Screenplay, Don Caron, Cowan, Frank Swoboda, Tessa Swoboda. Camera (color), Dan Heigh; music, Caron: production designer, Vincent De Felice; costume designer, Nanette Acosta. Reviewed at Cannes Film Festival (market), May 13, 1999. Running time: 101 MIN.
With: Peter Coyote, Karen Allen, Robert Karl Burke, Amber Willenborg, Jock MacDonald, Eric Dane, Brian Skala.
An edifying tale about tolerance set in rural America during WWI, “The Basket” is carefully crafted family fare. Its antiwar sentiments are subtly conveyed in an idyllic portrait of small-town life, when kids did their chores in the fields, followed Pa’s orders and learned the new game of basketball. Pointed mainly at TV and video, pic has a Euro angle that might interest offshore markets.
When two German orphans, little Helmut and his older sister, Brigida, move from a wartime internment camp to a Pacific Northwest farming community, they find support from some, like a liberal new schoolteacher from the East (Peter Coyote), and hostility from others, who have lost sons in the war. Helmut’s acceptance into the community follows a climactic basketball game, on which the farmers have a new harvester riding. Both kids teach the town lessons in the cruel senselessness of war. Screenplay follows the straight and narrow, but producer-director Rich Cowan captures the flavor of the time with help from cinematographer Dan Heigh, obviously under the influence of “Days of Heaven.” Karen Allen makes a warm, sensitive appearance as a farm woman who thinks for herself.