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Film Reviews by Irene Svete

The Seattle International Film Festival is over, but a raft of festival favorites will open in local theaters over the next month or so. Here are a couple to add to your must-see list.

The Fast Runner
"The Fast Runner (Atanarjuat)" retells an epic Inuit tale of love and jealousy in a close-knit group divided by an evil spirit. Director Zacharias Kunuk says he first heard the story from his mother while his family was living on their land in the Canadian arctic. He carried it with him through relocation, government schools and a prohibition on storytelling and drum dancing.

Visually stunning, the movie begins with Atanarjuat (Natar Ungalaaq) as a child and follows him into manhood as he wins the love of Atuat (Sylvia Ivalu), thwarting his rival, the camp leader's son Oki (Peter-Henry Arnatsiaq). His success sets off a tragic series of events. The vast arctic skies, the movement of the seasons and the repetitive quality of daily life contrasts jarringly with the pace of urban American life, demanding that you let go and surrender to the leisurely rhythm of Kunuk's storytelling.

The first feature film shot by an Inuit cast and crew in their own language, "The Fast Runner" won Cannes' Camera d'Or award for best first feature last year. Unfortunately, scriptwriter Paul Apak Angilirq died of cancer before filming was completed.

Sunshine State
In "Sunshine State," writer-director John Sayles delves into land politics and parallel lives in small town Florida. Desiree (Angela Bassett) who left under a cloud 25 years earlier is returning home with her trophy husband, Boston anesthesiologist Reggie Perry (James McDaniel). Marly (Edie Falco of "The Sopranos") manages her father's rundown restaurant and motel, a business she's despised since high school, and tries to avoid her ex-husband. The two women's stories cross as a greedy developer plots to replace a coastal strip of small businesses and cottages with an upscale resort project.

Sayles' witty dialogue is always a treat, as is the quirky landscape of this vanishing Florida (What else says "Sunshine State" like the Weeki Wachee's mermaids and their underwater routine?) The movie grew out of Sayles' experiences scouting locations for another production. He quickly discovered that the unique qualities he remembered from 15 years earlier were being homogenized into strip malls and generic corporate-owned beach communities.  "Sunshine State" may not maintain the tension of his hit "Lone Star," but it smartly illuminates corners too few filmmakers are willing to explore.