Only two subjects deserve the title Life on Earth: a multi-hour documentary examination of evolution, and a poetic study of a dirt-road intersection. Abderrahmane Sissako's wonderful film opts for the latter. On the eve of the millennium, a Parisian émigré returns to his home in Mali. He sits with his father, meets old friends and chats up new ones, and pursues a lovely lady on a bicycle. All this is captured with a sharp yet loving eye, and from barber to post office employee to corner boys hanging out, everyone feels marvelously right. There's a deservedly bitter undertone as the European radio announcer drones on about the marvels of the next century in a place that hasn't fully benefited from the last one, but the bitterness isn't overpowering; it merely adds the requisite focus to keep this portrait from dipping into banal sentiment. Sometimes low-key works perfectly; here it makes for one of the year's best films.