Copenhagen International Film Festival
August 19-29

The Copenhagen International Film Festival is a new entry to the international festival circuit, only founded last August, but it's already going strong.

Any excuse to visit Copenhagen is a good one, anyway; a beautiful, architecturally interesting city, crammed with ridiculously good-looking people. Truth.

Plus, of course, there's all the rest going on, onscreen: 100 films in ten days, opening with Che Guevara bio-pic, "The Motorcycle Diaries," national favorites and international premieres, a late-night horror film series for clubbers and insomniacs ("Midnight Madness"), new directors/films and favorites from the Berlinale and Cannes, and a focus on work by female directors, "Women on Top."

Several films are shortlisted for a brand-new award category, best film by a female film director, including "Fifty Fifty" and "Goddess of Mercy."

Highlights: Women on Top

"Goddess of Mercy"
Dir: Ann Hui
Beijing yuppie Yang Rui falls in love with the female janitor, An Xing, at his martial arts studio; in the aftermath, Yang loses both his wife and his job.

Deeply in love, but poverty-stricken, the couple try to make ends meet and care for An Xing´s sick child, until An Xing´s past as an top agent for the drug enforcement agency comes back to haunt them.

Young drug dealer Maojie, whose parents were killed during a drug raid led by An Xing, has finally tracked down his old enemy.

All that remains is revenge and the settling of old scores - with no mercy on either side.

"Killing Words/Palabras Encadenadas"
Dir: Laura Manas
A psychiatrist faces off against a madman in the "Word Game." If she wins the duel, she lives. If she doesn't -- she loses. An intense, psychological thriller, pitting an intelligent adversary against a killer, in a game no one is willing to lose.

Highlights: Panorama/General Program

"Code 46"
"Code 46" takes place in the near future, where citizen's movements are strictly controlled by official permits.

In the vast deserts beyond the cities are shantytowns populated by outcasts without legitimate permits.

Family man William is sent to investigate a case of permit forgery; he meets Maria, and falls in love with her, but their affair can only last the 24 hours he has before his travel permit expires.

Spurred by a sense of duty, he reluctantly returns to his controlled environment. However, increasingly desperate to see Maria, he ultimately risks the penalty of using a fake permit and becoming a criminal -- to find her again.

"Den som frygter ulven"
Desperate bank robber Morgan is having a very bad day. He'd planned everything in minute detail: the bank, the time, the getaway car, the escape route and what he was going to wear. But what he definitely didn't plan on was nabbing a hostage who'd just escaped from a high security hospital for criminal psychopaths...

The idea for "Strings" came to director Anders Rønnov-Klarlund while he was watching an in-flight commercial about tourism in Prague; the spot included a puppet sequence.

He developed the idea into a classical good vs. evil drama, set in a unique, elaborate universe populated by puppets controlled by strings in heaven.

[Shown: "Strings"]

In "Bumer," we meet four Russian gangsters forced into involuntary exile in the isolated hinterlands while the trail of their crimes grows cold. They find a small town, where they can lie low and avoid the police.

The four urban cowboys arrive in a big, flashy BMW ('Bumer' is the Russian equivalent of 'Beemer') but it's not long before the hapless mafioso realize that what they'd envisioned as a safe hideout is actually a rural nightmare.

Highlights: Midnight Madness

This live-action remake of a minor 1970s animated series from Tatsunoko Pro has some interesting alterations; the original, straightforward tale of a selfless hero tackling a clearly evil enemy has subtly morphed into a complex evaluation of the destructive power inherent in the entire human species.

In this version of "Casshern", there's really no black and white, just shades of grey.

The story: In a totalitarian industrialist future, the Axis powers have won World War II and Japan has accomplished its Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere.

Dr. Azuma is a brilliant geneticist driven to find a cure for wife Midori's crippling illness, caused by environmental pathogens unleashed in the aftermath of fifty years of conflict between the 'Greater Eastern Federation' and 'Europa.'

Azuma's obsessive research results in the development of a restorative "neo-cell" technology.

Desperate to continue his work, he appeals to the government for funding, but politicians in the Health Ministry turn him down, fearing that the new technology is a threat to the power stranglehold they have over the ailing populace.

Devastated, but relentless in his quest to save his wife, Azuma finds a buyer -- a sinister faction in the powerful military takes him up on the new neo-cell process, making him a secret offer to provide the support he needs in order to complete his research.

A freak accident at the underground research facility causes a vat of regenerating body parts to reintegrate into humanoid form; the 'Shinzo Ningen,' a race of mutants.

Caught unawares, the military guards recoil in fear, destroying the creatures.

A small band of mutants escape the slaughter. They make their way to a deserted outpost, and -- rather fortuitously -- stumble across a discarded arsenal of military robots. Their leader, Brai, vows revenge for the annihilation of his people.

Instead of saving mankind, Azuma's miraculous technology has put it on a collision course with a legion of the Shinzo Ningen, seeking revenge for the deaths of their brother humanoids.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...frustrated by ongoing military skirmishes which wreak havoc on an already suffering population, Azuma and Midori's son Tetsuya joins the Federation army, hoping to effect a permanent change in the system.

During a heavy-fire tour of duty, Tetsuya is killed in combat.

His body is returned to Azuma, who uses the neo-cell process to bring his son back to life; the process works, but renders his body overly vulnerable to physical attack. A fellow scientist helps Azuma, providing his son with the prototype of an advanced full-body armor.

Back from the dead, and armed with unusual powers, our hero sets off to end the carnage of a new war.

However, as the saying goes, he who fights monsters should take care that he does not also become one...

[Shown/header image: "Casshern"]

Find it: Various venues.
Dagmar Teatret, Jernbanegade 2, Copenhagen
Get info: 33 14 32 22
Cinemateket, Gothersgade 55, Copenhagrn
Get info: 33 74 34 12
Imperial, Ved Vesterport 4, Copenhagen
Get info: 70 13 12 11

Find coverage of other film festivals worldwide, in the August 2004 issue of "Arte Six".