The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival

A filmmaker from Minnesota tells the story behind a lost animated masterpiece, plus hits and misses of the fest by our critics

"Animation is such a young art form, and he is one of the last living legends of animation," Schreck says. "I love animation and filmmaking, but what has held my interest for the last six years — and what has held people's attention — is this fascinating person."

The film has received a slow rollout at film festivals over the past year. Schreck, who now works for a documentary film company in New York City, is thrilled that it is now being screened in his home state.

"Every step of the way has been surreal," Schreck says. "I really love this kind of homecoming. I love being and working in New York, but it is a huge honor to have this play in my hometown."

Animator Richard Williams worked on his epic feature for nearly 30 years but never got the chance to complete it
Animator Richard Williams worked on his epic feature for nearly 30 years but never got the chance to complete it

Details

THE PERSISTENCE OF VISION
screens Friday, April 19, at 6:30 p.m.
at St. Anthony Main Theatre.

Festival Facts: Dates: April 11-28 Location: St. Anthony Main Theatre, 115 Main St. SE, Minneapolis Admission: $12 ($6 for kids 12 and under). Visit the MSPIFF website for prices on opening- and closing-night films and multiple-show packages. More info: www.mspfilmfest.org

THE PERSISTENCE OF VISION screens Friday, April 19, at 6:30 p.m. at St. Anthony Main Theatre.

The Pirogue

Tuesday, April 16, at 4:30 p.m.

Sunday, April 21, at 9:35 p.m.

The title of this Senegalese production refers to the type of oversized dinghy used by refugees from various African countries to sail illegally up the Atlantic to Spain. Director Moussa Touré presents a harrowing, believable picture of what can befall these perilous voyages, which have, in the past 10 years, killed almost half of those brave enough to take them. Baye Laye (Souleymane Seye Ndiaye), an experienced navigator from a seaside village, is reluctantly recruited by his brother and 28 other people to steer a motorized pirogue to Spain. Over seven days, the men (and one woman stowaway) are challenged by torrential storms, motor breakdowns, other survivors of stranded pirogues, thirst, hunger, and, inevitably, one another. They also must come to terms with their cultural and language differences, as well as the suspicious "travel agent" who is crammed in the boat with them. It's a very good movie that is only marred by a rushed, choppy conclusion. —John Ervin

Caesar Must Die

Saturday, April 20, at 7:15 p.m.

Sunday, April 28, at 6:45 p.m.

There's something enthrallingly old-fashioned about Caesar Must Die, an artistically ambitious spin on Shakespeare that harkens back to the various European New Waves of the '60s and '70s. That's appropriate, given that directors Paolo and Vittorio Taviani have been making movies together for five decades. Those years of experience show, as their confident handling of the film's simple concept — Roman prison inmates stage a production of Julius Caesar — yields a surprisingly complex exploration of art and identity. By casting a scripted, documentary-style film with real-life convicts, the Tavianis grant themselves license to play with our conception of reality. Shakespearean drama bleeds into the prisoners' personal conflicts. Actors find it difficult to step out of their roles once they've returned to their cells. Inmates pause their line readings to marvel at the play's parallels to modern-day Roman life. And behind it all, the drama of Brutus and Caesar unfolds in a stirring testament to the timeless power of Shakespeare. —Ira Brooker

Papadopoulos and Sons

Thursday, April 25, at 4:30 p.m.

Sunday, April 28, at 9:30 p.m.

British comedy has a way of being smarter, darker, sadder, and ultimately funnier than our own domestic products. Marcus Markou's first feature proves this, even if it is to a limited degree, drawing out the natural charisma of his characters with a witty script. Harry Papadopoulos, played by the impeccable Stephen Dillane, is a self-made man who lives a lavish life with his three kids thanks to his successful packaged Greek food business. On the eve of breaking ground on his next big investment, Papadopoulos Plaza, the market tanks and Harry loses everything. Wrestling with his pride and acquired status as a stuffed shirt, Harry has little choice but to partner with his estranged unorthodox older brother, Spiros, to resurrect their hole-in-the-wall fish-and-chips shop where he got his start. There is a fair amount of schmaltz to be had in Papadopoulos and Sons, mostly in the form of Harry discovering what is important and redefining his personal idea of success. But all is forgiven with this film's simple charms, which will have you dancing the kalamatiano right out of the theater. —Kathie Smith

The Virgin, the Copts and Me

Wednesday, April 24, at 4 p.m.

Thursday, April 25, at 4 p.m.

An old videotape of a miraculous sighting paves the way for self-discovery in Namir Abdel Messeeh's compelling documentary. After viewing an old video recording of a religious service in his Egyptian hometown in which his mother claims to have seen an image of the Virgin Mary, Messeeh thinks he may have the right subject for a film. He travels to Egypt to chronicle tales of miraculous sightings in the Coptic community. But as real-life issues clash against the Egyptian minority, Messeeh's producers suggest he change the tone of the film. Messeeh does change the film's focus — to his own family, not a wide-ranging religious struggle. And when his producers lose their interest, it is Messeeh's own mother who saves the day. Her journey from reluctance and shame of her impoverished roots to enlightenment is touching, and her often contentious relationship with her son forms the backbone of the film. Messeeh's film explores a tight-knit community with refreshing intimacy, and the characters we find there are effortlessly charming and human. It may not be the film its financers were expecting, full of strife and hardships. Instead, it's a warm and affecting look into one man's family and the joys they share. —Andrew Newman

Clandestine Childhood

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