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New directors make impressive debuts

I attended this year's Toronto filmfest as a member of a seven-member International Film Critics Federation jury charged with encouraging new talent by awarding a prize to the best movie premired here by a first-time or second-time filmmaker not affiliated with a major studio.

The prize went to Zhang Yang for Shower, a poetic Chinese comedy-drama about an elderly father, his very different sons, and the ramshackle bathhouse they run in a changing urban neighborhood.

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Other pictures I found impressive in the "young cinema" category included Rodrigue Jean's moody Full Blast, a French Canadian drama about two irresponsible young men; After the Truth, by German director Roland Suso Richter, about what might have happened if Nazi physician Josef Mengele had been put on trial for war crimes; Tom Gilroy's soft-spoken Spring Forward, an American drama starring Ned Beatty and Liev Schreiber as working-class men who grow closer through the experiences they share; and Kevin Jordan's ultra-low-budget Goat on Fire & Smiling Fish, an American comedy about love-struck brothers with contrasting personalities.

Thanks to the praiseworthy support shown for new directors by this hugely influential festival, these and other forward-looking movies have a good chance of finding their way to neighborhood theaters in the near future.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society