Palm Springs Festival

Review by Willard Manus

The Palm Springs International Film Festival is on a roll. This year's week-long fest attracted a record number of 125,000 people and featured 220 films, including nearly all of the 61 foreign-film Oscar nominations. Prominent among these was EDUART, the Greek entry written and directed by Angeliki Antoniou.

A Dostoyevskian tale of crime and punishment--and redemption-- EDUART tells the largely-true story of a young and impoverished Albanian (Eshref Durmishi) who sneaks into Greece hoping to become a rock star. Rebuffed in that regard and treated as an outcast, Eduart eventually turns to crime in order to survive, becoming more and more dehumanized in the process. Murder is the next step on his road to self-destruction. Pursued by the Greek police, he flees to Albania only to discover his homeland in chaos, the once-powerful Stalinist regime having collapsed into anarchy and corruption.

Eduart's father, an ex-army officer and war hero, has little use for his wastrel son, who represents everything soft, self-indulgent and amoral about the new Albania. Upon discovering his thieving past, the old man turns him in to the police. Eduart is sent to a lower-depths prison which Antoniou brings to life with uncompromising truth and power. Few women directors could deal with this bleak, brutal world so successfully and bravely (especially when it comes to a scene involving male rape).

The seeds of Eduart's salvation are planted when he meets a German doctor (played skilfully by Andre Hennicke) who is also doing time. The doctor sees something worthy in Eduart and fights to nourish it, move him from darkness to light. The process is slow and difficult, but Antoniou dramatizes it without sentimentality or falseness. Eduart doesn't find God, but he does rediscover enough of his own humanity to at least feel remorse--and take responsibility--for the terrible crime he has committed.

EDUART won a record eleven awards at the 2006 Thessaloniki Film Festival. One of Greece's boldest films in many years, it can also boast of a haunting musical score by Minos Matsas and Kostas Christidis.