Travel the world without ever leaving your theater seat this February at Westminster's annual Foreign Film Festival.

This is the 14th year for the festival, held each year at the Carroll Arts Center and put on through a partnership of the Film Lovers in Carroll County, the Carroll County Arts Council and McDaniel College. Films this year include "Mustang," "A Man Called Ove," "The Innocents" and "Hunt for the Wilderpeople," and feature directors and casts from France, Turkey, Sweden and New Zealand.

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According to Richard Soisson, FLICC member who helped get the series off the ground, one of the greatest advantages of foreign film is the ability to learn about other cultures firsthand from the people who live there.

"Last year, we showed 'A Separation,' which is an Iranian film," Soisson said. "When you think of Iran, you think of the politics of it all, but if you saw that movie, you saw ordinary people having ordinary problems in their lives."

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The festival begins Friday, Feb. 3 with "Mustang," a French/Turkish production directed by Deniz Gamze Erguven. FLICC director Frank Baylor described the film as an examination of the patriarchy and the socio-economic development of the area. In the film five sisters are confined to their home while their guardians attempt to find husbands for each of them.

"It's got the whole range of human experience," Baylor said. "You're going to see everything from some joy and laughter to some pretty dark scenes."

Those wanting to prepare for the Oscars on Sunday, Feb. 26, should make it out to the Feb. 10 screening of "A Man Called Ove," a Swedish film based on the popular book of the same name. The film, directed by Hannes Holm, is one of the five films selected for the Foreign Language Film Academy Awards, and follows a grouchy retiree and his unlikely friendship with a neighborhood family.

According to Soisson, many local book clubs have already begun purchasing tickets to this screening, so he advises those interested to buy early to make sure they have a seat.

The following Friday, Feb. 17, drama takes over as FLICC screens "The Innocents," a French film that details a Red Cross doctor who visits a Polish nunnery near the end of World War II and discovers nuns who have been impregnated by German soldiers. Baylor said that though "The Innocents" sometimes deals with some dark concepts, it's always an easy watch even as it deals with complex themes.

Finally, the series concludes Feb. 24 with one of the funniest and warmest films of the past year, Taika Waititi's "Hunt for the Wilderpeople." The film follows a young New Zealand boy who is adopted by a loving family before running off into the bush with his survivalist uncle played by Sam Neill. Early looks at the film opened the doors for Waititi in Hollywood, as the New Zealand comedy director is currently working on "Thor: Ragnarok" for Marvel Studios.

Though the film is hugely popular, Baylor said it was the cause of a little controversy among the FLICC membership.

"We had quite a debate this year about whether you can consider an English-language film a foreign film," Baylor said. "We eventually decided if it's from a foreign country, it's a foreign film. One or two members grumbled a little bit, but eventually got over it."

Soisson said the festival is a great way to bring films to town that Carroll residents don't have a chance to see on the big screen unless they travel to Baltimore or Washington, D.C.

"To me, audiences are missing a lot if they don't watch foreign films," Soisson said. "They're different. It's a fairly good story. They take their time developing the characters. They can be slow at times, but it's always a good focus on the story and the character."

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If You Go

What: Foreign Film Festival

When: 1 and 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 3, 10, 17 and 24

Where: Carroll Arts Center, 91 W. Main St., Westminster

Cost: $7 adults, $6 CCAC members, children 18 and younger and seniors older than 60. Films are free for McDaniel students and faculty

For more information: Visit www.carrollartscenter.org or call 410-848-7272



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