Picks 'n' Pans

we recommend these Fullerton Film Festival selections:

The terrorization and extermination of Jews by the Nazis has been documented and dramatized in countless films. You'd think the Academy Awards bylaws forbid a ceremony unless the Holocaust is the theme in at least one nominated documentary. Not to denigrate the worthiness of focusing on that dark period in human history, but other dark periods in human history seem to suffer a resulting lack of cinematic exposure. Brenda Brkusic tries to correct that slight when it comes to the terrorization and extermination of Croatians with her eye-opening documentary Freedom From Despair, which she created while enrolled in Chapman University's film school. Mixing archival footage with a talking-head roster of authors, historians and her own relatives, Brkusic lays out the long, sordid history of abuses against Croatians, who suffered most profoundly under Yugoslavia's Communist dictator Josip Bronz Tito, and continued being terrorized into the 1990s under Slobodan Milosevic. Actor John Savage narrates, actors Michael York and Beata Pozniak provide voiceovers and Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) pops up to talk about the larger issues surrounding the Balkan War. But Brkusic, who is now a KOCE producer, impressively layers in the incredible personal story of her father, Kruno Brkusic, who miraculously eluded Tito's thugs to escape to Italy and eventually land in America, where he became a spokesman for Croatian freedom during the height of Milosevic's murderous reign. (Sun., 7 p.m.) (Matt Coker)

A lean, effective slice of agitprop enlivened with a New Wave voice-over and an unusual emotional directness, Mojados follows four Mexican laborers on their 120-mile journey across and beyond the Texas line—a common trek made considerably more difficult since the U.S. Border Patrol implemented a new crackdown strategy in 1995. With officers concentrated in urban areas, migrants are now forced to hike through punishing conditions in the desert. Vrit footage of the men scrounging for puddle water, parceling their moldy bread, and scrambling over barbwire fences (often in night vision) is contrasted with black-and-white interviews of ranchers and patrol officers, who not unsympathetically recount stories of border-crossing attempts gone foul. Any documentary this intimate can't help but call attention to the ethics involved in making it; lone-man crew Tommy Davis carried his own food and water during the filming, and one wonders whether he was ever prevailed upon to share. But Davis strives to keep himself out of the film, favoring a harrowing yet compassionate you-are-there aesthetic that underscores the hardship of the migrant workers' struggles. (Sun., 12:30 p.m.) (Ben Kenigsberg)

we do not recommend these selections:

A magical, mystical mess. Illiterate 11-year-old paperboy Obdulio lives with his spiritualist grandmother and two young sisters in Uruguay. Into his tightly circumscribed world wanders the mysterious Maestro, who teaches him to read and decode the power of language; a troupe of street performers who adopt him as a mascot; and a wise bartender with life lessons on tap. It all takes place against the backdrop of Carnival. What's meant to be charming, spiritually affirming and surreal is leaden and tedious—and horribly acted. (Sat., 11 a.m.) (Ernest Hardy)

The aroma of Hollywood hipster-insider chic wafts thickly from this story of a dying, once-powerful producer who enlists one of his sons to film his last days. But Papa kicks the bucket as soon as the opening credits end and Father becomes a look at the spoiled, largely irredeemable inhabitants of Paris Hiltonville, as an impromptu wake brings out the booze, the dope and the trust-fund posse. The film switches gears near the end, swelling into a crescendo of tears and redemption that is almost effective enough to make you forget that the preceding 80 minutes have been near insufferable. Cast with a who's who (Jeremy Sisto, Matt Keeslar, Judy Greer) of Hollywood hotties. (Sat., 2 p.m.) (Ernest Hardy)

Fullerton Film Festival in Fullerton College's Campus Theater, 321 E. Chapman Ave., Fullerton, 714/870-0069; www.f3filmfestival.com. $6 per screening. 

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