Helping to bridge political and geographical borders with cinema is the goal of the Global Film Initiative, a San Francisco-based nonprofit film organization. Since 2002, the group has presented Global Lens, a traveling series of recent international films, chosen to expand viewers' perceptions of other countries and to reinforce shared experiences across the globe.
This year's festival offers 10 films, representing Croatia, the Philippines, South Africa, Argentina, India, China, Iran, Lebanon and Indonesia. The films will screen at Pittsburgh Filmmakers' theaters starting Fri., Sept. 12, and continuing through early November. (For complete schedule and screening times, see www.pghfilmmakers.org or call 412-682-4111.) Reviews for the first week's films follow:
OPERA JAWA. This 2006 Indonesian musical -- a story of love and jealousy set against a backdrop of economic unrest -- won't be for everyone. For some, it will be like a transplanted Bollywood production on downers, with impenetrable symbolism and gamelan music that may begin to grate after 45 minutes. But in two hours, director Garin Nugroho furnishes a dazzling array of visual and auditory experience -- classical and modern dance, Hindu mythology and Marxist critique, all wrapped up with folk-singing, shadow-puppets and the largest set of he-boobies in the Eastern Hemisphere (I assume). Even if you don't enjoy the experience, it's one you won't find anywhere else. In Indonesian, with subtitles. 8 p.m. Fri., Sept. 12; 8 p.m. Sat., Sept. 13; and 4 p.m. Sun., Sept. 14. Harris (Chris Potter)
KEPT AND DREAMLESS. The semi-sordid daily lives of a penniless drug addict and her precocious 9-year-old daughter, Eugenia, are the focus of this 2005 Argentine film directed by Vera Fogwill and Martin Desalvo. The resourcefulness of the young girl and a loose network of offbeat neighbors keep this meager household -- and the thinnish plot -- afloat. Nods to nontraditional families are made, but the more serious issues raised -- drug abuse, child neglect, family dysfunction, irresponsibility -- are skittered past. The murky interiors and long, static takes make Kept a claustrophobic visit, brightened mostly by Lucia Snieg's lively, surefooted portrayal of Eugenia. In Spanish, with subtitles. 6 p.m. Sat. Sept. 13, and 2 p.m. Sun., Sept. 14. Harris (Al Hoff)
THE BET COLLECTOR. "Only two things keep you busy," says the gambling kingpin to impoverished grandmother Amy: "Jueteng and dead people." Jueteng is the Filipino numbers racket; Amy is whom Jeffrey Jeturian's cinema-vérité camera follows on her rounds through a labyrinthine urban slum, as she begs alms for funerals along with collecting bets. Shot raw on video, Bet Collector is heavy-handed neorealist melodrama: Amy is haunted by the memory of her dead son, a soldier, and her customers include the cops who arrest her. But Jeturian's compelling camera-work captures a real sense of life on the streets, and the struggles of those who live it. In Tagalog, with subtitles. 7:30 p.m. nightly Mon., Sept. 15, through Wed., Sept. 17. Harris (Bill O'Driscoll)
LUXURY CAR. This pedestrian 2006 effort depicts the tensions you'd expect to find in contemporary China. An aging teacher comes to the big city searching for his wayward son. He discovers, meanwhile, that his daughter Yonhang (Tian Yuan) works as a call girl and sleeps with her boss. No good can come of this, and both the consolations of rural tradition and the promises of big-city affluence prove empty. The film's languid pace makes it feel longer than its 88 minutes, and director Chao Wang speaks mostly through pauses -- as if to suggest that, for all of modern China's frenzy, his characters are waiting for what comes next. In Mandarin, with subtitles. 7:30 p.m. Thu., Sept. 18 (Harris), and 4 p.m. Sat., Sept. 20 (Regent Square). (CP)