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Bride Kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan, which opens the annual Margaret Mead Film Festival, is itself a real grabber. Examining the Central Asian practice of marriage by abduction, Hungarian academic Petr Lom presents a half-dozen cases. A few bride-nappings are foiled; some are successful (however that is defined); one ends in death. Telecast by Frontline last year, Bride Kidnapping is a model ethno-doc. The filmmaking is lucidly functional, in the detached, attentive style pioneered in the '70s by David and Judith MacDougall. Lom takes an exotic tradition and makes its cultural function apparent. The individuals speak for themselves; the camera (which more than once tags along on an abduction) is never "invisible."

The Margaret Mead, as always, offers a skein of tangled themes: new Russian docs, a tribute to New Orleans, and a retro of ancient educational TV shows. Bride Kidnapping is only one of several films devoted to the travails of family formation. These include the latest by Dennis O'Rourke, the Afghanistan-set Land Mines: A Love Story; the Israeli Sentenced to Marriage, in which Orthodox women struggle to get their gets (religious divorces); Children of the Decree, on the criminalization of abortion in Ceausescu's Romania; and Sisters in Law, in which lawyers take on domestic violence in Cameroon, scheduled to open next year at Film Forum.


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