The Three Rivers Film Festival marks its 35th year in Pittsburgh | Screen | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

The Three Rivers Film Festival marks its 35th year in Pittsburgh

The schedule offers new documentaries, indie film, foreign movies and a restored silent

Clockwise from upper left: The Tower, Hunter Gatherer, Kate Plays Christine and Trespass Against Us
Clockwise from upper left: The Tower, Hunter Gatherer, Kate Plays Christine and Trespass Against Us
This year, the long-running Three Rivers Film Festival occupies fewer days, but still offers two dozen narrative and documentary features (all new to Pittsburgh), as well as events and guest speakers. The 35th annual festival, a partnership between Pittsburgh Filmmakers and Film Pittsburgh, runs from Wed., Nov. 16, through Sun., Nov. 20. Except for the opening-night film, the gay-marriage doc The Freedom to Marry, films screen at Filmmakers’ three theaters: Harris, Downtown; Melwood Screening Room, Oakland; and Regent Square, Edgewood. See for complete schedule and ticket information. Below are some reviews of scheduled films:

Trespass Against Us. Chad (Michael Fassbender) lives with his shambolic extended family in a trailer encampment in the English countryside. The gypsy-like group is headed by his domineering and manipulative father (Brendan Gleeson), who directs the men to undertake various petty crimes. But Chad has had enough, and is secretly plotting to break the family cycle and move his wife and kids out. Best-laid plans and all that … Adam Smith’s debut drama is a bit shaggy, but Fassbender and Gleeson deliver the stellar performances we expect from them. 9:15 p.m. Fri., Nov. 18. Regent Square

Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent. Tower was a “poor little rich boy” whose family’s affluent lifestyle exposed him to both fine and global cuisine. He broke onto the culinary scene in the 1970s after hiring on at Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse, and helped to create “California cuisine” (the antecedent of today’s seasonal and local). Later, he opened the see-and-be-seen Stars restaurant in the 1980s. Then he dropped off the map. Lydia Tenaglia’s documentary recounts what happened, Tower’s influence, and whether there are second acts in the celebrity-chef realm. Interesting stuff for foodies, despite the film’s occasional and confusing scrambling of the timeline. 1 p.m. Sun., Nov. 20. Harris

Hunter Gatherer. After getting out of prison, Ashley (Andre Royo, from The Wire) scrambles to get his life — and maybe his old girlfriend — back. He befriends a young man named Jeremy (George Sample III), and the two trade help on their not-very-well-conceived schemes. Josh Locy’s dramedy appears to aim for a whimsical vibe, in which all these (very real) troubles around poverty, illiteracy and immature men are simply trappings for a woefully under-developed character study. It’s a miss. 3:30 p.m. Sun., Nov. 20. Harris

Tower. Keith Maitland’s affecting documentaryish drama recounts the fraught two hours before, during and after America’s first significant mass shooting, the August 1966 sniper attack from the clock tower at the University of Texas in Austin; one gunman shot 46 people, killing 14. The story is re-told by witnesses — students, cops, newsmen, bystanders. Maitland reconstructs the past with actors (rotoscoped into animation), intercutting archival footage. The first-person accounts, many untold until now, retain the event’s shock, even 50 years later, and a coda reinforces how such “unthinkable” acts of random gun violence on campuses have become all too commonplace. 6 p.m. Sun., Nov. 20. Harris

Other films playing include: the psychological thriller Always Shine; Contemporary Color, a doc about David Byrne’s embrace of school color guards; Kate Plays Christine, a exploration of an actress’ research into portraying newscaster Christine Chubbuck; a bio-pic about poet Emily Dickinson, A Quiet Passion; three Polish films; a shorts program; a Steeltown Entertainment Project event about local independent filmmaking; and the restored German silent circus drama, Variete, which will be accompanied by live music from Alloy Orchestra.

Flamingo Fest at the National Aviary
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Flamingo Fest at the National Aviary

By Mars Johnson