By Stephanie Zacharek
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Charles Taylor
By Melissa Anderson
By Inkoo Kang
By Amy Nicholson
By Sam Weisberg
Taxi to the Dark Side
Director Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room) uses the tragic story of a taxi driver named Dilawar, who was wrongfully incarcerated and later murdered by American forces in Afghanistan, as a microcosm for the War on Terror's culture of torture. As the evidence piles up and his investigation widens to include similarly infuriating abuses at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay, Gibney's powerful documentary quickly progresses from chilling to alarming to utterly terrifying. M.S.
This Is England
A nostalgic but bitter trip through Mrs. Thatcher's Britain, from the highs (punk rock!) to the lows (strikes, unemployment, you name it). Shaun (Thomas Turgoose) is 10 and miserable after his father's death in the Falklands. He falls in with a group of multicultural, weirdly touchy-feely skinheads, and has a grand old time listening to ska and committing minor acts of vandalism. But when a former member of the gang comes back from jail full of racist rage, the charmed circle is broken, and Shaun has to figure out what it really means to be English in 1983. J.W.
Times and Winds
A quiet depiction of middle-of-nowhere Turkey, seen through the eyes of a group of tweens who are strikingly similar to their American counterparts: They sneak out of their houses at nightalthough instead of hanging out on street corners or toilet-papering the neighborhood, these pre-teens sit on a cliffand struggle with growing sexuality and parental demands. (One boy prays every night for his critical father, an imam, to die: "Maybe he'll fall from the minaret!") But despite these everyteen themes, the rhythms of their lives are uniquely Turkish, circumscribed by the lonely landscape and punctuated by calls to prayer. J.W.
So many sheep! They undulate across the screen like water in this Mongolian tragicomedy, which won the Golden Bear at this year's Berlinale. Director Wang Quanan casts a meditative, almost ethnographic eye on Tuya (Yu Nan), a rural shepherdess who tries to wring a living out of the unforgiving steppes. Her saintly, paralyzed husband can't do much to help her, and when Tuya, too, suffers a debilitating injury, she reluctantly divorces him and interviews a parade of suitors eager to take his place. Her resourcefulness in the face of chronic male incompetence is a delight. J.W.
A Walk Into the Sea
Was Andy Warhol a bottom? A Walk Into the Sea brings us closer to the horrible truth. Pity we know less about Warhol's onetime boyfriend and undiscovered avant-gardist Danny Williams, who may or may not have drowned in the summer of '66. Forty years later, Williams's niece Esther Robinson tries to shed light on the man's abbreviated life, providing what may be the toothiest exposé yet into the soul-sucking modus operandi of Warhol's Factory. The filmmaker never knew her uncle, but she comes to understand him as something of a kindred spirit of Edie Sedgwickwhich is to say, a better person than Warhol. E.G.
Some clunky exposition and an ill-advised action-heavy finale aside, director Michael Kang's second feature is a fine piece of filmmaking, equal parts ethnography and mob story. Harold and Kumar's John Cho plays a power-hungry young attorney who takes on a pro bono case and is subsequently seduced by the criminal underworld he discovers in New York City's Koreatown. The film's best moments examine the things that get lost, sometimes intentionally, in translation: One riveting scene, where Cho interviews a witness through a translator with selfish motives, matches anything in Hitchcock's oeuvre for sheer suspense. M.S.
When Marvin Gaye sang about sexual healing, he likely never imagined a place like "personal life coach" Paul Lowe's mountain retreat, where successful yuppies deal with their midlife crises through naked hot-tubbing and late-night orgies. Getting in touch with yourself, it seems, most fundamentally involves touching lots of others first. Director Jamie Morgan's documentary would be a great work of satire if only he were in on the joke. Instead, he's as caught up in Lowe's world as are the nude subjects. M.S.
The Year My Parents Went on Vacation
São Paulo, 1970. Pelé is playing in the World Cup, Brazil is under the rule of a military junta, and Mauro (Michel Joelsas), the young son of leftist dissidents, is dropped off to stay with his Jewish immigrant grandfather while his parents go on an underground "vacation." A series of unfortunate events leaves Mauro effectively orphaned, intermittently cared for by residents of his grandfather's Yiddish-speaking apartment complex, who insist on calling him Moishele. Everyone is football-mad here, even the rabbi, and the sport becomes a metaphor for both Brazil's national struggle and Mauro's personal one to retain his identity in a new home. J.W.
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