BRIGHTNESS - A young man prepares for a confrontation with his inexplicably wrathful father in this drama from Mali, which is charged with equal measures of savagery and beauty. Directed by Souleymane Cisse, whose talent is both strong and original. ``Yeelen'' is the original title. (Not rated) FOR QUEEN AND COUNTRY - A veteran strives vainly to regain the old life he lived before the war. What sets this British production apart from similar American films is its London setting, and the fact that it's the Falklands conflict our hero is trying to put behind him. Denzel Washington gives a forceful performance as the black protagonist, but the story sinks into mere cops-and-robbers melodrama after a while. Directed by newcomer Martin Stellman. (Not rated)

MISS FIRECRACKER - Talented people like Holly Hunter and Mary Steenburgen push their performances too hard in Beth Henley's comedy-drama about a young woman who thinks she can overcome her bad reputation by winning a beauty-and-talent contest in her Mississippi town. The story has potential, but the movie seems overcooked much of the time. Thomas Schlamme directed. (Rated PG)

LITTLE VERA - An adolescent girl who is alienated from her family and her society is the focus of this imaginatively made Soviet drama. This film paints an uncharacteristically dark portrait of Soviet family life, and includes a sex scene that's surprisingly explicit by Soviet standards. Vassily Pichul was the director. (Not rated.)

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