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Sex Education

Unfortunately, writer Wolfram Witt and director Heiner Carow focus on trite bar scenes of casual sex and outrageous transvestites, exploiting the voyeuristic aspects of what they otherwise fail to explore in any meaningful way. The handsome young Philipp fights his demons through tedious, dull dialogue punctuated with boring pauses. The predominance of long shots keeps us at a distance -- not contemplating the bewildering predicament and rampant injustice, but impatient for the inevitable capitulation. When Philipp finally makes a heroic stand before school evaluators, the film elides the important, confrontational moment. A half-hour shorter with much less studied reserve, Coming Out may have personalized one man's struggle. Instead, it reinforces the negative, tortured gay stereotype in thoroughly unimaginative ways.

In striking contrast, Hillie Molenaar and Joop Van Wijk's Crossroads particularizes repercussions of the Hutu-Tutsi tribal war from a novel perspective: the country inundated with refugees. After briefly establishing the precipitating horror, including the thousands of corpses (many mutilated) clogging the local river, the focus turns to the refugee camp and its dichotomous micro-society. In addition to creating numerous business opportunities for local Tanzanians, the refugees severely alter the physical environment: denuding the landscape, exhausting food supplies and occupying all available spaces in hospitals, schools and empty houses. Criminals strain local police and judicial systems while a woman who ran a beauty parlor in Rwanda rents optimistic brides the one good wedding dress she's salvaged.

Through first-person interviews and camp footage, a complex picture emerges of this lovely land sustaining cataclysmic changes. Letting the Tanzanians and the refugees speak for themselves (from an insurance salesman to orphaned children), Crossroads calmly but powerfully delineates the ripple effect of any such forced mass migration. This glimpse behind and beyond the headlines brings this year's festival to a fitting close, encouraging us to demand more analytical media coverage of all such issues.

Coming Out, in German with English subtitles, plays at 7 p.m. and Crossroads, in Swahili with English subtitles, at 9 p.m. May 4 at Webster University.

-- Diane Carson

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