, a film version of The Wager, his mordantly funny play about a wisenheimer graduate student who bets he can stay alive after seducing a jealous neighbor's wife. Saturday, April 6, and Thursday, April 11, 5 p.m. (J.L.)

Danny's Wish A 16-year-old cancer patient gets the chance to meet his favorite movie star, only to discover the celebrity isn't as nice as he seems. Tuesday, April 9, 5 p.m.

The Dinosaur Hunter This made-for-TV Canadian import is the kind of bland, ultrahistrionic family fare that even the Disney Channel would scoff at. Your children are more likely to be entertained by a Jurassic Park video or Golden Girls reruns on Lifetime. A starry-eyed young girl (Allison Pill) and her older brother (Bill Switzer) turn into junior paleontologists when talk of a T. Rex hits their dusty, depression-era town. A dueling pair of fossil finders, the kind-hearted Dr. Jack McCabe (Simon MacCorkindale, displaying a charisma he hasn't exhibited since his days as TV's Manimal) and the rat-bastardy Hump Hinton (Christopher Plummer, looking like MacCorkindale's hobo dad), lead the shovel-slinging charge. Did we mention that Hump has his own psychic African slave girl he occasionally bitch-slaps? (If that doesn't make you wanna load the kids into the minivan…) Adapted from a book by Pam Conrad, the movie might be tolerable or even endearing to the kiddies, but parents will be infuriated by its pathos-filled mediocrity. Friday, April 12, 5 p.m. (C.D.L.)

Dune 7 This Swiss-produced thriller, directed by Feri Hefti, follows diamond thieves as they are torn apart by greed, betrayal and lust. Tuesday, April 9, 7:15 p.m.; Wednesday, April 10, 9:30 p.m.

*Easy Rider If you're not old enough to have purchased an adult-admission ticket to Dennis Hopper's directorial debut during its original 1969 theatrical release, it may be difficult to fully appreciate its significance in the history of American cinema. Arriving at a time when some Hollywood studios were edging close to bankruptcy after the spectacular flops of many big-budget Sound of Music wanna-bes, Easy Rider demonstrated how a no-budget indie with two less-than-stellar leads (Hopper, Peter Fonda) and an unknown supporting player (Jack Nicholson) could earn rave reviews, sum up the zeitgeist, turn antiheroes into instant cultural icons and, not incidentally, make buckets of money. Call it the opening shot in the '70s cinema revolution, and you won't be far off the mark. Often imitated but rarely equaled in its time, this romanticized yet thoroughly paranoid drama about endangered free spirits during the Nixon era has, to put it charitably, not aged particularly well. Still, it's a great deal more fascinating -- and, at its best, more compelling -- than most celluloid cultural curios. And to answer the question often posed by those too young to have been there: No, the movie doesn't exaggerate all that much. If your hair was long and your attitude was iconoclastic, you really did have the right to expect the worst whenever you inadvertently rolled into some redneck stomping ground. Sunday, April 14, 7:15 p.m. (J.L.)  

Farewell to Harry Joe Flanigan, William Hall Jr. and Lysette Anthony star in Garrett Bennett's comedy-drama about a struggling writer's attempts to help a self-destructive hat-maker sustain a failing factory. Saturday, April 6, 7:15 p.m.

*Fifteen Writer-director Yohka Kusano originally shot this sentimental drama as a student project at the Japan Academy of Moving Images, so you can expect a debut feature with a few rough edges. What you might not expect is Kusano's sensitivity and maturity in telling a familiar tale -- based, he claims, on incidents from his own life -- of tragic teenage romance. Tatsuo (Tomohiro Kaku) is the discontented son of a once-famous writer, and Kanae (Maria Yanagisawa) is a wheelchair-bound beauty who loves not wisely but too often. There's not much here that you haven't seen before, but there's more than enough talent on display to impress and engross. Even if you usually avoid subtitles like Superman avoids Kryptonite, this movie is well worth the investment of 85 minutes. Wednesday, April 10, and Saturday, April 13, 7:15 p.m. (J.L.)

Film School Confidential Five college students confront the power of motion pictures in writer-director Douglas Underdahl's debut feature. Thursday, April 11, 9:30 p.m.; Friday, April 12, 3 p.m.

Florida City Ralph R. Clemente's period mystery revolves around murder and intrigue at an army air force base during the days leading up to December 7, 1941. Friday, April 12, 3 p.m.

*Going Independent No film festival would be complete without a low-budget indie feature about a filmmaker who wants to make, well, a low-budget indie feature. Robert C. Gladstone's shot-in-Houston labor of love (see "Going…Going…Gone," by Dylan Otto Krider, January 4, 2001) is a lightweight but mostly likable comedy-drama about Marty (Jason Fischer), a would-be auteur who places his directing dreams on hold while seeking a "real job" as a stockbroker. Much of the movie plays like a kinder, gentler version of Boiler Room; Marty perfects his hard-sell telephone technique under the demanding tutelage of a fire-breathing superior (Scott Jefferies) while nursing a crush on Andie (Dionne Jones), the branch office overseer. The plot appears poised for a provocative twist when, during an after-work party at The Trophy Club, Andie stares raptly at a topless dancer and asks Marty, "Haven't you ever wanted to just go for it?" But nothing comes of the wink-wink hint; Andie turns out to be conventionally straight, all the better for her to join Marty when -- you guessed it -- he leaves stockbroking to pursue moviemaking. Jones, it should be noted, also receives solo or shared credit for casting, wardrobe, story editing, continuity, screenplay, and set and costume design. Whew! Just reading that sentence makes me feel like a slacker. Monday, April 8, 3 p.m.; Tuesday, April 9, 9:30 p.m. (J.L.)

The Greatest Adventure of My Life An aging military officer (Pat Hingle) reminisces about his boyhood experiences during the Civil War in this fact-based drama directed by C. Dorian Walker. Sunday, April 7, 3 p.m.

Haute Les Coeurs A French mother-to-be discovers she has breast cancer and considers her doctor's advice to have an abortion in this drama directed by Solveig Anspach. Tuesday, April 9, and Friday, April 12, 9:30 p.m.

*Hotel Burt Reynolds is the manager of a flamenco dance troupe. Julian Sands is a failed actor-turned-tour guide and nocturnal bloodsucker. Salma Hayek is a ditsy entertainment-beat TV reporter. And, mind you, those are just a few of the recognizable names -- Hey, look, it's David Schwimmer! Omigosh, it's Lucy Liu! -- in the latest digital-video escapade directed by Mike Figgis (Timecode). Unlike his earlier DV experiment, Hotel usually gives us only one on-screen image at a time (as opposed to the four-part disharmony of Timecode). And this time out, Figgis is able to allow his actors more freedom to improvise dialogue -- though that isn't always a good thing. Then again, it's in keeping with the spirit of anything-goes weirdness in his oddball drama about a film company at work and play in a spooky-spectacular hotel on the Venice Lido. An avant-garde filmmaker (Rhys Ifans) wants to film a Jacobean revenge tragedy -- The Duchess of Malfi, no less -- but production is interrupted when the director is wounded by an assassin and left comatose. Then the really weird things -- an outbreak of vampirism among the hotel staffers, an unexplained appearance by the aforementioned flamenco troupe -- start to happen. Hotel is, quite simply, the damnedest thing you're likely to see at WorldFest this year. Monday, April 8, 9:30 p.m.; Friday, April 12, 7:15 p.m. (J.L.)  

How Harry Became a Tree Colm Meaney (Star Trek: The Next Generation) and Adrian Dunbar (Hear My Song) co-star in this Irish comedy about a hard-drinking widower who seeks a reason to live by choosing someone, anyone, to hate. Sunday, April 7, 9:30 p.m.; Thursday, April 11, 3 p.m.

Il Terzo Leone ("The Third Lion") This Italian thriller, directed by Manlio Roseano, follows a police detective's investigation into the link between the death of a respected priest and the activities of an ancient cult. Monday, April 8, 7:15 p.m.

Jane White Is Sick and Twisted A frenetic satirical comedy, written and directed by David Michael Latt, about a sheltered young woman (Kim Little) who's convinced that she's the long-estranged daughter of a Jerry Springer-like TV talk show host. Wednesday, April 9, 7:15 p.m.

Julie's Spirit In this German comedy-drama, a struggling fashion design student is asked by the ghost of a petty thief to return a stolen icon to its rightful owner. Thursday, April 11, 5 p.m.; Friday, April 12, 7:15 p.m.

*Julietta Between this and Run Lola Run, one gets the feeling decent boyfriends in Germany are as common as sobriety in October. How else can you explain a gorgeous Teuton like Julietta (Lavinia Wilson) being saddled with a choice like this? Julietta's troubles begin during a wild night at the Berlin Love Parade indulging in sex, psychedelic substances and trespassing with her philandering, cocaine-snorting boyfriend, Jiri (Matthias Koeberlin). After the couple is separated fleeing the cops, Julietta passes out in a fountain. There she is rescued from drowning by suitor no. 2, Max (Barnaby Metschurat), who is so enamored by her beauty that he takes advantage of her as she's passed out in the park. Hats off to scriptwriter Jochen Bitzer for making Max as believable a viable alternative in Julietta's eyes as is possible for someone who committed what can only be described euphemistically as "nonconsensual sex." The uncertainty of her decision is what drives this film when a pregnancy test comes back positive. Sunday, April 7, 9:30 p.m.; Monday, April 8, 5 p.m. (D.O.K.)

The King of Ratings Documentarian Doron Tsabari gets up close and personal with Dudu Topaz, the phenomenally popular Israeli TV celebrity. Tuesday, April 9, 7:15 p.m.; Wednesday, April 10, 3 p.m.

La Faute à Voltaire Abdel Kechiche's drama deals with the struggles of a recent immigrant to survive and thrive as an underpaid, underemployed laborer in France. Wednesday, April 10, and Saturday, April 13, 9:30 p.m.

Larger Than Life Filipino filmmaker Jeffrey Jeturian examines media manipulation and exploitation in this drama about a movie director who, desperate for a comeback, finds material for a sure-fire hit: a lurid tabloid story about a pig farmer who rapes his own daughter and granddaughter. Saturday, April 13, 9:30 p.m.

*The Last Place on Earth Writer/director James Slocum was last represented at WorldFest with An American Summer (1991), a modestly engaging sun-and-fun teen frolic based very loosely on Tom Sawyer. But The Last Place on Earth, Slocum's sophomore feature, appears to be inspired by a somewhat less distinguished novel: Erich Segal's Love Story. An uptight bank executive (Dana Ashbrook) and a spirited caterer (Tisha Campbell-Martin) meet while the banker is driving from L.A. to the Sierra coastline to scatter his late mother's ashes. Snippy bickering gradually leads to passionate lovemaking, but when the banker impulsively proposes, the caterer admits that she isn't long for this world…Beautiful cinematography and charismatic performances are the main attractions here. But the movie also merits attention for another reason: It's an inter-racial romance -- he's white, she's black -- but no one ever mentions race. Love means never having to say you're ethnocentric. Saturday, April 6, and Thursday, April 11, 7:15 p.m. (J.L.)

The Last Supper (Or, How Two Madmen Made a Film) In this Slovenian-produced dark comedy, two inhabitants of a mental institution, Tinek and Hugo, steal a camcorder from a doctor's office and escape with the intention of making a movie. Sunday, April 7, 9:30 p.m.; Thursday, April 11, 3 p.m.

*La Tropical Recent documentaries like Buena Vista Social Club and Calle 54 have proven that Latin music is a bountiful and intriguing subject for celluloid chronicling. Photojournalist David Turnley follows in that trend, but his film does more than trace the music's rich history -- it takes on the weight of a captivating, emotional ensemble drama. Focusing on La Tropical, a legendary open-air dance hall in Havana, this documentary, shot on black-and-white video, trains it lens on the working-class men and women who make it a priority to come to the club and dance their years of social, racial and political strife away. Turnley finds a bevy of distinctive players: the 77-year-old woman who doesn't mind dancing alone in the rain, the lead singer who composes tunes like "I'm the Dude Who Fucks You Good" (sample lyrics: "At five o'clock in the morning / Ram it! / On the terrace of your house / Ram it!"), the young man with a "nervous" mother and a girlfriend whose parents want her to marry someone less underprivileged. Turnley captures it all with the stark honesty you'd expect from a guy with a Pulitzer Prize in his back pocket. But most important, this film shows that even when you don't have anything, you'll always have rhythm -- and that's something the rich folks will never have. Monday, April 8, 9:30 p.m. (C.D.L.)  

Mariken An award-winning Dutch-Belgian children's film. Tuesday, April 9, 9:30 p.m.; Friday, April 12, 5 p.m.

Mile Zero A newly divorced father tries to bond with his son during a wilderness trek through the Rocky Mountains in director Andrew Currie's drama. Saturday, April 6, 9:30 p.m.; Tuesday, April 9, 5 p.m.

No Turning Back This has got to be the most cheerily made depressing movie to come along in ages; it's as if Sean Penn's The Crossing Guard was drained of all its pain and sorrow. A Honduran immigrant (Jesus Nebot, who also produced, co-wrote and co-directed the film), living illegally in California, accidentally hits a little white girl with his car and flees the scene. With his showbiz-savvy daughter (Chelsea Rendon, laying on the precociousness like a seasoned vet) in tow and an obnoxious, camera-wielding journalist (Lindsay Price) along for the ride, he attempts to make a run for Canada while hiding in plain sight. The well-meaning yet melodramatic film seems especially chipper when it wheels out clichéd characters like the gruff, grudge-carrying black cop and her new partner, an optimistic Native American named Steven Lightning. But it redeems itself with a few scenes that remind you of the heartbreaking seriousness of the situation. Unfortunately, you can see the climax coming up the street as if it were looking for a place to park. Sunday, April 7, 7:15 p.m.; Monday, April 8, 3 p.m. (C.D.L.)

Oil Children Documentarian Ebrahim Forouzesh examines life in the Iranian city of Masjed Soleyman, better known as the "city of pipelines." Tuesday, April 9, 5 p.m.; Thursday, April 11, 5 p.m.

One Eyed King Remember Sleepers, the 1996 Barry Levinson flick starring Brad Pitt, Billy Crudup, Jason Patric and Kevin Bacon? Consider One Eyed King the same song, second verse. This time around, the archetypal five friends from Hell's Kitchen don't get sexually abused at juvie and end up in a courtroom drama. These guys simply hang around "the neighborhood," getting drunk, chasing skirts, singing songs, betting on baskets, robbing safes and generally looking out for one another. When one of them gets knocked off under suspicious circumstances, Frankie (William Baldwin) sets out to find his friend's killer. The fact that it takes him half the movie to figure out that the murder might have had something to do with the mean old neighborhood mob boss, Holly, is ridiculous. Armand Assante, who won an Emmy for playing John Gotti on HBO, is believably menacing as the wiseguy. And Connie Britton (Brothers McMullen, Spin City) is sympathetic as the neighborhood girl who wants out of the life (dammit, they keep pulling her back in). But with name actors and millions of dollars in his budget, writer/director Bobby Moresco could have done better. Thursday, April 11, 7:15 p.m.; Saturday, April 13, 9:30 p.m. (L.K.)

Out of the Black Tyler Christopher, Tom Atkins and Sally Kirkland star in Karl Kozak's drama about brothers intent on unraveling the mystery surrounding the coal mine explosion that killed their father. Wednesday, April 10, 3 p.m.; Friday, April 12, 9:30 p.m.

Rediscovering George Washington Director Michael Pack paints a revisionist documentary portrait of the first U.S. president. Wednesday, April 10, 5 p.m.

*Return to Belaye: A Rite of Passage Can a documentary penetrate the mysteries of a rite that changes its male celebrants in deep, unseen ways? Amy Flannery is too intelligent a filmmaker to try. This documentary follows Flannery's Senegalese husband, Papis Goudiaby, back to his birthplace for his people's traditional initiation into manhood. Rather than simply casting a dispassionate eye on ancient customs, however, the highly personal film uses that engrossing story line to examine the complex dimensions of a cross-cultural marriage. Flannery employs startling juxtapositions -- cutting from their Washington, D.C., home to Goudiaby's West African village -- to highlight the vast physical and emotional distances this perceptive couple has traveled. As the initiation approaches amid a sumptuous whirl of elaborate customs and celebrations, Flannery faces her own fears that her beloved husband will return unrecognizable from the forest rite that is strictly off-limits to women. Monday, April 8, 5 p.m. (J.S.)  

*The Rhino Brothers Director Dwayne John Beaver's feature film debut tackles the world of Canadian hockey through the lives of three brothers: an ex-pro player, a struggling minor-leaguer and the leader of a local amateur team called the Rhinos. Manipulating them all is their mother, Ellen Kanachowski, an aggressive, chain-smoking, hockey-obsessed nutcase. Gabrielle Rose (The Sweet Hereafter, The Five Senses) is phenomenal in the role, portraying in quick succession the drive of a coach, the pride of a mother, the jealousy of a mother-in-law and the desperation of a woman whose life has spun out of her control. The film may be named after the brothers, but the male characters in the movie mostly just grunt and skate and fight. The women are far more subtle and interesting in their struggles to protect and promote their husbands and boyfriends and sons. One touching scene has the Rhinos rolling through the streets in the back of a pickup, pathetically collecting bottles and aluminum cans to support a team the town no longer cares about. Most impressive, Beaver doesn't feel the need to force a happy ending. Wednesday, April 10, 7:15 p.m.; Friday, April 12, 3 p.m. (L.K.)

The Rose Technique A paint-by-number indie that wants to convince you it's too edgy for the mainstream, but don't be fooled. Self-help guru Dr. Lillian Rose's (JoBeth Williams) penchant for smacking people with a baseball bat and cutting off their ears and fingers does not pack the punch of an Eating Raoul or a Delicatessen, or even a Serial Mom. Nor do Rose's conversations with her mannequin friend have quite the panache of Norman Bates's rants with mother. And unlike The House of Yes, where the main character's obsession with Jackie O makes a strange sort of sense in her wacked-out universe, here such quirkiness comes off as merely stupid. There might be some gold to mine in the idea of a radio psychologist in desperate need of therapy, but writer/producer Ray Stroeber doesn't seem to realize that the insane disturb us not when they are preposterous but when they come inches from convincing us they're sane. In one promising scene, Rose inexplicably sends a young protégé who has recently had all his fingers amputated to "take care of" a snooping reporter. Just as you start to ponder the mechanics of this, a hilarious fight ensues in which the boy uses his bandaged stumps like boxing gloves. Unlike too many of the scenes in this film, this moment is far too short. Friday, April 5, 7:15 p.m.; Friday, April 12, 9:30 p.m. (D.O.K.)

Samia Moroccan-born filmmaker Philippe Faucon focuses on the rebellion of an adolescent girl who is suffocated by the rigid traditions and rules of her North African family in southern France. Tuesday, April 9, 7:15 p.m.; Wednesday, April 10, 3 p.m.

Stand-By This French drama, directed by Roch Stephanik, is about a woman devastated by her lover's announcement of his plans to leave her just minutes before their scheduled flight to Buenos Aires. Monday, April 8, 7:15 p.m.; Thursday, April 11, 9:30 p.m.

Terror from Within Jason Van Fleet directs a timely documentary about domestic terrorism in the United States. Saturday, April 6, 5 p.m.

*Tom Jones Winner of the 1963 Academy Award for Best Picture, Tony Richardson's boisterous adaptation of Henry Fielding's picaresque novel is justly famous for a hilarious scene that makes sharing a late-night chicken dinner seem like the sexiest thing two people could do with their clothes on. More important, this frolicking film turned Albert Finney -- dead-solid perfect in the title role as an upwardly mobile rake who woos and wenches his way through 18th-century England -- into an international star. Susannah York, Diane Cilento and a very young Lynn Redgrave are among the lovelies who cross his path during his romantic ramblings. But if you're not the literary type, be forewarned: This film isn't about the guy who sings "It's Not Unusual" and "What's New, Pussycat?" Sunday, April 14, 5 p.m. (J.L.)

Tout Va Bien On S'en Va In Claude Mouriéras's comedy-drama, three sisters (Miou Miou, Sandrine Kiberlian and Natacha Regnier) who operate a dance school in Lyon are less than thrilled when their father (Michel Piccoli) returns after a 15-year absence. Saturday, April 13, 7:15 p.m.; Sunday, April 14, 5 p.m.

Under the Influence Director Eric Gardner's debut feature is a romantic thriller about a personal injury lawyer (Peter Greene) accused of murder when his lover (Camilla Overbye Roos) accidentally kills an innocent bystander in a staged accident. Friday, April 12, 7:15 p.m.; Saturday, April 13, 5 p.m.

Under the Stars This uneven but intriguing first feature by London-born filmmaker Christos Georgiou is a road movie with a unique itinerary. By focusing on the odyssey of Lukas (Akis Sakellariou), a Greek-Cypriot who longs to visit his hometown in the Turkish-held north of Cyprus, Georgiou attempts to illuminate the sociopolitical and psychological scars that remain in Europe's last divided country. Myrto Alikaki steals every scene that isn't nailed to the floor as Phoebe, a wily smuggler who agrees to escort Lukas across the Greek-Turkish border. Phoebe is endlessly resourceful and, more important, a convincing liar. The latter attribute comes in handy as she talks her way past security guards and curious civilians, so Lukas can once more see the seaside town he fled during the 1974 Turkish invasion. Sunday, April 7, 7:15 p.m.; Tuesday, April 9, 3 p.m. (J.L.)  

Unspeakable One doubts Houston pain specialist Pavan Grover would have gotten very far if he hadn't put up $7 million of his own money (see "Script Doctor," by Dylan Otto Krider, January 17). Yet with the financing in place, what could have been the celluloid equivalent of vanity publishing became a full-fledged Hollywood production. Dennis Hopper plays an over-the-top villainous prison warden opposite idealistic attorney Lance Henriksen (Aliens, Millennium) and sleazy judge Jeff Fahey (Lawnmower Man), with director of photography Antonio Calvache (In the Bedroom) signed on for good measure. But it's Dina Meyer (Starship Troopers) who puts the most into her performance. Director Thomas Wright (X-Files, Dark Angel) is the right guy to helm this sci-fi horror film about a serial killer (played by Grover) and brain-burrowing parasites. In spite of -- or perhaps because of -- revisions made to Grover's script by Buckaroo Banzai writer Earl Mac Rauch, the plot is hard to follow. It's never clear how these mind-altering worms are transferred, and what, if anything, they have to do with a revelation about the killer's psychic abilities. Still, Grover's first effort in front of the camera is not terribly embarrassing. This is no blockbuster, but heck, it's at least a Sci Fi Channel original movie. Thursday, April 11, 9:30 p.m.; Saturday, April 13, 7:15 p.m. (D.O.K.)

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory Gene Wilder stars in this bright and lively 1971 musical film version of Roald Dahl's classic children's book. Saturday, April 6, 3 p.m.; Monday, April 8, 5 p.m.

*The Wizard of Oz Wizard was something of a box-office fizzle back in 1939 and attained its status as a pop-culture masterwork only after decades of TV reruns, so it's a special treat to see this beloved fantasy up on the big screen, where it belongs. WorldFest reportedly has obtained a newly restored print, so Dorothy and her friends will look better than ever. But if you really want to see the classic in a new light, consider the comments of Salman Rushdie -- yes, that Salman Rushdie -- who reappraised the movie in a 2000 essay. In Rushdie's view, it's "a film whose driving force is the inadequacy of adults, even of good adults; a film that shows us how the weakness of grown-ups forces children to take control of their own destinies, and so, ironically, grow up themselves." But even Rushdie doesn't hazard an answer to the movie's great unanswered question: What will happen when that bitchy Miss Gulch shows up again to take Toto on a one-way trip to the pound? Saturday, April 6, 7:15 p.m. (J.L.)

Zelimo Siberian-born filmmaker Aleks Rosenberg's debut feature focuses on a young Russian émigré who recalls the tragic events that brought him to America. Sunday, April 7, 7:15 p.m.; Tuesday, April 9, 3 p.m.


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