The Three Rivers Film Festival | Screen | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

The Three Rivers Film Festival


The 26th annual Three Rivers Film Festival, presented by Pittsburgh Filmmakers, continues through Nov. 15. The program includes foreign-language works, American independents, documentaries and experimental cinema, as well as several programs highlighting local filmmakers. The festival concludes with an evening with legendary avant-garde filmmaker Kenneth Anger, who will present a selection of his films and videos.

Tickets for most films are $8 each; exceptions are tickets for The Kalkadoon Man ($10), Sat., Nov. 10; the Tue., Nov. 13 Film Kitchen ($4); and the closing-night retrospective of Anger films ($12). A Six Pack festival pass offers six single admissions for $40, plus a free T-shirt.

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

Following are reviews and descriptions of films screening through Thu., Nov. 15.

ADAM ABRAMS. As both an artist and a programmer, Abrams is a stalwart of Pittsburgh's experimental film scene. In 1999, he co-founded Jefferson Presents ..., the independent screening series for which he still largely selects the monthly program of classic and contemporary experimental movies, all in their original 16 mm film format. The benefit to the local film community is unique and therefore invaluable. Here, Abrams presents an evening highlighting some of the experimental work that has influenced him. At press time, titles were unavailable, but the program is sure to be well chosen. 7 p.m. Mon., Nov. 12. Melwood (Bill O'Driscoll)

AMERICAN ZOMBIE. Grace Lee's mockumentary about the zombies who live among us pokes fun at our cultural obsession with the undead, as well as at earnest young indie filmmakers. American Zombie follows a Los Angeles film crew as they seek to document high-functioning revenants. This collection of undead, which includes a new-agey florist and a zombie-rights activist, faces similar issues as other marginalized groups (labor exploitation, health-care concerns, isolation) as well as some unique challenges, like a peculiar diet. The film will provoke chuckles from those well versed in zombie lore, but Lee's low-key, talky approach may disappoint those who measure success in gore. 5 p.m. Sun., Nov. 11, and 9 p.m. Wed., Nov. 14. Regent Square (Al Hoff)

BEAUTY IN TROUBLE. Inspired by a Robert Graves poem, this Czech drama from Jan Hrebejk (Up and Down) depicts an unlikely romance between a young Prague mother and an elderly Czech émigré, returned from Italy to reclaim his home, previously occupied by the Communists. In Czech, with subtitles. 7 p.m. Wed., Nov. 7; 9:15 p.m. Thu., Nov. 8; and 9:30 p.m. Fri., Nov. 9. Harris

THE BAND'S VISIT. In Eran Kolirin's dramedy, an Egyptian police brass band en route to a ceremony becomes lost in rural Israel. In English, and Arabic and Hebrew, with subtitles. 7:30 p.m. Sun., Nov. 11. Regent Square

BLOOD CAR. In a future where gas costs $32 dollars a gallon, what if a car could run on human blood? And how would you get it, especially if you were a mild-mannered grammar-school teacher and vegan? Alex Orr's horror comedy is good for a few laughs (and boob shots), but its one-joke concept runs flat after a few miles. To be screened in a double-feature with Murder Party. 11 p.m. Fri., Nov. 9, and 9:30 p.m. Sat., Nov. 10. Melwood (AH)

BLUE EYED SIX. This documentary has an interesting premise: using a piece of Pennsylvania folklore -- a notorious 1878 Lebanon County murder -- to explore rural poverty and corporate greed. But the result feels like a community-theater production on videotape. (Indeed, filmmakers Bruce and Brian Kreider originally wrote a play about the Six, a group of farm-town ne'er-do-wells convicted of drowning an old man for insurance money.) Like a desperate defense attorney, the film suggests the Six were framed ... but if they did do it, the insurance companies were to blame. The message is further muddled by amateurish production, tacked-on ghost stories and narration larded with innuendo the film can't prove. Director Kreider is scheduled to attend both screenings. 4:30 p.m. Sat., Nov. 10, and 5 p.m. Sun., Nov. 11. Melwood (CP)

CHRONICLE OF AN ESCAPE. Adrian Caetano's award-winning thriller follows a soccer goalie through his time in, and eventual escape from, an Argentine torture facility in the late 1970s. A detailed study based on a true story, the movie devotes as much time to cataloging the tactics of the junta's secret police as it does to the escape itself. The action is largely psychological: Without resorting to overdone gore -- which, given the subject matter, was an option -- Caetano presents a chilling and suspenseful look inside the Dirty War. In Spanish, with subtitles. 9:15 p.m. Sat., Nov. 10; 2 p.m. Sun., Nov. 11; and 7 p.m. Mon., Nov. 12. Harris (Andy Mulkerin)

CONTEMPORARY AVANT-GARDE CINEMA. Mark McElhatten, who heads the New York Film Festival's acclaimed Views from the Avant Garde showcase, presents an evening of new short films by notable artists plus one restored classic (Robert Breer's "Recreation"). Included: "Beirut Outtakes," by Peggy Ahwesh; "Antigenic Drift," by Lewis Klahr; "Rehearsals for Retirement" (assembled entirely from imagery from the video game "Grand Theft Auto"), by Phil Solomon; "Capitalism: Child Labor" (assembled from antique stereographic photos of a thread factory), by Ken Jacobs; and work by Ben Russell, Jennifer Reeves, Thorsten Fleisch, Michael Robinson and Jeanne Liotta. 7 p.m. Sat., Nov. 10. Melwood (BO)

DELIRIOUS. Living in Oblivion writer-director Tom DiCillo is back skewering show biz in this comedy about a grungy, homeless wannabe actor (Michael Pitt) torn between the hangdog New York paparrazo (Steve Buscemi) who befriends him and the coddled blonde pop star whom he'd like to more-than-befriend. Buscemi makes his character's flop sweat palpable, but DiCillo is as funny and even sympathetic mocking celeb lifestyles as he is sketching the comedic pathos of a desperate nobody photographer. While it's familiar terrain, a sense of humanity leavened with the air of an ironic fairy tale helps Delirious rise above the typical insider commentaries on fame. 6:30 p.m. Sun., Nov. 11, and 7 p.m. Tue., Nov. 13. Harris (BO)

FILM KITCHEN. (See preview.) 7 p.m. reception; screening at 8 p.m., Tue., Nov. 13. Melwood

IRINA PALM. In order to raise money for her critically ill grandson, a frumpy English housewife and widow, Maggie, takes a job in a London sex shop, giving anonymous hand jobs. It's a contrived set-up, and thus -- much like the gloryhole in the sex shop itself -- Sam Garbarski's studiously low-key film has something distancing that prevents us from embracing it emotionally. And there's the usual narrative trajectory of Maggie's path from shame to empowerment, which isn't wholly convincing: Garbarski can't decide whether Maggie's stoic, roll-up-her-sleeves approach to her work is funny or humiliating. Marianne Faithfull does nice work as the naïve Maggie, though you've got to shake your head hard to dispel images of the performer's own notoriously libertine life. 9 p.m. Tue., Nov. 13, and 7 p.m. Wed., Nov. 14. Regent Square (AH)

THE ISLAND. Father Anatoly (Pyotr Mamonov), who lives in a remote monastery in Brezhnev's Soviet Union, is consumed with guilt over a sin committed during World War II. Decades later, he has become a holy fool: living in squalor, playing tricks on his fellow monks, effecting the occasional miracle. Like its protagonist, The Island wrestles with guilt and redemption in an existentially bleak Arctic landscape; its improbable happy/sad ending suggests that Anatoly's beatitude is bound up with his betrayal. This is a sincere, meditative character study of a saint shorn of his gilt nimbus. But thanks to the film's glacial pace, you may feel you've done some penance by the time it ends. In Russian and German, with subtitles. 9:30 p.m. Fri., Nov. 9, and 2:30 p.m. Sun., Nov. 11. Regent Square (CP)

THE KALKADOON MAN. For 10 days, William Barton, a young Australian Aboriginal, works to make a didgeridoo using his culture's time-honored methods. Brendan Fletcher's documentary traces Barton's efforts, as well as his role as a contemporary musician committed to preserving folk traditions. The screening will include a live didgeridoo performance by Barton. 7 p.m. Sat., Nov. 10. Harris

KENNETH ANGER RETROSPECTIVE. (See preview.) 8 p.m. Thu., Nov. 15. Regent Square

MANHATTAN. This bittersweet 1979 comedy, Woody Allen's Valentine to his city, shot in black and white by Gordon Willis and scored with the music of George Gershwin, retains its sophisticated sentimentality. Allen's character, comedy writer Isaac Davis, and his cerebral friends feel a trifle dated and exclusionary these days, when all that high-brow nattering about Bergman and frisky little wines is no longer limited to the Upper West Side. And history has not been kind to the fortysomething Davis' romance with 17-year-old Tracy (Mariel Hemmingway). But these quibbles aside, Manhattan remains possibly Allen's best work -- perfectly balanced between comedy and life, introspective without being tedious or self-serving, and satisfyingly adult. To be screened in a new print. 7 p.m. Thu., Nov. 8 (Melwood) and 7:30 p.m. Wed., Nov. 14 (Harris) (AH)

MANUAL OF LOVE. Breezy Italian romantic comedies, those picture postcards of aphorism about amore -- if they're your weakness, you'll likely enjoy this four-pack of loosely connected contemporary vignettes showcasing the four stages of romance. There's "Falling in Love," in which two pretty young people spar, zip about Rome on a moped and motor joyously into their shared future. In the more bitter "Crisis," a married couple ponders the lost spark (and attend a horrible new-baby party). Her husband's affair sends a feisty meter maid comically reeling in "Betrayed." Lastly and curiously, the "Abandoned" episode may be the most affirming of all. In Italian, with subtitles. 2 p.m. Sat., Nov. 10, and 7 p.m. Mon., Nov. 12. Regent Square (AH)

MURDER PARTY. Dweebish dude thinks he's going to a cool Halloween party, but it's a death trap -- and an art project! Jeremy Saulnier's spoof sends up horror flicks and the Brooklyn art scene. The splatter-fu -- you have to wait for it, but the last reel has buckets of blood -- has been done to death; for me, the better laughs were the pretentious artists, and especially an inspired round-table discussion about art fueled by truth serum. To be screened in a double-feature with Blood Car. 9:30 p.m. Fri., Nov. 9, and 11 p.m. Sat., Nov. 10. Melwood (AH)

MY BROTHER'S WEDDING. Like his stunning first feature, Killer of Sheep, Charles Burnett's second film, from 1983, is a rich and incisive insider's portrait of life in South Central Los Angeles, here among the African-American bourgeoisie (both petit and grand): Disaffected Pierce, 30, staffs the family dry cleaners' and bristles at his lawyer sibling's impending marriage into a wealthy family. As a dialogue-heavy comedy -- lyrically bitter and occasionally hilarious -- it's hampered by Burnett's heavy use of nonprofessional actors: While they pulse with authenticity, their stilted line readings slow things down. Still, Wedding is beautifully structured and scripted, with Burnett's strange and vivid framing and mise en scéne perfectly conveying his themes. 7 p.m. Wed., Nov. 7, and 7 p.m. Thu., Nov. 8. Regent Square (BO)

THE NINES. In this thriller from John August, three actors play three roles in three separate stories about the entertainment industry that eventually grow intertwined. Hope Davis, Ryan Reynolds and Melissa McCarthy star. The film's editor, Pittsburgh Filmmakers alum Doug Crise, is scheduled to appear at both screenings. 7 p.m. Fri., Nov. 9, and 4:15 p.m. Sat., Nov. 10. Regent Square

PASCUA LAMA. In their documentary about the economic and environmental impacts of a huge planned mine in Chile, Pittsburgh-based, Chilean-born artist Carolina Loyola-Garcia and her sister, Gloria Loyola, take on Canadian-owned Barrick Gold Corp.'s scheme to claw precious metals from a mountain. Pascua Lama works to provide the big picture: With weak environmental laws and a blind embrace of globalization, Chile's leaders are literally selling their country downstream. Unfortunately, in the 64-minute film you won't meet any of those leaders, nor any Barrick representatives. To short viewers on a thorough airing of all points of view -- even (or especially) if some of them prove untrue -- disserves the voices of dissent as well. In English and Spanish, with subtitles. 7 p.m. Wed., Nov. 7. Melwood (BO)

PERSEPOLIS. Adapted from her graphic novels, this stylized black-and-white animated film from Marjane Satrapi and co-director Vincent Paronnaud depicts the life of a rebellious young Iranian woman before, during and after the country's Islamic revolution of the late 1970s. In English, and various languages, with subtitles. 9:15 p.m. Sat., Nov. 10. Regent Square

PUNK'S NOT DEAD. Like this capsule review, Susan Dynner's documentary takes on too large a subject for its length constraints. After a breakneck trip through punk history that skims over things like the genre's origins, the film doubles back and tries to take on more intricate matters, like co-optation. The result is a series of brief episodes lacking both nuance and a cohesive trajectory. Despite insisting that "punk" is indefinable, the film focuses on bands that fit a limited definition of the word; that said, the live footage is often fun, especially if you like the UK Subs. Mildly entertaining for fans of pop punk, but not a recommended intro for the uninitiated. Director Dynner is scheduled to attend the screening. 9 p.m. Wed., Nov. 7. Melwood (Andy Mulkerin)

THE ROCKET: THE LEGEND OF ROCKET RICHARD. Montreal Habs player Maurice Richard was among professional hockey's greatest players (and back when the sport was rougher and tougher), and campaigned mightily in the 1950s to curtail the NHL's prejudice against French-Canadian players. Unfortunately, Charles Biname's bio-pic can't break out of its sepia-toned, by-the-book presentation of Richard's life. The film is deeply respectful -- Richard is a cultural hero among French Canadians -- but it plods along, neither effectively conveying Richard's drive, anger or frustration nor sweeping us up in the passion his game inspired among fans. In English, and French, with subtitles. 7 p.m. Fri., Nov. 9; 2 p.m. Sat., Nov. 10; and 9 p.m. Mon., Nov. 12. Harris (AH)

ROUGH STREETS. Red Bull provided the equipment, and Pittsburgh BMXers broke up into four geographically oriented teams -- North, South, East and West -- to document why and how their quadrant of town rocks hardest for two wheels. The four resulting extreme-sports-style videos screen. 2 p.m. Sat., Nov. 10. Melwood

SHORT FILMS PROGRAM A. A selection of short films from local, national and international filmmakers includes: "Fission," Kun-I Chang; "U: The Underwood Company," Joseph Varhola; "Wooden, But Wonderful," Justin Crimone; "Orbit," Kerry Laitala; "The Predator's Return," Jerald Fine; "El Otro Lado," A.Wallace; "Gravida," Lucas McNelly; "The Green Grass of Twilight," Richard A Sherman; "Hand of God," Payman Maadi; "We Hear Sirens," Alex Harder; and "Sampsonia Way: City of Asylum," Jose Munian. 7 p.m. Sun., Nov. 11. Melwood

SHORT FILMS PROGRAM B. A selection of short films from local, national and international filmmakers includes: "Plainview," Scott T. Jones; "Archaic Blues," Gregoire Picher; "Through These Trackless Waters," Elizabeth Henry; "Absolute Zero," Alan Woodruff; "Glimpse," Dustin Grella; "Loose Connection," Andrew Batista; "The Lonely Bliss of the Cannonball Luke," Levi Abrino; "The Lost Journal of Vice Marceaux," J.R. Burningham; "Adam Taylor's Dracula," Adam Taylor; and "A Sunday Brunch," Hye Mee Na. 8:45 p.m. Wed., Nov. 14. Melwood

THE SIGNAL. New Year's Eve in the city of Terminus, and a mysterious signal has jammed all communications. This sci-fi/horror thriller has three different parts, by three directors: David Bruckner, Dan Bush and Jacob Gentry. 9:15 p.m. Wed., Nov. 7, and 7 p.m. Thu., Nov. 8. Harris

TERROR'S ADVOCATE. Paris-based defense attorney and media-savvy advocate for the seemingly indefensible Jacques Verges has had a front-row seat for many of the late 20th century's political firestorms: the Algerian revolution, African independence, Palestinian uprisings, infamous Euro-terrorism (Carlos the Jackal; Baader-Meinhof gang), Middle Eastern radical Islam, Klaus Barbie's trial and, maybe -- Verges is coy -- Cambodia's Khmer Rouge. Verges, well upholstered and self-satisfied, chatters away happily, while filmmaker Barbet Schroeder attempts to frame Verges' career against larger issues of post-colonialism, modern terror tactics and justice. Dozens are interviewed (with footnotes!), and vast swaths of history are shoehorned in. It's all fascinating, provocative stuff -- but the scope and density of the material demands a mini-series. In French and various languages, with subtitles. 8:45 p.m. Wed., Nov. 7. Regent Square (AH)

TIMES AND WINDS. In this beautifully photographed black-and-white Turkish film from Reha Erdem, three best friends come of age in a rural seaside village. In Turkish, with subtitles. 4:30 p.m. Sat., Nov. 10; 4 p.m. Sun., Nov. 11; and 9 p.m. Tue., Nov. 13. Harris

A TRIBUTE TO MARK LAPORE. Filmmaker LaPore, who died in 2005, at age 53, wrote that he used film and video to "attempt to comprehend and then to communicate both the simultaneity of existence and the limitations of individual knowledge" between cultures. Guest curator Mark McElhatten presents a program of the late Boston-based artist's experimental shorts. Included are "Kolkata" (2005), a portrait of Calcutta in black-and-white; "The Glass System" (2000), also mostly shot in Calcutta, in color; and "The Sleepers" (1989), which juxtaposes Sudan, China and New York. 3 p.m. Sun., Nov. 11. Melwood (BO)

TRIGGER MAN. A group of buddies hunting in the Delaware woods finds themselves the object of a killer. Ti West directs this horror thriller. 9:15 p.m. Mon., Nov. 12, and 7 p.m. Wed., Nov. 14. Melwood

WALKER. Woody Harrelson stars as a "walker," the social companion to the elderly women of Washington, D.C. elite, who becomes caught up in a murder. Lauren Bacall and Lily Tomlin co-star, and Paul Schrader, who also made the male-escort thriller American Gigolo, directs. 9 p.m. Thu., Nov. 8, and 6:45 p.m. Sat., Nov. 10. Regent Square

THE WAY I SPENT THE END OF THE WORLD. If the ubiquitous old portraits of Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu seem both menacing and oddly impotent, that's just the point: Catalin Mitulescu's engaging drama is set in the months leading to the Socialist dictator's overthrow, in 1989. Teen-age Eva's symbolic romantic life is divided between handsome, politically helpful policeman's son Alex and gawky but resourceful Andrei, who plans to flee to the West. Still, the film is most appealing for its densely detailed portrait of everyday life, where accordion-driven folkways survive alongside hard-rock LPs alongside loyal Commies alongside youthful defectors. 9 p.m. Mon., Nov. 12, and 7 p.m. Tue., Nov. 13. Regent Square (BO)

Women & Non-binary Bike Summit
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Women & Non-binary Bike Summit

By Mars Johnson