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

Monday, April 15, at 9:10 p.m.

Thursday, April 18, at 4:30 p.m.

A charming, involving first feature, Clandestine Childhood muscles its familiar coming-of-age material into something more vibrant and urgent than the usual. Through sharp editing and director Benjamín Ávila's moment-making brio, this '70s period piece charts a young boy's attempts to carve out something like a childhood despite being the son of wanted revolutionaries in the Argentina of General Jorge Rafael Videla, whose brutal government "disappeared" millions just like them. The film is obliged, then, to counterpoint its scenes of pubescent flowering, all delicate and affecting, with those of police-state paranoia: adults overheard in fierce consultations, a cold panic settling in when sirens sound in the street. So when Juan, the young lead played with wounded boyishness by Teo Gutiérrez Romero, is greeted by his teacher and schoolmates with a cheery "Happy birthday," he's even more mixed up about the attention than most kids would be. After all, he's pretending to be named Ernesto, and he has never looked at Ernesto's fake documents closely enough to know his birthdate. His family's enemy-of-the-state reality intrudes again and again on his growing up, most affectingly when the intensity of the first bleeds into the second, inspiring Juan to push too hard with a crush that he might not have time to let play out. Also commendable: Ávila's cutting to harsh, garish illustrations the few times the film gets violent. This fresh technique has an impact de rigueur movie mayhem has lost. —Alan Scherstuhl

Laurence Anyways

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

Saturday, April 13, at 8 p.m.

Sunday, April 21, at 9 p.m.

Canadian director Xavier Dolan's 2012 film may be a love story, but it's anything but typical. After picking up the annual Queer Palm at the Cannes Film Festival, it has garnered acclaim as a poignant drama about one man's journey to live his life as the woman he was meant to be. What gives this film such lift is the relationship between Laurence (Melvil Poupad) and Fred (Suzanne Clément) as they navigate the transition, reveling in such firsts as wearing a dress on the job and then realizing that a personal celebration of identity does not always lead to broader acceptance — whether at work, in the streets, or even among family. The film takes a brash approach, with Clément giving her character a fantastic depth. She is a loving partner to Laurence, but she recognizes there's a personal toll, one that troubles her normally outgoing spirit. And Poupad embodies all the inner turmoil that comes from such a transformation. He is true to his characters' every sensibility — and for this reason Laurence Anyways is a film that rings with authenticity. This is the memorable story of a journey that for many comes with great rewards and great costs. —Caroline Palmer

We Women Warriors

Sunday, April 21, at noon

Monday, April 22, at 6:55 p.m.

Weaving provides a metaphor for the inextricable bond between Colombia's indigenous people and their land and culture — and between single mothers widowed by regional conflict — in Nicole Karsin's assured documentary. The story concerns three female activists working to help their countrymen and traditions survive amid ceaseless war between guerrilla rebels and government forces. Although hailing from different parts of Colombia, Doris, Ludis, and Flor Ilva face their homeland's bloodbaths by assuming tribal leadership posts. Each advocates the peaceful expulsion from their villages of armed gangs, whose violence is funded by a cocaine trade that, through its use of coca leaves, is predicated on exploitation of the environment. The director's cinematography can be rough and ungainly, but it provides sterling glimpses of both family intimacy and its larger social context — in which caring for children and protecting the land are equated as analogous endeavors — as well as of bombing and intimidation by thuggish insurgents and paramilitary groups. Meanwhile, through Ludis's young son, Albeiro, heartbreakingly weeping to the camera over his father's murder and later confessing his desire to avenge that crime by joining the rebels, Karsin's intimate film captures a stinging sense of civil war's true cost. —Nick Schager

Eden

Tuesday, April 16, at 5 p.m.

Friday, April 19, 2:15 p.m.

For a good part of its run time, Eden looks like the long-overdue American feature film that will handle the sex slave trade with the seriousness it deserves. Playing a bit like a less exploitive counterpoint to Michael Ritchie's grimy '70s classic Prime Cut, Megan Griffiths's drama follows a teenage girl (Jamie Chung) kidnapped from a bar and imprisoned in a desert gulag that provides underage prostitutes to a domestic and international clientele. Eden is at its strongest when it depicts the grim day-to-day of the girls' existence, a grind that forces Chung to morph quickly from horrified victim to numb survivor to vicious opportunist. The film sags as its final third takes an inevitable turn toward action-movie heroics, but at least Chung's steely lead performance puts a more human face on the issue than an ass-kicking Liam Neeson rescuing damsels in distress. —Ira Brooker

Koch

Sunday, April 21, at 12:30 p.m.

Friday, April 26, at 5 p.m.

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