The Carnegie Mellon International Film Festival: Faces of (In)Equality runs Thu., March 22, through April 8, with more than a dozen feature films and documentaries. Unless noted, films screen at McConomy Auditorium, on the CMU campus, in Oakland, and tickets are $10 ($5 students/seniors).
The opening-night film, Life and Nothing More, Antonio Méndez Esparza’s drama about an African-American teenage boy trying to find his place, is $15 ($10 students/seniors), and includes a reception. A complete schedule, including guest speakers and specials events, is at www.cmu.edu/faces.
Below are reviews of some of the films screening:
SPOOR. In Agnieszka Holland’s drama, we meet Duszejko at daybreak. She’s a loner and an eccentric older woman with a soft heart for animals, living in a small religious hunting town in Poland. The day her dogs go missing begins a series of deaths. As Duszejko searches for a way to end the violence and the illegal poaching in the area, she discovers that every person in town is carrying their own painful secrets. Broken up by the hunting season, this movie’s natural beauty, drama and mysterious characters are engaging. In Polish, with subtitles. 3 p.m. Sat., March 24. McConomy (Celine Roberts)
FOR AHKEEM. We first meet 17-year-old Daje Shelton on her way to court, where she’s sentenced to an alternative school after she’s busted for fighting. The rest of Landon Van Soest’s coming-of-age documentary follows Daje over several years in predominately black St. Louis, where she becomes pregnant and gives birth to a son, Ahkeem. She struggles, wanting to give him a better life, while male classmates keep getting killed; then, further disbelief: news footage of Michael Brown being shot by police in nearby Ferguson. There’s minimal soundtrack, and the film’s broken up with Daje’s diary entries. Throughout the movie, there is also one constant: Daje’s smile. You can’t help but want to keep rooting for her. 7 p.m. Sat., March 24. McConomy (Lisa Cunningham)
BPM (BEATS PER MINUTE). Robin Campillo’s ensemble drama focuses on ACT UP Paris, a group of AIDS activists in the early 1990s. They hold lengthy, informative meetings; stage headline-grabbing actions against pharmaceutical companies; and support each other through tough times and late-night dance parties. Slowly emerging from the depiction of the group’s mission is a sweet and emotionally wrought love story between two members, one who is HIV+ and lives “his politics in the first person.” A powerful document of a heartbreaking, yet hopeful, period. In French, with subtitles. 7 p.m. Thu., March 29. McConomy (Al Hoff)
THE DEPARTURE. Lana Wilson’s documentary follows Ittetsu Nemoto, a Buddhist priest who’s dedicated his life to counseling suicidal people. His calendar is filled, leaving little time for himself, his wife and toddler, or the dance clubs he visits to blow off steam. Some of the sessions are held one-on-one over soup, some take place in group retreats at the temple, but he’s consistently able to leave his subjects on a hopeful note. Nemoto is a mesmerizing and gifted counselor, and as the film goes on, you get the sense that he should take some of his own advice. He’s aloof at home and his health is fading. The film, like its main subject, is a quiet exercise in empathy that’s likely to leave audiences more hopeful than defeated, if only by a hair. 7 p.m. Fri., March 30. McConomy (Alex Gordon)
BOMBSHELL: THE HEDY LAMARR STORY. The Viennese actress was known for her stunning good looks and her sultry roles in Hollywood film like Algiers and White Cargo. But until recently, the world never knew that Lamarr was also an inveterate inventor, with a keen scientific mind. Determined to help the U.S. during World War II, she helped invent a radio communication technique known as “frequency hopping.” Don’t yawn: Your smartphone uses it today. Alexandra Dean’s documentary will fill you in on Lamarr’s remarkable, if troubled, life. 7 p.m. Fri., April 6. McConomy (AH)
Other films screening are: The Doctor From India, a doc about a doctor who uses alternative-medicine techniques in his practice (March 23); the Tunisian sexual-assault drama, Beauty and the Dogs (March 25); Scarred Hearts, a Romanian period drama set in the 1930s (March 28); Clash, a drama set in Egypt’s recent political turmoil (April 1); Risk, a doc about WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange (April 4); the doc Mali Blues, featuring musician from the West African country (April 5, screens at Carlow University and Carnegie Museum of Art); Pendular, about Brazilian artists working together (April 7); Human Flow, Ai Wei Wei’s doc about forced migration (April 8); and a short-film competition (March 31, at Melwood).