NEWTON, MA — After 13 years at the Studio Cinema in Belmont, Belmont World Film moves its 14th annual international film series to the West Newton Cinema (1296 Washington Street) from March 22 through May 11. Entitled “Secrets and Lies,” the series features eight internationally-acclaimed films, many of which are New England premieres and their countries’ entries for the Oscar’s best foreign language film. In another departure from years past, most screenings take place on Sunday evenings at 7:00 PM, with the exception of Monday night screenings on April 6 and May 11.
“Besides the common thread of secrets and lies, several of this year’s films were based partially on true stories,” says Belmont World Film Executive Director Ellen Gitelman. “Of special interest to Bostonians are The Finishers, a film inspired by the Boston Marathon father and son team of Dick and Rick Hoyt, which will be shown the day before Boston’s famous running event, and The Cut, the first film to focus on the forced migration and diaspora of the Armenian minority from the Ottoman Empire, that will be shown two days after the 100th anniversary observation of the Armenian genocide. With nearly 30,000 residents, the Greater Boston area has the second largest population of Armenians in the country after the state of California.”
The complete line-up and schedule features:
Sunday, March 22: Ghadi directed by Amin Dora; Lebanon/Arabic; New England premiere
Sunday, March 29: Three Windows and a Hanging directed by Isa Qosja; Kosovo/Albanian); New England premiere
Monday, April 6: Henri Henri directed by Martin Talbot (Canada, French & English) Boston premiere
Sunday, April 12: A Few Cubic Meters of Love directed by Beadie Finzi (Afghanistan/Persian); East Coast premiere
Sunday, April 19: The Finishers directed by Nils Tavernier; France/French; New England premiere
Sunday, April 26: The Cut directed by Fatih Akin; Germany, France, Poland, Turkey, Canada, Russia, Italy/English, Arabic, Turkish, Kurdish & Spanish; East Coast premiere
Sunday, May 3: Court directed by Chaitanya Tamhane; India/Marathi, Gujarati, English & Hindi; East Coast Premiere
Monday, May 11: Tokyo Fiancée directed by Stefan Liberski; Belgium, France, Canada/French, Japanese & English; East Coast Premiere
Opening night features the New England premiere of Ghadi, a good natured satire about bigotry and redemption that was this year’s Oscar entry from Lebanon for Best Foreign Film. When a teacher in a provincial Lebanese town is forced by his intolerant neighbors to either institutionalize his son with Down Syndrome or leave the neighborhood altogether, the teacher creates a campaign to convince them that his son is an angel who will grant wishes if they become better people. The screening is co-presented by American Friends of Sesobel, which helps improve the quality of life and supports the families of children with mental and physical disabilities in Lebanon, a country that has historically marginalized people with disabilities.
In Three Windows and a Hanging, Kosovo’s very first foreign film submission to the Academy Awards, a village schoolteacher is driven by her conscience to give an interview to an international journalist, during which she admits that she and three other women from the village were raped by Serbian soldiers. When the village’s men find out that she was the one who spoke to the journalist, they start a hate campaign against her and her son. An estimated 20,000 women and girls were raped by Serbian forces during the war in Kosovo in the late 1990s, but most victims have remained silent to avoid attracting shame and blame in a deeply conservative, patriarchal culture.
Inspired by a documentary that featured an interview with a man whose sole job was to replace all the light bulbs in an office tower, the lighthearted comedy Henri Henri concerns twenty-something Henri, an orphan raised in a convent where he was in charge of everything having to do with lights. With nowhere to go after developers purchase the convent and evict him, his personal motto, “I like to put light in people’s lives,” and the nuns’ advice, “Look for the signs,” give his life new direction, helping him find love and his missing father. The film was produced and filmed entirely in Quebec, and the screening is sponsored by the Quebec Delegation of Boston.
Another film based on a true story is A Few Cubic Meters of Love, Afghan’s entry for the Academy Awards’ Best Foreign Language Film. A small factory on the outskirts of Teheran illegally employs Afghan asylum seekers living with their families in old shipping containers or modest shacks in nearby shanty towns. Romance secretly blooms between a young Iranian working at the factory and the daughter of an illegal Afghan worker. When the police finally discover the illegal workers, the pair makes a fateful decision.
The father and son team of Dick and Rick Hoyt, who participated for over 30 years together in the Boston Marathon, also provided the spark for The Finishers, a film set in picturesque southern France that screens the evening before the Boston Marathon. Like Rick Hoyt, the film’s determined main character is wheelchair bound due to cerebral palsy. After pestering his unemployed father to compete in an Ironman contest for some time, the son finally convinces his father, and they begin a grueling training program that reaps unexpected rewards.
The Cut, the first film to cover the events of 1915 in the Ottoman Empire and the final film in Turkish-German director Fatih Akin’s (The Edge of Heaven-BWF 2006) trilogy on love, commemorates the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide that resulted in the forced migration and diaspora of the Armenian minority. Tahar Fahim (A Prophet) stars as a husband and father who is initially deported by the Turkish authorities from his native village and forced into punishing labor in the desert. After surviving mass murder by luck and through an act of kindness, he loses his family, speech and faith, but when he learns that his twin daughters may still be alive, he embarks upon an incredible journey from Asia to the US. The film will be shown two days after the official observance of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide on April 24th.
After a sewage worker’s dead body is found inside a manhole in Mumbai, an aging folk singer is tried on charges of abetment of suicide for performing an inflammatory song that might have incited a sewage worker to commit the act in the Venice Film Festival winner Court. As the trial unfolds, the personal lives of the lawyers and the judge involved in the case are observed while the context of the trial itself serves as a way to explore a number of pressing sociopolitical issues facing Indian society today.
Based on the semi-autobiographical novel by Amélie Nothomb, Tokyo Fiancée features a main character also named Amélie, who has always felt Japanese, having been born and raised in Japan until she was five years old. When she turns twenty, she moves back from Belgium and initially decides to teach French in order to pay for her Japanese lessons and other living expenses. Her first student comes from such a wealthy family, however, that she does not have to take on any others, and together they explore a different, darker side of Tokyo. A mutual fascination with each other’s cultures draws them close until a sweet, but odd romance blossoms.
Tickets are $11 general admission and $9 for students, seniors. The Belmont World Film “Passport” includes eight admissions for $65 and can be shared with one other person. Tickets for films, passports, and receptions are available online at www.belmontworldfilm.org or in person at the West Cinema Cinema on day of show starting 30 minutes prior to each screening.
Sponsors of the 2015 series include Cambridge Savings Bank and the Quebec Delegation of Boston. Belmont World Film is sponsored in kind year-round by Cambridge Reprographics. For more information, visit www.belmontworldfilm.org or call 617-484-3980.
Belmont World Film is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation that promotes cross-cultural understanding through the powerful universal language of film. It presents award-winning feature films, documentaries, animation, and shorts from around the world for both adults and children enhanced by topical speakers, cultural performances and ethnic cuisine.