AFRICAN FILM FESTIVAL
More info: africanfilmfestival.org.
THE DEVIL CAME ON HORSEBACK
There's no way to sugarcoat a documentary about the ongoing genocide in Darfur. Made using the testimony and photographic evidence collected by former US Marine Captain Brian Steidle, The Devil Came on Horseback is a shocking and sorrowful portrait. MARJORIE SKINNER PCC Cascade Campus.
A drama about a former child soldier from Sierra Leone. Hollywood Theatre.
A "study of family displacement and the socially corrosive ramifications of the recent African diaspora." PCC Cascade Campus.
THE LEGEND OF THE SKY KINGDOM
An animated film about three children who find—wait for it—a kingdom in the sky. Kennedy School.
MASAï: THE RAIN WARRIORS
Masaï adolescents must find a lion's mane in order to bring rain to a drought-stricken land. PCC Cascade Campus.
THE NARROW PATH
Tunde Kelani's film follows a young woman who must choose between suitors, with disastrous results. PCC Cascade Campus.
THE RED GLASSES
We can't do any better than the official synopsis: "This charming film depicts the adventures of a young sister and brother after they find a pair of magic sunglasses which are later stolen by two local bullies, and the life lessons they learn." Kennedy School .
Portland International Film festival
More info: nwfilm.org
H A Gentle Breeze in the Village (Japan)
This sweet, slow-moving Japanese film is set in a tiny village where seven kids make up the entirety of the town school's student body. The film focuses on the minutia, finding significance in the smallest moments, which, while occasionally tedious, is often quite moving—and the adorable cast of schoolchildren means that even when the story meanders, there's always something cute to look at. ALISON HALLETT Broadway Metroplex.
Afghan Muscles (Denmark)
A look at the most popular sport in Afghanistan—body building. Broadway Metroplex, Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Alice's House (Brazil)
With an exceptional performance by Carla Ribas as Alice, Alice's House centers around one working- class family in Brazil. Alice's family—an underemployed husband, three sons in their early twenties, and a blind grandmother who sees more than she is willing to admit—all live together in a modest home. Theirs is not the Brazil of Carnivál fame, but instead one of quiet desperation and distant dreams. Extra-marital affairs and dark motivations create tension as each of them reach outward, seeking independence—only to find that they are fated together by blood and circumstance. LANCE CHESS Broadway Metroplex.
The Art of Negative Thinking (Norway)
A "politically incorrect black comedy" about a therapy group for handicapped people. Oh, Norway! Broadway Metroplex, Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
A drama about Israeli forces pulling out from Lebanon (heh) in 2000. Broadway Metroplex, Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Breath (South Korea)
An artist from Seoul falls in love with a Death Row prisoner. Broadway Metroplex.
California Dreamin' (Romania)
A social farce inspired by true events in Kosovo in 1999. Broadway Metroplex.
Chihuly in the Hotshop (US)
A documentary about glassblower/artist Dale Chihuly, who will largely be remembered as the dude who made that one sculpture in the Bellagio that makes everyone upchuck their comped booze. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Clouds Over Conakry (Guinea)
With a mostly steady hand, Clouds Over Conakry traverses the spiritual and generational divides in modern Guinea through the intersecting lives of two families. BB (Alexandre Ogou) is a political cartoonist who hides his work and his love from his father, a Muslim imam who expects much of his family and son. BB dates Kesso (Fifi-Dalla Kouyate), whose father runs a secularist newspaper. The conflicts are broad and clear, though at times, Conakry seems more a sign-of-the-times explanation for Westerners. (I wonder how interesting this would be to someone from Guinea?) ANDREW TONRY Broadway Metroplex.
A story about a lonely film critic whose "best years are behind him." As if we could even imagine what that's like! Ha! Ha! Ha. Sigh. Broadway Metroplex, Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
An Albanian refugee illegally moves to Greece, kills a man, and ends up in an Albanian prison. Good times are had by all! Broadway Metroplex.
Empties (Czech Republic)
An elderly man tries out a succession of jobs in this hit from the Czech Republic. Broadway Metroplex.
Family Ties (South Korea)
This week, the irrepressible Alex P. Keaton (Michael J. Fox) discovers a get rich quick sche—oh, wait. This is a family drama from South Korea. Never mind. Broadway Metroplex.
Getting Home (Hong Kong)
When his coworker keels over in mid-swig, a straight-laced office drone finds himself stuck with the corpse far from home. Lacking the cash to bury his drinking buddy, he buys two tickets on a bus. Things don't go smoothly. From this rather broad Weekend at Bernie's-type premise, director Zhang Yang (Shower) puts a new spin on the standard road movie, mixing pathos and light comedy with an oddly Zen beat. An agreeably sentimental, slightly absurdist film that keeps threatening to wobble into mawkish territory, but never quite tips over. ANDREW WRIGHT Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
In the City of Sylvia (France)
A nameless young man watches nameless young women do everyday things—wait for a date at a café, chat with friends, smoke, walk down the sidewalk—as he sketches them. But he's not just an artist, soaking up street life in this French city of Strasbourg. He's looking for someone with a name: Sylvia, a woman he met six years ago. The film, which follows his alternately creepy and relatable behavior (the man is, at times, practically a stalker), is both beautiful and tense, the anxiety enhanced by the lack of dialogue and the babble of city life that replaces it. AMY J. RUIZ Broadway Metroplex.
In the Heliopolis Flat (Egypt)
A romantic comedy/drama set in Cairo. Broadway Metroplex.
La Antena (Argentina)
Dateline: the future. (Or possibly the past.) An entire city has lost its voice and can only communicate through subtitles, except for one woman who can still talk, and consequently doesn't need subtitles to speak to others, and is used as an unwilling tool by the megalomaniacal Mr. TV to take all of everybody's words away forever. Oh, and her son can sometimes speak, too. Are you following this? Argentinean director Esteban Sapir's visually ravishing homage to black and white photography, silent films, and Robitussin fugues doesn't make a lick of sense, but in an intriguing, endearing fashion, it's a trip, man. ANDREW WRIGHT Broadway Metroplex.
Mister Foe (Great Britain)
Hallam Foe (Jamie Bell) is a reclusive, voyeuristic, and somewhat feral 17-year-old who figures it's finally time to fly the coop of his architect father's enormous estate in the Scottish countryside when (1) his sister takes off for Australia, and (2) he ends up having sex with his stepmother (Claire Forlani)—who he's pretty sure killed his mom—in his childhood tree house. He burns his bridges and heads off to Edinburgh, where he finds work, love, and lots of trouble. A cousin of lost little rich boy tales like Igby Goes Down, set to a cool UK soundtrack. MARJORIE SKINNER Broadway Metroplex.
The Monastery: Mr. Vig and the Nun (Denmark)
Mr. Vig is an 82-year-old virgin who is obsessed with people's noses. (He doesn't like them. He doesn't like ears very much either. Basically, he doesn't like people.) He is also in possession of a crumbling castle in Denmark, which he very much wants to transform into a Russian Orthodox monastery, which in his own estimation would leave the perfect mark on the world as testament to his own more or less loveless life. Sister Amvrosya shows up to help prepare the place, and the two clash in the kind of slow motion only the elderly and devout are probably capable of. There are bursts of hilarity in this documentary, but they are far and few between. MARJORIE SKINNER Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
My Brother Is an Only Child (Italy)
Like most brothers, Accio (Elio Germano) and Manrico (Riccardo Scamarcio) spent their entire childhoods fighting each other. Their struggle continues through adolescence, when Accio falls in with fascist revivalists while Manrico becomes a Communist rabble-rouser. My Brother is an Only Child is a largely effective look at the two brothers as they navigate their way through the political turmoil of Italy in the 1960s. The intricate evolution of Accio's character is handled remarkably well, but Manrico becomes increasingly nebulous—to his brother and the audience—as single-minded ideologies fade and humanity takes over. Despite a rushed ending and a baffling final shot, the film navigates a variety of emotions with grace and humor. NED LANNAMANN Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Off the Grid:
Life on the Mesa (US)
Deep in the heart of undeveloped New Mexico lies The Mesa, a patch of Wile E. Coyote desert where a group of Gulf War Veterans, runaways, and other castoffs form their own society, with a strict moral code that gets tested when a pack of Marxist teens begin to upset the barely self-sufficient atmosphere. Directors Jeremy and Randy Stulberg occasionally get carried away with the hippie-dippie blissfulness of it all, but this remains a generally fascinating and reasonably clear-eyed look at a truly fringe group. ANDREW WRIGHT Broadway Metroplex, Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Operation Filmmaker (US)
Liev Schreiber invited a 25-year-old Iraqi film student to work on his shitty adaptation of Everything is Illuminated. The resultant culture clashes are captured in this award-winning doc. Broadway Metroplex.
OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies (France)
After saving the Allies' bacon in WWII, a strapping French superspy goes undercover in Cairo on a mission complicated by slumming Nazis, henchmen in fezzes, and ridiculously leggy dames. Oh, and an assassin who wields chickens. Bond spoofs may be old hat, but director Michel Hazanavicius generates such a rolling comedic momentum—and a few genuinely ace retro action sequences—that the thing feels like the first of its kind. The rare spoof that actually improves as it goes, due in large part to the increasingly hilarious deadpan machismo of star Jean Dujardin. Even his goddamned teeth are funny. ANDREW WRIGHT Broadway Metroplex, Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Paranoid Park (US)
Let's just get this out of the way: Portland audiences will love Paranoid Park simply for its beautiful and unaffected depictions of the city. Opening with a gorgeous shot of the St. Johns Bridge, the film works its way through the Burnside skate park, Lloyd Center, Half & Half, the Pearl, and more, accompanied by a soundtrack that includes Ethan Rose, Cool Nutz, and Menomena. In this sense, Paranoid Park might be the quintessential Portland movie of the decade. That alone does not a great movie make, however. Taken on its own merits, Gus Van Sant's latest is as evocative and elusive as his recent films, Elephant and Last Days, although Paranoid Park is not so glacially paced. It's the story of a local teen skater who drifts through middle-class high school life before a murder by the Burnside skate park turns his world upside down. Audiences expecting a fast-paced, straightforward skate/murder movie will be stumped by Van Sant's elliptical storytelling, but those who wanted to like Gerry, only to crumble under the film's never-ending action-less sequences, should be happy that Van Sant has struck a great balance between artful and intrigue here. CHAS BOWIE Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Persian Carpet (Iran)
Fifteen filmmakers contribute to this collection of shorts. Broadway Metroplex.
Saviour's Square (Poland)
A critically acclaimed look at "a family's struggle to stay afloat in post-Communist Poland." Broadway Metroplex.
Short Cuts IV: Made in Oregon
This batch of locally made shorts runs the gamut from the visually ingenious Ring! Ring! to the pretty but pointless one-take stunt of Who's Good Looking, which features overlapping Woody Allen dialogue but none of the humor. Other highlights include By Modern Measure, a hilarious, note-perfect Jules et Jim take-off, and The Pull, which documents an unconventional breakup through sumptuous split-screen and casual narration. You'll get a chance to see the very cool video for Thom Yorke's "Harrowdown Hill" on the big screen, produced by Portland production house Bent Image Lab. You'll also have to slog through the indulgent charade of Little Terrors, an incomprehensible 28-minute navel-gaze on terrorism and the insularity of Western society. Like the animated roller-coaster ride in another included selection, A Streetcar Named Perspire, there will certainly be ups and downs. NED LANNAMANN Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Shotgun Stories (US)
Jeff Nichols' story of a rural family feud. Broadway Metroplex.
Silent Light (Mexico)
Winner of the Cannes Jury Prize, Carlos Reygadas' film tells "a story of adultery and spiritual crisis in an isolated modern-day Mennonite community in Northern Mexico." Broadway Metroplex, Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Snow Angels (US)
The latest from David Gordon Green. Director in attendance. Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Still Life (China)
Another film dealing with the effects of the Three Gorges Dam (see Up the Yangtze), Still Life blends dramatic and documentary methodologies. Broadway Metroplex.
Ohholyshitwasthatevergross! Hungarian director György Pálfi, best known for 2002's gentle and slightly macabre Hukkle, goes absolutely full-out bizarro here, crafting a monument to bodily glop that might make even Cronenberg reach for the Sprite and Saltines. The plot, what there is of it, focuses on three men in severe biological situations (one speed overeats, one has a thing for embalmed cats, the other... um, pees fire), but rapidly digresses into a series of hilariously random grotesqueries. Smart, sly, and pretty much unforgettable, especially during the bits that you'd probably rather forget. Strongly recommended... I think. ANDREW WRIGHT Broadway Metroplex.
Times and Winds (Turkey)
A "lyrical portrayal" of life in a small Turkish town and three friends who live there. Also: Rhyming! Maybe? Broadway Metroplex.
The Trap (Serbia)
Director Srdan Golubovic describes his modern film noir as "a Balkan version of Crime and Punishment." Finally! Broadway Metroplex.
Unrelated (Great Britain)
A romantically free falling woman in her thirties takes up her married friends' invite to spend the summer at their holiday place in Tuscany, only to get romantically entangled with the couple's teenaged son. Director Joanna Hogg's feature debut shows a real understanding of the way personalities ebb and flow in unfamiliar surroundings and close quarters, sometimes to the detriment of her film's pacing. Still, this is a worthy, well acted, beautifully shot, and occasionally hot film, if not always a compelling one. ANDREW WRIGHT Broadway Metroplex, Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
Up the Yangtze (Canada)
Yu Shui, a young Chinese girl from a rural peasant family, just finished middle school, and wants to go to high school. But her parents' own future is uncertain, and they can't pay for her education, thanks to a massive government project—the construction of the Three Gorges Dam—that will soon flood their home on the Yangtze River and force them (and two million others) to relocate. So Shui finds a job, on a luxury ship that takes Westerners on voyeuristic "Farewell Cruises" to check out parts of the country that will soon be under hundreds of feet of water. Filmmaker Chang's cameras deftly capture one family's struggle amid rapid and dramatic change, while simultaneously offering a peek at a contemporary China rarely seen. AMY J. RUIZ Broadway Metroplex, Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
An applaudable departure from PIFF's more staid subject matters, this is about a 15-year-old of indeterminate gender. Broadway Metroplex.
The Year of the Nail (Mexico)
Being the son of one of the world's best living filmmakers can't be easy, but Jonás Cuarón tries to carve a spot for himself outside Papa Alfonso's shadow with The Year of the Nail. It's the story of two lonelyhearts—gringo college student Molly and horny teen Diego—coming of age in Mexico City. Borrowing a page from Chris Marker's La Jetée, Cuarón sequenced two years' worth of still photos into a storyboard, and then wrote a fictitious screenplay to be voiced over by actors. The director gets a thumbs up for the thoughtful effort, but Nail is pretty flat from beginning to end. There's promise lurking within, but I'd hold off for his next film to see what the young Cuarón really has to offer. CHAS BOWIE Broadway Metroplex.
A small town East German girl (Nina Hoss) leaves for the big city and a high-pressure office job, only to find that her past isn't easily shaken. Utilizing a tricky structure that flashes both back and forward, director Christian Petzold's nifty little metaphysical thriller finds tension in some notably mundane objects, creating a genuinely uneasy atmosphere throughout. The fairly ruthless combination of cold clinical surfaces and hopped-up emotional cores might not be for all tastes, but if you can catch the vibe, it's a stunner. ANDREW WRIGHT Broadway Metroplex, Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium.
All in This Tea
David Lee Hoffman is a California tea importer who spends most of this film searching China's visually stunning rural regions looking for the best handmade teas. Despite its esoteric subject matter, this doc rarely drags, largely because of Hoffman's uncompromising, pioneering spirit. Part Indiana Jones and part tea geek, he's become successful in life by following his true interest which, after about 10 minutes, becomes infectious. MATT DAVIS Hollywood Theatre.
Named for the hot, gooey candy used to wax body and facial hair in a dingy Beirut beauty salon, the Lebanese Caramel is the story of the women who work and congregate there. In an environment where merely being alone with a man you are not wedded to is asking for trouble, the salon provides a sanctuary for them to be open about their particularly feminine travails: an affair with a married man, the terror that a soon-to-be husband will discover his bride is not a virgin, the insecurities brought on by aging, the shyness of being a lesbian in a conservative society, and the sacrifices of happiness one must sometimes make to fulfill familial responsibilities. Caramel succeeds in pointing out the universalities of being a woman, but it's also this quality that makes it less than extraordinary: You've already seen a million you'll-laugh-you'll-cry films about sisterly friendships and female bonding; this one just happens to be in a different language. MARJORIE SKINNER Fox Tower 10.
See review. Various Theaters.
Diary of the Dead
See review. Lloyd Center 10 Cinema.
Grindhouse Double Feature: Alligator & Seven Brothers Meet Dracula
See My, What a Busy Week!. (As an added bonus, Alligator features Robin Riker as probably the sexiest herpetologist ever!) Hollywood Theatre.
An Iranian film about a famous, elderly singer (Ismail Ghaffari) who, along with his sons, attempts to put on a final concert in Iraqi Kurdistan. Shockingly, such a thing is easier said than done. Hollywood Theatre.
William Shatner as a maniac gigolo. What else do you need to know? Laurelhurst.
See review. Cinema 21.
See review. Various Theaters.
Massacre at Central High
Do you love Dead Alive? A huge fan of Russ Meyer? Yaaaay, me too! Bearing this in mind, you're going to want to marry 1976's Massacre at Central High. They don't make films like this anymore, if only because no one can get away with the following laundry list: hippie threesome crushed by gigantic boulder, hang glider electrocuted by power lines, booby-trapped lockers exploding in fat kids' faces, and a death caused by a really loud hearing aid. Aaaah, 1976—those were the salad days. COURTNEY FERGUSON Laurelhurst.
A film about the Japanese invasion of Nanking, China. Not screened for critics. Fox Tower 10.
Spiral's premise is promising enough: A telemarketer, Mason (Joel Moore), toils away in his lonely life, which is punctuated by obsessions with women (including Amber, played by an incredibly annoying Amber Tamblyn). But something's up—Mason has fits and gets upset easily, and there's a sinister glow coming from under his bathroom door. Thus the stage is set for a film that would like to be a psychological thriller, but is mostly an under-budgeted turd filled with mostly bad acting. The most interesting thing about it is that it's filmed in Portland. Neat. MARJORIE SKINNER Clinton Street Theater.
Step Up 2: The Streets
See review. Various Theaters.
The Spiderwick Chronicles
One more CG-heavy fantasy kids' flick. Thanks Lord of the Rings! Various Theaters.