By Chris Parker
By Jesse Marx
By John Baichtal
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Jesse Marx
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Tatiana Craine
By Judy Keen
Thursday, April 18, at 4:45 p.m.
Sunday, April 28, at 2:10 p.m.
It's a peculiar experience to watch inventive storytelling in service of a conventional story. Director Umut Dag's debut feature won't surprise viewers with its plot twists, at least not to the degree it wants to, but Dag unreels the narrative with enough creativity to make it worth sticking out. Kuma follows a naive young Turkish girl who marries into a close-knit Turkish-Austrian family, ostensibly as a replacement for the cancer-stricken matriarch. Although the familial and cultural clashes that unfold are largely the stuff of well-worn melodrama, strong acting from the mostly female cast helps the clichés go down more easily. Begüm Akkaya as the soft-spoken new bride and Nihal G. Koldas as the ailing mother are particular standouts, crafting a quiet, believable, cross-generational dialogue that's more engaging than most of Kuma's noisier plot points. There's a worthwhile story and a talented teller at work here, but somehow the two never quite come together. —Ira Brooker
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 9:45 p.m.
Monday, April 15, at 9:20 p.m.
Violeta Went to Heaven is a strange but intriguing bio-pic of a strange but intriguing musician. The film follows the life and career of Violeta Parra, a Chilean folk singer and poet who enjoyed some modest international acclaim in the 1950s and '60s. It moves back and forth in time between several key periods, among them Parra's horrible childhood following her hard-drinking, teacher-guitarist father; her early adulthood as a street musician and traveling actor; and later on when she becomes a darling of the Communist Party in Chile and Europe. A TV interview on a Chilean chat show in the early '60s links the disparate pieces of her life. As portrayed by Francisca Gavilán, the adult Parra comes across as a determined activist and singer who is not intimidated by stifling religious conservatism and male chauvinism. But she also displays selfishness toward the three small children she and her husband attempt to raise on what little money they have (Communist folk singers never made rock-star salaries). Director Andrés Wood presents the puzzle that was Violeta's life in an effective, low-key way without falling into the heavy-handed theatrics of so many portraits of real-life figures. This feature is not for all tastes, but it's definitely worth seeing for those interested in an artist who was important to one part of the world, while remaining virtually unknown to the rest of it. —John Ervin
Tuesday, April 23, at 9:55 p.m.
Saturday, April 27, at 3 p.m.
The Bosnian war of the 1990s haunts Aida Begic's film, which centers on a young woman, Rahima, trying to make a life for herself and her younger brother, Nedim, in modern-day Sarajevo. As a Muslim woman, Rahima feels the not-so-hidden divisions that broke the country apart, while her brother is slipping away — skipping school and getting into fights with a local bully. Rahima tries to do the best she can for herself and her brother, but the pressure of everyday life is grinding her down. Begic's film pulls no punches as it watches the ongoing troubles of the characters, from Rahima's issues at the restaurant where she works long hours to Nedim's descent into petty thuggery. The film's spare direction, which employs many long, handheld shots, reduces the world to rundown buildings, foggy streets, and occasional glimpses of the high life of the ruling class. Still, even amid the misery, there are slight rays of hope — primarily ones that come from family and friends. —Ed Huyck
Thursday, April 18, at 5 p.m.
Sunday, April 21, at 5:10 p.m.
Jamie Meltzer's new documentary attempts to shed light on political-activist-turned-FBI-informant Brandon Darby, a subject who is likely to raise heated debate. The film chronicles Darby's journey from activist in post-Katrina New Orleans, where he played a major role in rebuilding stricken communities, to the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, where his involvement with the FBI led to the arrest of two protestors. The film starts straightforwardly enough: A prologue from Darby himself leads one to think this will be a vindication of sorts. But as Meltzer splices in words from Darby's former associates and lets the cameras roll on Darby himself, we become aware of the activist's manipulative personality. Darby tries to create a vision of himself — deeply passionate about his causes and doing the greater good — but the evidence points the other way. His former friends deride his ego and opportunism, and Darby does nothing to help himself. He sips from his FBI mug, proudly displays a thank-you note from two agents, and even plays himself in dramatic re-creations. But when it comes time to explain his reasons for helping the government he previously derided, he remains quiet. Meltzer admirably takes the middle ground by presenting both sides of the story as clearly as possible, though his subject's own testimony may be more harmful than helpful. In the end, Darby's attempt to clear his name may muddy the picture even more. —Andrew Newman