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

The 25th annual Three Rivers Film Festival, presented by Pittsburgh Filmmakers, runs from Thu., Nov. 2, through Nov. 16. The program of more than 40 films includes foreign-language works, American independents, documentaries, experimental cinema and two silent classics, as well as new short works from local filmmakers.

Tickets for most films are $7 each; exceptions are tickets for the opening-night film, Pittsburgh ($35); Pandora's Box ($10), on Sun., Nov. 5; the Wounded Warrior Project benefit screening of Home Front ($75), on Wed., Nov. 8; and the closing-night film, Speedy ($10). A Six Pack festival pass offers six single admissions for $35, 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. 9.

APPALSHOP FILMS. Three coal-themed short documentaries from Appalshop, an Appalachian-based arts and education center in Kentucky will be screened. "Sludge" (2005, 15 min.) is Robert Salyer's account of an environmental disaster at a coal-slurry pond. Our relationship between energy consumption and coal fields is examined in Tom Hansell's recent 15-minute film. And Scott Faulkner and Anthony Slone's "Nimrod Workman: To Fit My Own Category" (1975, 35 min.) profiles an elderly coalman and balladeer. Director Hansell is scheduled to appear. 2 p.m. Sun., Nov. 5, and 7:15 p.m. Mon., Nov. 6. Melwood

THE AURA. In this slickly filmed crime drama from Argentina, written and directed by Fabian Bielinsky, the unnamed hero is an epileptic taxidermist with 100 percent photo-quality recall and unfailing spatial-relations memory. It is, to put it mildly, a specialized skill set. And all of these aspects come into play when he stumbles into the middle of an armored-car heist. El Aura is long on stunning cinematography -- by Checco Varese -- but fairly short on logic. At various points in the film, the characters are required to be either breathtakingly brilliant or jaw-droppingly stupid in order to advance the story. Very high production and acting values make up for a lot. In Spanish, with subtitles. 4:45 p.m. Sat., Nov. 4; 9:15 p.m. Tue., Nov. 7; and 9:15 p.m. Wed., Nov. 8. Regent Square (Ted Hoover)

AVENUE MONTAIGNE. A waitress working at an upscale cafe makes the acquaintance of several colorful characters in this ensemble romantic comedy set in Paris. Local filmmaker Mike Bonello's 2006 short "Glitter" also screens. In French, with subtitles. 7:15 p.m. Wed., Nov. 8, and 7:15 p.m. Thu., Nov. 9. Regent Square

BROTHERS OF THE HEAD. Step right up! Come into the tent and see for yourself ... Taking the post-postmodern format of mockumentary to a freakish new plane, directors Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe tell the story of the Howe brothers (played by Harry and Luke Treadaway), conjoined twins born in dark, coastal England, who are "bought" from their widowed pa by a record producer and forced to form a punk band. Through much grainy, vintage-looking film reminiscent of some lost Stooges doc gone very awry, we see the lads' journey from shy youth (being a teen-ager is awkward enough, let alone being attached by membranous chest tissue to your sibling!) to decadently self-destructive rock stars. Plenty of tension arises as each brother comes into his own and battles with their "joint predicament." A great cameo by Ken Russell, master of the purposefully weird, seals the deal. 9:45 p.m. Sat., Nov. 4; 2:45 p.m. Sun., Nov. 5; and 9 p.m. Tue., Nov. 7. Harris (Heather Mull

THE CASE OF THE GRINNING CAT. "Make cats, not war." In the year following Sept. 11, 2001, French filmmaker Chris Marker uses his pursuit of cat-themed street art to examine burgeoning Iraq war protests. In addition to 20 minutes of vintage Marker short films, two shorts from local filmmakers -- Tentatively, a Convenience's 2001 "I.A.C. Deer Head Sculpture @ former Rankin Steel Mill" and M.R. Day's 2005 "Junior vs. the Helicopter" -- also screen. 7:15 p.m. Tue., Nov. 7, and 9 p.m. Thu., Nov. 9. Melwood

THE CAVE OF THE YELLOW DOG. In this new film from Byambasurn Davaa (The Story of the Weeping Camel), the filmmaker returns to the remote Mongolian steppes to unfold a simple heartwarming story: A little girl takes in a little dog against her nomadic family's wishes. In Mongolian, with subtitles. 7:30 p.m. Sat., Nov. 4, and 7:15 p.m. Mon., Nov. 6. Regent Square

THE CHELSEA GIRLS. Andy Warhol's 1966 landmark film depicting residents of New York City's Chelsea Hotel features many of the artist's regulars and anointed superstars: Ondine, Nico, Gerard Malanga, International Velvet, Ingrid Superstar and Mary Woronov, among others. To be screened via two projectors. 7:30 p.m. Wed., Nov. 8. Melwood

CLIMATES. The Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan offers this meditative downbeat study of a busted relationship between an urbane, but unsympathetic Istanbul couple -- a middle-aged professor (Ceylan, himself) and his younger, and more emotional, art director girlfriend. Not much happens: Silence and inaction speak volumes here, as do Ceylan's metaphors including the brooding academic's specialty (examining ruins), and the film's journey from the coastal summer sunshine to the snow-ravaged mountains. Though Ceylan favors long still takes, Climates is gorgeous to look at, artfully framed and captured crisply on digital video. It's also intimately miked: It's as if every incidental creaking floor, cigarette drag and throat clearing is another death-blow for the romance. In Turkish, with subtitles. 9:30 p.m. Fri., Nov. 3, and 2:30 pm. Sat., Nov. 4. Regent Square (Al Hoff)

49 UP. The British film series 7 Up, begun in 1964, set out to chart whether background or backbone determined our lives. About a dozen people have been documented on film at seven-year intervals, and the result is the only reality program worth watching. "What would you like to do with your life?" asks the unseen interviewer. Answers Neil Hughes, who went from a squat to homelessness by his thirties, answers for all of the subjects: "The real question is, what am I likely to be doing? And that's a horrible question." The uniformed children of privilege have become barristers but seem no more successful, in any meaningful way, than the East End youngsters now playing with grandchildren at Spanish holiday homes. In the end, this series is about watching people temper their career ambitions and find family happiness, the consolation that is secretly triumph. "Confederate Pennsylvania," a 2006 short from Michael J. Maraden and Neil Bhaerman, also screens. 9:15 p.m. Fri., Nov. 3; 1:30 p.m. Sat., Nov. 4; and 4 p.m. Sun., Nov. 5. Melwood (Marty Levine)

4. This controversial Russian 2004 film with strong political overtones, from Ilya Khrzhanovsky, depicts three strangers who meet in Moscow bar, and tell each other outlandish tales, before going their separate ways in a nightmarish landscape. In Russian, with subtitles. 7:30 p.m. Thu., Nov. 9, and 5 p.m. Sat., Nov. 11. Harris

THE GUATEMALAN HANDSHAKE. A disgruntled employee down at the plant -- yes, it's Three Mile Island -- shorts out the grid, setting into motion a curious set of events in a small town. Todd Rohal's ensemble film, which plays out elliptically over a few summer days, recalls the sun-drenched off-kilter Americana of David Lynch, as well as the deadpan quirkiness of Napoleon Dynamite: A demo-derby driver (Will Oldham) and a dog go missing; an electric car changes hands; people speak in non-sequiturs or from oddly located telephones. Yet, that errant crackle from the plant appears to be just what this town of lost but loveable losers needs to jumpstart their lives. Beautifully filmed by former Pittsburgh Filmmakers instructor Richie Sherman, Handshake is that weird, wonderful Pennsylvania summer iconoclasts deserve. 9:30 p.m. Sat., Nov. 4, and 2:15 p.m. Sun., Nov. 5. Regent Square (AH)

HOME FRONT. Servicemen surviving battles and attacks with devastating injuries has become one of the distinctions of the Iraq war. One such soldier, Army Ranger Jeremy Feldbusch, of Blairsville, was blinded in Iraq; he and his family are the subjects of Richard Hankin's documentary. Home Front is frank about the myriad costs borne -- not just by Jeremy, but also by his family, their finances and plans, and even the larger community, which must balance feelings of patriotism with anger and frustration. A caring family is clearly Feldbusch's rock, but so too is the Wounded Warrior Project, a support group for disabled vets that he becomes an advocate for. It can be tough to stare directly into the lives of Feldbusch and his fellow disabled vets, with both the minutiae of their loss and the accumulation of new triumphs, but they've earned to right to ask us to look and listen. The Nov. 8 screening is a benefit for the Wounded Warrior Project; tickets are $75 and include a Q&A with Feldbusch and director Hankin, as well as a reception. 7 p.m. Wed., Nov. 8 (Harris) and 7:15 p.m. Thu., Nov. 9 (Melwood). (AH)

AN INDEPENDENT PORTRAIT. Pittsburgh-based filmmaker Jose Muniain invited storied independent filmmaker Robert M. Young to talk about his half-century of work while sitting for his portrait in oils by local Spanish-born painter Félix de la Concha. Thus is the documentarian documented. Even at 55 minutes, the piece sometimes feels a little slow; we need a conversation either less digressive or more fully fleshed out. But it certainly makes you want to see Young's work -- from National Geographic wildlife specials to documentaries about the U.S. civil-rights movement and Italian slums, and a fiction feature about an illegal Mexican immigrant. Young's generously excerpted work, de la Concha's canvas-in-progress and Muniain's imaginative editing combine in a package that's sensually pleasing and full of ideas. And you'll be surprised how well you feel you know both men when you watch de la Concha's pleasure at Young's reaction to the finished portrait. Director Muniain is scheduled to appear. 8:30 p.m. Sat., Nov. 4, and 9:15 p.m. Tue., Nov. 7. Melwood (Bill O'Driscoll)

INVISIBLE WAVES. After killing his boss' wife, a sous chef embarks on a journey from Hong Kong to Thailand hoping to shake off the past, in Pen-ek Ratanaruang's crime thriller. Local filmmaker Tony Balko's 2006 short "CMNJ" also screens. In Thai, Korean and Japanese, with subtitles. 7:15 p.m. Sat., Nov. 4, and 9:30 p.m. Mon., Nov. 6. Harris

THE MOTEL. His ethnicity and his writerly proclivities alike cut both ways for adolescent outsider Ernest Chin. Stuck at the by-the-hour motel his tough-cookie mother runs along Any Roadside, U.S.A., chubby Ernest enters a writing contest -- but his mom says his honorable mention means "you're not even good enough to lose." He's crushing on the teen-age waitress, and he's befriended by a dodgy young Korean-American guy who sets up housekeeping in one room. Writer-director Michael Kang's bittersweet comedy is highlighted by offbeat humor, a wonderful performance by Jeffrey Chyau as Ernest, and a fresh, winnowing sense of the pleasures, perils and compromises inherent to coming of age. 7:15 p.m. Tue., Nov. 7, and 9:15 p.m. Wed., Nov. 8. Harris (BO)

OLD JOY. Kelly Reichardt's film walks softly, its sadness echoing like footfalls in an empty corridor. Somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, a young married guy named Mark (Daniel London) gets a phone call from his old friend Kurt (Will Oldham), who invites him camping. The story is nothing but their shaggy-dog journey to a well-hidden hot springs in the Cascade Mountains. But into their time together, in Mark's car and in the woods, Reichardt and co-screenwriter Jonathan Raymond pour the words and silences befitting two lives grown irrevocably apart: Kurt loping along a lonely, confused path toward some vague ecstasy, Mark -- about to become a dad -- anxious over responsibilities looming and possibilities closing off. Old Joy is quiet, it's slow, and no one who's lost a friend to nothing but time will forget it. 7:30 p.m. Fri., Nov. 3; 12:15 p.m. Sun., Nov. 5; and 9:15 p.m. Mon., Nov. 6. Regent Square (BO)

PANDORA'S BOX. Louise Brooks stars as the sexual temptress Lulu in G.W. Pabst's Weimar-era silent film. Gorgeously lit and filmed, this 1929 film retains a powerful allure. Dr. Philip Carli will provide live piano accompaniment. Barry Paris, film critic for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and author of the biography Louise Brooks, will introduce the film. 8 p.m. Sun., Nov. 5. $10. Regent Square

PITTSBURGH. Keith LaBrache and Chris Bradley's film is an oddity: a multi-level vanity piece-slash-mockumentary (I think)-slash-shaggy comedy. In 2004, actor Jeff Goldblum (who's treated here like an A-lister, though I think he's moved to the B-team) decides to do a two-week run in the musical-theater chestnut The Music Man, in ... Pittsburgh (cue laughter from outside Western Pa.). That's vanity No. 1 for Goldblum, who exhibits few singing and dancing skills; vanity no. 2 is filming the whole she-bang, as part of his artistic "development" (or not -- maybe the whole thing was a prank). Enjoyment of this film is likely to depend on your affection for the slightly smarmy Goldblum. More fun is to be had with a couple subplots including Illeana Douglas' ill-advised romance with the porn-addicted Moby (gosh, is it true?), and Ed Begley Jr.'s alterative-energy obsessions (a tie-back to Music Man's chicanery?). Amuse yourself wondering, and scoping out all the Downtown Pittsburgh scenery. Tickets for the Nov. 2 screening are $35, and include a post-film reception to be held at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts. 7:30 p.m. Thu., Nov. 2 (Regent Square); 1:30 p.m. Sat., Nov. 11 (Melwood); 5 p.m. Sun., Nov. 12 (Melwood); and 8 p.m. Wed., Nov. 15 (Melwood) (AH)

PRINCESAS. Fernando Leon de Aranoa writes and directs this meditative film from Spain about prostitution that manages, for the most part, to avoid the "hooker with a heart of gold" cliché. Candella Pena and Micaela Nevarez star as two women turning tricks who ultimately confront the reality of their lives. De Arona's script is effectively understated throughout, combining isolation and connection, and only occasionally gives over to mawkish sentimentality. The performances by Pena and Nevarez are expertly calibrated, with strong work from the support cast. In Spanish, with subtitles. 7:15 p.m. Fri., Nov. 3; 2:15 p.m. Sat., Nov. 4; and 12:15 p.m. Sun., Nov. 5. Harris (TH)

REQUIEM. Based on real events that occurred in Germany in 1976, Hans-Christian Schmid's probing, but ultimately restrained drama examines the case of a female college student whose psychological troubles lead to an exorcism. Michaelena (Sandra Huller) is timid and repressed, the result of her epilepsy and strict Catholic upbringing. But away at college, she opens up to new experiences, and finds her faith and health tested; her subsequent collapse leads a renegade priest to suspect demonic possession. (This same story was adapted two years ago in the American release, The Exorcism of Emily Rose.) But Schmid's film is by no means a horror thriller, opting instead for a larger meditation on faith, madness and the suppression of self. "Flotsam Foci," a short 2006 experimental video from Ross Nugent, also screens. In German, with subtitles. 6:15 p.m. Sat., Nov. 4, and 9:15 p.m. Mon., Nov. 6. Melwood (AH)

STOLEN. March 1990 -- 13 virtually priceless paintings are stolen from the Gardner museum in Boston. Rebecca Dreyfus' documentary revisits the crime, and tags along with Harold Smith, art detective, as he tries to ferret out the paintings' whereabouts. On our journey we learn about Isabella Stewart Gardner, art patroness; the lure of Vermeer (one of his works was among the stolen art); the peculiarities of Boston; and the intricate dance that is international art theft and, occasionally, stolen-art reclamation. The film is a bit disjointed at times -- all its disparate pieces are interesting, but never fully come together as a satisfying whole. Yet, there's no denying the wonderfully eccentric cast of real-life characters including the dapper Smith; Gardner's tremulous biographer; a Boston crimelord; and a manic Englishman, a former villain turned villain-liaison. 7:15 p.m. Fri., Nov. 3, and 4:15 p.m. Sat., Nov. 4. Melwood (AH)

13 TZAMETI. An immigrant working in France decides to adopt another man's identity in this drama from first-time director Gela Babluani. In French, with subtitles. 5:30 p.m. Thu., Nov. 9; 7:30 p.m. Sat., Nov. 11; and 4 p.m. Sun., Nov. 12. Harris

WASSUP ROCKERS. The latest troubled-youth film from Larry Clark (Kids, Bully) sports an intriguing sub-sub-group of rebellious teens: Latinos from South Central Los Angeles who are long-haired skatepunks. The loose improvisational feel means much of the film borders on tedious; only the naturalness of the young actors and the novelty of their cultural affiliation keeps these long stretches buoyed. Rather than thoroughly explore the tensions within their own world, Clark squanders the second half of his film on a predictable narrative, when the kids visit wealthy Beverley Hills. In case the culture clash isn't obvious enough, Clark takes pains to show us that the greatest dangers lurk for our rockers outside of their admittedly rough-and-tumble comfort zone. 9:30 p.m. Fri., Nov. 3; 4:45 p.m. Sat., Nov. 4; and 7:15 p.m. Mon., Nov. 6. Harris (AH)

WORDS OF MY PERFECT TEACHER. Lesley Ann Patton trails after her Buddhist teacher, the renowned Dzongsar Khyentse Norbu Rinpoche, from his residence in West London to his mountain-top homeland in Bhutan. As her camera runs, Rinpoche ruminates, in turns acts silly and priestly, and occasionally just disappears; he's not a fully cooperative subject, though he himself is a filmmaker (The Cup, Travelers and Magicians). Patton fills in the gaps by rambling about her own spiritual journey, and interviewing assorted colleagues about theirs. Perhaps a spiritual query is inherently meant to be unfocused and prone to navel-gazing, but it does tax the viewer to follow along. Footage from the gorgeous remote Bhutan is a welcome addition late in the film, as is the unlikely reincarnated monk Patton finds banging around Los Angeles. 7:15 p.m. Tue., Nov. 7, and 9:15 p.m. Thu., Nov. 9. Regent Square (AH)

Thu., Nov. 2

Regent Square

7:30 p.m. Pittsburgh

Fri., Nov. 3

Regent Square

7:30 p.m. Old Joy

9:30 p.m. Climates


7:15 p.m. Princesas

9:30 p.m. Wassup Rockers


7:15 p.m. Stolen

9:15 p.m. 49 Up

Sat.. Nov. 4

Regent Square

2:30 p.m. Climates

4:45 p.m. The Aura

7:30 p.m. The Cave of the Yellow Dog

9:30 p.m. The Guatemalan Handshake


2:15 p.m. Princesas

4:45 p.m. Wassup Rockers

7:15 p.m. Invisible Waves

9:45 p.m. Brothers of the Head


1:30 p.m. 49 Up

4:15 p.m. Stolen

6:15 p.m. Requiem

8:30 p.m. An Independent Portrait

Sun., Nov. 5

Regent Square

12:15 p.m. Old Joy

2:15 p.m. The Guatemalan Handshake

8 p.m. Pandora's Box


12:15 p.m. Princesas

2:45 p.m. Brothers of the Head


2 p.m. Appalshop Films

4 p.m. 49 Up

Mon., Nov. 6

Regent Square

7:15 p.m. The Cave of the Yellow Dog

9:15 p.m. Old Joy


7:15 p.m. Wassup Rockers

9:30 p.m. Invisible Waves


7:15 p.m. Appalshop Films

9:15 p.m. Requiem

Tue., Nov. 7

Regent Square

7:15 p.m. Words of My Perfect Teacher

9:15 p.m. The Aura


7:15 p.m. The Motel

9 p.m. Brothers of the Head


7:15 p.m. The Case of the Grinning Cat

9:15 p.m. An Independent Portrait

Wed., Nov. 8

Regent Square

7:15 p.m. Avenue Montaigne

9:15 p.m. The Aura


7 p.m. Home Front

9:15 p.m. The Motel


7:30 p.m. The Chelsea Girls

Thu., Nov. 9

Regent Square

7:15 p.m. Avenue Montaigne

9:15 p.m. Words of My Perfect Teacher


5:30 p.m. 13 Tzameti

7:30 p.m. 4


7:15 p.m. Home Front

9 p.m. The Case of the Grinning Cat

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