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Director Shahram Mokri’s first feature is a delightfully offbeat B&W comedy about the mysterious workings of Fate, played out in deadpan Jim Jarmusch-like vignettes. Two blind jewel thieves, a young man who can’t succeed at killing himself, a love-struck police officer and two female morgue attendants find their lives interconnected when an unusual fish is set free and a charmed ring is moved. Watch for sly references to film noir classics including LE SAMOURAI and KISS ME DEADLY in this wonderful and eccentric Iranian gem.


From Karen Shakhnazarov, director of ZEROGRAD, ASSASSIN OF THE TSAR is a mysterious and labyrinthine psychological drama in which the tormented chambers of a patient’s mind come to warp everything around him, even the folds of history itself. In one of his finest latter-day performances, the great Malcolm McDowell
(A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, TIME AFTER TIME) stars as Timofeyev, a severe schizophrenic in a dreary Soviet mental hospital who is convinced that, impossibly, he’s the killer of two Tsars: Alexander II in 1881 and Nicholas II in 1918. The thoughtful new head of the hospital, Dr. Smirnov (Oleg Yankovskiy) is determined to cure Timofeyev of his madness – but instead finds himself literally pulled back through time, inhabiting the ghosts of the past as they march towards their tragic destiny.


From GOD ON A BALCONY director Biswajeet Bora, BOOMBA RIDE is a scathing comic satire of corruption in India’s rural education system – and one 8-year old boy (newcomer Indrajit Pegu, in a remarkable performance) who knows how to rig the game for himself. Inspired by a true story, the film was shot in the state of Assam on the banks of the Brahmaputra River with a mostly nonprofessional cast.
The story revolves around an impoverished school where there is only one (unwilling) student, Boomba. Desperate to keep their jobs and funding, the teachers wind up bribing the hilariously impassive and uncooperative boy to show up to class – while Boomba’s secret wish is to attend the better-funded school in town where a slightly older and very pretty girl just happens to be a student.


Inspired by a real-life tragedy, the infamous Cinema Rex fire in 1978 that triggered the Iranian Revolution, CARELESS CRIME follows three “timelines” – of arsonists planning to burn down a movie theatre; of workers and students at the cinema; and of characters within the film screening at the cinema – which may or may not all be happening at the same time. One of the most dazzling and enigmatic films in recent memory, Mokri’s mind-bending mystery leapfrogs between past and present, fact and fiction to create an unforgettable picture of Time not as a straight line, but as an elastic, constantly spinning Moebius strip.

CAT CITY (1986)

Unflappable and unstoppable mouse secret agent Nick Grabovsky (László Sinkó) with his deadpan voice, baggy pants and a big “G” on his shirt, goes up against the criminal cat gang run by the sinister, metal-pawed Mr. Teufel (Miklós Benedek), in Hungarian director Béla Ternovszky’s surreal, animated sci-fi treasure. Set in the year 80 AMM (“After Mickey Mouse”) on Planet X where cats and rats have banded together to eliminate mice, the film features a show-stopping series of musical numbers including a deranged Euro-disco song (“Just purr with me / Touch me with tender paws”) and a bizarre chorus of Mexican vampire bats named Los Vampiros who inhabit an ancient Mayan temple. A cross between 1980s Don Bluth-style animation (THE SECRET OF NIMH) and the British TV series “Danger Mouse” (clearly an inspiration here), CAT CITY has long been a beloved cult favorite in Eastern Europe – recently restored by the National Film Institute in Hungary from the original 35mm camera negative. In Hungarian with English subtitles.


From Prasanna Vithanage, one of Sri Lanka’s most acclaimed directors, comes GAADI – CHILDREN OF THE SUN, a sweeping historical drama of imperial politics, religion, caste, gender and impossible love. Set in 1814 during the era of repressive British colonial rule in Ceylon (modern Sri Lanka) and the last days of the Kandyan kingdom, GAADI begins with a collaborationist English agent convincing the local Sinhala Buddhist nobility to attempt to overthrow the rival Tamil king. The subsequent military disaster forces a Sinhala noble woman, Tikiri (Dinara Punchihewa in her debut role) to choose between suicide and marriage to a low-caste outcast Vijaya (Sri Lankan star Sajitha Anuththara, in an irresistible performance).

DHUIN (2022)

From Achal Mishra, director of THE VILLAGE HOUSE (GAMAK GHAR), DHUIN is a stunning, novella-length portrait of a 25-year old street theatre actor (Abhinav Jha, in a breakout performance) who is desperate to leave his rural hometown of Darbhanga for Mumbai, but finds himself trapped by family obligations, lack of experience and connections, and the all-enveloping fog of living.

FISH & CAT (2013)

A group of attractive young Iranian kite-flying enthusiasts gather at a dismal lake, near a restaurant where two sinister characters straight out of TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE are serving up grisly fare. Shahram Mokri’s breakout second feature is an unclassifiable brilliant, single-shot meditation on 1970s American slasher films like FRIDAY THE 13th but filtered through a purely art-house lens.
Eerie, circular and overwhelmingly mysterious, with strange and unexpected tangents, weird tales of phantom lights, and an insistent, repetitive dream logic, FISH & CAT is a “horror” film in the same way Tarkovsky’s STALKER is “science fiction.”


“A crime is a crime, even if committed by kings,” intones the narrator of director József Gémes’ animated portrait of the supposedly “heroic” age of medieval knights and kings, a sprawling and bloody tapestry of ruthless combat to rival Game Of Thrones. Based on an epic narrative poem by 19 th century Hungarian writer János Arany, HEROIC TIMES has a unique visual style combining gorgeous oil paintings and 2-D animation, similar to the Japanese anime BELLADONNA OF SADNESS. Stylistically, the film is closer to sweeping medieval sagas like Aleksandr Ptushko’s ILYA MUROMETS, John Boorman’s EXCALIBUR and Ralph Bakshi’s underrated version of THE LORD OF THE RINGS, tied together by the battle-wearied voice of the narrator: “I haunted the alien streets as a spirit of withered times.” Winner of the feature film award at the 1985 Annecy Animated Film Festival, the long-unseen HEROIC TIMES has been newly restored by the NFI – National Film Institute-Film Archive in Hungary for its first-ever U.S. release by Deaf Crocodile. In Hungarian with English subtitles.


Legendary fantasy filmmaker Aleksandr Ptushko’s sweeping, visual F/X-filled epic is one of his most enchanting achievements: a stunning Cinemascope ballad of heroic medieval knights, ruthless Tugar invaders, wind demons and three-headed fire-breathing dragons.
Based on one of the most famous byliny (oral epics) in Kievan Rus’ culture, the film stars Boris Andreyev as the bogatyr (warrior) Ilya, waging a decades-long battle against the Tugars who threaten his homeland, kidnap his wife and raise his own son to fight against him.


Director Shahram Mokri’s third and most formally challenging film continues the time-bending, single-shot experimentation of FISH & CAT (and later, CARELESS CRIME) in a science-fiction/detective/vampire story, with nods to stylized 1980s New Wave-era films like LIQUID SKY.
Sometime in the future, teams of tattooed athletes play a vaguely defined sport in an ominous, labyrinthine stadium where a murder has taken place. When police try to reconstruct the crime, teammates of the murdered man force his vampiric twin sister to assume his identity, in hopes of killing her off too. But all too soon time, identity and the bonds of reality break down in another of Mokri’s fascinating, genre-defying creations.


From Indian director/writer Megha Ramaswamy (BUNNY, WHAT ARE THE ODDS?), the surreal, genre-defying LALANNA’S SONG follows two young women (Rima Kallingal and Parvathy Thiruvothu, in sublime performances) on what seems to be a routine day dealing with prejudice and sexism. They go to the store, where they’re falsely accused of shoplifting; they attend a young girl’s birthday party at a tacky disco with their children.

SAMPO (1959)

Based on the Finnish national epic “Kalevala,” director Aleksandr Ptushko’s ravishing, mystical fantasy tells the story of a sinister witch Louhi (Anna Orochko) who covets the Sampo, a magical, rainbow-colored mill that can produce endless salt, grain, and gold. When the hero Lemminkäinen (Andris Oshin) attempts to stop her, Louhi steals the sun, plunging the world into eternal darkness. A Finnish/Soviet co-production and shot like its predecessor ILYA MUROMETS in gorgeous CinemaScope, SAMPO features some of Ptushko’s most surreal and fantastical imagery: a glowing red horse plowing a field of vipers; a boat of fire with a stag’s head; a weeping mother literally walking across the sea to find her lost son. With its witch’s incantations and repeated scenes of forging magical items – “Give me fire for the furnace from the nave of the sky!” – there is a Macbeth-like occult force to the film as well, underscored by the raging blue-gray seas and rock-strewn landscapes. Previously released in the U.S. in a dubbed, butchered version as THE DAY THE EARTH FROZE (and later mocked on MST3K), SAMPO has been beautifully restored in 4K by KAVI – the Finnish National Audiovisual Institute for its first-ever American release in its original Finnish-language version by Deaf Crocodile.


The long-lost, independently financed Black urban crime/action film SOLOMON KING (1974) from director/actor/producer/writer Sal Watts is set for restoration and re-release in 2022 from distributor Deaf Crocodile Films. SOLOMON KING was shot in Oakland, CA in 1973 with a cast of mostly non-professional actors, a stunning soul-funk soundtrack, and incredible clothes from Watts’s own Mr. Sal’s Fashion stores. Restored with the cooperation of the filmmaker’s widow, Belinda Burton-Watts (who appears in the film), and utilizing one of the only surviving complete prints of the film from the UCLA Film & TV Archive alongside the original soundtrack elements (which had been stored in Burton-Watts’s closet for several decades)

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Based on a famous fairy tale in verse by Alexander Pushkin, THE TALE OF TSAR SALTAN is one of director Aleksandr Ptushko’s most sublime creations: a
ravishingly beautiful fantasy about love, magic, betrayal and abandoned family. Driven from the Russian court by her sisters’ scheming, the young Tsarina (Larisa Golubkina) is thrown into the sea in a cask with her infant son. Surviving the storm-tossed voyage, the mother and her now magically-adult son (Oleg Vidov) land on a remote island where he falls in love with a Swan Princess in human form (Kseniya Ryabinkina), and longs for reunion with his estranged father, Tsar Saltan (Vladimir Andreyev).

THE TUNE (1992)

Legendary animator and cartoonist Bill Plympton’s first feature, THE TUNE is a wildly surreal animated musical comedy about a struggling songwriter named Del (voiced by Daniel Neiden), desperate to write a hit tune to save his relationship with his pert, long-suffering girlfriend Didi (voiced by Maureen McElheron, who co-wrote the script and composed the music). On his way to meet her and his boss, Del gets sidetracked in the cheerfully deranged Alternate Universe of Flooby Nooby: a strangely nostalgic vision of 1950s middle-class America as filtered through the affectionate-but-twisted sensibilities of David Lynch, Talking Heads and classic Warner Bros. Bugs Bunny ‘toons. There’s a Doggie Elvis who croons about his pompadour; a love duet between a Burger and Fry, a slice of Cherry Pie and a Scoop of Ice Cream; and a joyfully sadistic Bellhop at The Love Sick Hotel, all singing lovably warped tunes like “Dig My Do,” “No Nose Blues” and “Tango Shmango”. Plympton’s famed animation style, done in colored pencils with a gorgeous pastel palette, is perfectly suited to this beautifully off-kilter saga of a man who loses his way only to find his heart: “Lost?” “No, I just don’t know where I am.” Restored by the Academy Film Archive.


Set in a dystopian world of gleaming white towers, Sony video monitors and inflatable furniture, where the beautiful inhabitants all dress as Edie Sedgwick-like pixie sprites or medieval page boys out of LOGAN’S RUN, the film follows a historian of late 20 th century culture (played by Arto Tuominen) researching the mysterious death many years earlier of a free-spirited erotic model. In a VERTIGO-like twist, he hires the model’s exact double, an earthy, uninhibited engineer named Kisse (actress Ritva Vepsä plays both parts) to recreate the model’s death for a TV program. Director Jarva was one of Finland’s most acclaimed fiction filmmakers and documentarians before he was tragically killed in an auto accident returning from the premiere of his latest film in 1977.


THE UNKNOWN MAN OF SHANDIGOR is a marvelous and surreal hall of mirrors, part-DR. STRANGELOVE, part-ALPHAVILLE, with sly nods to British TV shows like “THE AVENGERS” and “DOCTOR WHO.” The film stars a Who’s Who of great Sixties European character actors starting with the unforgettable Daniel Emilfork (THE CITY OF LOST CHILDREN, THE DEVIL’S NIGHTMARE) as crazed scientist Herbert Von Krantz, who’s invented a device to sterilize all nuclear weapons called “The Annulator.”
A mad herd of rival spies are desperate to get their hands on the device, including legendary French singer Serge Gainsbourg as the leader of a sect of bald, turtleneck-wearing assassins, and Jess Franco veteran Howard Vernon (THE AWFUL DR. ORLOF). Gainsbourg’s deranged jazz-lounge song, “Bye Bye Mr. Spy” – performed by him on funeral parlor organ, no less – is arguably the film’s high point.


The astonishing debut feature from 23-year old writer/director Achal Mishra. THE VILLAGE HOUSE (Gamak Ghar) is a lovely, luminous and gentle portrait of a large extended Indian family over several decades as they gather at the matriarch’s rural home, following the inevitable rhythms of change, children moving away to the city, and the inexorable decay of traditional village life.
Like Bergman’s FANNY AND ALEXANDER, THE VILLAGE HOUSE is suffused with warmth and nostalgia, and a remarkable eye for detail: men cheating amiably at cards, vegetables frying in oil, kids and uncles mesmerized by a Salman Khan movie, the ephemeral poetry of the present as it slips away. “Gradually we came down to visiting only once a year,” one character observes sadly as the house falls slowly into disrepair – and as the building ages with the family, THE VILLAGE HOUSE becomes the most intimate of epics, tracing birth, death and rebirth like a flood leaving its high water mark on the bark of a tree.


Imagine if Troma Films had been hired to make a Sid & Marty Krofft Saturday morning kids’ show, and if you have some idea of the unspeakable strangeness of VISITORS FROM THE ARKANA GALAXY, a truly gonzo Croatian sci-fi / fantasy about a struggling writer, Robert (Zarko Potocnjak), who dreams up a story of gold-skinned alien androids named Andra, Targo and Ulu from a distant planet. Incredibly, his fictional alien creations become reality, causing chaos in his relationship with his girlfriend Biba (Lucie Zulová) and threatening his small seaside village. The alluring lead robot Andra (Ksenia Prohaska) looks like H.R. Giger re-designed the Maschinenmensch from Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS; watch for the scene where she pours hot coffee and cream out of her fingertips. But for sheer jaw dropping insanity, nothing rivals the Mumu Monster -- created for the film by legendary Czech animator Jan Svankmajer -- a rubber-suited, multi-tentacled creation that destroys a wedding party, ripping off heads and spouting plumes of toxic green smoke while a blind accordion player blithely plays his squeezebox. VISITORS was a rare feature film from animator Dusan Vukotic (1927-1998), best known for his stunning UPA-style cartoon shorts.


Part Kafka, part Agatha Christie and part Monty Python, director Karen Shakhnazarov’s surreal 1988 satire of Communism ZEROGRAD (ZERO CITY) follows an Everyman engineer named Varakin (Leonid Filatov) who arrives in a remote city where nothing quite makes sense, but everyone acts as if it does.
The more complex and absurdist the mystery becomes, the more poignant and plaintive Varakin’s predicament – “I have to get back to Moscow,” he pleads to no avail. Along the way we’re treated to a bizarre and wonderful sideshow of non sequiturs out of a Wes Anderson film, including an underground museum filled with a thousand years of real and imagined Russian history (“Here’s the pistol with which Urusov shot the False Dimitry II.”) Frozen in time, frozen far beneath the surface, the waxwork figures are strangely beautiful and forlorn, like Shakhnazarov’s marvelous and enigmatic satire of Soviet bureaucracy. With music by the great Eduard Artemyev (SOLARIS, STALKER). (In Russian with English subtitles.)

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