Wednesday, July 6, 2011

14th Annual Long Island Film Expo

Natasa Petrovic in As if I Am Not There
14th Annual Long Island International Film Expo
Bellmore Movies, 222 Petit Avenue
Bellmore, NY
July 7-14, 2011

Now in its 14th season, the Long Island International Film Expo showcases independent films from around the world. With 2011 declared the “year of the documentary,” it’s no surprise that so many non-fiction features and shorts are part of this year’s slate.

The opening night feature (not a documentary) is a trenchant exploration of the Bosnian war’s atrocities. As If I Am Not There is based on Bosnian author Slavenka Drakulic’s shattering novel known as S.--A Story about the Balkans in America, itself based on stories of women who were raped and abused by Serbian captors. Juanita Wilson’s film follows the novel closely, except placing events in chronological order, so what one knows at the beginning of the book about Samira--a young teacher from Sarajevo who is subjected to the most inhumane treatment until she is finally freed when the war ends--is shown in the film only at the end.

Samira, who is played by an amazing Macedonian actress Natasa Petrovic, whose silence and sad eyes speak volumes, looks in a mirror on a few occasions and sees that she has remained as physically attractive and seemingly undisturbed as before the war. She wonders why there aren’t any outward signs of the brutality she has suffered. Writer-director Wilson softens the merciless bluntness of Drakulic’s writing, but the power and humanity of Samira’s and countless other women’s stories rings true.

Other intriguing features on the Expo’s schedule include Come Hell or High Water, which follows three local area trauma survivors who journey to New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina; Fordson: Faith, Fasting, Football, about a predominantly Muslim high school football team in Michigan; John Muir: In the New World, a study of the spiritual father of our National Park system; and Long Island Uncovered, which chronicles several of the island‘s best-known rock tribute/cover bands.

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