Reeling In the Mpls./St. Paul International Film Festival

Ninety-three films, three projectors, and the whole wide world

 

Chile: The Obstinate Memory

You'll need a better-than-average understanding of Chilean history in order to grasp the subtleties of this documentary about post-Pinochet Chile. Filmmaker Patricio Guzman (who documented Pinochet's 1973 coup in The Battle for Chile) has said that he's interested in the vagaries of memory and the costs of both embracing and forgetting an ugly past. Toward that end, he interviews former comrades of Communist president Allende, supporters of Pinochet, family members of "the disappeared," and bourgeois students who have grown up being taught that the coup was a necessary evil. Film footage and still photographs from the coup are juxtaposed with peaceful shots of now-prosperous Santiago, as the documentary's subjects deliver conflicting versions of history. Except for one former Allende supporter, a Tai Chi-practicing professor, no one seems to have reached a clear understanding of where they stand in relation to their history. That includes the filmmaker, who sometimes muddles the story further by expressing a poetic-romantic view of Allende and of his own task as a documentarian. (Kate Sullivan) Oak Street Cinema, Saturday at 3:30 p.m.

 

Rabbit in the Moon

Emiko Omori's documentary portrait of Japanese Americans' internment during World War II is replete with images of shattered ruin: desolate barracks, gray memorial stones, damaged photos of proud families, shards of cups and saucers. These remnants are a testament to lives torn asunder in 1942 when Japanese Americans were taken from their communities to concentration camps in the barren West. The film begins with an eloquent summation of how this horror was internalized by its victims, as Omori, whose mother died soon after her release from one of the camps, ponders her decision not to have children: "Like me, my child would be an American trapped in the body of an unwanted alien race. Could I conceal from my child how I wished he or she were more white, so as not to suffer the rejection I had just because of my face?" The shame and silence surrounding the internment era, both in the director's family and the larger community, gives the film its main subject as well as its purpose. Interviews with internees reveal a painful history of division--from family disintegration to strife between those who cooperated with the authorities and resisters. Rabbit in the Moon offers an instructive perspective on this sad history, one that, having been overshadowed by the atrocities of the Holocaust, continues to be neglected by our government and the internees themselves, many of whom have chosen silence as a way to try to piece their lives back together. (Jim MacTavish) Oak Street Cinema, Saturday at 8:00 p.m.

 

Suzie Washington

"What do you do when your country commits suicide?" asks Nana (Birgit Doll), the heroine of Austrian director Florian Flicker's 1998 refugee travelogue and an émigré from one of the chaotic Eastern European provinces into which we're probably lobbing bombs right at this moment. To answer her question: If you can, you run like hell. After getting caught with a fake American visa en route to Los Angeles, Nana slips through customs in Vienna, appropriates the name of a dumpy American tourist named Suzie, and sets off into the purgatorial playland of Austria. Like a latter-day Alice, she wanders through postcard-perfect mountains and quaint lake resorts, interacting with eccentric locals and barely eluding police. It's the stuff of a fugitive-on-the-lam thriller, but Flicker renders Nana's journey in such a sluggish, offbeat haze that the tension rarely builds beyond that of a technically adept vacation video. In a laudable attempt to capture the psychic state of a stranger in a strange land, Flicker keeps his camera focused on Nana's weary, impassive face throughout the film. In turn, Doll delivers a performance so understated that she is routinely upstaged by fence posts and sheep. (Peter Ritter) Oak Street Cinema, Saturday at 9:45 p.m., Sunday at 7:15 p.m.

 

Wounds

Thanks in part to the success of Pretty Village, Pretty Flame (featured in the fest two years ago), Srdjan Dragojevic is currently Yugoslavia's hottest young filmmaker and arguably its bleakest visionary. As with Pretty Village, the humor in Dragojevic's latest endeavor--about a pair of adolescent criminals in contemporary Belgrade--is so doggedly black as to make even Happiness seem joyful. Wounds takes place between 1991 and 1996, an unsavory five years during which Yugoslavia went to war in Croatia and Bosnia; withstood the second worst hyperinflation in world history; watched its economy collapse; and nearly toppled Slobodan Milosevic. Pinki (Milan Maric) and Kraut (Dusan Pekic) are a couple of rebellious but harmless teens who, over the course of two years, become Belgrade's youngest and most bloodthirsty gangsters. The transformation, under the guidance of local smuggler Dickie (Dragan Bjelogrlic), starts with lessons in how to get laid and graduates quickly to cocaine abuse, extortion, robbery, and the use of heavy weapons. Yugoslavia's political and military mess is always in the background, playing on the television set of Pinki's baffled, Milosevic-idolizing parents. In Dragojevic's view, Belgrade is a giant cesspool of deprivation and violence, with the road to delinquency being one of the few remaining ways out of it. Although Wounds suffers from less-than-adequate translation, the director's intense visual style mostly makes up for it. (Jelena Petrovic) Bell Auditorium, Sunday at 7:00 p.m.; and Oak Street Cinema, Monday at 9:30 p.m.

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