MSPIFF: Your passport to 58 countries via 145 films

Festival kicks off its 28th year in the Twin Cities

Friday, April 16, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, April 17, at 3:15 p.m.

Recent American films about families, like Rachel Getting Married, all too often pierce eardrums with shrieks of dysfunction. Amid the din, French filmmaker Claire Denis's sublime 35 Shots of Rum stands out all the more for its soothing quiet, conveying the easy, frequently nonverbal intimacy between a widowed father, Lionel (Alex Descas), and his university-student daughter, Joséphine (Mati Diop). An homage to Yasujiro Ozu's similarly themed Late Spring (1949), 35 Shots is Denis's warmest, most radiant work, honoring a family of two's extreme closeness while suggesting its potential for suffocation. 35 Shots is firmly rooted in place, with several scenes unfolding in an apartment building in a rundown section of Paris's 18th Arrondissement, home to Lionel and Joséphine; Gabrielle (Nicole Dogue), an ex of Lionel's who still aches for him; and Noé (Grégoire Colin), nursing a crush on Joséphine. Dyads align, shift, break, and regroup among the foursome, jealousy simmering in the film's already famous scene at a café, during which Noé cuts in on a sweetly dancing Lionel and Joséphine as the Commodores' "Night Shift" plays. Nonsexual filial devotion is immediately supplanted by heat and desire. Father and daughter's comfortable life together will need to end—an inevitability that even Lionel recognizes as necessary, no matter how painful. It's a point that no one needs to shout to make. —Melissa Anderson


Saturday, April 17, at 9 p.m.; Tuesday, April 20, at 6:30 p.m.

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


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

In Fredrik Gertten's controversial documentary about a class-action lawsuit by Nicaraguan plantation workers against Dole Co., attorney Juan Dominquez describes his work as a "David vs. Goliath" situation, "and no one likes being David." It's pretty rare to find a story in which the lawyers are the heroes, but here the team is working for a group of plantation workers who claim to have been made sterile by the pesticide Nemagon, which was banned from the United States in 1979 but continued to be used by Dole until the supply was gone. The film mixes courtroom scenes, fly-on-the-wall talks between the attorneys, and heart-wrenching footage from Nicaragua, where the toll the pesticide may have caused (cancer is linked to Nemagon) runs through entire communities. Though Gertten clearly takes the side of the workers here, his documentary keeps an even keel throughout, with the emotions rarely overheating (that much of the movie is made of real court testimony certainly helps), which makes the triumphs and defeats all the more engaging. Almost as interesting is the story outside of the documentary. Prior to its debut in 2009, Dole sought to stop the showings, seeking an injunction and filing a lawsuit (which was later withdrawn). Obviously, Gertten's strong work struck a nerve. —Ed Huyck

No More Smoke Signals

Saturday, April 17, at 5:30 p.m.; Sunday, April 18, at 12:30 p.m.

Radio stations can do more than spin tunes or provide play-by-play for sports events. In some cases, the broadcast booth is the beating heart of a community—and that is certainly the case with KILI, "the voice of the Lakota nation," on South Dakota's Pine Ridge reservation. Founded in 1979, KILI broadcasts music, public service announcements, high school basketball games, specialty programs, interviews, on-air talent shows, and much more. But Fanny Bräuning's film (named best documentary at the 2009 Brooklyn International Film Festival) shows us that to better understand KILI's significance we also need to know more about the history of the Lakota people, the activism of the American Indian Movement, the impact of missionary-driven religion on traditional beliefs, legal struggles with treaty rights, and the many challenges Pine Ridge faces today, including extreme unemployment and the consequences of generational poverty. Through the KILI story—and the personal experiences of those who work at and depend on the station—we see both reasons for hope and the difficult reality created by a past that continues to haunt the present. Bräuning's documentary may still only scratch the surface of this complex and continuing narrative, but it nonetheless offers a powerful, respectful, and vital glimpse into a proud culture that perseveres despite so many adversities. —Caroline Palmer


Saturday, April 24, at 5:15 p.m.; Wednesday, April 28, at 4 p.m.

Catherine Breillat's Bluebeard is a psychologically rich and slyly comic retelling of Charles Perrault's nastiest nursery story, a gruesome account of a wealthy serial wife-killer. Breillat, who prizes sexual curiosity above all, re-imagines the perverse bedtime story as one of sibling rivalry. Bluebeard opens in a 17th-century convent school, from which, due to their father's sudden death, two teenaged sisters are expelled. En route home, the newly indigent girls pass Bluebeard's castle. The younger, Marie-Catherine (Lola Creton), expresses interest while elder sister Anne (Daphne Baiwir) primly notes that "the poor have to work their hides off for the rich." This is a movie in which the characters always say what they're thinking. Back home, the furniture has been repos sessed and the family is living on grass soup when a messenger arrives with an invitation to Lord Bluebeard's party. "You'd have to be poor to love him," Anne sniffs; the inevitable marriage ceremony ends with gold coins poured over Marie-Catherine's head. With such lurid material, Breillat is remarkably restrained. The discrepancy in size between the monster (Dominique Thomas) and his barely pubescent child-bride teases the imagination, as does the scene when, having established that she will sleep in a closet until she turns 20, Marie-Catherine spies on Bluebeard's enormous comatose body. It's gross, to be sure, although the movie's most explicit image is a lengthy shot of a decapitated fowl's bloody, twitching carcass. Is it the end of Mother Goose or a premonition of the movie's designated dead duck? —J. Hoberman

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