Just last year, 14-year-old Jamie Bell had never been to America, much less shuttled between New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, hobnobbing with Rosie O'Donnell and Sarah Jessica Parker.
What a difference having Oscar buzz about your movie can make.
Jamie shines in the new British movie "Billy Elliot," in which he plays an 11-year-old boy from a testosterone-filled English coal-mining town who wants to be a ballet dancer. Critics around the world have raved about his performance, and many have even tossed about "Oscar" in the same sentence as "Billy Elliot." But Jamie says he's trying not to let the hype - or his glamorous power-trip to America - get to his head.
"I'm very pleased that people like it," he says in a recent phone interview from New York City. "But I don't expect anything to happen."
In fact, Jamie stumbled into film. A native of Billingham, a northern English town not far from the setting of "Billy Elliot," Jamie began tap dance lessons when he was 6 and grew up wanting to dance professionally or act in theater.
"I never wanted to act on screen," he says coolly. "It didn't interest me. What I like about dancing is you can make your own rhythms and stuff with your feet."
In addition to hailing from the same part of England as Billy Elliot, Jamie also shares the character's passion for dance and the experience of being an outsider among his peers because of it. In the movie, Billy Elliot's friends call him a "poof." In real life, so did Jamie's buddies once he started following his older sister to dance class.
"I just kind of didn't listen to them and got on with it," he says.-Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan
Jewish film series
"Being Jewish in America," a documentary film series sponsored by the Jewish Museum of Maryland and the Baltimore Hebrew University, commences Sunday with "Mah-Jongg: The Tiles That Bind" and "Bubbeh Lee & Me."
"Mah-Jongg" is both a look at a tabletop game that dates back to the time of Confucius and a chance to listen in on the lives of a group of Jewish women who play it. "Bubbeh Lee" centers on a Jewish grandmother's relationship with her gay grandson.
Sunday's program begins at 4 p.m. and includes a discussion with "Mah-Jongg" co-director Phyllis Heller. Admission is $5 to the general public; Hebrew University students and museum members get in for free.
Screenings will be held at the Lloyd Street Synagogue, 13 Lloyd St. Information: 410-732-6400.
Shorts from Sachs
Two short films from Baltimorean Lynn Sachs, "Which Way Is East: Notebooks From Vietnam" and "A Biography of Lilith," will be featured at this weekend's Cinema Sundays at the Charles, 1711 N. Charles St.
"Which Way Is East" is a documentary chronicling Sachs' journey through Vietnam. "Lilith" stars Cherie Wallace as a woman ruminating on a life that includes working as a bar dancer and giving up her baby for adoption.
Lynn Sachs will be on hand to discuss the film, which will screened at 10:30 a.m. Theater doors open at 9:45 a.m.; coffee and bagels will be available. Admission at the door is $15. Information: 410-727-3464.
Hopkins series continues
The Johns Hopkins Medical Institution's 2000 Fall Film Series, "Late Harvests: A Cinematic Exploration of Aging," closes Thursday with Ingmar Bergman's 1957 classic, "Wild Strawberries." Paul Zinder, who teaches film at Towson University and UMBC, will serve as host for the 7 p.m. screening at the Preclinical Teaching Building, 725 N. Wolfe St. Admission is free. Information: 410-955-3363.