Dr. Aleman

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Venue: Karlovy Vary International Film Festival

KARLOVY VARY, Czech Republic -- Among the best films to come along thus far in the Karlovy Vary competition, “Dr. Aleman” (Spanish for “Dr. German”) is a competent thriller, a touching love story with no small amount of sex, and a probing moral and political tale all wrapped up in one.

Starring the handsome A-list German actor August Diehl, as a young doctor who chooses a hospital in Cali, Colombia for his internship, this Spanish-language production might prove profitable for distributors who know how to market a film that, though more modest in its accomplishments, resembles “City of God.” Festival programrs should certainly give this crowd-pleaser a look, and it will be a natural for many European television outlets.

Intent on living an exciting life rather than simply keeling over from a heart attack at age 40, like his bourgeois father, who was also a physician, Marc (Diehl) moves to the drug capital of the world in order to continue his medical studies.

At first overwhelmed by the gunshot wounds and war-like conditions of the hospital he’s assigned to, Marc begins indulging his taste for the wild side, getting involved with the young thugs who sell him cocaine and with Wanda (Soto), their mother figure who tries to keep the kids from getting killed.

Eventually alienating both the Christian family he’s living with and the conservative doctors at the hospital, Marc gets stuck between rival gangs and eventually has to make emotional choices which conflict with his professional ethics.

One thing that’s refreshing about the film is that for once it doesn’t center on an American, hence the mandatory crushed idealism isn’t laid on too thickly in either direction. The speed with which “Dr. Aleman” is accepted by his new criminal friends stretches the bounds of believability a bit, but Diehl is so charming and convincingly devil-may-care that it works.

The film gingerly underlines moral and political themes, subtly contrasting Marc’s passionate interest in life in the rough parts of town with his fellow doctors’ cosseted lives that they are in no hurry to endanger. At the film’s climax, he is forced to choose between his emotional allegiances and the Hippocratic oath. His decision, happily, is not one for which most Hollywood movies would opt.     

Production Companies: 2 Pilots Film Production.
Cast: August Diehl, Marleyda Soto, Hernan Mendez, Victo Villegas. Director: Tom Schreiber. Screenwriter: Oliver Keidel, Tom Schreiber. Producers: Harry Floeter, Joerg Siepmann, Arne Ludwig. Director of photography: Olaf Hirschberg. Production designer: Juan Carlos Acevedo, Tim Pannen. Editor: Andreas Wodraschke. Sales: Telepool/Cinepool.
No rating, 106 minutes.

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