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I recently saw this at the 2010 Palm Springs International Film Festival where this film's director, cinematographer and leading actress attended my screening for an audience Q&A following the film. This is based on a novel Ismail Kadare and adapted for the screen by writer/director Fatmir Koçi. The story begins in the immediate days before World War I as Albania is no longer under Ottoman rule and a German has been appointed king. A comet that comes around every 100 years or so is visible in the sky for several days. Shestan (Blerim Destani) convinces a small band of men from his village to set out on foot, armed and carrying the village's only map, in search of the war to defend their country and it's new king. Along the way they encounter numerous colorful characters, some friendly, some ambivalent and some dangerous. Shestan has resisted getting married to the annoyance of his family but he falls for a Catholic girl, Agnes (Masiela Lusha), he meets on his journey whose father is sending her off to become a nun. Lusha is best known to American audiences for her five-year run as the daughter on the George Lopez show. She was born and lived in Albania until the age of five and now lives in Los Angeles but she speaks the language and returned to that part of the world to film this movie. The entire cast in big roles and small are wonderful and the film features some internationally known veteran actors in Thomas Heinze and Ralf Moeller. Smartly directed by Koçi and beautifully photographed by cinematographer Gilligan this film has a lot of charm, light dry comedy, romantic tension and manages not to be too violent in some very violent times. This is a well done film and was one of my personal five favorites of the 23 films I saw at this years festival. I would give it a 9.0 out of 10 and recommend it.
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