The Carnegie Mellon International Film Festival: Faces of Conflict runs through April 3, with more than a dozen feature films and documentaries. Unless noted, films screen at McConomy Auditorium, on the CMU campus, and are $10 ($5 students/seniors). A complete schedule, including guest speakers and specials events, is at www.cmu.edu/faces. Some recent films screening this week:
TAJ MAHAL. In November 2008, Mumbai, India, sustained a series of terrorist attacks, including a coordinated assault on its venerable Taj Mahal hotel, during which guests and employees were held hostage and killed. Nicolas Saada’s docudrama restages that terrifying night through the experience of an 18-year-old French hotel guest; she is alone while her parents attend a business event elsewhere. (“Alone” doesn’t account for the constant cell-phone communication, which is truly a tedious drag on dramatic tension.) The telescoping of the event greatly reduces the horror, as well as placing this film in the problematic imperiled-Westerner sub-genre. A more interesting take might have been how the young otherwise privileged woman processes what happened after returning to France, fertile material just barely hinted at. In English, and French, with subtitles. 7 p.m. Sun., March 27
THE HERE AFTER. At the start of this Swedish drama from Magnus von Horn, we see teenage John released from some secure facility, back into the awkward embrace of his family, a dad and younger brother. As the film quietly unfolds, we learn that John has committed a violent act, and that those in his rural community — high school classmates and administrators, neighbors and perhaps even members of his family — are not quite prepared to accept him back. Tensions simmer, then boil over, resulting in fresh acts of violence. It’s a slow-moving, chilly drama that doesn’t offer any easy answers to questions about varying degrees of culpability, understanding, forgiveness, justice and social obligation. In Swedish, with subtitles. 1 p.m. Tue., March 29
THE DYBBUK: A TALE OF THE WANDERING SOULS. Krzysztof Kopczynski’s documentary depicts the contemporary Rosh Hashanah pilgrimage of Hasidic Jews to the grave of their 18th-century leader Rebbe Nachman, in Uman, Ukraine. Shortly before Nachman’s arrival in the 1760s, nearly 20,000 Jews and Poles were slaughtered there. While the film’s title illustrates the spiritual struggle — dybbuk is Yiddish for restless souls — much of the tension builds around the physical. Ukrainian “patriots” fight to build a monument to the Cossack men who slaughtered the Jews. Meanwhile, Jews must deal with economic prejudice and with a cross erected where Rosh Hashanah prayers culminate. Yet, one Ukrainian man, who lives in a mystical place and tends a Hasidic cemetery, is able to bridge the cultures. Director Kopczynski is expected to attend. In various languages, with subtitles. 7 p.m. Wed., March 30 (Ashley Murray)
Also screening this week: Alvaro Longoria’s documentary The Propaganda Game recounts his trip to North Korea, where his government-sanction-only visits and interviews proved as bizarre as satire (7 p.m. Thu., March 24); A Syrian Love Story, Sean McAllister’s documentary about a family of Syrian refugees (7 p.m. Fri., March 25); and Coffin in the Mountains, a dark comedy set in a small village from Chinese director Yukun Xin (7 p.m. Sat., March 26).