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A weekly update of film releases

* SWING KIDS - The heroes are young Germans who wear long hair, love the "degeneracy" of American jazz, and refuse to join the Hitler youth group that has corralled many of their young friends. This well-meaning drama was made with obvious passion, and it raises a number of interesting issues for today's world, such as the dangers of neo-Nazi activity and the possible role of rap music as a current American equivalent for the swing-era jazz that served as a symbol and rallying point for righteous rebels of the Nazi era. The filmmaking is often manipulative, though, diminshing the picture's overall impact. Directed by Thomas Carter. (Rated PG-13). *GARDEN OF SCORPIONS - This merciless satire of life in the Soviet Union, written and directed by Russian filmmaker Oleg Kovalov, makes its points by stringing together excerpts from old Soviet films that demonstrate artless and doctrinaire quality of much Soviet cinema between the 1930s-'60s. The main story is provided by clips from a 1955 melodrama about a yound soldier whose romance is spoiled by capitalist spies; it's mighty ridiculous, but no more than some American films of the '50s that capitalized o n the "Red menace" just as shamelessly. In all it's inventive, surrealistic, and hilarious. (Not rated) MASALA - The main characters are immigrants who have moved from India to Canada, where they try to balance the demands of their new environment with continuing respect for their original heritage. Srinivas Krishna, an Indian-Canaidan filmmaker, wrote and directed this picture. Its mixture of modds and genres is not smoothly blended, especially when sex is the subject, and not all the performances are convincing. Still the story has boundless energy, and Saeed Jaffrey is predictably fine in this triple role.

(Not rated)

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