Saturday, November 3, 2012


Thandie Newton as Dominique
Benicio del Toro in the role of Lerance

Wendell Pierce as Sheriff Futrell

The first time I saw celeb photos in connection with film roles for a movie adaptation of a popular book, I thought it was a done deal. A few years ago, on her Facebook page, Julia Spencer Fleming had chosen spot-on actors for her characters in I Shall Not Want. I mistakenly thought the film rights had been sold, and the pics were of stars who were going to play Julia's characters. When I realized these were "wish photos",  I thought this idea totally bodacious!  Cherry-picking  celebs for a future project without any studio discussion?  Really? But, then, it was Julia Spencer Fleming!!  An author who writes elegant and mysterious tales.

Well, almost three years later, and after publishing my first novel, I thought it was time to finally cross over to being bodacious.

The following photos are of the very same people whom once rented space  across my line of vision when I was writing The Delilah Case. Since I saw them everyday for years in my mind and on the page, I thought it fitting I should finally show the world my "celeb wish photos". I hung out with all of them from the start; everyone, but the sheriff. Regarding Futrell, I occasionally conjured up James Lee Burke's face, but alas, he's a writer and not a performer. It was later, after reading Wendell Pierce's Facebook posts, and listening to an interview with him on NPR about his grocery store project for New Orleans, that I
 recalled how much I adored his performances in The Wire, and then  saw how perfect  he would be for this role. Okay, I had someone else in mind to play Darnell, but the process took longer than anticipated, and the actor got older along with the rest of us.  Tyson is utter and true D.
Isn't this cast scrumptious!

See if you agree, and let me know what you think.

Tyson Beckford as Darnell
Joan Cusack as Guyla Rae

Mark Valley as Kevin

Saturday, October 20, 2012


Starting October 21, you can enter the Goodreads Book Giveaway to win my new novel, The Delilah Case. There will be FIVE Lucky Winners, and one of them could be you.  Someone has to win - and how fun is that?


    Goodreads Book Giveaway


        The Delilah Case by Mickie Turk



          The Delilah Case

          by Mickie Turk


            Giveaway ends December 21, 2012.
            See the giveaway details
            at Goodreads.

      Enter to win

Monday, September 17, 2012


Thursday, October 4, 6:30pm - Magers and Quinn Booksellers

3038 Hennepin Avenue, South
Minneapolis, MN  55408
612 -822-4611

Another chance to celebrate Mickie Turk's book launch of The Delilah Case. This time it's at one of the Twin Cities legendary independent booksellers, Magers and Quinn. The event includes reading, discussion, a bit of New Orleans cuisine, and beverages.

It would be lovely to see you there!

Monday, August 6, 2012

THE DELILAH CASE Trade Paperback

3038 Hennepin Ave. South, Minneapolis, MN  55408  (612) 822-4611

Thursday, October 4, 6:30 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

Join the Author for a celebration and discussion.  Hors d'oevres and libations.

 - I'd rather see you there, in real life, but if you are not from my area, the trade paperback version of The Delilah Case is now available at Amazon.  

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Raymond Avenue Bridge, St. Paul, MN
So . . . I'm in the throws of marketing my novel, The Delilah Case -- which of course, is a full time enterprise -- and I'm writing far less than I'm used to. FAR LESS than I should be!  But I have found ways to keep the Creative's Way of Life fairly intact.

This month it's Instagram.

I've become a total addict, sitting down for eight hours at a time shuffling images from my phone to my computer, and back, and back again. This may be the most fun I've had creatively, ever. At least in photography. Years ago, I was a professional photographer working for a studio, and creating and marketing photo-art cards to gift stores in Minnesota and California. Then I jumped to filmmaking, screenwriting, writing memoirs, writing novels.  Before all of that, I traveled across the country and parts of other countries; also, dabbled in two-dimensional design. Then I decorated my house, planted, and gardened. I reared a bright and lovely, female human being -- I'd like to say that she was my best creation of all-time -- truth is, she mostly created herself, and to herself gets the credit.

Daughter - College Graduation
It sounds like I never had a plan. Doesn't it? My kid tells me that and so does a dark side of my brain, one that I can, thankfully, shut off most of the time. So what is it?  Writer for life? Photographer? Filmmaker? (The last one may have lasted longer if it didn't cost gazillions to make moving images.) What is my profession?  Does it matter? I get bills paid. The real-er question would be, what is my passion, where is my fire? Not really, truly sure, but somehow my brain and heart always lead me to a place that is filled with wonder, innocence,  and mostly, random magic. When I can see the ordinary world transform into an extraordinary experience, where I can look into a mirror that reflects the past and the future neatly folding into each other, I'm there - that's my XANADU. 

Am I irresponsible, have I neglected the things we of a certain age are told we need to have: a savings, a retirement fund(s). No and yes. But, using the recent words of my friend's eight-year-old daughter after she baked something: "in retrospect", I have always, even if unconsciously, found jobs that were easy to do, with flexible schedules -- often out of the mainstream of working society -- so I could keep a house, eat, support my child, and always have enough time to delight and feel astonished in Xanadu.

It may seem like heresy to some, but my feelings of uplift and joy come from multiple media. While I wait for one book to sell, and another one simmers before it gets uploaded to electronic and physical shelves, I play with Instagram. This program that sits on my smartphone and makes me feel child-like and brand new again.

I hope you enjoy the Instagrams!

Click on images to enlarge.

BF Nelson Park, Minneapolis, MN
Coronado Beach, CA

San Francisco, CA

Jamaican Bus

White Branches (Location: not a clue)

Portrait Study

Jamaican Cottage

Sunday, July 15, 2012


It's been seven years, but the images of Katrina and its endless swath of damage still haunt my memory. I'm almost finished reading Joshua Clark's Heart Like Water -- and there will definitely be an article on this raw and moving memoir -- but it brings to mind a short piece I wrote about the first Mardi Gras after the disaster.
Heart Like Water

            Rex floats along familiar passageways, past curious faces, in a city that begs to be reborn. Once bold and bawdy, this self-conscious parade looks out into the adoring crowd and turns away. We ask, who are these tiresome crashers, always spilling beer and crying out for beads?
            It wasn’t always like this. We used to make room for the strangers. And we sure showed them a good time. But then we disappeared. In the night, carrying nothing more than our parts and pieces, we fled into darkness. Now banished from the open shelter of the nation’s biggest party, we are traveling on.
            Here, it’s your turn. Dry your cheeks and throw down that tissue. Make merry, fearsome reveler! Slip on a party mask, and raise your go-cup. 

Friday, July 6, 2012


Check this site out!  So much great stuff to learn about the newest and oldest in crime writing.


By crime fans for crime fans, 24/7. Books, TV, comics, and movies. Soft-boiled to hard-edged, serving mystery, murder, and mayhem daily.
By crime fans for crime fans, 24/7. Books, TV, comics, and movies. Soft-boiled to hard-edged, serving mystery, murder, and mayhem daily.

Contact Info

Saturday, June 30, 2012


Christine Husom
A couple years ago, when I attended my first meeting of the Twin Cities Sisters in Crime chapter, Christine Husom welcomed me with an easy smile and interested banter. Instantly, I felt  like I had already been a member for years and years.  Later, when I finished reading the third novel in Husom's Winnebago County mystery thriller series, Altar by the RiverI wondered how someone who is so very kind and friendly, can create really frightening, creeping-under-your-skin, characters.

According to Husom, former Wright County, MN, Sheriff's Department corrections officer, it takes a lot of personal energy and extensive research to get inside the head of a madman or madwoman. The author said that before delving into Altar by the Riverwhich deals with satanic ritual crimes, she spent three months combing through literature and case studies to get a clear understanding of the differences between psychopathy and sociopathy.

But I still wanted to know how Husom got started writing these frightening books in the first place.  It turns out that long before she wrote her first suspense novel, Murder in Winnebago County, Husom had written poetry, essays, and a romance novel or two. She never gave mysteries or suspense much thought until her beloved father, a retired jurist, drowned unexpectedly at the hospital where he was recovering from a bout of pneumonia. For his family, the death was inexplicable and emotionally shattering. The circumstances surrounding the loss haunted Husom for a year. She needed answers and began working out many scenarios in her head. Her father had been a district judge, considered fair and compassionate, and, despite this, he had received occasional threats. Husom imagined someone carrying out a vendetta, and the seeds for her first novel and first villian, serial killer Alvie Eisner, were born. 

Inspiration also came while working at the sheriff's department where Husom stumbled across several frightful and repugnant cases. Despite its many rural and rustic features, and relative low population density, Wright County has had its share of gruesome crimes. "We really don't know what's out there," Husom said in a way that sent chills up my spine, but didn't stop me from asking more questions about, you know, ghastly crimes.

The third novel in the series, Altar by the River was inspired by local true-crime events involving the daughters of a local minister who were forced to undergo satanic ritual abuse by prominent businessmen. This is the kind of material, when you think about it happening in your own back yard, will have you staying up all night to finish the story.

Not everything about Husom's stories is scary, though. When I asked the author what she loved about writing, the answers recalled, of course, her memorable and super-likable heroes: protagonist, Sergeant Corky Aleckson, and special friend, Detective Smoke Dawes. Husom said she feels an immense satisfaction when she can transport the characters, heroes and villains, from inside her imagination to the page, and make them come to life for the reader. Some of the best compliments she's received are: "I think I'm going to run into these people on the street", and "I wish I could hang out with Corky."

Husom also loves the surprises that come with writing. Especially when her characters start doing unexpected things. She said it's like watching a movie, scenes suddenly change, things shift. The first thing Husom does when she begins a story is to develop the characters, starting with the villain(s). "I've tried outlining, but that just doesn't work for me," Husom admitted. "I always know the beginning and the ending, and work out the plot points after I come up with characters."

This writer is not only one of the nicest and most genuine people I have ever met, she's also the  busiest. She and her husband Dan own and operate a retail and service-oriented business, Sole and Body, in downtown Buffalo, MN. They have four children and six grandchildren whom they see often, but always on Sundays for a full-family, dinner gathering. The writer is a member of her local Rotary Club and is on the board of Fishing Klinic for Kids Minnesota. Am I done? No. I just learned that Husom threw in her hat in the ring to run for one of five seats for Wright County Commissioner. I hope you win, Christine Husom!

The Noding Field Mystery, Husom's fourth novel, will be published by Second Wind Publishing in November.

Sunday, June 17, 2012


My Plast Troop - I'm on the left.
It started when I attended a reunion with mates from another time warp - or are 'another' and 'time warp' redundant?  Well, something is wrong here, but I just love writing time warp.  In the sixties, I belonged to a Ukrainian organization called Plast, modeled after a British youth group (much like the American Scouts). People from my troop came from all parts of the country to Cleary Regional Park, Prior Lake, MN, to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of Plast. So many memories got stirred up - some remarkable, others just yucky. Then I worked and worked out, and tried to untangle much of my outdoors, which due to neglect, has started to look slightly jungly.  And it was like pulling skin off my bones, I just did not want to weed and trim and sweep, when I could have been writing. I did write some, only three chapters left in my next-to-be published novel, Made in the Image. Brought my first novel, The Delilah Case, to a dear friend who did a bang-up job cleaning it up.Yes, there will be a new upload to Kindle, soon. Just as soon as I finish formatting the the manuscript for CreateSpace, which entails publishing the trade paperback. Speaking of which, The Delilah Case book cover, thanks to the immensely talented Ben Hovorka, now has a very creative back with blurbs, and a spine that tantalizes and compels when sitting on the book shelf. Got the finalized arrival dates from my Key West-hood friends. For the occasion of their visit to our fair city, Minneapolis, the group made plans to get together for Chanhassen dinner theater - you guessed it - XANADU!! Also, I plan to make my famous lentil stroganoff. Are you reading this Bobbie? This reunion, I'm really looking forward to. Dragged my friend Shelly (and Jack the curator, out of his sick bed) to the Hennepin History museum two days in a row to take author photos of me. Used Instagram afterwards to create a mood and a look. Discovering Instagram was  pure joy and turned me into an addict.  Spent nine+ hours on it one day. Interviewed a potential housemate. And the Piece de resistance: viewed docs, narratives and shorts for the upcoming Edina Film Festival, October 11 - 13/2012. As a volunteer programmer, I get to preview a variety of local films. It's the best job in the world because as I've said before, and I'm saying it again!  Minnesota is filled to the brim with outstanding, peerless talent.
Curiosities and Remnants II

Separate Identities

Sunday, June 10, 2012


Amazon Book Description

New Orleans, childhood bonds, voodoo and gangsters, all kick up heat and mystique in Mickie Turk's debut novel. After a long absence, Dr. Dominique Doucette returns to her hometown to open a reform prison for violent male offenders. Immediately, bullying by a local sherif and a backlash of community resentment threaten to shut down the facility. But when a series of assaults occur in nearby New Orleans, Dominique is forced to confront twin devils: the evil lurking inside the walls of the antebellum institution, and the disturbing secret that haunts her own past. The Delilah Case is an atmospheric and gripping thriller, marking the advent of an impressive new writer.

Saturday, June 2, 2012



Book Description from Amazon

June 5, 2012 Twin Cities P.I. Mac McKenzie Novels
A stolen gem with a tragic history, a curse and a million dollar ransom is McKenzie’s latest case.

Several years ago, Rushmore McKenzie became an unexpected millionaire and set about doing not much of anything. Now, showing up at his doorstep is the insurance company that paid the settlement that made him rich—and they want a favor. Someone has stolen a very expensive gem from a local art museum and is willing to ransom it back. The only condition is that McKenzie has to be the go between. And this is no ordinary gem—it is a jade with a history going back to the Qing Dynasty and a reputed curse that stories claim has ruined or killed everyone who has ever owned it. McKenzie agrees to help but what starts out as a simple ransom quickly becomes complicated.

Suddenly other parties—including the State Department and a mysterious woman named Heavenly—start showing up, wanting McKenzie to turn over the gem to them. When the murdered body of one of the thieves turns up in a snow drift, it looks like the cursed Jade Lily has claimed its latest victim. And there may well be more to follow…

David Housewright's Author book launch and signings:

7:00 p.m, Tuesday, June 5, 2012
Once Upon a Crime
604 West 26th Street
Minneapolis, MN 55405

1:00 - 2:00 p.m., Saturday, June 9, 2012
Uncle Edgar's
2864 Chicago Avenue
Minneapolis, MN  55407

Friday, June 1, 2012


Product Description from Amazon

He’s your average, ordinary neighbor, but he’s going to kill you. He’s the homegrown fanatic next door with a plan and a group of true believers prepared to do the unthinkable—mass murder—to bring about a new world of peace and justice. A county prosecutor, attempting to convict a murder suspect, stumbles upon the conspiracy. Sounding the alarm to the authorities, no one believes her. She risks everything—even her life—to expose the plot. Will she be able to prevent annihilation?

Thursday, May 24, 2012


When Colin Nelson decided to become a member of the Edina Art Center (EAC), he wasn't setting out to change people's perceptions of art. But that is exactly what the local defense attorney and author did when he started The Author's Studio. He added the universe of fiction to EAC's already prestigious curriculum of painting, pottery and sculpture.

Colin Nelson

During his first board meeting, former director, Diane Hedges, threw down the gauntlet and asked Colin what he was he going to do for EAC. Colin had a lot to offer, but as a writer, he knew the importance of connecting local authors with the community. By designing a discussion format loosely based on well-known PBS's The Actor's Studio, Colin seamlessly advanced two opportunities with a single action. By introducing another form of art - fiction - he not only helped expand what the center already offers, but, additionally, created a necessary nexus between readers and authors. According to Colin, people are always looking for more reading opportunities, fare beyond what the traditional celebrity writers bring to the shelves.  That works out well for The Author's Studio because it turns out that the metro area, and Minnesota, generally, are loaded with richly talented and prolific writers.

Each month, Colin interviews a different fiction author, and he likes to mix it up by bringing in writers from a variety of backgrounds and genres.  One time you might be introduced to a suspense novelist, the next, a spiritual poet. At each event Colin begins by introducing the writer and giving us a brief biography of his or her writing style and accomplishments. Colin has a knack for asking insightful questions and the guests open up easily to reveal the nitty-gritty of a writer's life. The second half of the program is opened up to a Q & A where the audience and author are able to freely exchange thoughts and ideas.

So far, five local writers have graced the author's chair at The Author's Studio:  Christopher Valen, Erin Hart, Gary Armstead, Sujata Massey, and David Bredeen. The interviews take place in EAC's comfy and inspiring exhibit gallery where audience members are also able to view the latest show by talented artists. In May, Colin's guest was the lively and spirited David Bredeen who talked about his books of fiction and poetry.


David Breeden's educational experiences are wide-ranging and dynamic. He received an MFA from Iowa Writers Workshop, a Ph.D. from the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi, and a Master of Divinity from Meadville Lombard Theological. Breeden also attended Alan Ginsburg and Ann Waldman's Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Writers in Boulder, Colorado. Breeden is a Minnesota poet, novelist and Unitarian Universalist minister.

Are you out of breath, yet!  I hope not, there's more.

David Breeden
When Colin asked the author about early influences, Breeden cited Kurt Vonnegut, Bob Dylan and the beat writers.  According to Breeden, that generation of poets and writers had a lot of respect for the image and sought to tell stories around concepts and ideas. Breeden also believes that the story serves the idea and not the other way around. That's probably why, Breeden says, that he prefers poetry to fiction. In fiction, he inadvertantly writes the story and then tries to squeeze the characters into the plot.

Breeden's true loves are theology and poetry, and he is a long-time student of the gnostic gospels and eastern religions. As a result, the writer's poetry melds many religions and philosophies, and often centers on forgiveness.  Once a tenured professor of creative writing, these days the writer enjoys reading poems during sermons. "Poetry is the rhythm of the universe. In the past, poets were considered shamans," Breeden said.

There is a familiar and easy rhythm to David Breeden's poetry because it feels honest and always calls up the universal experience.We heard many lovely lyrical pieces, but I'm still haunted by two short lines from a poem that addresses the psychological choices each of us makes when we greet the new day:
 ". . . what to burn 
         what to box."  

Bredeen writes every day, even if it's only a line or two. He admits that for him, it is a spiritual practice and a necessary exercise. The author has written four novels and ten books of poetry. These books, including his latest, News From The Kingdom of God, Meditations from the Gospel of St. Thomas, are available on Amazon.

The Author's Studio meets at 10:00 a.m., every second Saturday of the month at the Edina Art Center. The Author's Studio is on break for the summer and will resume on September 8, 2012.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


After years of writing and re-writing and many months of hand wringing, a couple of weeks of serious networking and marketing, AND formatting to Kindle, I published the first of three stand-alone novels. The Delilah Case is a suspense story that takes place in New Orleans and Elysian Fields Parish (a fictional region in southern Louisiana). It went on sale today for $0.00 and will continue to be free until May 19, 2012, 12:59 PST. After that, the Kindle version for almost any e-reader will cost $2.99. The trade paperback will be available in early June.

Below you can find a product description of the book, reviews and a biography of the author.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Certainly, it saved my sanity, and when you're just a kid, isn't that your life, too? Without going into specific details about my bizarre and disturbed childhood - not totally my parents' fault - as well, there was this whole war-torn, immigrant adjustment thing going on at the time. At any rate, from the trenches, I saw first-hand what happens to people who endure repeated oppression and brutality at the hands of family, institution and war, and then manage to escape. Some of them become oppressors themselves.  Because it's so easy to lash out all of your hurt and anger inside your new and safe digs, especially if it's populated with children.

As a wee lass, I put on my parents' past torments and loss of homeland each day and every day like it was a new layer of skin. They either lectured about it, sometimes reminding me that their horrors could happen again - even here in America - or demonstrated their wrath by way of corpral punishment. For me, back then, life was colored in bleakness.  I didn't see or hear any anything that might lead to signs of hope or change. Until 1962.  The year we got our brand new, Zenith television console.

Later, during high school and college years, the intelligentsia referred to television as mind-numbing pablum, and tried to get us rebellious 60's teenagers to listen to music, go to museums and engage in protests against the war-mongering establishment.  We followed their edicts, of course, high on something or other, and we avoided television like the plague. Thankfully, in the early sixties, those proscriptions were not as popular or strident. Television still could make us giddy with glee.  I LOVED television.

Television showed me in living black and white, finally, that hope was just around the corner.  Shows like Leave it to Beaver, Bachelor Father and Dobie Gillis (seriously, what kind of name is Dobie?), modeled loving parents and non-punative, educational solutions to kids' pesky behavior. That nice people like this didn't exist in my own  community, did not deter me from fantisizing that someday I would be surrounded by them, and then my life would change gloriously.

My life did change.  Not everyone I met was like June Cleaver, but enough smart and kind people loved and supported me, that I was able to survive my awkward teen years and and even more so, my scary twenties. But before anything really good happened in my life, or had a chance to stick, I had television.  Even though I only got it in small doses (those grownups didn't want to see me too happy), it was just enough to replace my normal expectations of doom and heartache with hope and possibility and imagination. A brief respite from the madness. 

Today, some of the best writing, set design, direction and acting, can be found on television.  Even network televsion.  I'm still grateful to television and here are two of my favorites:

Person of Interest. The first three things you need to know: 1) Ex-CIA hitman, John Reese, played by James Caviezel - is a brooding, handsome, a-moral character, who unapologetically rides into rescue mode with swagger and dazzle. You can keep dreaming, Damsel or Gent in Distress.  2) Scientist and activist, Harold Finch, played stoically by Michael Emerson, is the genius we trust will make us a better world to live in.  And now, I think, my favorite character is Detective Joss Carter - Taraji P. Hensen.  This woman's face could be on a poster  advertising universal empathy! It's crazy how fast you can get lost in those big dreamy eyes of her, immersing yourself in the detective's every thought and feeling.  Watching Carter is becoming Carter.
Let's get to the writing. The secondary characters, the ones who are normally used as fillers to, well, fill out plot points and make the leading characters look good, in Person of Interest, instead, have significant and memorable lives. Very quickly we start to care for them.  And when they return on occasion, you can say, hey, good you got over that thing a few weeks ago; I can't wait to see what you trouble you cause this time - hehe.  

Person of Interest - it's so dense with story that each week I feel like I watch two shows, instead of one.  How satisfying it that!!

The Good Wife has been one of my favorite television escapes for years.  It's smart, the characters are varied and enduring, the courtroom dramas brim with endless brain-teasing material. I don't catch every episode, and as a matter of full disclosure, I broke allegiance with TGW to watch Downton Abbey a few months ago, and now I see a future conflict with Sherlock. (Although, I can always catch up during weekend re-reruns). There are so many good tales here, and everyone loves Alicia, Julianna Margulies (now there's a cool name). But that's not why I watch it.

I tune in to The Good Wife to find out what Stern, Lockhart and Gardner's investigator, Kalinda Sharma, is up to.  Kalinda, played by Archie Panjabi, is a charming sociopath and the dynamic face of The Good Wife.  In my own writing world, I like to paint male characters with Kalinda's traits - handsome and strong, a-moral but always fighting for the right side, fully narcissistic so they can easily move into the battle zone and come out relatively unscathed - which seems to always be smack dab inside the heroine's turf.

There are many anti-hero, protagonist examples in film and literature: Chili Palmer from Get ShortySam Spade from The Maltese Flacon and Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights.  But television's Kalinda is the consummate female anti-hero. The kind of superwoman that wields a bat and uses it mercilessly against a bad guy, is passionate and sleeps around (she doesn't discriminate on the basis of gender), but is quite picky about her dalliances, and forms only a few - and they are indelible - relationships. Kalinda walks boldly through the world with confidence and resolve, and you love her because you secretly want to be her.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


My novel, The Delilah Case, comes out on Amazon in two weeks! Check out the book trailer.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Around the World in Film

Getting lost inside the lens of foreign cinema is still my favorite thing to do in the world. It's a habit I began at the age of 17, after finishing high school. That summer and thereafter, my friends and I would walk, hitchhike or bike to the University of Minnesota's, Nicholson Hall, to view the immortal works of our favorites: Federico Fellini (Satyricon), Lina Wurtmuller (Seven Beauties), Rainer Werner Fassbinder (The Bitter Tears of Petra Van Kant), Francois Truffot (Jules and Jim), Wim Wenders (Wings of Desire), and of course, the enigmatic Ingmar Bergman (Scenes from a Marriage).

It was the 1970's and film was made of acetate or polyester and projected onto something called the silver screen. At Nicholson, the projector broke down at least once during a viewing, and the seating often consisted of folding-like chairs on a flat floor.  But once the screen began to glow with exotic creatures and tiny, cramped subtitles, we felt the immediate enchantment of being swept off into other worlds.

Nothing has changed for me. Except the venues. There are more of them, the seating is marginally better and the films yet, occasionally, mess up - digitally now - or they don't show up at all (as tends to happen at big international film festivals).  But foreign films continue to diverge enough from typical American fare, that it is still possible to become spellbound and transformed. So far, this year, I attended the Cuban, Italian and Minneapolis St. Paul International Film festivals, and hit the Landmark Theaters a few times. These days, I'm most in love with Latin American/Spanish filmmakers such as, Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu (21 Grams), Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth)Alejandro Amenabar (Open Your Eyes), Alfonso Cuaron (Y Tu Mama Tambien), and one of my all-time favorite directors: Spain's irrepressible, Pedro Almodovar (All About My Mother).

The other-worldliness found in the films not only provides an escape from my sometimes stale life and narrow sensibilities, but shows me hidden avenues scored with beliefs and institutions that connect me to the planet, and its people - wherever they may roam. 

Mostly, I confess, I go because I DO NOT know what I will encounter.  I love immersing myself in randomness. Even if I read a few reviews first, a true, other-cultural experience will always be waiting for me - a mystery, a discovery in-the-making. And isn't that the most delicious sort of engagement? After it's over, the experience always seems to linger madly for some time to come.  So, that does that mean there are no bad foreign films? Beats me.

Recently, I saw two film gems that blew me away.

1) As some may well remember, A Separation, directed by Asghar Farhadiwon the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.  It should have garnered Best Picture. 

From the first scene to the moving and cryptic finale, I was at the edge of my seat, worrying myself into a stupor.  Only a great movie can do that to me. Basically, this is the story of what happens when someone inside a tight-knit community steps out of bounds and makes a controversial decision. Afterwards, when the dominos begin to topple, more than one family faces unexpected changes, sudden betrayal and a confusing array of choices. This film taught me so many things about Iranian culture, its traditions, relationships, the generosity of the people.  Based on an intelligent and raw screenplay, A Separation, is a fast-paced lesson on the sweeping range of emotional and behavioral possibilities. 

2) Return to Aeolian Islands or Fughe E Approdi, directed by Giovana Taviani, is a feast for the senses.  Twenty six years after her father, Paolo Taviani, shot the acclaimed film Kaos, on the islandshis daughter returns to the volcanic archipelago north of Sicily, to remember.  She and the crew set sail on the same boat that long ago transported her family to those rocky shores.  Along with the sailor, that was then, and would become again, the guide to the terrain and the history of places called Vulcano, Stromboli and Salina.

I've never seen this kind of narrative filmmaking applied to a documentary feature.  Layer after layer of factual history gets peeled back to expose something even more stunning: Italy's cinematic history on the islands.   The film is a film inside film(s). Imagine, revisiting the places where generations of Italian filmmakers found their inspirations: Rosellini, Stromboli, AntonioniL’Avventura, Michael Radford, Il Postino. These enigmatic islands were also home to WWII prison internments, deadly pumice-mining and luscious winemaking. Most documentaries cover the history and culture and vagaries of their subjects.  Return to Aeolian Islands  bows in respect to unseen forces that continue to awaken and renew creativity in artists.