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Films of Fury

Buffeted by the area's post-9/11 economic woes, which cut into the county revenues that help underwrite it, the Palm Beach International Film Festival at one point last fall considered postponing its run dates until December of this year. The show goes on as originally scheduled, however, beginning this Thursday and sprawling across eight days and six theaters from Boca Raton to Jupiter.

Randi Emerman, the festival's executive director, says this year's screening committee favored entries with a "lighter touch, things filmed with broad appeal." But with a net cast so wide -- a total of nearly 70 films, including 24 shorts -- some fairly arcane material made the cut.

Think a feature-length bio-pic on Ukrainian national hero Gen. Roman Shukhevych isn't your cup of borscht? Surprisingly, The Undefeated, in its workmanlike retelling of his armed struggle against both Nazi and Soviet occupation, has a cumulative power beyond its narrow subject matter, even if it shades the truth of the warm welcome German troops received in the Ukraine in the war's first days.

Foreign films aside, American independent cinema dominates this fest with a strong dose of fact-based films. Our money's on Bottom Feeders, a mockumentary study of an American presidential campaign; Dog Run, about runaway kids on New York City's Lower East Side; and Deadly Surrender, about the murder of two immigrant sugar-cane cutters in Palm Beach County.

Three documentaries have some of the strongest subject matter on display. Oscar-winner Barbara Kopple's American Standoff follows the Teamster's Union and Jimmy Hoffa Jr, through a bitter, nationwide strike. L'Chayim, Comrade Stalin examines the strange history of the Communist dictator's attempt to set up a Jewish autonomous republic in the U.S.S.R. And Porn Star: The Legend of Ron Jeremy... just get there early: The press kit promises it to be "dense with revealing details of his life." (Hasn't he revealed enough already?)

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Steve Ellman

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