VILNIUS - As picky as ever, the Kino Pavasaris Film Festival celebrates its 10th anniversary with another selection of films destined to be talked about for months to come. As always, the festival, which has gained a solid reputation in the country, presents films of vast geographic spectra. This year's highlights include work from African filmmakers, the latest blooming talent to liven up international festivals.
On the opening night of Mar. 31, attendees will have a chance to see the highly praised Alejandro Amenabar's "The Sea Inside" (Mar Adentro), which critics favor by a mile. No other film produced in 2004 has received as much prestige as this Spanish director's latest picture: Best Foreign Film in the Academy Awards 2005, the Best Foreign Film in the Golden Globes 2004, and 14 more distinctions including Best Film in the Goya Awards 2005.
The film recounts the life story of Spaniard Ramon Sampedro, who fought for 30 years to win the right to end his life with dignity. Ironically, Ramon lived by his wish to die, all the while teaching everyone he encountered the meaning, value and preciousness of life. Though he could not inspire himself, he had an uncanny ability to move others.
These days Africa appears to be the principal focus in film festivals around the world. And Kino Pavasaris is no exception. The festival provides a glimpse of Moroccan, South African, and Senegalese cinematography 's still rare exotics for a Lithuanian audience.
An absolute must-see is "Moolaade," the latest film by Africa's master Ousmane Sembene. In 1966, Sembene was the first director to release a feature-length motion picture in Sub-Saharan Africa.
"Moolaade" weaves itself around rural Africa's confrontation with globalization. Six girls from a rural village in Burkina Faso escape from a 'purification' ceremony, the female circumcision ritual. Some of the fugitives head for the city, while others visit a woman in a village who, some years earlier, had prevented her own daughter from the procedure. To protect them, the woman casts a moolaade, an unbreakable spell of sanctuary that can only be dissolved by her word.
Yet this gem is only one in a deep chest of treasures. Other African films and documentaries that sparkle include "Forgiveness" by Ian Gabriel, or "The Big Adventure" by Ismael Ferroukhi.
During the festival's 10-day program, there will be more than enough masterpieces to chose from - Spanish-speaking films among them. Carlos Sorino's comedy "Bombon 's the Dog" reveals the beauty of Argentina and the secrets of friendship between a man and a dog. On top of this, Uruguayan directors Juan Pablo Rebella and Pablo Stollas created a novel comedy "Whisky," which gathered international awards at various festivals. The film's soft irony when depicting the relationships of lonely people transcended borders with its subtle humor. In case you're wondering, the word "whisky" does not imply spirits. Although the film warms the soul just as easily.
In Vilnius, nothing quite compares to the Kino Pavasaris film festival. Previous festivals were testimony that cinemagoers really do appreciate good films. As tickets usually sell out hours ahead of time, get in line early 's it'll be a while before you have the chance again.