by Sandy Mandelberger, North American Editor
After winning the Best New York Narrative prize at the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival, the Serbian immigrant drama HERE AND THERE has become a hot hit on the international film festival circuit. It makes its Southeast Premiere at the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival on Saturday night.
In his debut film, Serbian helmer Darko Lungulov tracks two strangers in two strange lands, contrasting the adventures of an enterprising young Belgrade native in New York with the discoveries of an aging down-and-out New Yorker in Belgrade. With its mordant Eastern European humor tempered by a gentler sense of absurdity, with veteran actress Mirjana Karanovic a serene presence, the film is another worthy addition to the recent space of immigrant movies, including THE VISITOR and GOODBYE SOLO.
A standout in the film is American actor David Thornton, whose singular brand of world-weary cynicism and depression defines his character, Robert, a 52-year old jazz musician. Unable to work (he hasn't touched his saxophone in months), newly evicted and rapidly becoming persona non grata with Rose (Cyndi Lauper, Thornton's real-life wife), whom he's staying with, Robert accepts an offer of $5,000 to travel to Serbia and marry his Serbian mover's girlfriend, in order to legally get her into the United States.
Once in Belgrade, Robert unexpectedly begins to thaw, under the influence of the Serbian mover's mother, which makes him realize his connection to people around him. Lungulov intercuts scenes of Robert in the busy streets, markets and cafes of Belgrade with the travails of his Serbian benefactor, the moving man Branko, who's thrust into the junkyards, back alleys and police stations of the Big Apple after the theft of his van.
Telling both stories with humor and humanity, HERE AND THERE makes for a fascinating tale of contrasts. However its insistence that we all inhabit a community of interest is an important lesson in itself. The film won Best Director and Best Actress honors at the Serbian National Film Festival, as well as scoring a Sony D-Cinema prize at the Skip International Film Festival in Japan. It screened over the summer at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival as part of the Variety Critics Choice: Europe Now program. For more information on the film, visit: http://www.hereandtherethemovie.com/