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Frederick Film Fest

35 Shots of Rum
Barking Water
Burma VJ
Exploding Girl
Terribly Happy
Tony Manero

Posted 3/24/2010

Frederick Film Fest

March 26 and 27 at the Weinberg Center and the Cultural Arts Center, Frederick

The second annual Frederick Film Festival not only kicks off March 25 with performances from Robbie Fulks and Jenny Scheinman, but it's two-day schedules boasts a number of festival-circuit draws that haven't played Baltimore yet. Visit the festival web site for a complete list of shorts playing, too. (Visit for more details.)

35 SHOTS OF RUM French modernist/visionary Claire Denis has been crafting sensationally tactile and sensual movies for more than two decades now, yet she's still virtually unknown outside of the international festival circuit. 35 Shots of Rum, Denis' latest triumph, is one of her warmest, most accessible to date, even though its setting--a working-class French neighborhood on the outskirts of Paris--may initially seem as exotic as Cameroon (Chocolat) or Djibouti (Beau Travail). The movie's principal characters--Lionel, a widowed African émigré train driver (Alex Descas) and his beautiful college student daughter, Josephine (Mati Diop)--are merely the jumping-off points for a typically dense Denis-ian allegory that touches on everything from globalization, colonization, and, of course, sexuality. Denis brilliantly captures a sense of both time and place. (Denis regular Agnès Godard did the virtuoso cinematography.) Reduced to a thumbnail plot synopsis (a loving father experiences typical daddy issues when his adult daughter contemplates moving into her own apartment), Shots might sound more conventional than it is. But Denis' steady, unhurried accretion of quotidian details is what makes her movie so gripping and emotionally transcendent. Anyone who cares about cinema can't afford to miss it. (Milan Paurich) At the Weinberg Center March 26 at 2 p.m.

9500 LIBERTY Annabel Park and Eric Byler's documentary explores America's immigration policies via Prince Williams County, Va., where officials pass a law requiring law enforcement to question anyone suspected to be an undocumented immigrant. At the Weinberg Center March 27 at 4 p.m.

BARKING WATER Native American writer/director Sterlin Harjo's 2009 drama follows a terminally ill man's journey from the hospital through the wind-swept lands of rural Oklahoma to visit his daughter one last time. At the Cultural Arts Center March 26 at 1:30 p.m.

THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT Once in a great while a movie comes along that raises the hair on the back of your neck with visceral dread and at the same time raises your eyebrow with its sheer ingeniousness. Cue The Blair Witch Project. Shot by the actors themselves on HI8 color video and 16mm black-and-white stock, the movie purports to be the rediscovered footage of a trio of film students (played by unknowns Heather Donahue, Michael Williams, and Joshua Leonard) who wandered into the Maryland woods while shooting a documentary about a local legend, never to be seen again. Thanks to the total-immersion scenario devised by co-directors/writers/editors Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, Blair Witch works cinematic magic with its modest materials. As the events of each day and night become ever more strange and terrifying, you're right there, cowering at every sound. There is no polite remove from the characters' fear and desperation, no escape from their fate. Screened here in its original cut. (Lee Gardner) At the Weinberg Center March 26 at 8:30 p.m., with an Ed Sánchez Q&A following the screening.

BURMA VJ The amazing thing about Anders Østergaard's documentary is the way it's able to construct a cohesive narrative out of nothing more than underground footage and re-enactments of political strife in Burma. But the English voiceover (with subtitles, since the narrator has a heavy accent) does more than a capable job of walking you through the political unrest in Burma. It starts with the 2007 uprising in Myanmar and shows how the government used force to put it down, even beating and imprisoning monks. Some of the footage is quite graphic. But the movie is out to show the power that a small group of video journalists have. Their footage makes its way out of the country and onto the international news circuit, helping bring attention to the plight of the Burmese people. (Jeff Niesel) At the Weinberg Center March 27 at 11 a.m.

THE EXPLODING GIRL Zoe Kazan stars in writer/director Bradley Rust Grey's quietly beautiful, slice-of-life drama about a college undergraduate's summer break in New York. At the Weinberg Center March 26 at 12:30 p.m.

KISSES Irish writer/director Lance Daly's 2008 drama follows a Dylan (Shane Curry) and his neighbor Kylie (Kelly O'Neill)--two kids living in Dublin's suburbs--running away to the city in search of Dylan's older brother. At the Weinberg Center March 26 at 12:30 p.m.

THE SECRET OF KELLS This Best Animated Feature Oscar nominee from Ireland follows the adventures of a young boy (voiced by Evan McGuire) who lives with his uncle (Brendan Gleeson) at an abbey, and is in part inspired by the illuminated manuscript Book of Kells, which was created by Celtic monks in the 12th century. At the Weinberg Center March 26 at 7 p.m.

TERRIBLY HAPPY A Copenhagen cop (Jakob Cedergren) gets exiled to rural South Jutland, where he slowly realizes he's up to his eyeballs in some kinda hell with the locals in this 2008 Danish noir-cum-Western from director Henrik Ruben Genz. At the Weinberg Center march 26 at 4 p.m.

TONY MANERO This film-festival darling is about Raul (über-creepy Alfredo Castro), an oleaginous sociopath in 1978 Santiago, Chile, who models himself after the titular John Travolta character from Saturday Night Fever. To gain an edge in a local television station's weekly celebrity-impersonator contest, Raul will do anything: lie, cheat, steal, even kill. Director Pablo Larrain tries making a metaphoric link between Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet's '70s reign of terror--aided and abetted by the American CIA, which helped topple the government of Soviet-friendly president Salvador Allende--and Raul's infatuation with a glamorous Hollywood movie star, but it's too indistinct to register. The handheld, frequently (if deliberately) out-of-focus cinematography by Sergio Armstrong is almost as nausea-inducing as the reptilian Raul himself. (Milan Paurich) At the Cultural Arts Center March 26 at noon.

WHO KILLED CHEA VICHEA? Bradley Cox's 2009 documentary investigates the 2004 assassination of a Cambodian labor organizer, and the two men perhaps framed for his murder. At the Weinberg Center March 27 at 2:30 p.m.

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