Saturday, May 28, 2011

Best of MSPIFF 2011

Here we go, another year down, another 68 movies viewed. Though I have discovered that three weeks is entirely too long for a film festival. Here are the best films I saw this year. Put them on your to-see list (and Netflix if possible)! They are in no particular order, except the first one is the film I recommend when people ask, "What's the best movie you saw at MSPIFF?"

Pure. This film is my best-of-fest, if I have to pick just one. I'm not sure if you'll ever be able to see it here in the U.S. or not, but that's why I go to MSPIFF. Pure is about a young working class woman trying to make a better life for herself. Trailer. Directed by a woman.

Queen to Play is a delightful film about a working class French woman who discovers the joy of Chess. Kevin Kline plays the chess tutor in his first all-French role. Trailer. Netflix. Directed by a woman.

The Hedgehog tells the story of 11-year-old Paloma and her new working class friend, the building's janitor, Renee. Despite the film having an 11-year-old protagonist, this is not a children's film. Based on the bestselling novel Elegence of the Hedgehog. Trailer. Directed by a woman.

The Arbor, which got a decent review in the May 2nd New Yorker (Anthony Lane), is the most originally told documentary I've ever seen. Using original footage of British playwright Andrea Dunbar, scenes acted out by people lip syncing to audio interviews of her family, and pieces of Dunbar's plays, it tells the story of Dunbar's working class upbringing and life as seen from the point of view of mostly her oldest daughter. Trailer. Netflix.

Cracks is the first feature film directed by Jordan Scott, daughter of famed director Sir Ridley Scott, about a group of girls at a U.K. boarding school, their teacher, and the crazy world they create. Beautifully shot, directed and acted, especially considering this is her first film. This one is worth seeing on the big screen if you have the opportunity to do so. Trailer. Netflix. Directed by a woman.

Kinshasa Symphony takes you on the beautiful journey of a group of people in Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of the Congo) who practice and perform two difficult Beethoven pieces. Stunning cinematography and sound, so see it on a big screen if you can. Otherwise, watch it online here. Netflix.

Happy, Happy appeared at Sundance this year and is a surprising and funny film about a straight couple in the north woods of Norway and what happens to their "happy" lives when another couple from the city moves next door. The musical interludes are fantastic. The Norwegian title "SYKT LYKKELIG" translates to "Sick Happy". Trailer. Netflix. Directed by a woman.

The Poll Diaries is directed by the man who brought us Four Minutes, one of my favorite films from a few years back, and he once again follows a girl who gets into a bit of trouble with her family and her community by befriending someone they want to see dead. Trailer. Netflix.

Madly In Love is fun and sweet and quirky and well-done. A woman-centered movie, but not just for women. Trailer. Directed by a woman.

Just Like Us. A stand-up comedy troupe goes on tour in Arabic countries. This art form is very new to the Middle East and older generations did not have the opportunity to appreciate this creative platform. However, through the current Internet age stand-up comedy has flourished in the Arab region over the past few years, and continues to show us that laughter is the common language of the world.Trailer. Netflix.

Louder than a Bomb, which you'll be able to see on OWN sometime later this year, is about a spoken word festival by the same name in Chicago. Trailer. Netflix.

Made in India follows one U.S. family looking for a cheaper way to find a surrogate mother for their baby. The film brings up far more questions than it answers, and it's a good start to a conversation on reproductive ethics and world poverty. Trailer. Directed by a woman.

The Interrupters is about an organization in Chicago working between rules and laws to stop gang violence. By the director of Hoop Dreams.Trailer. Netflix.

Modra** 17-year-old Canadian Lina visits her family's ancestral home in Modra, Slovakia, and discovers some of herself. The director uses her own daughter as the main character. Trailer. Netflix. Directed by a woman. **Google Chrome didn't like this website. Use another browser.

Orgasm, Inc. Watch the pharmaceutical industry manufacturing a disease they think will be a blockbuster for them: female sexual dysfunction. Funny, sexy, and eye-opening. Trailer. Netflix. Directed by a woman.

I'm Not Black, I'm Coloured follows the struggle the Coloured people are having today in South Africa, and how it relates to the end of Apartheid. Trailer. Directed by a woman.

Better This World is a stunning documentary about the two men arrested for "terrorism" during the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minnesota. Watch it to see how the government uses and abuses informants and how the lives of two young men are permanently changed. There's a Quaker in the film! Trailer. Netflix. Directed by a woman.

Eichmann's End uses a combination of existing historical footage and modern historical narrative filmmaking to tell the story of how the SS officer Adolf Eichamann was tracked down by an accident of history--the daughter of a Nazi hunter goes on a date with Eichmann's son. Sorry, no trailer.

Cairo 6, 7, 8 is a fictional portrayal of three women who get enacted a law about sexual harassment in Egypt. If only I had the courage of these women. Trailer

Home for Christmas is not your Hollywood Christmas movie, but a gentle, sad and at times heartwarming. If you're looking for different visions of "home for Christmas", this film is for you. It was for me. I'm looking forward to seeing it this December again if I can. I loved this song from the film Home for Christmas by Maria Mena. Trailer

Project Nim. I grew up hearing about Nim the chimp who could use sign language. I had no idea of the crazy story of abuse behind it. A completely compelling story and well-done documentary. Trailer. Netflix.

Eleanor's Secret is about a boy who can't read but inherit's his great aunt's first edition book collection. He has to figure out how to read in order to save them from a greedy antiques seller. And magically, the books come to life to help him. Trailer. Directed by a woman.

The Pruitt-Igoe Myth exposes how the Pritt-Igoe public housing project became a myth about the failure of public housing instead of a failure of government to give the project all it needed because they catered instead to big business. Trailer

In Another Lifetime Like many of the best films I see at MSPIFF, I can't find a trailer for this one, and it's not on Netflix. Set in the last days of WWII, one Austrian family houses and feeds Jews, against the will of the townspeople, being marched toward Germany. We get to look at not just what the SS or Nazis did to support the war, but common people. Directed by a woman.

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