Film Fest Coverage II: The Sequel

The M-SPIFF's second week brings 'The World' and more

THE NINTH DAY
Lagoon Cinema, Saturday at 5:15 p.m. and Sunday at 7:15 p.m.

This Holocaust drama is based on the diaries of Henri Kremer, a renegade priest from Luxemburg who landed in a Nazi concentration camp and saw many of his fellow clergy members murdered. Full of slow-mo action and clichéd dialogue, the movie (not to be confused with the highly similar Amen) flashes forward and back in time as Kremer's attempts to inspire resistance in the church hierarchy fall on deaf ears. I imagine this is what a Lifetime movie special looks like in Germany. --Jeremy O' Kasick


THE BIG DURIAN
McNally Smith Auditorium, Saturday at 5:30 p.m.; and Lagoon Cinema, Tuesday at 9:30 p.m.

This doc begins as a whirligig inquiry into the events of Malaysia, 1987, when an army private named Adam "ran amok" in Kuala Lumpur with an M-16, killing one person and injuring two others. The filmmaker asks waitresses, tour guides, activists, accountants: Why did the panicked city shut down even though the murderer was apprehended immediately? In tracing a Malaysian political trajectory from British imperialism to independence, the film offers a comic yet incisive portrait of "democratic" governments and global capitalism.--Terri Sutton


ESTAMIRA
Block E 15, Saturday at 7:00 p.m.; and Oak Street Cinema, Tuesday at 9:45 p.m.

Sixty-three years old, charismatic, and utterly mad, the eponymous subject of this disturbing documentary works days scavenging for food at the Rio de Janeiro landfill and expounding her schizophrenic philosophy--wherein the world is split between those who are "real" (mainly her) and the "phonies" who attempt to control her (pretty much anyone who lives with a roof over his or her head). In a familiar yet effective technique, filmmaker Marcos Prado slowly reveals Estamira's sordid past, radically shifting our initial perception of her as an infirm misanthrope.--Charlie Hobart


PRINCES AND PRINCESSES
Children's Theatre, Saturday at 7:00 p.m.

This most recent film by French animator Michel Ocelot (Kirikou and the Sorceress) is a literal shadow play: a series of six stories animated entirely in silhouette, the style echoing silent-cinema experiments such as Lotte Reiniger's 1926 feature The Adventures of Prince Achmed. Ocelot's folk tales of clever tricksters and spellbound princesses have a dry wit, but the film's aesthetic permits little of the warmth or emotional identification--a cynic would say manipulation--that typically characterizes animated features. At the same time, though, the movie substitutes a cool formal elegance and active engagement with the viewer's imagination. The most striking pictorial effects (especially those derived from Egyptian and Japanese art) sometimes suggest the films that Josef von Sternberg might've made had he worked in paper dolls. In deference to young audiences at this Childish Film Festival screening, the French dialogue will be translated live by Children's Theatre Company actors standing to the side of the screen. --Jim Ridley


YANG BAN XI: THE EIGHT MODEL WORKS
McNally Smith Auditorium, Saturday at 7:15 p.m.; and Lagoon Cinema, Sunday at 1:00 p.m.

This fascinating documentary explores the Cultural Revolution-era change in the Chinese arts--overseen by Chairman Mao's wife Jiang Qing--whereby only rigidly patriotic film and theater productions were permitted. The performers in these spectacles of music, dance, and color--smiles frozen on their faces--embraced the moment not as if their lives depended it, but because their lives depended on it. Mixing interviews and archival film clips with contemporary production numbers that feature young people whose influences are altogether different, Yang Ban Xi is a powerful report on the effect that propaganda has not just on those who receive it, but on those who make it. -- Caroline Palmer


THE BOYS AND GIRL FROM COUNTY CLARE
The Bell, Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; and Block E 15, Sunday at 9:30 p.m.

The annual Ceili music competition has come to the titular Irish town: Imagine the steerage party sequence in Cameron's Titanic stretched to feature length and you have an idea of this film's obnoxious insistence that the (first-class?) audience take its pseudo-ethnographic parade as some kind of crazy soul cleanse. Too harsh? Not railing against County Clare's feel-good overload is like letting a dog hump your leg just because the cute little bugger is growling in an Irish brogue. --Eric Henderson


KONTROLL
Block E 15, Saturday at 7:30 p.m.; and Lagoon Cinema, Sunday at 5:00 p.m.

The reluctant leader of a ragtag team of Budapest metro-ticket inspectors is so depressed that he refuses to venture aboveground. While a pretty raver in a bear suit offers salvation, the presence of a hooded serial killer raises the possibility that the subway system stands for the hero's subconscious. Set almost entirely in sooty tunnels and on fluorescent-lit trains, Nimrod Antal's calling-card debut opens with a prologue announcing that the events are "obviously symbolic." But it's probably best taken as a stylish workplace sitcom. --Dennis Lim


THREE OF HEARTS: A POSTMODERN FAMILY
The Bell, Saturday at 9:30 p.m.; and Lagoon Cinema, Sunday at 9:20 p.m.

Spanning eight years, this remarkably objective documentary portrait of a "trinogamous" relationship reveals a healthy and loving union that has its faults like any other. Sam and Steven, a gay couple, decide they'd like to share their lives with a woman, and, after a couple of false starts, they find Samantha. Filmmaker Susan Kaplan follows the threesome through the birth of children and the growth of a business to a painful breakup and its resulting questions of personal identity and parental responsibility. --Caroline Palmer


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