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Diane Carson

The very name Timbuktu often conjures exotic, even mysterious associations, but the city has also enjoyed a reputation for tolerance of Christians, Muslims, and other faiths. Director Abderrahmane Sissako takes that association and turns it upside down. In his film "Timbuktu," he immerses the viewer in a city and its environs ruled by conservative, brutal jihadists

It's no surprise that a serious film about a contested divorce is fraught with emotional turmoil. Still "Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem" presents an unexpectedly gripping, impossible situation. Viviane, the title character, endures a painful predicament in her bid for divorce because, in Israel, the husband must fully consent before Orthodox rabbis can legalize a marriage's dissolution.

The 10th Annual African Film Festival, March 27 to 29, has a wide-ranging, impressive lineup of short and feature films representing Kenya, Cameroon, Tunisia, Burkina Faso and South Africa. From the sobering, Academy Award nominated "Timbuktu" to the humorous shorts "Beleh" and "Soko Sonko," the festival showcase the diversity of cinematic styles and subject matter, providing admirable depth and breadth.

The Catholic versus Protestant conflict in Northern Ireland, the "Troubles" as they're called, has provided the occasion for several powerful films, including "Michael Collins" and "In the Name of the Father." Director Yann Demange's feature debut, "'71," joins that esteemed group. With nonstop tension, it probes the Belfast community of IRA members, fighting the Brits as well as among themselves.

The Seventh Annual Robert Classic French Film Festival showcases nine films, eight features and one short, over three weekends in March. Each of the historically important works from the 1930s through the early 1990s has been recently restored, meaning these masterpieces will be seen as their creators intended, occasionally for the first time in decades.

The Seventh Annual Robert Classic French Film Festival continues in its second weekend with three more newly restored narrative features: "Two Men in Manhattan," "Queen Margot," and "Boy Meets Girl." Made from 1959 to 1994, they offer very different worlds from film noir to saturated color, from a missing diplomat to a romantic failure to a treacherous queen.

Told to the beat of Fela Anikulapo Kuti's dynamic music, the documentary "Finding Fela" profiles a flawed but unmistakably charismatic political activist and accomplished musician. The multi-award winning director Alex Gibney presents a complex portrait, drawing on multiple sources to document Fela's profound and lasting effect on his native Nigeria.

The Seventh Annual Robert Classic French Film Festival concludes the weekend of March 27 to 29 with three more newly restored narrative features: Jacques Tati's "Mon Oncle," Eric Rohmer's "A Tale of Winter," and Robert Bresson's "A Man Escaped." Quite different in tone and genre, nevertheless each presents a masterful example of these French directors realizing a cinematic triumph.

Director Nickolas Dylan Rossi's documentary "Heaven Adores You" chronicles the short, rich musical life of Elliott Smith, dead in 2003 at 34. According to publicity, the film's exceptional achievement is that perhaps 20 of its 35 songs were never released. Unfortunately, the songs compete with comments by those interviewed or they play over lovely but irrelevant footage.

Director Jody Lee Lipes' documentary "Ballet 422" follows 25-year-old Justin Peck through the creative process choreographing and staging New York City Ballet's 422 ballet: Paz de la Jolla. Lipes' fly-on-the-wall approach watches Peck, a corps dancer himself, test difficult steps, leaps, and spins. He then works with the principal dancers in refining and adjusting his choreography.

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