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Movies, dining and things to do / Spokane and North Idaho

SpIFF 2020: ‘Ballon’ a study in courage


We're moving ever closer to the opening night of the 2020 Spokane International Film Festival, which premieres at 6 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 28, with a social hour at The Garland Theater.

The event precedes the opening-night program of Best of the Northwest Shorts followed by the feature-length documentary "Quiet Explosions: Healing the Brain."

I've already previewed two films that this year's festival has to offer (scroll down). In this post, I'll present another: the German-made film "Balloon," which will screen at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 29, at the Magic Lantern Theater. 

Based on real events, "Balloon" harks back to the late 1970s when something we used to call the Iron Curtain still split Western and Eastern Europe — specifically, in this case, West and East Germany.

Tired of the repressive East German regime, two families hatch a unique plan: to use a hot-air balloon to float over the wall that separates the two countries and seek asylum in the West.

Directed by Michael Herbig, "Balloon" tells a familiar story. In fact, the feat by the families was covered by the 1982 Disney movie "Night Crossing." This time, though, the intent was to “make a German film for an international audience.”

In any event, even if you're familiar the story, "Balloon" boasts a sense of suspense that will carry you along — much as the Oscar-winning movie "Argo" does.

Tickets for SpIFF 2020 are going fast. And festival passes have already sold out. Click here for more ticket information.

Personal disclaimer: I serve as a volunteer programmer for the Spokane International Film Festival, and I am an unpaid member of the festival's board of directors. I've attended every festival, as either a reporter or as a fan, since its inception in 1999.

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