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Posted at 7:00 PM ET, 11/ 3/2010

Must-see films from the European Union

By Lavanya Ramanathan

The very words "European Union" are enough to make the AFI's annual European Union Film Showcase seem like your average Washington wonk parade, but film buffs know it's the best place to get your first look at the art-house hits and Oscar contenders everyone will be talking about five months from now.

The festival screened the animated French film "Persepolis" months before it came this close to winning an Oscar. "The Lives of Others," and "Baader Meinhof Complex" also have been part of the festival lineup months before their official U.S. debuts. And last fall, a very lucky EU fest audience got the first lurid look at "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo."

So, what movies top the must-see list this year?

"The Temptation of St. Tony" This Estonian offering by filmmaker Veiko Ounpuu played both Venice and Sundance, so it may well be one of the breakouts of the EU showcase this year. (Nov. 5 and Nov. 10)

"The Hedgehog" Based on the book "The Elegance of the Hedgehog," Mona Achache's French-language film is about an adorable little girl who decides to kill herself because life is pointless -- but then she begins to reconsider. (Nov. 6 and Nov. 7)

"La Nostra Vita" This Italian film was a blockbuster in its home country, and star Elio Germano shared the Cannes Best Actor award with Javier Bardem for his turn as a father who devises a questionable plan to provide for his children after a tragedy. (Nov. 11 and Nov. 14)

"Certified Copy" Iranian auteur Abbas Kiarostami is a draw on his own, but his film starring Juliette Binoche as a woman who has a chance romance in a Tuscan town drew raves at Cannes (and Binoche picked up the Best Actress award). (Nov. 19)

I'm also placing bets on Poland's "All That I Love," a punk love story set in 1981 pre-Solidarity Poland, and anything from Romania or Germany, which has kicked out some real (really bleak) winners in the past couple of years.

By Lavanya Ramanathan  | November 3, 2010; 7:00 PM ET
Categories:  Movies  
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