THE ALZHEIMER CASE
(Erik Van Looy, Belgium)
Synopsis: Even as cops are on the hunt of killers involved in a scandalous sex-crime ring, an old hitman suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer’s is enacting his own form of vengeance. Pic is among the 10 best-grossing Flemish films in history.
Cast: Jan Decleir, Koen De Bouw, Werner de Smedt
Festivals: Toronto, Flanders
Prizes: Audience award, Flanders; best film, director, actor, screenplay, Belgian film industry awards
Sales: The Works
(Gotz Spielmann, Austria)
Synopsis: Betrayal, jealousy and erotic tension fill the stories of three emotionally wounded couples in an austere housing estate.
Cast: Petra Morze, Andreas Patton, Hary Prinz
Festivals: Locarno, Toronto, Pusan
U.S. distrib: Film Movement
AS IN HEAVEN
(Kay Pollak, Sweden)
Synopsis: After having an emotional breakdown, a world-class conductor returns to his northern Sweden hometown, and begins leading the local choir. Pollak’s film, his first in 18 years, has been a top B.O. hit in Sweden since its September release.
Cast: Michael Nyquist, Frida Hallgren, Helen Sjoholm
Sales: Sonet Film AB
BENEATH HER WINDOW
(Metod Pevec, Slovenia)
Synopsis: A dramatic comedy that explores a woman’s pre-midlife crisis and its effect on her eccentric friends and family. This marks writer-director Pevec’s return after an eight-year absence.
Cast: Polona Juh, Marjana Brecelj, Sasa Tabakovic
Festivals: Karlovy Vary, Flanders, Pusan, Warsaw Screenings, London, Reyjavik
Prizes: Actress (Juh), supporting actress (Brecelj), screenplay, best film, Slovenian film critics
Sales: MDC Intl. Media Distribution
(Christophe Barratier, France)
Synopsis: A teacher at a reform school for orphaned and troubled boys organizes a choral group that challenges assumptions that the boys are hopeless cases. Pic was France’s runaway 2004 B.O. hit.
Cast: Gerard Jugnot, Francois Berleand, Kad Merad
Festivals: Karlovy Vary, Toronto, Chicago
U.S. distrib: Miramax
(Joseph Cedar, Israel)
Synopsis: In 1981, during the early wave of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, a 42-year-old widow, with two reluctant teen daughters, wishes to join a settlement group until an emotionally damaging scandal hits close to home. Cedar’s only previous feature, “Time of Favor,” similarly examined dark corners of Zionism and was Israel’s Oscar submission in 2000.
Cast: Michaela Eshet, Hani Furstenberg, Maya Maron
Festivals: Berlin, Vancouver, AFI Los Angeles
Prizes: Special mention, Berlin; Fipresci, Chicago; Israeli Academy Awards (film, director, screenplay, supporting actress, editing)
Sales: Cinema Production
(Hilmar Oddsson, Iceland)
Synopsis: A 40-year-old loner in Reykjavik constantly relives memories of the hardship and love of his childhood — and especially his gift for seeing the future through drawing. Oddsson’s first feature in six years.
Cast: Ingvar E. Sigurdsson, Aslakur Ingvarsson, Kristbjorg Kjeld
Festivals: Gothenburg, Berlin, Philadelphia, Karlovy Vary, Montreal, Vancouver, Warsaw Screenings
Sales: Media Luna Entertainment
(Sebastian Cordero, Ecuador)
Synopsis: A Miami reporter investigates an unsolved wave of child killings in an Ecuadorian coastal town by a serial murderer, but his desire for a scoop ensnares him in a terrible ethical dilemma. John Leguizamo’s first all-Spanish role.
Cast: Leguizamo, Leonor Watling, Damian Alcazar
Festivals: Cannes, Toronto, San Sebastian
Prizes: Alcazar won Horizons Award (Special Mention), San Sebastian
U.S. distrib: Palm Pictures
(Mark Meily, Philippines)
Synopsis: A comic melodrama about three women hired to be professional mourners in Manila’s Chinatown district. Pic has been marketed along lines of many Bollywood movies, screening locally as well as in targeted situations in the U.S.
Cast: Sharon Cuneta, Hilda Koronel, Angel Aquino
Festivals: Metro Manila, Montreal
Prizes: Best film, Metro Manila
U.S. distrib: Unico Entertainment
DAYS AND HOURS
(Pjer Zalica, Bosnia-Herzegovina)
Synopsis: Unexpected things happen when a son visits his parents in a Sarajevo neighborhood to fix their water heater. Zalica’s debut feature, “Fuse,” was Bosnia’s 2003 Oscar entry.
Cast: Senad Basic, Mustafa Nadarevic, Semka Sokolovic
Sales: Refresh Prods.
(Oliver Hirschbiegel, Germany)
Synopsis: As Nazi Germany is about to fall to invading Soviet and American forces, Adolf Hitler and his loyal cadre burrow in a Berlin bunker to consider their options. Producer Bernd Eichinger based his script on Joachim Fest’s highly acclaimed history, “Inside Hitler’s Bunker” and Hitler secretary Traudl Junge’s memoir, “Until the Final Hour.”
Cast: Bruno Ganz, Alexandra Maria Lara, Corinna Harfouch
Sales: EOS Distribution
EARTH AND ASHES
(Atiq Rahimi, Afghanistan)
Synopsis: An elderly man and his grandson trek across Afghanistan to find the boy’s father and tell him of the wartime destruction of their village. Pic is Rahimi’s narrative feature debut, based on his novel.
Cast: Abdul Ghani, Jawan Mard Homayoun, Walli Tallosh
Festivals: Cannes, Toronto, Pusan
Prizes: Prix du Regard vers l’Avenir, Cannes; Fipresci, Films From the South Fest (Oslo)
Sales: Mercure Intl.
FAR SIDE OF THE MOON
(Robert Lepage, Canada)
Synopsis: Obsessed with space and space travel but failing at life, nebbishy Philippe clashes with sibling Andre, who’s a superficial TV weatherman. Le-page writes and directs, based on
his one-man play, and plays the roles of both brothers.
Cast: Robert Lepage, Anne-Marie Cadieux, Marco Poulin
Festivals: Montreal (2003), Toronto (2003), Vancouver (2003), Berlin, Moscow, AFI Los Angeles
Prizes: Fipresci, Berlin; Canadian Genie, adapted screenplay
Sales: Max Films Intl.
THE FIVE OBSTRUCTIONS
(Jorgen Leth/Lars von Trier, Denmark)
Synopsis: Lars von Trier challenges the dean of Danish nonfiction film Jorgen Leth to remake his ’60s classic, “The Perfect Human,” in five different styles and modes and under seemingly impossible restrictions. Pic is the only nonfiction work in this year’s foreign Oscar field.
Festivals: Toronto (2003), Sundance, Gothenburg, Motovun, Hong Kong, Vancouver
Prizes: Fipresci, Motovun
U.S. distrib: Koch Lorber
(Ljubisa Samardzic, Serbia and Montenegro)
Synopsis: A farmboy returns from WWI to court a lovely peasant girl, but turns to drink when his hopes are crushed — only to be tempted by a marriage offer from a rich family. Samardzic is a popular actor-director-producer in Serbia and Montenegro.
Cast: Branislav Trifunovic, Marija Karan, Kalina Kovacevic
Prizes: Golden Mimosa, Herceg Novi film festival
Sales: Cinema Design/Hemofarm
THE GREAT WATER
(Ivo Trajkov, Macedonia)
Synopsis: A dying politician recalls his boyhood spent as an orphan surviving in a Stalinist prison camp in postwar Macedonia thanks to the aid of a spiritually gifted older boy. Trajkov employed Mykolo Heyko, famed for his casting skills with children (foreign Oscar-winner “Kolya”) to cast pic’s numerous and demanding child roles.
Cast: Saso Kekenovski, Maja Stankovska, Mitko Apostlovski
Festivals: AFI Los Angeles, Cameraimage
Sales: Media Luna Entertainment
(Erik Poppe, Norway)
Synopsis: Fate and coincidence on the hottest day of the year in Oslo are felt in the intersecting lives of 12 people, all of them coming to terms with their needs for love and affection. Pic is the second part of Poppe’s Oslo Trilogy, which began with his 1999 debut film, “Schpaaa.”
Cast: Trond Espen Seim, Jan Gunnar Roise, Evy Kasseth Rosten
Festivals: Haugesund Film Festival
Awards: Norwegian Critics Award, Ecumenical Award, Haugesund
Sales: Trust Film Sales
HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS
(Zhang Yimou, China)
Synopsis: A passionate love triangle involving a shadowy rebel army and double agents turns fatal amid surprising identities and betrayals. Features ferocious, balletic martial arts action. Zhang’s second wuxia, or martial arts, epic in a row (after “Hero”) uniting top stars of China, Hong Kong and Japan.
Cast: Zhang Ziyi, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Andy Lau
Festivals: Cannes, Telluride, Toronto, Vienna, New York, AFI Los Angeles, London
Prizes: Art direction, Golden Rooster (China)
U.S. distrib: Sony Pictures Classics
I LOVE CINEMA
(Osama Fawzy, Egypt)
Synopsis: Amid political turmoil, a young boy in 1960s Cairo is seduced by the movies while living under the fanaticism of his conservative Christian father. Screenwriter Hani Fawzi has drawn on childhood memories for the drama, which has elicited intense local debate.
Cast: Youssef Osman, Mahmoud Hemida, Laila Eloui
Sales: El Arabeya Co.
(Luis Mandoki, Mexico)
Synopsis: A resourceful young boy endures the increasingly violent Salvadoran civil war in the 1980s. This is Mandoki’s return to Mexico-based production after more than a decade in Hollywood.
Cast: Carlos Padilla, Leonor Varela, Ofelia Medina
Festivals: Toronto, AFI Los Angeles
Sales: Lions Gate Films
THE KEYS TO THE HOUSE
(Gianni Amelio, Italy)
Synopsis: Meeting his disabled teenage son for the first time at a Berlin rehab hospital, , a father struggles to create a relationship with the boy. Amelio’s fourth film submitted to the Oscar race, after “Open Doors” (1990), “The Stolen Children” (1992) and “Lamerica” (1994).
Cast: Kim Rossi Stuart, Andrea Rossi, Charlotte Rampling
Festivals: Venice, Toronto, London
Prizes: CinemAvvenire award for best film, Pasinetti awards (film, actor), Sergio Trasatti award, Venice
U.S. distrib: Lions Gate
(Nimrod Antal, Hungary)
Synopsis: A young man and eccentric woman find love and adventure as ticket inspectors in Budapest’s nearly uncontrol-
lable subway system.
Cast: Sandor Badar, Eszter Balla, Sandor Csanyi
Festivals: Hungarian Film Week, Cannes, Karlovy Vary, Cottbus, Telluride, Toronto, Vancouver, Chicago, Warsaw Screenings
Prizes: Prix de la Jeunesse, Cannes; Gold Hugo, Chicago; Gene Moskowitz Critics award,
Hungarian Film Week; Fipresci, Cottbus
U.S. distrib: Think Film
A LEGENDARY LOVE
(Saw Teong Hin, Malaysia)
Synopsis: Epic account of the tragic romance in the late 15th century between a Javanese princess and Malay warrior Hang Tuah. Pic by first-timer helmer Teong is the largest production in Malaysian film history. Premiered in Venice under title “The Princess of Mount Ledang.”
Cast: Tiara Jacquelina, M. Nasir, Adlin Aman Ramlie
Festivals: Venice, Stockholm
Sales: Rossellini & Associates
LONG DARK NIGHT
(Antun Vrdoljak, Croatia)
Synopsis: Vet helmer Vrdoljak’s drama about the WWII battles waged by Croatian anti-Fascists against Nazi occupiers.
Cast: Goran Visnjic
Prizes: Best film, director, screenplay, actor, music, Pula festival
Sales: Mediteran Film HRT
A LOST EMBRACE
(Daniel Burman, Argentina)
Synopsis: A young man tries to come to terms with the absence — and sudden return — of his long-lost father in a comedy set in a colorful Buenos Aires shopping mall.
Cast: Daniel Hendler, Adriana Aizemberg, Jorge D’Elia
Festivals: Berlin, Warsaw Screenings, Pusan, Sao Paolo, London, Lleida
Prizes: Actor (Hendler), Jury Grand Prize, Berlin; best film, director, screenplay, Lleida
U.S. distrib: New Yorker Films
(Andres Wood, Chile)
Synopsis: In a Santiago school run by a progressive priest during the Allende era, two boys — one from a middle-class family, the other from a shantytown — form an unlikely bond, until political unrest tears them apart. Inspired by Wood’s memories as a boy during Chile’s tumultuous ’70s .
Cast: Matias Quer, Ariel Mateluna, Manuela Martelli
Festivals: Cannes, Edinburgh, Montreal, Pusan, Sao Paulo, San Francisco, Vancouver, AFI Los Angeles
Prizes: Audience award, Vancouver
U.S. distrib: Menemsha
MEIN NAME IST BACH
(Dominique de Rivaz, Switzerland)
Synopsis: In 1747, an ornery J.S. Bach confronts young egotistical Frederick the Great while the king’s sister and the composer’s son are carrying on an affair. Vivienne Westwood served as consultant for the film’s extensive array of costumes.
Cast: Vadim Glowna, Jurgen Vogel, Anatole Taubman
Festivals: Locarno (2003), Seattle
Prizes: Best fiction film, Swiss Film Prize
Sales: Bavaria Film Intl.
MILA FROM MARS
(Zornitsa Sophia, Bulgaria)
Synopsis: During the course of her unwanted pregnancy, a punk orphan finds herself amid elderly villagers. This is Sophia’s well-reviewed feature debut.
Cast: Vesela Kazakova, Assen Blatechki, Lyubomir Popov
Festivals: Sofia, Sarajevo,
Pusan, Warsaw Screenings, Mannheim
Prizes: Best regional film, Sarajevo
Sales: All Things Production
THE MIRACLE ACCORDING TO SALOME
(Mario Barroso, Portugal)
Synopsis: A beautiful prostitute is able to retire with the help of a wealthy banker, but her change of life soon leads to tragedy. Barroso, who does his own lensing here, has been a longtime ace cinematographer for Manoel De Oliveira and Joao Cesar Monteiro.
Cast: Nicolau Breyner, Ana Bandera, Ricardo Pereira
Sales: Madragoa Films
(Timur Bekmambetov, Russia)
Synopsis: A centuries-old balance of power is threatened with the seeming fulfillment of an ancient prophecy that a gifted humanwill unleash global chaos. One of Russia’s costliest productions “Matrix”-like fantasy/horror/cop thriller is also Russia’s all-time B.O. champ (north of $15 million). Pic is first in a trilogy, with third part to be shot in English and co-produced by Fox. Selection raised concerns about cronyism, since one of pic’s stars, Vladimir Menshov, is president of the nomination body.
Cast: Konstantin Khabensky, Vladimir Menshov, Viktor Verzhbitsky
U.S. distrib: Fox Searchlight
(Hirokazu Kore-eda, Japan)
Synopsis: Four children are abandoned by their mother and left to fend for themselves in a Tokyo apartment. Based on a 1988 case of four abandoned kids who had never attended school.
Cast: Yuya Yagira, Ayu Kitaura, You
Festivals: Cannes, Telluride, Toronto, Vancouver, Chicago, Flanders, Pusan, London
Prizes: Actor (Yagira), Cannes; Golden Spur, Flanders
U.S. distrib: IFC Films
(Jayme Monjardim, Brazil)
Synopsis: Biopic covers the tempestuous life of international Communist militant Olga Benario, from her upbringing in Germany to a failed revolution in Brazil, a love affair and death in the Nazi concentration camps. Based on Fernando Morais’ bestselling biography and vet TV Globo helmer Monjardim’s big-screen debut, pic was a local B.O. smash.
Cast: Camila Morgado, Caco Ciocler, Fernanda Montenegro
Sales: Globo Filmes
THE OLIVE HARVEST
(Hanna Elias, Palestine)
Synopsis: Two brothers — one just freed from Israeli prison — are caught in a love triangle involving a beautiful woman in their village, located next to an Israeli settlement encroaching on a cherished olive grove. Production used a Palestinian cast and an Israeli crew, and was mainly financed by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Kamran Elahian.
Cast: Raeda Adon, Mazen Saade, Taher Najeeb
Festivals: San Francisco (2003), Jerusalem (2003), AFI Los Angeles (2003)
Sales: Jarmaq Films
(Sergiu Nicolaescu, Romania)
Synopsis:An elderly and eccentric prince retires to his castle, but despite his attempts to be reclusive, he affects the lives of neighboring villagers. Pic marks 74-year-old Nicolaescu’s 45th feature as director and 28th as an actor in his own film.
Cast: Sergiu Nicolaescu, Gheorghe Dinica, Maia Morgenstern
Sales: Ro De Film
(Itthi-sunthorn Wichailak, Thailand)
Synopsis: Disobeying his father’s edict not to play the xylophone, young Sorn develops his remarkable gift as a player, catapulting him to the royal court.
Cast: Anuchit Saphanphong, Adul Dulyarat, Arratee Tanmahapran
Festivals: Toronto, Pusan, London
Sales: Fortissimo Films
(Aleksi Salmenpera, Finland)
Synopsis: A psychologist at a fertility clinic desires children, but her speed-skater boyfriend just as strongly resists the idea leading them on a collision course. Pic is Salmenpera’s first feature after a string of award-winning shorts.
Cast: Minna Haappkyla, Kari-Pekka Toivone, Minttu Mustakallio
Festivals: Haugesund, Toronto, AFI Los Angeles
U.S. distrib: Wolfe Releasing
PUNTO Y RAYA
(Elia Schneider, Venezuela)
Synopsis: A Venezuelan drug dealer is arrested and dumped into the army’s border patrol
unit, where he gets involved in an adventure with a soldier from the Colombian army.
Cast: Roque Valero, Edgar Ramirez, Ramiro Meneses
Festivals: Los Angeles Latino Festival, Bogota, Biarritz, Sao Paolo
Prizes: Best film, director, Bogota; best film, Los Angeles Latino
Sales: Cinema Management Group
REVOLUTION OF PIGS
(Jaak Kilmi/Rene Reinumagi, Estonia)
Synopsis: With changing politics and hormones in the air, youth at a massive summer camp in 1986 rebelagainst their Communist party adult supervisors. Pic marks feature debut for both writer-helmers Kilmi and Reinumagi.
Cast: Jass Seljamaa, Evelin Kuusik, Lilian Alto
Festivals: Moscow, Pusan, Warsaw Screenings, AFI Los Angeles
Prize: Special Jury Prize, Moscow
Sales: Estonian Film Foundation
(Antonio Dorado, Colombia)
Synopsis: The chronicle of Pedro Rey, founder of Colombian narco-trafficking in the ’60s, who collaborates with Peace Corps volunteers to build an empire based on cocaine. Rey is loosely based on drug kingpin Jaime “El Grillo” Calcedo. Pic, Colombia’s top-grosser in 2004, was the last submission announced by the Acad when “Maria Full of Grace” was rejected on technical grounds.
Cast: Fernando Solorzano, Cristina Umana, Olivier Pages
Festivals: Havana, Montreal, Huelva
Prizes: Best film, Bogota festival
THE SEA INSIDE
(Alejandro Amenabar, Spain)
Synopsis: Parapalegic Ramon Sampedro’s efforts to end his life with dignity take an unexpected turn with the entrance of two women in his life. As with his Oscar-nominated portrayal of Reinaldo Arenas in “Before Night Falls,” Javier Bardem plays a real-life figure.
Cast: Bardem, Belen Rueda, Lola Duenas
Festivals: Venice, Toronto, AFI Los Angeles
Prizes: Silver Lion Jury Prize (actor), Young Cinema Award, Venice
U.S. distrib: Fine Line Features
(Sandeep Sawant, India)
Synopsis: The tale of the bonds that develop between an older man and his grandson, who suffers from a rare cancer of the eyes. Produced on a microscopic budget and based on a true story, pic is India’s first Oscar entry lensed in the Marathi language.
Cast: Arun Nalawade, Ashwin Chitale, Sandeep Kulkarni
Prizes: Golden Lotus (best film), Indian National film awards
U.S. distrib: Kathi Arts
(Eddy Terstall, the Netherlands)
Synopsis: A comedy of manners involving the unlikely relationship between a streetwise heterosexual hash dealer and a timid gay dental student.
Cast: Cees Geel, Daan Ekkel, Eva Duijvenstein
Prizes: Best film, director, actor audience award, Netherlands
Sales: Spaghetti Film
TAE GUK GI
(Kang Je-gyu, South Korea)
Synopsis: Two loving brothers are thrust into the Korean War in the 1950s, and undergo a radical transformation. Breaking Korean film industry records for budget and B.O., pic contains battle scenes that required more than 25,000 extras.
Cast: Jang Dong-Kun, Won Bin, Lee Eun-ju
Prizes: Grand Bell Awards (South Korean film industry), cinematography, art direction, sound effects
U.S. distrib: Destination Films/Samuel Goldwyn Films
A TOUCH OF SPICE
(Tassos Boulmetis, Greece)
Synopsis: A Greek astrophysicist who’s an ace cook travels to his Turkish birthplace for a reunion with his grandfather and first love, and is reminded of the magic of spices as well as life lessons from his youth. The top-grossing film in Greek B.O. history.
Cast: George Corraface, Tamer Karadagh, Tassos Bandis
Festivals: Thessaloniki, Tribeca, Karlovy Vary
Prizes: Variety Critics Choice; best film and nine other awards, Thessaloniki
Sales: Capitol Films
TURTLES CAN FLY
(Bahman Ghobadi, Iran)
Synopsis: In a Kurdish
refugee camp on the Iraq-Turkey border on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, a young boy leads a group of children to collect and sell unexploded land mines, but soon gets involved in the life of a troubled, near-suicidal girl. Ghobadi’s third feature is the first to depict the lives of people in Iraq at the time of the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s regime.
Cast: Soran Ebrahim, Hirsh Feyssai, Avaz Latif
Festivals: Toronto, San Sebastian, Pusan
Prizes: Golden Seashell, San Sebastian
U.S. distrib: IFC Films
UP AND DOWN
(Jan Hrebejk, Czech Republic)
Synopsis: The dilemmas faced by refugees in contemporary Europe wind through the lives of a liberal Czech couple and a childless husband and wife. Hrebejk
has been to the Oscar nomination round before, with his acclaimed “Divided We Fall.”
Cast: Petr Forman, Emila Vasaryova, Jan Triska
Festivals: Telluride, Toronto, Vancouver, Warsaw Screenings, Pusan
U.S. distrib: Sony Pictures Classics
(Magdalena Piekorz, Poland)
Synopsis: A 12-year-old boy beaten by his bitter widower father grows up to be an emotionally damaged journalist whose favorite escape is exploring caves. Scripter Wojciech Kuczok works from an adaptation of a collection of his stories; vet Polish helmer Krzysztof Zanussi is one of the producers.
Cast: Michal Zebrowski, Jan Frycz, Waclaw Adamczyk
Festivals: Polish Film Festival, Warsaw Screenings
Prizes: Best film, Audience Award, Polish Festival
Sales: TOR Film Production
(Juan Pablo Rebella/Pablo Stoll, Uruguay)
Synopsis: A factory owner and
his female assistant with whom he barely speaks are forced to pose as a married couple when the owner’s brother unexpectedly arrives for their mother’s gravestone-setting ceremony.
Cast: Andres Pazos, Mirella Pascual, Jorge Bolani
Festivals: Cannes, Karlovy Vary, Toronto, Pusan, Tokyo, London, Thessaloniki (2003).
Prizes: Prix du Regard Original, Fipresci in Un Certain Regard, Cannes; Grand Prize, actress (Pascual), Tokyo; screenplay and actress (Pascual), Thessaloniki (2003)
U.S. distrib: Global Film Initiative/First Run Features
(Darryl James Roodt, South Africa)
Synopsis: A mother with a young child in a remote Zululand village discovers she has contracted HIV from her husband. It is the first feature in the Zulu language to be distributed internationally and selected for the Oscar race.
Cast: Leleti Khumalo, Lihle Mvelase, Kenneth Kambule
Festivals: Venice, Toronto, London
Prizes: Human Rights Film Award, Venice
U.S. distrib: HBO Films
(Sylvia Chang, Taiwan)
Synopsis: An aspiring 20-year-old pop singer, a lovelorn 30-year-old flight attendant and a divorced 40-year-old floral shop owner experience emotional highs and lows as their lives occasionally intersect in Taipei.
Cast: Sylvia Chang, Rene Liu, Lee Sinje
Sales: Columbia TriStar Film Distributors Intl.