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AFI Fest, A to Y 

Wednesday, Nov 1 2006
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Unless otherwise noted, all films screen at ArcLight Cinemas, 6360 W. Sunset Blvd., Hlywd. To purchase tickets, go to www.afifest.com.

AFTER THE WEDDING (Denmark) The good stuff in After the Wedding actually occurs before the titular nuptials: As in her previous film, Brothers, Danish director Susanna Bier proves adept at getting our attention but fails to hold it. Mads Mikkelsen cuts a typically compelling figure as a terse do-gooder whose attempts to find a patron for an India-based orphanage bring him into unexpected contact with a figure from his past, in turn spinning the plot into jaggedly melodramatic territory. (Thurs., Nov. 9, 9:15 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 10, 12:30 p.m.) (Adam Nayman)

 ANTONIA (Brazil) With one foot planted in the social-realist school of Brazil’s 1960s Cinema Novo movement and the other in hip-hop-inspired music culture, rising young filmmaker Tata Amaral’s Antonia sensitively dramatizes the rise and fall — and possible survival — of an all-girl singing group from the tough Sao Paolo streets. As this often dazzling quartet bonds and then atomizes, their various personal crises skirt with pure bathos yet remain firmly grounded in the musically rich but brutally unforgiving climate that inspired their songs in the first place. In the end, Amaral refuses to sugarcoat these young women’s prospects, but she hasn’t given up on them either. (Sat., Nov. 4, 9:45 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 5, 4:15 p.m.) (Robert Koehler)

THE ART OF CRYING (Denmark) What at first appears to be a rather conventional child’s-eye view of rural Danish life in the 1970s turns quickly into a dark portrait of a shockingly dysfunctional family. In director Peter Schønau Fo’s adaptation of Erling Jepsen’s novel, Allan (a haunting Jannik Lorenzen) is a daddy’s boy who quietly manipulates the goings on in his provincial town, disposing threats to his small-minded father with the ruthlessness of a mini Macbeth. The film’s cinematic style is conventional, but fine performances and Fo’s attention to detail create a truly claustrophobic setting. Soaked with suicidal themes and Schubert lieder, this is a domestic drama that’s more frightening than most horror films. (Fri., Nov. 3, 7 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 4, 3:15 p.m.) (James C. Taylor)BAB’AZIZ (France/Iran/Switzerland/Tunisia) An example of the sort of scenic, sentimental and thoroughly forgettable exotica that has come to dominate AFI Fest’s world-cinema selection, this third feature by the Tunisian filmmaker Nacer Khemir follows an old blind dervish and his precocious young granddaughter as they cross a wide desert expanse en route to an unspecified “gathering.” Along the way, the two cross paths with fellow travelers, each of whom has a fablelike story to tell with a fortune-cookie moral at its center. Those who have faith will find their way, says the dervish. Those who have sense will pick up a copy of Arabian Nights instead, says the critic. (Sat., Nov. 11, 6:45 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 12, 12:30 p.m.) (SF)

BACK HOME (Rwanda/USA) This brief documentary about one family’s horrifying experiences during the Rwandan genocide jumps without notice across time lines, has the nondescript visual quality of a home movie (when not employing graphic stock news footage) and features at its center a man who is at times too aware of the camera. None of that matters. Few of the more polished films on the subject have taken us so close to the human anguish of this atrocity. After detailing how a family made up of a Tutsi mom, Hutu dad and their children was ripped apart by the ethnic strife, Back Home then tells how the youngest child, J.B. Rutagarama, managed to make his way to London after the brutalization of his family, and how he returned home years later to seek out survivors. A reunion with one family member is straight tearjerker fare. Highly recommended. (Sun., Nov. 5, 6:45 p.m.; Mon., Nov., 6, 5 p.m.) (Ernest Hardy)BIG DREAMS, LITTLE TOKYO (USA) Gangly “white boy” Boyd Wilson has a hard-on for all things Japanese, speaking the language flawlessly and spouting minutiae about the culture. His tubby, immature Japanese roommate Jerome sports a frat-boy accent and wants to be a sumo wrestler, but otherwise knows little about Japanese culture. Their clash, like the rest of the film, is drenched in ironic cultural observations that are both old and obvious (Mexicans manning the kitchen of a Japanese restaurant). Cool — if self-consciously so — soundtrack. (Thurs., Nov. 2, 9:45 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 3, 1:30 p.m.) (EH)

BLINDSIGHT (Tibet/U.K.) In 2004, sightless American climber Erik Weihenmayer led six blind Tibetan teenagers up one of Everest’s peaks. Judging by the mishaps that befell them, documentary filmmaker Lucy Walker could have delivered a sharp commentary on the cultural differences between aggressive Western thrill junkies and their more tranquil Eastern companions. But Blindsight’s uncontrollable compulsion to be an uplifting crowd pleaser glosses over the emotional trauma the kids experienced on their ascent, insisting instead that, really, adversity is being overcome. (Mon., Nov. 6, 7:15 p.m.; Tues., Nov. 7, 1 p.m.) (Tim Grierson)

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