<I>Variety</I> Critics' Choice reflects new world order

An Iranian teen is transformed into a “Latin” lover. A young Moroccan woman searches for her father in Casablanca. An Algerian femme disappears into the desert. And a Turkish kung-fu student fights — metaphorically and literally — for her own space in life. European cinema now? You bet.

As Variety Critics’ Choice at the Karlovy Vary fest enters its second decade, the movie maps of both Europe and the wider world have changed beyond all recognition. Cultural borders have blurred, adjacent nations have contributed their own talent to the Euro gene pool, and cinema has continued to reflect the realities of contempo life way past the narrow political definitions of what Europe is today.

European Film Promotion, with which VCC has been collaborating for 11 years, now groups national orgs from 28 countries, but the cultural scope of this year’s choices stretches even further: to the coastal states of the southern and eastern Mediterranean, and even to East Asia.

Appearing for the first time in VCC, tiny Luxembourg is repped by one of the most ambitious pics, “Arabian Nights,” the first solo feature by Paul Kieffer. Pic follows a naive young train conductor to Algeria as he searches for a mysterious female passenger who’s entranced him.

In Dutch helmer Dana Nechushtan’s “Dunya & Desie,” a white girl follows her best friend, Moroccan Dunya, to Casablanca as the latter searches for her family roots, while in “Fighter” (the first Danish film to use international stunt and wire specialists) and “Ciao Bella” (by Iranian-born Swede Mani Masserat-Aghat), teenage protags deal with cross-cultural romance and identity in physical and funny ways.

Even in French debutant helmer Cedric Anger’s “The Killer,” in which a businessman befriends the man sent to murder him, the identity of the titular assassin is vaguely non-European.

Borders, these films all seem to say, are simply constructs of governments; human relations are what matter.

Such is also the case in Greek director Vasilis Douvlis’ first feature, “The Homecoming,” a drama in which an Albanian illegal immigrant simply walks across the border and causes sexual havoc between a Greek couple.

Similar emotional chaos reigns in bittersweet comedy “According to Plan,” the sophomore feature by Leipzig-born Franziska Meletzky, when three sisters assemble to celebrate their alcoholic mother’s birthday in their native Saxony village. Also sorting out their own emotional spaces are the central characters of “Don’t Waste Your Time, Johnny!” a first feature by Italian actor Fabrizio Bentivoglio that looks back to the dreamy style of ’60s Italian cinema, and midlife crisis ensembler “Half Life,” the debut movie by Vlado Fischer and Slovakia’s first entry in VCC.

Finally, in Luis Piedrahita and Rodrigo Sopena’s debut, “Fermat’s Room,” the chaos is physical and mental, as four scientists are trapped in an ever-shrinking space that can be halted only by solving a series of logic puzzles.

Ten movies, seven solo debuts, a host of cultures and confusion. That’s European cinema now.

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