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

Reviews from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival

Friday, April 15, at 6:45 p.m.
Saturday, April 16, at 5:30 p.m.

Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, is the third-largest city in Africa and has one of the poorest populations in the world. It is also home to the Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste, a resolute group of musicians and singers who overcome considerable odds every day to bring classical music into their own lives and the lives of their fellow citizens. Claus Wischmann and Martin Baer have created an eloquent documentary about the power of art as a means for survival, told through personal stories of orchestra members. The electricity is fickle, many of the instruments are handmade, and life outside the rehearsal room is defined by innumerable challenges, but the symphony does what it can to stay in tune in a country that has seen more violent discord than peaceful harmony in recent years. —Caroline Palmer

My Perestroika

Tuesday, April 26 at 4:45 p.m.
Sunday, May 1, at 2 p.m.

Le Quattro Volte
Le Quattro Volte


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:

The lives of five school friends who grew up in Soviet-era Russia are explored in Robin Hessman's engrossing documentary. The Muscovites came of age just as the Soviet Union was collapsing and began their adulthood in earnest in the heady years of perestroika, glasnost, and the collapse of the order that had raised them. Now in their early 40s, the former classmates find themselves surrounded by typical middle-age concerns—and wondering what happened to the revolution they watched as youngsters. They run up and down the economic ladder, from punk rocker/street musician Ruslan (who wants nothing to do with capitalism or the current Russian order) to Andrei (who sells exclusive men's shirts and owns 17 stores across the globe). The main focus is on schoolteachers Borya and Lyuba, who share a tiny apartment—the one Borya has lived in his entire life—with their son, while trying to make sense of their world. As their current stories unfold, we hear about the comfortable conformity (or fight against it) of their Soviet youth followed by the heady days of the 1980s and early '90s, when choices in politics, clothes, and music erupted around them. Apart from some television footage, modern-day politics are mainly on the sideline here, as Hessman gives each of the stories the space needed so we get to know each of the characters' dreams, histories, and quirks. —Ed Huyck

Dossier K

Monday, April 18, at 6:45 p.m.
Friday, April 29, at 9:30 p.m.

If the prospect of a Belgian cop movie filtered through the Albanian mob's insular, sometimes inscrutable code of honor sounds daunting, don't worry. It turns out gangster cinema is a universal language, and veteran director Jan Verheyen is fairly fluent in it. There's nothing particularly novel about the story—a by-the-book detective and a revenge-minded enforcer follow parallel paths as they work to unravel the same gangland murder—but Verheyen keeps the action tense and fast-moving. The film's vision of a grim, gray, violent Antwerp sometimes brings to mind the chilly efficiency of Michael Mann. Well-crafted though it is, Dossier K really only comes to life when it delves into the inner workings of the Albanian mafia. The mobsters' devotion to ancient codes and family ties is as fascinating as the adjacent police boilerplate is formulaic. —Ira Brooker

A Good Man

Sunday, April 24,at 2 p.m.
Tuesday, April 26, at 6:45 p.m.

Chris and Rachel Rohrlach's story is one of those real-life tales that would need a massive make-under to work as fiction: Pregnant with Chris's child when she was 21, Rachel had a massive stroke that left her a quadriplegic. The couple married anyway and built a life on a farm in the Australian Outback, with Chris tending to his newborn son, his invalid wife, and a flock of sheep. Drought threatens the farm 14 years later just as a second son is born; Chris's big idea is to build and operate a brothel (legal in New South Wales) to keep the family afloat. Director Safina Uberoi struck gold with her title subject, a congenital joker with an implacable will whose load-bearing personality could prop up at least three documentaries. Supported by their families but facing community protest, Chris and his partners (two fellow farmers) fail to imagine that a well-built brothel with "nice, clean sex workers" could be construed as anything other than a foolproof business plan. The story of their disillusionment gets away from Uberoi, as well it might: Each potential stand-alone narrative gets tangled with the next, with none of them emerging to form a satisfying arc. —Michelle Orange

Bill Cunningham New York

Monday, April 18, at 7 p.m.
Tuesday, April 26, at 9:45 p.m.

No passion for fashion is required to enjoy this absorbing portrait of legendary New York Times "On the Street" photographer Bill Cunningham, but a sense of history and tragedy might help. Director Richard Press doggedly shadows the chipper octogenarian, foregrounding the modest lifestyle and quietly radical work ethic that have made him as much a hero as an anomaly. Several big-name fans offer enthusiastic tributes, including a positively bubbly Anna Wintour, but the film is no more a document of high style than Cunningham is a spendthrift. Instead, Press has crafted a near-Buddhist reflection on what it takes to fully engage Gotham, as well as an astute snapshot of its evermore avaricious soul: Cunningham's cheerful asceticism is so out of step with what we currently expect (and don't expect) from our city that tagging along with him is a bracing reminder of what's been lost to the bottom line. Perhaps inevitably, Press also slyly raises the question of whether Cunningham's self-deprivation and single-minded focus on surface aesthetics ("If it isn't something a woman can wear, I'm not interested") have taken an unacknowledged toll. Decide for yourself whether the climactic Oprah moment is earned or contrived; it's heartbreaking either way. —Mark Holcomb

If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle

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