Movie Poster - Mao's Last Dancer
Now that you have watched your animation choice and documentary (see Create Your Own Film Festival - Part 1), it is time to curl up with popcorn and a feature film. Here are a few quality movies that you may have missed, or that you may want to see again. Each works well as a stand alone film, or as part of your own "festival" experience.
Scene from "Mao's Last Dancer"
Mao's Last Dancer (2009) is the story of Li Cunxin, who, at the tender age of 11, was taken from his home in China and placed in training for classical ballet at the Madame Mao's Dance Academy in Beijing. Years later, he goes to Houston on a cultural exchange and performs with the ballet company there. Li Cunxin falls in love with another dancer, Elizabeth Mackey, and faces a difficult choice: marry her and defect to the US, or leave her behind and return to China. The cinematography in this autobiographical movie is stunning. This is a beautiful movie, and a story that will stay with you long after the film is done. Mao's Last Dancer is rated PG.
A Separation - Movie Poster
A Separation (2011) is an Iranian movie about the difficult choices we face in a family. It won both an Oscar and Golden Globe award for Best Foreign Language Film. Simin and Nader are a married couple with a young daughter (Temeh). Nader feels he must stay in Iran and care for his aging father who suffers from Alzheimer's. He fulfills his responsibilities as a son with tenderness and devotion. His wife, Simin, however, wishes to move to another country to give their young daughter more opportunities. Nader cannot leave his father, and cannot take him with them to another land, and as a married lady, Simin cannot leave the country without Nader's permission. So, Simin makes the difficult choice to seek a divorce. This couple clearly loves each other, and there is no easy solution to the dilemmas they face. This is a thoughtful movie, and very well made. A Separation is rated PG-13.
Sarah's Key promotional poster
Sarah's Key (2010) is based on the novel of the same name by Tatiana De Rosnay. In Sarah's Key, journalist Julia Jarmond (Kristin Scott Thomas) is researching the Vel d'Hiv roundup of Jews in 1942 Paris for an article. One of 13,000 victims was young Sarah Starzynski. As the police rounded up her family to take them to a stadium in Paris, Sarah hides her younger brother in a secret cupboard to protect him. Her actions have devastating consequences. As Julia investigates this event in Paris, she finds many are reluctant to discuss this awful history. She also learns of Sarah's terrible secret, and that her husband's family have secrets of their own. How do you live with the consequences of your choices, and how do you move on from the past? These are questions raised in this film. I was not very familiar with Vel d'Hiv, and learned a lot from this movie. Sarah's Key is rated PG-13.
The Visitor - Movie poster
The Visitor (2007) tells the story of professor Walter Vale. He is lonely, widowed, and teaching part time. He returns to New York for a speaking engagement, only to find his apartment occupied by a young immigrant couple. Vale sympathizes with the young couple, Syrian- born Tarek and Senegalese Zainab, and agrees to let them stay. Tarek teaches Walter to play an African drum, and the two become friends. When Tarek is arrested after a subway incident and taken to a detention center, Walter hires a lawyer to help his young friend. Meanwhile, Tarek's mother shows up, and Vale discovers he may be able to love again. The plight of illegal immigrants is not played for sentimentality in this moving story, and the ending will make you think. This is a film that leaves the you examining your views of a complex and timely issue. The Visitor is rated PG-13.
Check out my other blog posts for more film festival ideas, and happy watching!