It's always a pleasure to cover a picture produced by a local film-maker and this critic looks forward to seeing Didcot-based Jackie Sheppard's Africa United on DVD in the new year, as well as director Guy Browning's Tortoise in Love, which was made on a budget of £150,000 by the residents of Kingston Bagpuize and Southmoor. This week, however, the focus falls on Rob Lemkin, whose East Oxford-based Old Street Films company releases Enemies of the People, which Lemkin co-directed with Thet Sambath and which won the World Cinema Special Jury Prize for Documentary at the Sundance Festival.

A journalist on the Phnom Penh Post, Sambath has spent a decade in the killing fields of Cambodia tracking down the foot soldiers who carried out the genocide ordered by Pol Pot. But, in addition to hearing confessions from peasants like Suon and Khoun, he has also earned the trust of Nuon Chea, the Khmer Rouge's second in command to the merciless leader he had personally appointed. Withholding the information that Chea's regime had been responsible for both his father's death and his mother's enforced remarriage, Sambath coaxes `Brother No.2' into admitting that mistakes were made, even though he still considers the revolution to have been as vital for the country's survival as the war against Vietnam.

Now a committed Buddhist who worries about his fate in the next life, Suon certainly regrets his past deeds. He uses a plastic knife to re-enact how he would cut throats and recalls how he often drank bile from the gall bladders of his victims. Passers-by remember the stench of the bodies as they lay in ditches and bubbled in the paddy water, while Khoun contradicts his neighbour Seang when he protests that he only killed once and then to save his own life.

It's a sorry litany of savagery that culminates in Chea being arrested in September 2007 and charged with crimes against humanity. However, Sambath still has the satisfaction of seeing the regret on the 81 year-old's face when he realises that he has caused pain to somebody he has grown to like and admire. However, one is still left wondering about the genuineness of his apology, as years of appearing before the cameras have taught him how to shade his expressions of impassivity.

Despite its chilling and mostly compelling content, this isn't the most imaginatively made documentary. There's an excess of shots of Sambath examining footage in an editing suite, while Daniel Pemberton's score is manipulatively intrusive. Moreover, too little attention is paid to the fact that Sambath shruggingly accepts that his children occasionally have to go hungry so he can invest every spare penny in a crusade that commands all his free time. It's a noble and incontrovertibly courageous enterprise - but so is being a husband and father.

Acclaimed director Michael Gondry embarks on a personal odyssey of his own in The Thorn in the Heart. Indeed, he ventures into Être et Avoir territory with this fond, if far from revelatory profile of his septuagenarian teacher aunt, Suzette. Accompanying the formidable matriarch on a trip back to the schools in which she taught between 1952-86, this is as much a chronicle of the changing times of the rural Cévenne as a family history. But Suzette's fractious relationship with gay son Jean-Yves adds a little frisson to the otherwise cosy proceedings.

Madame Gondry was clearly an inspirational teacher and several former students sing her praises as she revisits the picturesque villages that she recalls with affection, even though many had been amenity-free backwaters during her residency. The most fulsome testimonies, however, come from the repatriated Franco-Algerian Muslims (who were known as harkis) whom Suzette taught in a mountain refugee camp in the early 1960s. Her determination to see that they got as good a start in life as anyone else speaks volumes for her egalitarianism. But she hasn't always been so supportive of her own son, who seemed to suffer the brunt of her grief following the death of her saw-milling husband, Jean-Guy.

The scene is set during the dinner party opening, during which a tipsy Suzette takes an age to relate an anecdote that could only have significance for her closest intimates. The recreation of a resoundingly unfunny bathroom incident and recollections of Suzette's year in New York are similarly Gondrycentric. Thus, while this is a deeply personal film, it often leaves the viewer feeling like an awkward interloper, especially when Suzette so vehemently dismisses Jean-Yves as a perpetual thorn in her heart. Gondry makes plentiful use of Super 8 home movies, some typically self-reflexive animated interludes and a model railway to identify each stop on Suzette's trip down memory lane. But while Jean-Louis Bompoint's camera is given free access to the Gondry clan, it's never allowed to enter the family circle.

With its teasingly obfuscated exposition and abrupt shifts between backstage vérité and road movie melodrama, Mathieu Amalric's fourth directorial outing, On Tour, is hugely enjoyable. However, the constant skirting of the reasons why Amalric's disgraced impresario is back in France with an American burlesque troupe deprives the desperate mid-section bid to rebuild his career of the intrigue that could have made this as significant as its evident inspiration, John Cassavetes's The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976).

In fact, the idea was gleaned from a Colette story about the Parisian music-hall and it would be fascinating to know how Mimi Le Meaux (Miranda Colclasure), Kitten on the Keys (Suzanne Ramsey), Dirty Martini (Linda Marraccini), Julie Atlas (Julie Ann Muz) and Evie Lovelle (Angela de Lorenzo) would have gone down with Belle Époque audiences. They certainly keep the punters of Le Havre and La Rochelle happy with their tassels, fans and giant translucent balloons. Kitten also amuses with some saucy songs, while the troupe's token male, Roky Roulette (Alexander Craven), does a showstopping Louis Quatorze striptease.

But Amalric has great hopes for his transatlantic imports and he leaves them in the care of nervous assistant Ulysse Klotz while he heads to Paris to negotiate a spectacular that will relaunch his career. However, he made some powerful enemies during his time as a TV maven and theatre owner Pierre Grimblat refuses to have anything to do with him, despite the intervention of Amalric's long-suffering brother, Damiel Odoul, who has to overcome his own deep-seated resentments before agreeing to mediate. Old flame Florence Ben Sadoul is equally unsympathetic when they meet in her hotel room, by which time Amalric has been saddled with young sons Simon and Joseph Roth by his fuming ex-wife.

However, the New Burlesquers take the disappointment in their stride, as they do encounters with a prying journalist and a snooty air hostess. But Colclasure wants to get the measure of Amalric and insists on sharing his car for the next leg of the tour and incidents in a service station toilet, a small-town bar and at a supermarket checkout bring them closer together and prompt Amalric to make a sentimental speech over the tannoy of a deserted beach hotel when the ensemble is finally reunited.

There are several engaging moments in this rather ramshackle picaresque, including Amalric's teasing nocturnal flirtation with garage attendant Aurélia Petit. The seemingly improvised banter between the girls has an equally edgy authenticity that reinforces the conviction that their act is a form of female empowerment rather than a sordid flesh show for leering men. However, Amalric seems less concerned with the politics of burlesque than the decline of traditional forms of entertainment and the skittish relationship between America and France.

Employing wide shots that captures the energy and immediacy of the backstage milieu, cinematographer Christophe Beaucarne achieve a documentary aura that is enhanced by the naturalist performances. But the artistes rarely offer any insights into their profession or personalities and, thus, this ends up feeling like a series of set-pieces rather than a cogent narrative.

The important subject of post-traumatic stress disorder among combat veterans is awkwardly handled in Brian Welsh's unconvincing melodrama, In Our Name. In the opening stages, he credibly conveys the sense of dislocation that returning squaddies must feel on leaving behind the 24/7 uncertainties of a war zone for the supposedly cosseting security of home. But the action becomes increasingly implausible and melodramatic as Joanne Froggatt struggles in vain to cope with her own traumas and those of her equally scarred soldier husband, Mel Raido.

Despite being hailed as a heroine by John Henshaw and her mates at her local Newcastle boozer, Froggatt is upset by young daughter Chloe-Jayne Wilkinson's cool welcome and Raido's insistent requests for sex. Her dreams are haunted by the memories of a dead Iraqi girl. Yet, when she is debriefed by her superiors, Froggatt insists she is suffering no psychological after effects, as she fears that any sign of weakness will harm her chances of promotion.

Only comrade-in-arms Andrew Knott knows what she is going through and he tries to offer his support when she breaks down in front of a class of children after teacher sister Janine Leigh coaxes her to talk about her experiences. But Raido's furious jealousy drives Knott away and Froggatt tries to patch up her marriage, even to the extent of joining her husband in a frenzied attack on a Muslim taxi driver who had identified with the fundamentalist cause and questioned the British presence in Iraq.

However, when she finds photographs stashed away in the garage of Raido posing with Arab corpses, Froggatt becomes so concerned for her daughter's safety that she steals a gun from the barracks armoury and heads off into the wilds with a tent and no particular plan of action.

By this stage, however, Welsh's well-meaning film has lapsed into something approaching soap operatics. Raido has become a chauvinist suburban psychopath, while Froggatt has lost all connection with reality. This is a pity, as she achieves an impressive mix of steel and vulnerability that convinces far more readily than domestic shouting matches that sound scripted rather than overheard from life.

British cinema has been much slower to address the problems of wounded and shell-shocked troops than Hollywood and Welsh is to be applauded for his laudable socio-political intentions. But a bit more confidence in his subject matter and a reduced concern with reaching a mainstream audience by spicing up the storyline might have resulted in a much more potent and persuasive picture.

Changing the mood entirely, Anthony Seck's Look At What the Light Did Now (which is also available on DVD) offers an engaging profile of the Canadian singer-songwriter Leslie Feist in exploring the audiovisual inspiration behind her 2007 Reminder tour. Some of the talking-head contributions are a little precious. But the music is a fascinating mix of Kate Bush and KT Tunstall and the light show designed by Clea Minaker often borders on the brilliant.

Although the documentary harks back to Feist's early career recording in her room on an old four-track tape machine and supporting the likes of Chilly Gonzales, the focus falls primarily on the recording of The Reminder at Olivier Bloch-Lainé's La Frette Studios and the collaboration with Minaker to find the images to complement the lyrics. The attempts to record in the open air or in acoustically challenging parts of Bloch-Lainé's mansion are intriguing and reveal Feist's determination to make each track a musical experience rather simply another song. And it's this innovative insistence that makes her gigs so unique, as Minaker and assistants Dianne Montgomery and Noah Kenneally create the back screen visuals live to ensure that no two shows are ever identical.

Combining ancient shadow techniques with cutting-edge projection apparatus, Minaker and lighting designer Mitch Mazerolle produce some mesmerising effects. The clay wave animation for `Honey Honey' is particularly evocative and beautiful, but Minaker's light and silhouette displays for `Let It Die' and `Sea Lion Woman' are also striking.

Indeed, apart from a clip of Feist guesting on Sesame Street, the concert segments are easily the most enjoyable part of the film, as interviews with album cover photographer Mary Rozzi and concept artist Simone Rubi are alternately gushing and self-aggrandising, while director Patrick Daughters's recollections of shooting the videos for `Mushaboom', `I Feel It All' and `1234' are less revealing that the snippets from the promos themselves. Nevertheless, this is a thoughtful insight into Feist's aesthetic vision, which rather confirms her contention that, when on stage with her band and artistic backing, she is not unlike a peacock, who uses the spectacle of its plumage to distract from the fact it's actually nothing more than a skinny little bird.

Completing the week's releases is a charming throwback to what it is tempting to call more innocent times. However, Ernst Lubitsch's The Shop Around the Corner premiered in 1940, when the Europe it depicted was fast being razed to the ground by advancing Nazi panzers.

Fresh from completing Ninotchka (1939), the Berlin-born Lubitsch embarked on his second assignment for MGM, which was based on Nikolaus Laszlo's stage play, Parfumerie, to which he had once owned the rights before selling them to Louis B. Mayer for $62,500.

The plot was deceptively simple. Klara Novak (Margaret Sullivan) comes to work at Budapest clothing store owned by Hugo Matuschek (Joseph Schildkraut) unware that trusted clerk Alfred Kralik (James Stewart), with whom she has struck up an immediate mutual antipathy, is the lonelyhearts pen pal she has come to know as `Dear Friend' during their secret romantic correspondence.

Although he always claimed that Matuschek & Company was inspired by a shop that he fondly recalled in Budapest, there's little doubt that Lubitsch had his father Simon's Berlin outfitters in mind. Such personal inspiration was reinforced by exhaustive research to ensure that Matuschek's sold exactly what was then for sale back home. Even the $1.98 dress that Margaret Sullavan unearthed for her character had to be altered and bleached in the sun to conform to Lubitsch's precise vision of both the emporium and its employees. But such meticulous preparation enabled him to complete the shoot in just 27 days at a cost of $474,000.

With Europe already at war, this was an unashamedly nostalgic film about maintaining the status quo. The clerks tolerated the indecision and impoliteness of the customers for fear of alienating Mr Matuschek, who himself dreaded the discovery of his wife's long-suspected infidelity, lest it damage his reputation and authority. Even Alfred and Klara resist the temptation to meet their epistolary sweetheart, in case their romantic illusion was shattered by cruel reality.

However, life at its most melodramatic does intrude upon the idyll, with Matuschek firing Kralik in the mistaken belief that he is his wife's lover (when it is, in fact, the arrant Ferenc Vadas - who is played to ingratiating perfection by Joseph Schildkraut) and then attempting suicide. But such extremes enabled Lubitsch to establish a new idealised harmony, in which Kralik is promoted to manager and, thus, gains the confidence to declare his feelings for Klara.

But while the storyline was undoubtedly sweet, it was the sense of community — complete with its petty rivalries and sycophancies - and the need to remain employed at a time of economic uncertainty that made the film infinitely more charming than its descendants, In the Good Old Summertime (1949) and You've Got Mail (1998).