MSPIFF: Your passport to 58 countries via 145 films

Festival kicks off its 28th year in the Twin Cities

Sunday, April 18, at 4:45 p.m.

It goes without saying that a documentary about domestic violence is going to be uncomfortable viewing. Peter Cohn's Power and Control should be doubly so for local audiences, set as it is in our own backyard. Cohn digs into the history of the Duluth Model, a homegrown strategy that revolutionized domestic violence treatment in the 1980s by addressing the issue as more cultural than personal. Testimonials from survivors, abusers, counselors, and cops make a solid case for the program, as we watch women beginning to claim power for themselves and men struggling to understand their own violent actions. Cohn even gives some camera time to opponents of the Duluth Model, although their family-values platform doesn't come off particularly well in the context of the film. Visually speaking, Power and Control places substance before style, seldom reaching much beyond talking-head interviews and establishing shots. That does little to mute its local impact, however. Hearing interviewees speak with marked Minnesota accents as landmarks like the Duluth lift bridge loom in the background serves as a stark reminder that this kind of violence is all around us. —Ira Brooker

If You Dare

Sunday, April 18, at 3 p.m.

The Unreturned
Christian Peacemaker Teams
The Unreturned
Scrap, by local filmmaker Paul von Stoetzel
Scrap, by local filmmaker Paul von Stoetzel

Details

28th Annual Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival:

April 15-30

Location St Anthony Main Theatre, 115 Main St. SE, Minneapolis; 612.331.4723

Admission $10 ($8 for students and seniors); $6 for weekday screenings before 6 p.m. Visit the MSPIFF website for prices on opening- or closing-night films, 6- and 12-pack packages, and all-access Gold Passes.

More Info www.mspfilmfest.org

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This well-meaning but extremely rough short documentary by filmmaker and former public defender Norah Shapiro covers the Chicago Avenue Project, a Minneapolis-based theater company and mentoring program for at-risk youth. The project aims to motivate kids in all disciplines, but especially the performing arts. Supporters, mentors, and administrators are interviewed, with theater operations coordinator Payton Woodson deservedly getting the most attention, his dedication tempered by concern for the daily hurdles and dangers faced by the teens and preteens he works with. The project is inspiring and impressive—enough so that it deserves a better examination than this sloppy, ambling film, which feels like a work-in-progress. Shapiro's commitment to showcasing how the volunteers run the organization and the kids write and produce live theater productions is undeniable, but she would do well to raise the funds to polish what she has compiled. Still, this is worth seeing as, at least, a sketchy look at a productive, hopeful part of inner-city life most people would never know about. It also has celebrity appearances by Josh Hartnett, Debbie Allen, and former First Lady Laura Bush (hmm). John Ervin

Also showing:

Numb

Saturday, April 24, at 1:15 p.m.

Minnesota filmmaker Phil Lawrence tries to wean himself off anti-depressant medicine, to avoid the pills' effects of leaving him emotionally "numb," and documents the profound changes that affect him and his family.

My Run

Friday, April 16, at 7:15 and 7:30 p.m.

In 1996, 12 years after his wife died of breast cancer, leaving him to raise their three small children, Terry Hitchcock decided to raise awareness of the disease in an odd and spectacular way—by running from St. Paul to Atlanta, covering the equivalent of a marathon every day for 75 straight days. The film tells the story of Terry and his wife, and of his remarkable feat.

FLICKS TO PICK

A critical guide to MSPIFF

The Secret of Kells

Saturday, April 17, at 5:15 p.m.

Out of nowhere, The Secret of Kells, an enchantingly old-fashioned Irish upstart about a medieval boy monk who dreams of illuminating sacred books, has tucked itself into a lineup of recent animated gems that includes Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Up. Brendan (voiced by Evan McGuire) is a carrot-topped lad possessed of more imaginative brio than can be contained by the cloistered life he leads under the sternly overprotective eye of his disillusioned uncle, the Abbott (Brendan Gleeson). A peppier old mentor (Mick Lally) dispatches Brendan on a character-building journey through a forest full of shape-shifting menace, protected by

one of those Irish elf-girls who doubles as a helpful white wolf in the struggle against marauding Norsemen. Directed by Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey, this mostly hand-drawn film is full of reverence for the power of the word and also intoxicated with color, shapes, and patterns derived from medieval art, combining to form an exquisitely etched riot that evokes the gaudy abandon of Klimt. The sensibility leans more to Brothers Grimm than Team Disney: The only uplift we're offered is the sight of a boy tripping out on adventure. Brendan couldn't care less about the Mouse House's great god Self-Esteem—he's too busy becoming competent, which is the same thing as growing up. Ella Taylor

Vital Signs

Thursday, April 22, at 5:30 p.m.; Sunday, April 25, at 6:30 p.m.

A French-Canadian drama set in a hospice care facility sounds like a recipe for bleakness. Fortunately, Sophie Deraspe's remarkable first feature consistently finds grandeur in the mundane. She shows an impressive artistic vision in the way her camera squeezes gorgeous visuals out of sterile hospital wards and the frigid streets of mid-winter Quebec. The central story of a lovely young student (an excellent Marie- a coping mechanism would be engaging on its own, but Deraspe enhances the experience with portraits of the dying, vignettes of Good Samaritanism, and even several low-key musical fantasy sequences. Nearly every character is visibly damaged in some way, but Vital Signs respects them—and us—enough to forgo exposition and leave most of the blanks unfilled. Backstory is of no more use to this movie than it is to the patients and doctors who spend their days essentially running out the clock. The sum of these parts is a minor miracle: a thoughtful, beautifully conceived film about the delicate balance of life and death that never even hints at cheap sentimentality, lazy morality, or phony uplift. —Ira Brooker

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