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Sobs, Silence Greet Best Foreign Film at Screening

April 25, 1991|BILL HIGGINS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

It was a star-studded but not especially festive crowd that exited Columbia Studios' Cary Grant Theater Sunday night.

They'd just seen "Journey of Hope," this year's Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film. The Miramax release recounts a Kurdish family's arduous, tragic journey from their Turkish village to Switzerland. The $2.3-million Swiss production has a finale that's a textbook example of a non-Hollywood ending.

As the credits rolled, there was complete silence, followed by strong applause, followed again by silence as the 250 guests walked next door to a reception in the studio commissary.

"I'm too stunned to talk," said Dennis Quaid. "Very moving," is the most Danny Glover could say.

Jamie Lee Curtis almost broke into tears as she told how it brought the plight of millions of refugees into focus by examining one family's struggle. "I have a little boy," she said. "I climbed mountains with my baby today. . . ." Then her eyes welled up with tears and she turned away.

"You read the papers and you just see the words Afghan or Turk or Kurd ," said Dustin Hoffman, who presented the foreign film Oscar this year. "But they're just letters on a page. This moves you. You feel what they go through."

This was the uniform reaction from the crowd that included Michelle Pfeiffer, Barbara Hershey, Ben Kingsley, Elizabeth Perkins, Aidan Quinn, Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy.

The draw for the stellar list was the involvement of producer Mark Johnson and director Barry Levinson, the Oscar-winning team that made, among other films, "Rainman" and "Good Morning, Vietnam."

"There's no way I could draw a crowd like this," said Miramax co-chairman Harvey Weinstein.

Johnson and Levinson will have their names on the film's posters as "presenters" to give it a post-Oscar push. They're doing this gratis as a way to assist in promoting the film.

"It was a great opportunity to help a film we really liked get distributed," said Johnson, who hosted the party solo; Levinson was shooting "Bugsy."

After the screening, director Xavier Koller was about the only person in the room in a really upbeat mood. He received a steady stream of well-wishers, made arrangements to visit Hoffman on the set of "Hook" and generally enjoyed basking in the golden light Hollywood throws on foreign directors it hopes to lure.

He was happy over the plans for the film's release in the United State (so far fewer than 100,000 people have seen the film worldwide), but he also has other concerns.

Oscar or no Oscar, his next film, "Eclipse of the Moon" is, he said, "still shopping for the money" to get made.

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