Someone Else's America

on May 10, 1996 by Kim Williamson
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   She has, Alonso (Tom Conti) says, "eyes like grapes, lips like mangoes." The immigrant Spaniard who runs a charmingly decrepit bar bears an impossible love for Afisi (Ananda Ellis) so impossible, in fact, that scripter Gordan Mihic quickly casts off this plotline for a flotilla of others, all docking around Alonso's buddy, Bayo ("Underground's" Miki Manojlovic), and Bayo's family, en route en masse from Montenegro toward this borough to which Bayo earlier journeyed to provide them with a better life: Brooklyn. Even here, though, the narrative splinters like so many uprooted families: Bayo's young son Pepo (Lazar Kalmic) is swept away crossing the Rio Grande, prompting a lengthy search along the Tex-Mex border lands by Bayo; his older, money-hungry son Luka (Sergej Trifunovic), abruptly thrust to the story's forefront well into the tale, conducts a rear-guard action to placate his father and win his affection while wooing a local Chinese girl (Chia-Ching Niu) either for a green card, real romance or both. Meanwhile, both Bayo's and Alonso's mothers (Zorka Manojlovic and Maria Casares) come to terms with their profound homesickness for their homelands.
   Rather like an airport lost and found, "Someone Else's America" holds treasures great, small and minuscule, all presented in disarray. One near-constant pleasure is the interplay between the light-hearted Alonso and more crusty Bayo; Conti and Manojlovic make their characters into a comic Second-World odd couple. Belgrade-born director Goran Paskaljevic ("Tango Argentino") here doesn't exhibit great control over tone, veering from guffaw to grief and on to chimera at the close. The emotions he captures, however, are so strong they will likely resonate even with the most rooted of American-born audiences.    Starring Tom Conti, Miki Manojlovic and Sergej Trifunovic. Directed by Goran Paskaljevic. Written by Gordan Mihic. Produced by Antoine de Clermont-Tonnerre, David Rose and Helga Bahr. An October Films release. Drama/comedy. Rated R for language and brief sexuality. Running time: 96 min.
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