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Published: Wednesday, 4/6/2005

Celebrate independents: Library showcases movies through May 12

BY CHRISTOPHER BORRELLI
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Promises, which will be screened at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow, is the story
of children such as Yarko, left, and Faraj growing up in Jerusalem. Promises, which will be screened at 6:30 p.m. tomorrow, is the story of children such as Yarko, left, and Faraj growing up in Jerusalem.
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Don't feel bad about this, but just last autumn, if you go to the movies a lot, you could have saved a few bucks.

Tucked into the modest schedule of films showing in the Main Branch of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library was the documentary Born Into Brothels. When it played - one time only, and for free - it hadn't been widely seen. It was a sleeper at Sundance, adored but unlikely to set the rest of the world on fire, and though tentatively set to open during the holidays, that title all but ensured a brief life.

So who knew?

Born Into Brothels went on to land the Academy Award for best documentary and a surprisingly strong three-week run at the Super Cinemas' Cinematheque in Spring Meadows - a run that has yet to end.

This, if nothing else, is a good reason to take your chances on

the third edition of the library's now twice-a-year Film Move-ment: An Independent Film Festival. One movie is shown every Thursday night through May 12, starting tomorrow with another Oscar nominee, the 2002 documentary Promises - which, like Brothels, happens to be about a group of children living under harsh conditions.

Director B.Z. Goldberg's idea sounds deceptively simple: She chose seven kids who live in and around Jerusalem and interviewed them about their lives, what they believe, how they feel about the different factions that make up their region. Some of the children live in Jewish neighborhoods. A few in Arab villages. Others in refugee camps. Not all have the same dirt-poor hopeless lives of the kids in Brothels.

But none is immune to daily violence, either. Jewish twins Daniel and Yarko, for instance, come from a secular home. They visit the Western Wall, where pilgrims cram into crevices bits of paper asking for God's blessing. They ask for their school's volleyball team to win the championship. They also can't wait to get out of there, with "all these religious people." And when they discuss their route to school, they explain how they pick the bus least likely to be bombed.

Goldberg steers away from didacticism. We see mostly kids with a hunger for some knowledge of the world just across a security checkpoint. One Palestinian boy says he doesn't want to meet a Jew. Goldberg says she's Jewish. He says, no, she's American. She says she grew up in Jerusalem. He says he means "authentic Jews," and without proselytizing, Promises becomes a portrait of a few kids who see the value in having their world-views challenged. It's hopeful without becoming soft-headed.

Where does a movie like that come from - and why haven't you heard of it? Film Movement is an extension of the Film Movement video-by-mail club - a sort of Art House Movie-of-the-Month Club. Film Movement's specialties are features and shorts, for the most part, that pad out festivals around the world and eventually find that distribution is tough.

These are the talented orphans that get seen once or twice a year, then shuffle off to the Sundance or the Independent Film Channel, or more likely, are never seen again. Film Movement was the brainchild of producer Larry Meistrich (Sling Blade), and if it seems like a shallow imitation of a real film festival, consider this:

What is showing at the library for the next month are largely unknowns. Some are real finds. Some, you'll wish had stayed lost. And that's the festival experience. You march blindly into the darkness and take a chance.

Here are more highlights:

●1: The Story Behind the Longest Winning Streak in Football History (April 28) will look familiar to anyone with fond memories of the Ohio football documentary Go Tigers! This one is a stodgy but thoughtful account of De La Salle High School in northern California and its players, who have the weight of history on their helmets. When the documentary was made, De La Salle had not lost in 151 consecutive games. That's 12 years of wins.

●Buddy (April 21) is jolly and routine, and proof that even Norwegian twentysomethings know how to examine their navels. It tells the story of friends who videotape themselves doing stupid human tricks and how their celebrity affects their love lives. It's like a 1993 flashback.

●Wilby Wonderful (May 5) comes out of the underrated tradition of eccentric Canadian ensemble comedies. If Frank Capra had been Canadian, he'd have made films like this: The residents of the sleepy island of Wilby Wonderful begin to doubt whether their melancholy days are worth the trouble. Don't fear: There's optimism here that would look corny if it came out of Hollywood, and the droll Sandra Oh (Sideways) keeps it from turning to molasses. But if you say the island's name slowly, the message is obvious - We'll Be Wonderful.

Get it?

Other films to be screened are the Portuguese drama Middle of the World (April 14) and an animation festival (May 12).

Film Movement: An Independent Film Festival begins tomorrow and runs each Thursday through May 12. Screenings start at 6:30 p.m. in the Main Branch of the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library, 325 Michigan St. Admission is free. Information: 419-259-5285.

Contact Christopher Borrelli at: cborrelli@theblade.com

or 419-724-6117.



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