MSPIFF: The Interrupters, Louder Than a Bomb, and more

Reviews from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival

In Another Lifetime

Sunday, April 17, at 12:30 p.m.
Tuesday, May 3, at 7:30 p.m.

This taut, nail-biting Holocaust drama ranks with The Pianist and The Grey Zone. A group of Hungarian Jews on a forced march to the Mauthausen camp are detained, due to a break in the German command, in a barn in a small Austrian village. The farmer who owns the barn (Johannes Krisch, in a powerful lead performance) resents the Jews as much as he does the German officers who force him to keep them there. His wife and daughter, however, take pity on the prisoners. In addition to feeding them, they indulge the whims of a flamboyant Budapest tenor (Péter Végh) who asks to stage an operetta using instruments the family hides in the barn and his ragged, starving fellow inmates as the cast. Reluctantly, Krisch's farmer also finds himself taken in by this mad project—in part because he desperately wants to play his prized accordion. Screenwriter Peter Turrini, who adapted the script from his own play, presents a roster of characters who are complicated, interesting, and at times quite funny. Director Elisabeth Scharang draws indelible performances from every cast member large and small—and makes the last 15 minutes a true cliffhanger. John Ervin

The Interrupters

Le Quattro Volte
Le Quattro Volte
Dumas
Dumas

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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Sunday, April 24, at 4:30 p.m.
Monday, April 25, at 7:30 p.m.

If it isn't part of your daily existence, Chicago's recent epidemic of street violence is the kind of domestic issue that can seem just as distant as the revolutions in the Middle East. Hoop Dreams director Steve James's latest documentary spans that distance by placing viewers at the epicenter of the killings and introducing us to a host of people who are undeniably heroic yet unmistakably human. James captures an astounding amount of drama, frustration, and redemption over one tumultuous year with Chicago's CeaseFire, a community action group dedicated to defusing confrontations before violence erupts. The titular Interrupters are former gang members, felons, and convicted killers whose knowledge and street cred helps them connect with kids wary of more traditional authorities. Upsetting, uplifting, and packed with characters twice as compelling as those in even the best crime fiction, The Interrupters shines a much-needed light on America's tragic war at home. —Ira Brooker

Le Quattro Volte

Saturday, April 23, at 5 p.m.
Monday, April 25, at 5 p.m.

Grave, beautiful, austerely comic, and casually metempsychotic, Michelangelo Frammartino's Le Quattro Volte is one of the wiggiest nature documentaries—or almost-documentaries—ever made. Frammartino's second movie is virtually without dialogue, yet filled with the sounds of the world and intensely communicative. The movie's title translates to "The Four Times" but, not simply seasonal, it projects four states of being: human, animal, vegetable, and mineral. Le Quattro Volte begins with a wheezing old man and his herd of goats emerging out of the smoke rising from a charcoal kiln; the movie ends with the charcoal haze of what was once a mighty fir tree drifting across the screen. In between, the goatherd gathers up dust from the floor of the village church, which he mixes in water and drinks each night as a medicinal elixir. It evidently works—the morning after he misplaces his daily packet of church sweepings, he dies. The moment is stunningly casual. Le Quattro Volte is a movie in which animals have at least as much presence as humans. The goatherd's persistent cough merges with the clamor of his herd's conversational baas and tinkling bells. Man has been displaced from the center of the world but, if one follows the filmmaker's logic, his soul migrates first into a newborn kid and then, once the kid is separated from the herd and lost in the snowy forest, into the sheltering tree that becomest the movie's ultimate protagonist. —J. Hoberman

How to Live Forever

Saturday, April 30, at 12:30 p.m.
Sunday, May 1, at 3:30 p.m.

Mark Wexler's unexpectedly entertaining documentary explores the fear of growing old. Driven by his own anxieties, the director seeks reasons to feel hopeful, interviewing everyone from funeral directors to scientists, cyronics devotees, philosophers, and even fitness pioneer Jack LaLanne (who gives Wexler a killer workout). The result is a self-effacing and often enlightening glimpse into the aging process, told with a This American Life vibe. What is the secret to a long life? It's not readily apparent, given that some folks in the film reached the century mark thanks in part to a healthy lifestyle, while others enjoy beer and cigarettes with apparently no ill effect. It's to Wexler's credit that he doesn't try to give answers (unlike some people he interviews), respecting one of the few remaining mysteries of the human experience. Caroline Palmer

Louder Than a Bomb

Thursday, April 21, at 9:15 p.m.
Sunday, April 24, at noon

Each March, the largest high school poetry slam in the world dominates the life of eager, talented, and old-beyond-their-years high schoolers in the Chicago area. Louder Than a Bomb takes us through the year leading up to the 2008 contest by following students from four very different Second City high schools as they prepare for the event. What unifies them all is a love for the art form and a great desire to share their work with the world. Creators Greg Jacobs and Jon Siskel don't dwell on the lives that brought each of the teenagers to this particular point—though it's pretty clear that there are a lot of broken homes and tough situations—mainly using those details to underscore the topics that come up in their poems. And while the structure is pretty familiar (getting ready, getting ready, team conflict!, and then the competition itself), the characters are so engaging, and their poetry readings so intense and powerful, that all of this thinking is set aside to just watch and listen. "This is a weird family I didn't even know I was a part of," one of the founders of the event says midway through. That sense of family permeates the proceedings, down to the fact that the winner of the competition isn't revealed until midway through the credits. The rest is about the words. Ed Huyck

Kinshasa Symphony

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