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The Three Rivers Film Festival 

The 28th annual Three Rivers Film Festival, presented by Pittsburgh Filmmakers, continues through Nov. 21. The program includes foreign-language works, American independents, documentaries, shorts, local works and experimental cinema. 

Tickets for most films are $8 each. A Silver Screenie pass ($125) admits the bearer to all films and parties. A Six Pack festival pass offers six single admissions for $40, plus a free T-shirt. Tickets are available at the door, or in advance from ProArts (412-394-3353 or proartstickets.org). See www.3rff.com for complete purchase information for tickets and passes.

All films screen at the Harris Theater, Downtown (809 Liberty Ave.); the Melwood Screening Room, North Oakland (477 Melwood Ave.); or the Regent Square Theater, Edgewood (1035 S. Braddock). For more information, call 412-681-5449 or visit www.3rff.com.

 

Following are reviews and descriptions of films screening through Thu., Nov. 19.

 

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AMERICAN HARMONY. Shot over three years, Aengus James' documentary explores the world of competitive barbershop quartet, following four groups from qualifying rounds to the international championship. More historical background would have been helpful, and, after years of similar reality TV, the inherent triumph-over-adversity tropes are played out. But the weirdness of people -- especially those with odd talents -- never gets old. It's this spotlight on the personalities of people who live "normal" lives outside of the barbershop circuit, but who are revered within it, that make American Harmony worth it -- if you can sit through 80 minutes of cheesy music. 7:15 p.m. Fri., Nov. 13, and 2:15 p.m. Sat., Nov. 14. Regent Square (Andy Mulkerin)

 

THE BAKER. The plot of writer-director Gareth Lewis' dark comedy about a retired hitman is familiar. But this tale of Milo Shakespeare (Damian Lewis) and his switch from cold-blooded hitman to warmhearted baker is charming and funny enough to win you over. After his former bosses make him a target, Milo hides out in a small Welsh town. Unfortunately, all the residents there have scores to settle with one another, and want to hire him. Among the film's best sequences is a self-indulgent final fight scene that lampoons the over-indulgent final fights familiar from serious films about hitmen. 5:30 p.m. Sun., Nov. 15, and 9 p.m. Mon., Nov. 16. Regent Square (Charlie Deitch)

 

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BEESWAX. The day-to-day life of two sisters is at the forefront of this mumblecore dramedy, while a potential legal battle over an independent vintage shop teeters on creating conflict. Writer/director Andrew Bujalski effectively casts non-professional actors who behave just like people you know -- if everyone you know is painfully awkward and can barely utter a full sentence without pausing. The natural charm of the sisters (real-life twins) is what draws you into their mundane issues. Realism's, uh, cool and all, but it, um, doesn't totally negate the need for a, um, story, you know? 9 p.m. Thu., Nov. 19, and 7:15 p.m. Fri., Nov. 20. Harris (Lydia Heyliger)

 

THE BLUE ANGEL. Josef von Sternberg's smoldering 1930 melodrama about a nightclub singer named Lola (Marlene Dietrich) and the teacher (Emil Jannings) whose life she ruins concludes the Sex Symbols in Sepia series. To be followed by a discussion. In German, with subtitles. 7 p.m. Thu., Nov. 12. Melwood

 

BRONSON. Nicolas Refin's new drama is based on the true story of Britain's "most violent prisoner," who turned his three decades in solitary confinement into a sort of performance art, adopting the alter ego "Charles Bronson." 9:30 p.m. Wed., Nov. 11, and 7 p.m. Thu., Nov. 12. Regent Square

 

CANYON CINEMA PRESENTS. Dominic Angrame, executive director of the avant-garde and experimental film company, will present a selection of experimental Super 8, 16 mm, 35 mm and digital works from the Canyon Cinema archives. 7 p.m. Fri., Nov. 13. Melwood

 

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DIED YOUNG, STAYED PRETTY. Eileen Yaghoobian's documentary acts as a collage representing the contemporary rock-poster art scene, focusing on the punk and post-punk eras. Artist interviews in random locations, off-kilter camera angles and a stream-of-consciousness editing style color the film, largely lending it energy and an air of authenticity but occasionally rendering it opaque. A can't-miss for aficionados of punk culture and/or visual art, and plenty interesting for a novice, if only for the goofy personalities and the filmmaker's fun aesthetic choices. As one might expect, though, there's a requisite portion of shock art and shock talk. 7:30 p.m. Mon., Nov. 16. Melwood (AM)

 

DOG TOOTH. In this absurdist Greek drama, three adult children are purposefully confined to the home by their parents to be spared contamination by society. In Greek, with subtitles. 9:30 p.m. Thu., Nov. 19, and 9:30 p.m. Fri., Nov. 20. Regent Square

 

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EARTH DAYS. Robert Stone's scattershot documentary takes the "bunch of smart people talking about it" approach to the history of postwar environmentalism. And indeed, folks like sustainability expert Hunter Lovins, Population Bomb author Paul Ehrlich and Whole Earth Catalog founder Stewart Brand do provide insight about our alienation from nature and the destructive ways we define "progress." But while acknowledging that 1970's inaugural Earth Day was a strictly American affair, the film never solicits overseas voices on these global issues. It flatters us by representing mindless consumerism with campy 1950s ad footage. (Why not analyze slicker present-day marketing?) And while Stone cites the political momentum the first Earth Day generated as an environmentalist triumph, he then locates the way forward not in sweeping political change, but in individualized, technological solutions. 4:30 pm. Sat., Nov. 14, and 4:30 p.m. Sun., Nov. 15. Melwood (Bill O'Driscoll)

 

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FILM KITCHEN. The festival edition of the monthly screening series for local filmmakers presents Carpet Racers: A Crash Course, director Jay Thames' feature-length documentary about a year in the life of people who race radio-controlled cars for fun and profit. The film, unavailable for preview, follows competitors to big races in Las Vegas and Florida. Excerpts suggest the documentary is partly about the racers' quest to be taken seriously. "You see the true insides of it, it's a lot more than just playing with a toy car," says one. 8 p.m. Tue., Nov. 17 (7 p.m. reception). Regent Square (BO)

 

FREEDOM HOUSE: STREET SAVIORS. Gene Starzenski's documentary uncovers the little-known history of Pittsburgh's pioneering paramedics known as Freedom House. Its members were recruited in the late 1960s and early '70s from the ranks of unemployed African Americans. During their time serving Presbyterian and Mercy hospitals, these independent medical professionals introduced CPR and helped design a 911 dispatch system. Starzenski will introduce the film. 7:30 p.m. Wed., Nov. 11, and 5:30 p.m. Thu., Nov. 12. Harris

 

GENERAL NIL. The forgotten story of a heroic Polish World War II general -- codename "Nil" -- is recounted in Ryszard Bugajski's drama. Nil helped bring down a Nazi general, but was later executed under the communist regime. In Polish, with subtitles. 9 p.m. Tue., Nov. 17, and 7 p.m. Wed., Nov. 18. Harris

 

HOW MUCH DOES THAT TROJAN HORSE WEIGH? Zosia loves her life at 40 -- nice home in Warsaw, good job, second husband -- so much that she wishes it had begun earlier. Then poof! She's magically transported back to 1987, but finds that: (1) altering one's history isn't so easy; and (2) life for Poles during the Cold War ranged from miserable to absurd. Juliusz Machulski's domestic comedy is part cautionary fable about "fixing" fate, and part celebration of his country's improvements since the gloomy days of the Eastern Bloc. In Polish, with subtitles. 9:15 p.m. Fri., Nov. 13, and 3 p.m. Sun., Nov. 15. Regent Square (Al Hoff)

 

IN SERVICE: PITTSBURGH TO IRAQ. Ralph Vittucio's film essay explores the war in Iraq -- and its effects on the homefront -- from the perspective of Western Pennsylvanians serving as servicemen, journalists and other participants. Vittucio will introduce the film and moderate a Q&A with local soldiers after the screening. 7:30 p.m. Wed., Nov. 18. Regent Square

 

THE JOY OF SINGING. In Ilan Duran Cohen's comic thriller, two spies go undercover at an opera class, hoping to uncover a valuable USB drive. In French, with subtitles. 7:30 p.m. Tue., Nov. 17, and 7:30 p.m. Wed., Nov. 18. Melwood

 

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LAILA'S BIRTHDAY. This film grumbles about Israeli occupation, lawless gunmen and ineffectual Palestinian officials, but it's no polemic. It's a day in the life of a would-be judge (Mohamed Bakri) stuck driving a taxi. Collecting passengers and searching for his daughter's birthday gift, Abu Laila ("father of Laila") takes us on a tour of modern Palestine, where rallies for martyrs are a common driving hazard. The climax feels contrived, but otherwise, writer/director Rashid Masharawi crafts a pitch-perfect, and sometimes darkly humorous, story. It's the portrait of a man clinging to dignity and law, in a world grinding away at both. In Arabic, with subtitles. 4 p.m. Sat., Nov. 14, and 9 p.m. Mon., Nov. 16. Harris (Chris Potter)

 

LAKE TAHOE. In this new dramatic feature from Mexican director Fernando Eimbcke (Duck Season), a teen-ager, after crashing his car, wanders around a Yucatan town, encountering offbeat residents. In Spanish, with subtitles. 9:15 p.m. Wed., Nov. 18, and 7 p.m. Thu., Nov. 19. Harris

 

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LET EACH ONE GO WHERE HE MAY. Experimental filmmaker Ben Russell's new work follows two young men from Suriname -- literally. Consisting of 13 10-minute, dialogue-less tracking shots, the camera is akin to a silent, jostling companion, as the two traverse country roads, busy city streets and sites of natural splendor -- a journey in which Africa's past and present economic and social realities continually intersect. The director will introduce the film. 9:15 p.m. Sat., Nov. 14. Melwood 

 

LITTLE MOSCOW. During the Cold War, the Soviet military set up its Polish headquarters in Legnica, earning the city the nickname "Little Moscow." Waldemar Krzystek's melodrama, based on real-life events, is set there in 1967, and follows the travails of a Russian pilot's beautiful young wife, who becomes the secret lover of a Polish soldier. The flashback structure makes the film a little soapy, but there are solid understated performances from the three leads. Krzystek will introduce the film. In Polish and Russian, with subtitles. 7 p.m. Wed., Nov. 11. Regent Square (AH)

 

MAZES. An experimental live film "performance" from Ben Russell and Joe Grimm features double 16 mm projection, photo-sensitive electronics and film loops. 9:30 p.m. Fri., Nov. 13. Melwood

 

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THE MESSENGER. Back from Iraq with an injury -- tellingly, his eyes can't "cry" -- a young Army sergeant (Ben Foster) gets re-assigned. His new job: partnering with a career captain (Woody Harrelson) as part of a death-notification duo. It's a gut-wrenching assignment, but burying emotions is critical to its successful completion. How these men deal with this, as well as other suppressed feelings of rage, impotence, guilt and loneliness, forms the heart of Oren Moverman's drama. The film is more understated than you'd expect: Moverman and the actors show, rather than tell, this story of fighting for emotional equilibrium and humanity against tough odds. 7 p.m. Sat., Nov. 14. Regent Square (AH)

 

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MUNYURANGABO. Two Rwandan boys -- Sangwa and Ngabo, friends from feuding tribes -- slowly drift apart on their journey home, as elders remind them they should be enemies. Lee Isaac Chung's drama (co-written with Samuel Gray Anderson) perfectly captures the devastation caused by the Rwandan genocide, and its ongoing impact on young men -- the country's future. Can Ngabo heal his emotional wounds by avenging the murder of his father? Both saddening and inspiring, this always powerful film keeps viewers guessing until the final reel. In Kinyarwanda, with subtitles. 7 p.m. Mon., Nov. 16, and 7 p.m. Tue., Nov. 17. Harris (Chris Young)

 

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NO. 4 STREET OF OUR LADY. As one of the family members interviewed in this documentary film remarks, some of the most affecting stories about the Holocaust are the small, intimate ones. That's the case with this work, made by Richie Sherman, Judy Maltz and Barbara Bird, and inspired by a diary Maltz's grandfather kept. He and 15 other Jews were hidden by a Catholic woman named Francisca Halamajowa for nearly two years, even as Nazis occupied their Polish town. Grown survivors and their descendants, including Halamajowa's granddaughters, revisit the town and their shared history. It is a highly personal account that still poses larger questions about humanity and how one unheralded act of courage can have such an impact. The filmmakers will introduce the film. In English, and various languages, with subtitles. 8 p.m. Sat., Nov. 14, and 2 p.m. Sun., Nov. 15. Harris (AH)

 

THE PARANOIDS. Luciano is struggling to find an ending for his screenplay, and calming his nerves by smoking pot. Then, he discovers an old "friend" has based an unflattering character in a popular TV show on him -- and the competition is on. Will this lovable loser finish his script and maybe get the girl? Gabriel Medina's film, set in Argentina, has some comedic moments that seem a bit out of place, as well as a rushed ending that doesn't match its slow pace. But you can't help rooting for its underdog protagonist. In Spanish, with subtitles. 9 p.m. Fri., Nov. 13, and 4 pm. Sun., Nov. 15. Harris (LH)

 

RACHEL IS. Pittsburgher Charlotte Glynn's documentary explores the life of her sister, Rachel, who is mentally retarded -- and how the family copes with Rachel's disability while trying to plan for her future. Glynn will introduce the film. 7 p.m. Sat., Nov. 14. Melwood

 

SERIOUS MOONLIGHT. An angry wife binds her cheating husband to the toilet – then robbers break in. This comedy starring Meg Ryan and Timothy Hutton is the directorial debut of actress Cheryl Hines (Curb Your Enthusiasm), from a script by the late Adrienne Shelly. 9:30 p.m. Sat., Nov. 14, and 7:30 p.m. Sun., Nov. 15. Regent Square

 

SHORT FILMS PROGRAM. A two-hour program of 13 local, national and international short films (animated, narrative, documentary and experimental) are entered in this year's competition. 7:30 pm. Thu., Nov. 19, and 9:15 p.m. Fri., Nov. 20. Melwood

 

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SOMERS TOWN. Viewers who enjoyed the dramatics of Shane Meadows' earlier film, This Is England, may find the much-slower pace of this black-and-white dramedy frustrating. Set in London, the film follows the tentative friendship of two teen-age boys -- a runaway from Nottingham, and the Polish immigrant with whom he finds refuge. But Meadows has a knack for finding wonderful young actors and for delivering social realism with a light, but assured, touch. There are issues in Somers Town, to be sure, but as with its protagonists, they're lurking beneath the hazy, lazy everyday. 7:15 p.m. Fri., Nov. 13, and 6 p.m. Sat., Nov. 14. Harris (AH)

 

STILL WALKING. An anniversary of a death is the occasion that brings together family members in Hirokazu Kore-Eda's comedy-drama. In Japanese, with subtitles. 7 p.m. Thu., Nov. 19, and 7 p.m. Fri., Nov. 20. Regent Square

 

TAHAAN. Santosh Sivan's dramedy is shot from two less-typical perspectives: that of an 8-year-old boy named Tahaan, who also lives in the strife-torn disputed Kashmir region. After his beloved donkey is sold, the fatherless Tahaan goes on a quest across the mountains to retrieve his pet. His pluck is rewarded, but so too is his naïveté exploited. Shot amid the rugged scenery, this is a sweet fable suitable for older children that doesn't whitewash the everyday effects of the region's instability. In Hindi, with subtitles. 4:45 p.m. Sat., Nov. 14, and 7 p.m. Mon., Nov. 16. Regent Square (AH)

 

THIRST. Sexy vampires are hot -- and also the focus of this hit Korean film from Chan-wook Park, which nabbed the Prix du Jury at the Cannes Film Festival. This dark comedy relates the tale of a priest, back from the dead, who now craves blood -- and another man's wife. In Korean, with subtitles. 9 p.m. Thu., Nov. 12. Regent Square

 

VIDEO DATA BANK. Abina Manning, director of Chicago's Video Data Bank, will present a selection of the media-arts center's recent releases from national and international video artists. 7:30 p.m. Wed., Nov. 11. Melwood

 

YOUSSOU N'DOUR: I BRING WHAT I LOVE. Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi's vibrant documentary follows the wildly popular Senegalese singer, social activist and practicing Sufi Muslim through his struggles to produce -- and have accepted -- an album of Islamic spiritual songs. Along the way, viewers can enjoy rousing performances from N'Dour; more intimate visits with his extended family; and colorful footage from the singer's globe-trotting lifestyle. It's openly hagiographic, thus a must for fans of N'Dour. In English, and French, Wolof and Arabic, with subtitles. 8 p.m. Thu., Nov. 12, and 2 p.m. Sun., Nov. 15. Harris (AH)

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