Unfortunately, neither Mohsen Makhmalbaf's Kandahar nor Nanni Moretti's The Son's Room tarried long in south Texas, except in my memory, indelibly. Both were technically 2001 releases, although they did not come to town until last year. Once upon a time, San Antonio cinephiles could rely on a repertory house (the Olmos, then the Central Park Fox then the Crossroads) for foreign, independent, and vintage films. Now we have two theaters (the Fiesta and the AMC Huebner) that each occasionally devote a screen or two to fare that swims outside the mainstream. Between them, they fail to bring dozens of worthy new releases from Russia, Senegal, Korea, Argentina, the Netherlands, and less remote locations. The non-Hollywood films they do exhibit often arrive unannounced, even to a critic, on a Thursday night, and slip away exactly one week later. It is naïve to believe that Merci Pour le Chocolat might have attracted the audiences that flocked to see The Sum of All Fears. But a fair experiment might have been to provide Das Experiment with the massive publicity given Men in Black II and then see how many volunteers showed up.

You had to be a fast runner last August to catch the film that was for me the most original and memorable of the year. The Fast Runner (Atanarjuat) was extraordinary not merely for the fact that it is the only feature ever made in Inuit but for director Zacharian Kunuk's epic account of murder and retribution above the Arctic Circle. During its brief, unheralded stay in San Antonio, The Fast Runner was an excellent choice for moviegoers who crave solitude.

I round out my 10 best list with nine other films released in San Antonio in 2002. Not all are somber; Catch Me If You Can is downright merry, and Bowling for Columbine manages to make grim comedy out of rampant gun violence. The Emperor's Club is most notable for a bravura performance by Kevin Kline, Unfaithful for lessons in the actor's art provided by both Diane Lane and Richard Gere. All offered luminous ways to pass a couple of hours in the dark.

Steven Kellman's Top 10 of 2002

(in alphabetical order):
Auto Focus (Paul Schrader)
Bowling for Columbine (Michael Moore)
Catch Me if You Can (Steven Spielberg)
Das Experiment (Oliver Hirschbiegel)
The Emperor's Club (Michael Hoffman)
The Fast Runner (Zacharian Kunuk)
Gangs of New York (Martin Scorsese)
The Road to Perdition (Sam Mendes)
Unfaithful (Adrian Lyne)
Y Tu Mamá También (Carlos Cuarón)

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