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Parent problems a poser for youth

While in today's international filmdom there are Hollywood blockbusters aplenty vying for sensational success at the box office, a certain number of European indie films are considered by many as more art-oriented offering illuminating views of humanity and society.

"A Piece of Me," by German director Christoph Rohl, one of 16 films competing for the Jin Jue (Golden Goblet) Award - the top award at the Shanghai International Film Festival - largely belongs to the art-house category.

The 88-minute feature film tells the story of German high school student Jonas (played by Ludwig Trepte) whose life has been totally changed by an unexpected childbirth after a careless one-night stand with a saucy teenage girl Vicky (played by Karoline Teska).

From the shock of first learning of Vicky's unwanted pregnancy to his later reluctance to take care of his own baby girl, Klara, to the constant struggle to claim his eventual fatherhood, Jonas gradually finds his identity after a sudden and drastic transition from childhood to adulthood.

Like many low-budget indie productions, "A Piece of Me" doesn't feature lots of big scenes, dazzling visuals, impressive music scores and a star-studded cast. But it can still capture, with apparent ease, the hearts of audiences and critics alike for its thought-provoking themes and simple, but emotionally, powerful storyline.

Young leads

The film won this year's DEFA Foundation Award at the German Max Ophuls Festival and the Newcomer Promotional Award at the Schwerin Art of Film Festival shortly after its release in 2008.

And that credit should go to the ensemble and two young leads who were only 18 years old when they started shooting the film last year.

Trepte and Teska, both of whom have a great deal of experience in television and film, vividly portray the two high school students, Jonas and Vicky, who see their lives dramatically changed with the unexpected parenthood.

Both are frightened and muddled at the beginning, and Jonas' reluctance to shoulder responsibility is pitted against Vicky's strong determination to keep the baby.

Helped by Vicky, who hopes to turn Jonas into a good father, the student father eventually builds up a closeness with his daughter while the couple's romance also returns.

The most challenging part of the film is how they display the huge psychological impact resulting from this sudden change in life at such a young age.

And the two leads sketch a surprisingly realistic portrait of how the characters are affected by their one-time reckless behavior and how they respond to the string of subsequent events.

Inspired by his own fatherhood stories, aspiring German director/co-writer Rohl, whose previous works include "Fast Learners" (2006), "Butterfly World" (2003) and "Fivefortyfive" (1999), has also injected a load of real emotion and experience, along with an acute sense of humor and mild touches of irony, into his very first feature film.

This cinematic approach greatly helps make the film more convincing, entertaining and enlightening.

"I think the movie mirrors some real social issues, such as the rapid growth of the single-parent family, the common practice of abortion and the increasing number of teenage mothers," remarks a college sophomore surnamed Xu, who watched "A Piece of Me" on Tuesday night. "From the reactions of both Jonas and Vicky when they first realize the unwanted pregnancy, to the difficulties they face raising the baby girl, audiences will get involved and inspired."

Although the director doesn't intentionally label his product an "issue film" and would even rather make it more "fictional" as he puts it, the film is still largely a piece of social realism that pictures sharply the life of young people in a modern world.


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