MSPIFF: All Over the Walls, Rough Tender, and more

Festival films with a local connection

Tuesday, April 19, at 7 p.m.
Wednesday, May 4, at 9:45 p.m.

The festival shows nearly a dozen short films with Minnesota connections, including Good Morning, Beautiful, an intriguing drama/thriller that examines the psychological depths of a sudden tragedy. A man is forced to cope with desperate grief after the sudden death of his infant daughter. He feels distanced from his wife and friends, and there's a curious rash developing on his arm that his doctor ignores. But as he finds himself surrounded by gruesome acts of violence, his grip on reality begins to loosen. With a style and tone reminiscent of David Cronenberg and David Lynch, director Todd Cobery creates a chilling atmosphere, even if it appears just a bit too familiar. Its influences are quite clear, but the film is presented in such an in-your-face and no-holds-barred manner that the final objective is reached. It becomes a surreal portrait of exactly how far a man can fall if his life is shaken roughly enough. —Andrew Newman

The Pruitt-Igoe Myth: An Urban History

Sunday, May 1, at 2 p.m.

Man & Machine
Man & Machine

Details

Festival Facts

Dates: April 14-May 5

Location: St. Anthony Main Theatre, 115 Main St. SE, Minneapolis

Admission: $11 ($10 for seniors, $9 for students) Visit the MSPIFF website for prices on opening- or closing-night films and multiple-show packages.

More info: www.mspfilmfest.org

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For this documentary on the 20-plus-year lifespan of the Pruitt-Igoe housing projects in St. Louis, director Chad Freidrichs has gathered an astonishing wealth of newsreel, broadcast news, and industrial film footage from the immediate post-World War II period to the early 1970s. The footage captures the planning, development, building, and rapid, horrifying decay of one of the first high-rise projects to be built in the U.S. What started as a promising experiment in bringing African-Americans out of tenements and providing spacious, affordable dwellings rapidly became a nightmare, as the structures fell victim to neglect by city authorities who, for mostly racially motivated reasons, refused to maintain them. The plummeting of the city's overall population due to white flight and consequent closing of many key industries—in addition to drugs, gangs, unemployment, and the bizarre stipulation that families living on welfare at Pruitt-Igoe could not allow the fathers to live with them—added further cracks to this "poor man's penthouse." Several former tenants add a fascinating narrative to this enthralling saga and recall how an initially pleasant urban community turned into a crime-ridden rattrap with few functioning plumbing or electrical facilities. They also recall how residents organized to fight the authorities, including staging the nation's first public housing rent strike. This is one of the best documentaries to come out in recent years and deserves consideration for an Oscar. John Ervin

Rough Tender

Wednesday, April 20, at 9 p.m.

On the surface, Rough Tender looks like a standard-issue bad-boy-meets-good-girl movie. Beneath the surface, that's still pretty accurate, but the film carries enough darkly comic charisma to elevate itself. The players here are violence-prone loner Barrett, who dresses like a '50s greaser and lavishes affection on his '68 Nova, and customer service rep Melanie, whose wholesome good looks are offset by her habit of babbling semi-coherently about every little thing. As their mismatched affair unfolds, director Joe Dressel maintains a peculiar tension that keeps the proceedings engaging even as it hits many of the expected notes. Michael P. Nelson's photography masterfully captures the crisp foreboding of a Twin Cities autumn, and the leads share an offbeat chemistry that stays just shy of too quirky. While the film's low budget sometimes shows, the end result is a friendly, funny dual character sketch infused with just the right amount of Minnesota gloom. —Ira Brooker

Thicker Than Water

Sunday, April 17, at 4:30 p.m.

Tony Rappa is a typical hockey-loving Minnesota kid. But he also has severe hemophilia, so his fun on ice is limited to the no-checking variety. This film by Bradley Rappa, Tony's uncle, documents a family's determination to balance the young boy's desire for an active lifestyle with the ongoing health care needed to avoid dangerous "bleeds" from physical trauma. There are several storytelling layers, beginning with the medical science of hemophilia itself, and expanding into a complex, uplifting, and sometimes heartbreaking experience that spans generations. Tony is a delightful ambassador on the subject. He knows his limits, but with the support of doctors and family he also pushes them a bit, demonstrating a mature capacity to continuously redefine "normal" to suit his zest for life. Caroline Palmer

Triumph67

Friday, April 15, at 7 p.m.

Triumph67 is a thoughtful piece that would have been effective as a short but is an endurance test as a feature. Director Dan Tanz's locally shot feature is an often wordless, sparsely populated (by people and storylines) meditation on a Palestinian-American in Minneapolis. Mohannad Aziz, who works in two endangered mediums as a movie critic for radio, struggles to come to terms with the death of his older brother, Sami, a photographer. He does so by reconnecting with Flora, a Minnesota woman with whom Sami had a summer fling in London in 1987, and for whom Mohannad continues to feel his own passions. He also discovers that Sami and Flora had a son, now a resentful young adult with whom Mohannad, in his guilt over his brother's death and his love for Flora, tries to forge a bond. In the lead role, Mohannad Ghawanmeh (who is also curator of the Twin Cities Arab Film Festival) gives an understated but compelling performance. The photography by Jeremy Wilker captures Twin Cities landmarks in all their warm-weather lushness, and director Tanz directs his cast with professionalism. But the thin story is stretched beyond the breaking point with long periods of dead silence, the characters captured in soul-searching solitude or staring at one another. Things are occasionally livened up by 16mm home movies of Sami (Kareem Aal) and amusing appearances by a bumbling American suitor of Flora's. Clearly, somewhere in the 93 minutes of inertia is a 20- to 30-minute gem. —John Ervin

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