The 2014 Fresno Film Festival marks the 10th anniversary of the celebration of cinema held at the Tower Theatre. The lineup for the three-day festival includes five award-winning feature films, plus 14 short films representing 11 countries.
Fresno Filmworks, the organization behind the annual festival, takes great pride in presenting "multicultural cinematic art," says President Jefferson Beavers.
The committee has put together a lineup of films that cover a wide diversity of cultures. Plus, they are the kind of foreign and independent movies that traditionally don't get shown at local theater complexes, says Bryan Harley, communication director for the festival.
Along with the seven programs of short and feature-length movies, there will be appearances by filmmakers to discuss their works.
The festival opens at 7 p.m. today with the Japanese family drama "Like Father, Like Son," a Jury Prize winner at Cannes. A champagne reception follows.
Feature films scheduled for Saturday include the Australian adventure fable, "The Rocket," at 4 p.m., followed by the short film "Sinceridad," and the political thriller, "Omar," followed by the short film "Green Acres," at 7:30 p.m.
On Sunday, the feature films include the documentary, "Finding Vivian Maier," screening with the short film "Somehow," at 4:30 p.m. and the British dramatic comedy "Le Week-End" plus the short film "Valse" at 7:30 p.m.
The first shorts program — featuring "Butterfly Dreams," "Young Americans," "Around the Corner," "Families Are Forever" and "Dance of the Books" — screens at 1 p.m. Saturday. "Around the Corner," co-directed by Fresno native Joell Hallowell, tells the story of a very hot summer day in 1968.
The second shorts program screens 2 p.m. Sunday and features "The Hero Pose," "Park 51," "Adonis, Finding Me," "Ghosts on the Mountain" and "Green Acres."
The surreal romantic comedy "Adonis," directed by Hanford native David Dibble, tells the story of a dating service that uses an irresistible dog as a chick magnet.
Go to www.fresnofilmworks.org for the complete festival lineup and details.
Here are reviews of the three featured films:
"Like Father, Like Son," Grade: A-: Writer/director Hirokazu Koreeda has crafted a moving and touching tale of two sets of parents who must deal with some life-changing decisions when they discover their sons were switched at birth.
Masaharu Fukuyama plays a successful, driven father. His performance is equally powerful whether he's playing the strict father or the emotionally suffering dad.
The movie deals with difficult questions about parenting. How much of what a person becomes is the result of nature and how much is nurturing? Koreeda smartly asks the questions without suggesting there are any definitive answers. (RB)
"Omar," Grade: B+. If he lived nearly anywhere else in the world, the romantic feelings that Omar (Adam Bakri), a Palestinian baker, has for a fetching young woman named Nadia (Leem Lubany) would be the stuff of romantic comedy: Her brother is his good friend, and Omar is afraid to tell him he wants to marry his sister. But when you live in the occupied territories of Israel, love can become yet another complication in a tightly reined, often bleak existence.
Director Hany Abu-Assad offers a crisp, claustrophobic account of living in the West Bank, and while he favors a dispassionate and nondogmatic style, the guts of this taut tale — revolt and betrayal — can't help but seethe. (Is Omar a freedom fighter or a terrorist? The debate could rage.) When Omar lands in prison, he has to decide whether to become a collaborator with the Israeli authorities. Bakri offers a feisty, aching performance, and as his character's options dwindle, you start to feel as a viewer just how confining these streets are — and how intractable the political situation is. (DM)
"Le Week-End," Grade B: This senior citizen answer to "Before Midnight" follows an aging married couple who make a weekend trip to Paris to look for the love and passion that brought them together 30 years ago. Life has taken its toll on their romance and now the pair seek signs of emotional sanity in a world that's rapidly deteriorating.
Nick (Jim Broadbent) adores Meg (Lindsay Duncan) and wants to show her through the trip. Instead, the couple reveal how they feel about each other, their future and their place as parents.
Except for a nifty escape from a restaurant without paying, the movie depends entirely on the emotional highs and lows the actors can muster. Director Roger Michell shows complete trust in Broadbent and Duncan, who give the script by Hanif Kureishi the emotional spark needed to hold the audience's attention.
Both veteran actors are more than able to handle the challenge — especially when they are on their own. The movie gets off track during a dinner party thrown by a friend (Jeff Goldblum), who opts to ignore the realities of life that are plaguing the couple.
Broadbent and Duncan are so good they make the tale of love and marriage feel timeless. (RB)
2014 Fresno Film Festival
Friday-Sunday at Tower Theatre, 815 E. Olive Ave. Festival pass $45, individual programs $10 general admission, $8 students, seniors, available at fresnofilmworks.org or at the Tower Theatre box office.