-- Justin Chang
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Film Movement
Following in the footsteps of Blighty stage helmers-turned-filmmakers Sam Mendes and Stephen Daldry, acclaimed theater director Rufus Norris ("London Road") takes his own crack at the bigscreen with "Broken," presenting the interlocking tales of three neighboring families on an English private housing estate. Melding heightened drama with quirky, state-of-the-nation social realism, the pic aims to undercut epic plot contrivance with naturalistic perfs and a lyrical shooting style. Further fest action is assured, although theatrical prospects look decidedly niche, and ancillary a challenge, for this hard-to-categorize item.
-- Charles Gant
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Nicky's Family
Menemsha Films
Essentially a reprise of Slovak helmer Matej Minac's 2002 Intl. Emmy-winning docu "The Power of Good -- Nicholas Winton," but with a surfeit of dramatic re-creations, additional interviewees and an over-the-top grand finale with hundreds of schoolchildren waving lighted mobiles celebrating good deeds, "Nicky's Family" retells the story of "Britain's Schindler," Nicholas Winton, now 101 and still healthy and active. Providing a valuable albeit overproduced history lesson, the conventional but inspirational pic will be ideal for classroom use following fest and broadcast exposure.
-- Alissa Simon
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Historic Centre
Anthology Film Archives, New York
Omnibus pics offer perhaps the best opportunity for a layman to recognize differences in helming styles, and "Historic Centre" is an ideal example, since all four directors couldn't be more themselves. Commissioned by the northern Portuguese city of Guimaraes as part of its European Culture Capital celebrations, the quartet of shorts shows off its makers' cinematic personalities, with Aki Kaurismaki the most gloriously wistful, Manoel de Oliveira the funniest, Victor Erice the most socially engaged and Pedro Costa the most pretentious. With these names, the pic should travel far and wide as a festival side attraction.
-- Jay Weissberg
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Ways to Live Forever
World Wide Motion Pictures Corp.
"Ways to Live Forever" shows it's possible to make an upbeat movie about a 12-year-old dying of leukemia if you focus on the kid and not the disease. Lively, entertaining and well made, pic is thankfully neither mawkish nor grueling, though its refusal to confront some of the harsher realities of its dramatic situation does leave it feeling somewhat bland. "Forever" deserves to find an aud beyond the fanbase of the bestseller on which it's based, but much will depend on whether the marketing can emphasize the feel-good factor.
-- Jonathan Holland
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La Playa D.C.
Distributor: ArtMattan Prods.
A scrawny Afro-Colombian boy displaced with his brothers from the country's Pacific-coast region hustles to create a new life in "La Playa D.C.," a well-intentioned coming-of-ager strong on ethnographic interest but disappointingly lax on narrative. First-time director Juan Andres Arango's film would be less surprising to find at a second-tier sprocket opera than at Cannes, where it premiered in Un Certain Regard, but the nevertheless impressive debut should rep Colombia nicely on the fest circuit for the next year or so. Like its artfully shallow-focus lensing, "La Playa" erects an artificial distance between auds and characters, to the exclusion of a more proletarian appeal.
-- Peter Debruge
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