“A tale of two cultures with a semi-autobiographical back story,” Die Welt is an “assured debut feature from the young Dutch director Alex Pitstra [that] takes place in his father’s homeland of Tunisia,” Stephen Dalton wrote in the Hollywood Reporter last November when the film premiered at the Doha Tribeca Film Festival. “The themes of emigration, people smuggling, political disillusion with Arab leaders and ingrained distrust of the West may be familiar. But they are woven together into a smart, funny and emotionally engaging rites-of-passage drama which has the authentic texture of real life. Raised in the Netherlands by his mother, the director… did not even meet his divorced father until he was 25. Die Welt is the result of him coming to terms with his Arab heritage, partly by imagining how his life might have turned out had he grown up Tunisia.”
“Split into chapters, Alex Pitstra’s economical film charts the day-to-day experiences of 23-year-old DVD shop employee Abdallah (Abdelhamid Naouara), who hilariously introduces himself via a longwinded explanation to a customer about the noxious imperialist undertones of Transformers 2,” writes Nick Schager in Slant. “That the scene ends with the customer still choosing to purchase the Michael Bay blockbuster speaks to both Abdallah’s over-analysis and the willing acceptance of Hollywood’s Arab stereotypes by Arabs themselves, with Pitstra allowing both interpretations to happily coexist without ruining the sequence’s amusing punchline. That lack of authorial finger-wagging typifies Die Welt, which lets its issues of identity, cross-cultural dialogue, political freedom, and familial strains to emerge naturally from Abdallah’s humdrum routines: asking his father for money; searching for more work; hanging out with his father and uncle at a resort, and later bedding one of the Dutch tourists whom they meet; smoking and chatting with friends; and, finally, trying to illegally escape Tunisia for Europe and, perhaps, a reunion with abroad family members he’s never met.”
“The first feature narrative to be set in a post-revolution Tunisia, the questionable treatment of the historic event that changed the face of the Arab World, and the lack of a hopeful resolution, is set to draw heated discussions both in Tunisia and the rest of the Arab World,” predicts Joseph Fahim in Variety Arabia. More from Chris Knipp.
“The Brazilian director Marcelo Lordello conjures up enough moments of visual beauty and narrative tension that you may not mind or initially even notice the art-film clichés and the periodically blunt political finger-wagging in his fiction-feature debut,” writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. “From his opening extreme long shots of a highway cutting through green, sandy hills, Mr. Lordello carves out two spaces, geographic and cinematic, that announce that his movie takes place both somewhere rural and suggestively pleasurable (sand, beach, vacation) and in that familiar territory staked out by masters of such shots, like the Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami.”
They’ll Come Back “is set along a remote northern Brazilian highway and its small offshoots that lead to disparate places,” writes Howard Feinstein for Filmmaker: “poor squatters’ villages or the beach homes of the moneyed from Recife. The flip side of a road movie, this coming-of-age story explores the internal life of 12-year-old Cris (Maria Luiza Tavares, underplaying splendidly), who wanders these routes after her rich parents inexplicably abandon her and her teen brother on a shoulder of the highway. What we find out about the mother and father might have made for stronger drama, but the observation of Cris’s subtle transformation is more profound and satisfying—especially in a rapidly developing country with such an enormous gap between rich and poor.”
Writing for Slant, Tomas Hachard notes that the film “shares both a location and theme (the country’s intensifying class divisions) with Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Neighboring Sounds, but distinguishes itself in method: Filho never showed the Recife slums, preferring instead to have them figure absently as a potential source of menace for his film’s middle-class residents, whereas Lordello allows himself more explicit juxtapositions.”
“Other Recife filmmakers well received at Rotterdam of late are Cláudio Assis, Gabriel Mascaro, and Marcelo Gomes,” notes Chris Knipp. “This is Lordello’s first fiction film after several documentaries” and it debuted last fall at the Brazilia Festival, “where it won awards for Best Actress, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Film.”