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Wednesday, Dec 16 1998
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The Island on Bird Street
The plucky Roxie Cinema presents the U.S. theatrical premiere of an enormously moving coming-of-age saga set amid the rubble of World War II. Shot in English by Danish director Soren Kragh-Jacobsen (Emma's Shadow) in Poland and Germany, this relentlessly involving film follows an 11-year-old Jewish boy's "adventures" as the lone inhabitant of a Polish ghetto whose Jews have been transported to the camps. Instructed by his father to wait for his return, Alex weathers more close scrapes than Indiana Jones. But in a refreshing departure from movie conventions, he's resourceful but not heroic, inexperienced but not angelic. Alex's innocence -- and identification with his hero, Robinson Crusoe -- offsets the grimness of his situation, and his ordeal is brightened immeasurably by beacons of friendship and hope. Adapted from Uri Orlev's inspiring semi-autobiographical novel, The Island on Bird Street (like Anne Frank's diary) reminds us that at the same time as the ruthless Nazis killed 6 million Jews, they committed another cruel offense by robbing so many more of their childhoods.

-- Michael Fox

The Island on Bird Street screens Friday through Thursday, Dec. 18-24, at 7 and 9:15 p.m. (also Saturday, Sunday, and Wednesday at 2 and 4:30 p.m.) at the Roxie Cinema, 3117 16th St. (at Valencia), S.F. Admission is $6.50; call 863-1087.

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Michael Fox

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