Lisa Aschan | Claudio Cupellini | David Dusa | Jannicke Systad Jacobsen | Zuzana Liova | Alexandru Maftei | Valdis Oskarsdottir | Yasemin Samdereli | Hans Van Nuffel | Ben Wheatley

The Variety Critics’ Choice program at the Karlovy Vary Intl. Film Festival curated in collaboration with European Film Promotion (EFP) heads into its 14th year with a new name but the same mission: to showcase European films by first- and second-time directors notable for their freshness, invention and passion.

The program’s title change puts a stronger focus on the filmmakers’ potential — as do new initiatives organized by the festival that will enable them to interact with key industry figures as well as the viewing public. Paris-based David Dusa, director of “Flowers of Evil,” says, “I would love to use this opportunity to help my next projects off the ground.”

Chosen by Variety reviewers from among the 2010-11 films produced by the EFP’s 32 member countries, the lineup includes five women and five men repping six feature debuts and four sophomore outings.

The filmmakers (see sidebar) comprise an eclectic group, ranging widely in age, background and nationality, although some share an interest in working across cultures and languages. Their films vary greatly — even when dealing with similar themes — from big box office hits on home turf to well-travelled festival favorites still seeking wider distribution; from clever takes on gender and genre to a chilling midnight movie.

The diversity of the selection ensures that there is something to appeal to just about every taste. Yet the chosen films also play off of each other in provocative ways so that the exhibition program adds up to something greater than the individual titles.

Both Lisa Aschan’s “She Monkeys” from Sweden and Jannicke Systad Jacobsen’s “Turn Me on, Goddammit” from Norway thrillingly subvert the coming-of-age genre, political correctness, gender roles and just about everything to do with the conventional depiction of developing sexuality, yet the former is an intense drama and the latter a teen dramedy.

France’s Dusa and Romania’s Alexandru Maftei each use bittersweet love stories to explore the energy and potential of the Internet but in totally different ways. Experimental drama “Flowers of Evil” incorporates YouTube documentation of Iran’s 2009 post-election demonstrations and the government’s brutal reprisals into a tender affair set in Paris, while romantic comedy “Hello! How Are You?” revolves around a husband and wife whose 20-year marriage has long since lost its zing, making them vulnerable to the enticements of a Web chatroom.

“Every screening with my film is different because the audience is different,” Maftei says. “And I think this is part of the magic of cinema. I’m looking forward to the magic at Karlovy Vary.”

Slovak helmer Zuzana Liova’s “The House” and Teuton director Yasemin Samdereli’s “Almanya: Welcome to Germany” are each affectionate family tales about generational conflict and the ties that bind. The first, a sensitively observed drama, unfolds against the backdrop of post-communist society’s shifting values, while the second, a broad comedy, centers on cultural misunderstandings and the question of what constitutes national identity.

Ben Wheatley’s “Kill List” from the U.K. and Claudio Cupellini’s “A Quiet Life” from Italy are both richly textured psychological thrillers. The former, our midnight movie selection, seamlessly morphs from gritty crime tale to atmospheric horror pic, while the latter, about an Italian mobster resettled in a quiet German town, uses different languages and dialects to reinforce the theme that one can’t escape the past.

Cupellini says: “Filming in Germany was an important step towards constructing stories that are not only Italian, but also European.”

Rounding out the selection, poignant drama “Oxygen” from Belgian Hans van Nuffel centers on a teen with cystic fibrosis rebelling against the condition with which he and his elder brother were born. This very personal film smartly skirts disease-of-the-week cliché to show appealing human beings trying to embrace life in spite of chronic illness.

Likewise, life goes on in quirky comedy “King’s Road” from Icelander Valdis Oskarsdottir. She nimbly juggles the intersecting stories of a trailer park’s oddball denizens as a prodigal son returns home after some years abroad to find his country as dysfunctional as his family.

10 Euro helmers in a nutshell
Lisa Aschan | Claudio Cupellini | David Dusa | Jannicke Systad Jacobsen | Zuzana Liova | Alexandru Maftei | Valdis Oskarsdottir | Yasemin Samdereli | Hans Van Nuffel | Ben Wheatley

Lisa Aschan
Sweden, 32
A graduate of the Natl. Film School of Denmark, Aschan received attention for “Fuck the Rapist,” a collection of fictional ads for spiked tampons. Her short films established her reputation for suggestive visual language and naturalistic direction, while her intense, subversive debut drama “She Monkeys” nabbed top prize at Tribeca.

Claudio Cupellini
Italy, 38
Cupellini studied at Rome’s Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia under Paolo Virzì and Daniele Luchetti. His first feature was the Donatello-nominated comedy “Lessons in Chocolate” (2008). Nuanced psychological thriller “A Quiet Life” (2010) generated acclaim for star Toni Servillo playing a marked man hiding from his mob past.

David Dusa
France, 32
Born in Budapest, Dusa grew up in Sweden and South Africa, and studied film in Gothenburg and Paris. His debut feature “Flowers of Evil” (2010), and next project, “The Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted,” examine social media’s influence on social change and explore the Internet’s role in a new civil society.

Jannicke Systad Jacobsen
Norway, 36
Jacobsen studied documentary direction at FAMU and at London Intl. Film School, subsequently producing a body of non-fiction work notable for its sense of humor. Her fiction debut, teen dramedy “Turn Me on, Goddammit” (2011), boasts a sympathetically hormonal heroine and scored screenplay kudos in Tribeca’s world narrative competition.

Zuzana Liova
Slovakia, 31
Liova studied scriptwriting and script editing at the Academy of Music and Performing Arts in Bratislava, where she now teaches. After debuting with TV feature “Silence” (2
005), she collected a brace of screenwriting kudos for poignant contempo drama “The House” (2011), which unfolds against the backdrop of post-communist society’s shifting values.

Alexandru Maftei
Romania, 41
A graduate of the Bucharest Academy of Film and Theater, director, screenwriter and enthusiastic photographer Maftei is also an award-winning commercials and advertising creative director. His bittersweet romantic comedy “Hello! How Are You?” offers the antithesis to the grim naturalism of the best-known new Romanian cinema. Up next: a musical.

Valdis Oskarsdottir
Iceland, 60
An award-winning editor of international films including “Festen,” “Finding Forrester,” “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind,” and “Mongol,” Oskarsdottir wrote and helmed her first feature, dysfunctional family comedy “Country Wedding” in 2008. Her quirky sophomore outing, “King’s Road” (2010) nimbly juggles the intersecting stories of a trailer park’s oddball denizens.

Yasemin Samdereli
Germany, 38
Boasting a CV filled with multicultural projects, Samdereli helmed a pair of TV movies and served as co-scripter on popular skein “Turkish for Beginners.” Her feature debut, family comedy “Almanya: Welcome to Germany,” co-written with sister Nesrin, proved a massive domestic hit and claimed Lola awards for best feature and screenplay.

Hans Van Nuffel
Belgium, 30
One of Flemish Belgium’s most promising young talents, van Nuffel graduated from the Brussels Film Academy. Following three acclaimed shorts, he made his feature debut with “Oxygen” (2010), which garnered top prize at the Montreal World Film Festival as well as a slew of other honors. He’s developing a Congo-set drama.

Ben Wheatley
United Kingdom, 39
Initially a short filmmaker and animator, Wheatley won multiple awards for his commercials and viral work, and directed many TV shows. Both his gritty debut feature “Down Terrace” (2010) and tense crime thriller-cum-horror pic “Kill List” (2011) display a playfully knowledgeable approach to genre and a nasty edge.”

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