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

The Three Rivers Film Festival


The 24th annual Three Rivers Film Festival, presented by Pittsburgh Filmmakers, continues through Thu., Nov. 17. The program of more than 40 films includes foreign-language works, American independents, documentaries, experimental cinema and a restored silent classic, as well as new works from local filmmakers.



Tickets for the films are $7 each, except the Thu., Nov. 17, screening of closing film Blackmail, with live musical accompaniment, which is $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 see


Following are reviews and descriptions of films screening through Nov. 17



AT LAST. Twenty years after dating in high school, a couple, now with life's baggage, meet again in New Orleans. Writer/director Tom Anton based his film on his own experiences, and is scheduled to appear at the screenings. 9:15 p.m. Tue., Nov. 15, and 8 p.m. Wed., Nov. 16. Regent Square


BALLETS RUSSES. The "s" on the title is correct: Ballets Russes, a documentary by Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine, tells of the two dueling companies named the "Ballet Russe." Following the death of Serge Diaghilev, impresario of the legendary first Ballet Russe, the company was resurrected two years later by the notoriously difficult Colonel de Basil. When he fired Leonide Massine (in favor of George Balanchine), Massine started his own company; called the "Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo," while Basil named his "The Original Ballet Russe." For the next 30 years these two battled for first place over several continents and, in the process, shaped the public's notion of what ballet -- and the ballet world -- was. With archival footage and interviews with the surviving dancers (most of whom are in their 90s) Ballets Russes is a breathtaking examination of the history and legacy of dance in the 20th century. To be preceded by the short "The Happiest Day," by local filmmakers Suzie Silver and Hilary Harp. 5 p.m. Sun., Nov. 13, and 7 p.m. Mon., Nov. 14. Melwood (Ted Hoover)


BLACKMAIL. In this crime melodrama, after a young woman kills a man in self-defense, she and her Scotland Yard boyfriend are blackmailed. This 1929 Alfred Hitchcock film has the curious distinction of being both Hitchcock's last silent film and, after he reshot the film with sound, the first British talkie. A restored print of the silent version will be accompanied by a musical score performed live by the three-man Alloy Orchestra. 8 p.m. Thu., Nov. 17. Regent Square. $10.


Cí”TE D'AZUR. It's a summer beach holiday as sexually liberated as only the French can make it. Between bottles of wine and succulent shellfish, one family comically unravels under the Mediterranean sun. Dad's uptight (or is he?), Mom's imported her affair south for the summer, teen-age son Charly might be gay -- his visiting best friend sure is -- and everybody spends too much time in the malfunctioning shower. Clearly, it's going to take a totally hot local plumber to sort out this mess. Olivier Ducastel's lighthearted domestic sex comedy (with the occasional musical number) is sun-lit bon bon -- not particularly filling or nutritious, but enjoyable. And certainly its pan-sexual heart is in the right place. In French, with subtitles. 9:15 p.m. Wed., Nov. 9, and 9:15 p.m. Thu., Nov. 10. Harris (Al Hoff)


DEAR WENDY. Written by Dane Lars von Trier, and directed by Thomas Vinterberg (The Celebration), Dear Wendy is another parable of von Trier's America. It's also a disturbingly realistic scenario of how a self-proclaimed  "pacifist" who wants to "save the world" gives in to the lure and power of cold metal and hot lead. Two stray teen-age boys bond over a gun ("Wendy"), and eventually they form a sort of Armed Poets Society, drawing in a few other neighborhood kids and taking over an abandoned building as a clubhouse, where they read poetry, develop their philosophy, and learn about guns. The film's message is tonic, and it flirts with the possibility that not even a village can stave this plague. It ends, as all American myths must, at high noon, on a very bad day at Black Rock. 9:15 p.m. Wed., Nov. 9, and 7:15 p.m. Thu., Nov. 10. Regent Square (HK)


DERAILROADED. Today there's a virtual sub-industry around unearthing and promoting off-the-grid artists-slash-crazies, but Larry "Wild Man" Fischer was the first star of the outsider music scene. Josh Rubin's documentary examines Fischer's life from his successes (as a cult sensation with influential famous pals like Frank Zappa and Dr. Demento) to his lows (homelessness and mental illness). To be preceded by the short "Meditation in Motion," by local filmmaker Rebbyro. 4:30 p.m. Sat., Nov. 12, and 2:30 p.m. Sun., Nov. 13. Melwood


DOGPLAYERS. In this low-budget, locally shot feature from writer/director Joe Varhola, a young bookmaker (Varhola) becomes disenchanted with the street life and ponders getting out. His boss, a strip-club owner, is a manipulative jerk; his co-workers are screw-ups and seemingly content just to take bets, hang out and take shit from the boss. Dogplayers is a moody little film, less a crime thriller than a character study of low-level miscreants. Placing bets on football games seems harmless, but Dogplayers depicts a just-beneath-the-surface milieu that nibbles away at the soul of this bookie. Varhola inhabits his character believably, and his understated but strong performance anchors the slim story. The director, cast and crew are scheduled to appear at the screenings. 9 p.m. Fri., Nov. 11, and 7:30 p.m. Sun., Nov. 13. Melwood (AH)


ELECTRIC EDWARDIANS: THE LOST FILMS OF MITCHELL AND KENYON. Dozens of exceedingly simple short films by Sagar Mitchell and James Kenyon -- shot from 1901-1913 -- were recently rediscovered, restored and set here to an excellent score. Promoted as "Local Films for Local People," these early moving pictures were commissioned by traveling showmen and screened from town to town. This huckster-populism -- the original cinema vérité -- left a great legacy, including schoolyard drills, community festivals and the earliest footage of Manchester United. Amazingly, many of the films depict workers -- including women and children -- from England's mines, factories and fisheries. We've seen these people in stiff photographs, as stock images of industrial hardship. But here, history's nameless seem real and the effect is beautifully and breathtakingly intimate. Faced with a camera, some are bemused, while others mug and smile; all march toward work and toward the camera, toward us and toward the rest of the already vanished 20th century. To be preceded by the short film "Two If By Sea," by local filmmakers George Davis and Brian Dean Richmond. 7:15 p.m. Thu., Nov. 10, and 7:15 p.m. Fri., Nov. 11. Melwood (Julie Mickens)


FILMIC ACHIEVEMENT. A true mockumentary, Mount Lebanon native Kevin Kirwan's feature smartly sends up both its target -- a prestige film school called "UNY" -- and the documentary form itself. Film Achievement follows students including a preening Francophile, a trust-fund feminist and a Tarantino wannabe (who lives in his mom's basement) as they make what they hope are prize-winning works; their instructors range from unctuous to needy to deeply, deeply angry. Kirwan's actors, especially Andrew Benator as the Gauloises-smoking Delvo Christian, nail the desperate posturing of young people without lives trying to make films about them. While a few jokes get worn out, the overall result is highly clever, quite funny and nearly dry enough to be mistaken for a real documentary. The soundtrack's high-spirited piano arpeggios, meanwhile, are both dead-on parody and meaningfully at odds with the characters' downward spirals. Kirwan is scheduled to appear at the screenings.To be preceded by the short "1000 Bridges," by local filmmaker Cassandra C. Jones. 9 p.m. Thu., Nov. 10, and 7 p.m. Sat., Nov. 12. Melwood (Bill O'Driscoll)


IRON ISLAND. In this black comedy from Iran's Mohammad Rasoulof, a group of homeless men, women and children, under the control of Captain Nemat, live in an abandoned and sinking oil tanker in the Persian Gulf. In Persian, with subtitles. 7:15 p.m. Wed., Nov. 9. Harris


HARRY KNUCKLES AND THE PEARL NECKLACE. In this madcap Canadian actioner, Harry Knuckles, with the help of his masked Mexican wrestler pal, Santo, must retrieve the titular necklace from a bionic Bigfoot. Lee Demarbre directs this low-budget spoof. 9:15 p.m. Tue., Nov. 15, and 8 p.m. Wed., Nov. 16. Harris


KEANE. Don't be fooled by the first torturous half-hour of Lodge Kerrigan's Keane, during which William Keane (Damian Lewis) -- who may or may not be schizophrenic -- whispers madly to himself on the streets of Manhattan. Keane's young daughter seems to have been kidnapped at a bus station, and the story begins with his futile search for her. Soon, however, he becomes fixated on a woman living down the hall from him in a fleabag boarding hotel -- she's a single mother with a young daughter of her own. When Keane is asked to pick the girl up after school and the mother seemingly disappears, the story grows confusing again, but also tension-filled and deliciously dramatic. Lewis is a masterfully captivating artist; his work turns an otherwise dull storyline into a suspenseful film worth studying closely. 9 p.m. Mon., Nov. 14, and 7:15 p.m. Tue., Nov. 15. Harris (Dan Eldridge)


LA PETITE JERUSALEM. While this domestic drama is nominally about two Jewish sisters living in a mostly Jewish suburb of Paris, its real protagonists are faith and desire. Elder sister Mathilde (Elsa Zylberstein) is so devout as to be sexually repressed, only to discover that religion can't rein in the passions of her husband. Younger sister Laura (Fanny Valette) strives to be just as austere, taking refuge in philosophy and emulating the stoic restraint of her hero, Immanuel Kant. But when she is smitten with a young Algerian refugee (a Muslim, no less) she discovers that faith in human reason, like faith in God, has its limits. Writer/director Karin Albou offers a largely predictable drama, one that revisits the well-established notion that faith constrains as well as consoles. The film's abrupt end suggests that, in a French society increasingly populated by immigrants, Western-style secular humanism may become as isolated, and as isolating, as the varying faiths of the country's newcomers. In French, Arabic and Hebrew, with subtitles. 1:30 p.m. Sat., Nov. 12, and 2:15 p.m. Sun., Nov. 13. (Chris Potter)


THE LAST VICTORY. A charming Old World Tuscan town is the setting for "Il Palio," a long-standing horse race in which the town's various neighborhoods compete. The race itself lasts less than five minutes, but as John Appel's documentary depicts, not only do preparations occur months in advance (each neighborhood has fests, costumes and quirky superstitions to maintain), but the desire to win is all-consuming and year-round. Appel's low-key film, which eschews narration, focuses on one neighborhood's quest for that year's victory, letting the various participants sketch out the race's preparations and procedures; often Appel's camera runs silently, allowing us to draw inference and emotion simply from images. The Last Victory is less about horses and sport than it is about the fervency of tradition and community, in a setting seemingly remote from today's alienating, techno-obsessed society. In Italian, with subtitles. 7:15 p.m. Thu., Nov. 10, and 4:30 p.m. Sat., Nov. 12. Harris (AH)


LOST EMBRACE. Set in Buenos Aires, Lost Embrace is the story of a young man, Ariel Makaroff, adrift, literally and figuratively, in the mall where his mother runs a lingerie shop. Against a multi-ethnic backdrop of the various store owners and his own Jewish heritage, Ariel is seeking a Polish passport -- his family escaped Poland during WWII -- so he can become "European." Ariel's looking for something else as well -- the real reason his father deserted the family and moved to Israel. Directed by Daniel Burman, Lost Embrace is a gentle comedy that, while enjoyable, proves that fluffy, uninvolving entertainment isn't the sole providence of Hollywood. The real attraction is a breakout performance as Ariel by Daniel Hendler (named Best Actor at the Berlin Film Festival). With star quality written on him from head to toe, Lost Embrace may be remembered as the last film he made before he became an international star. In Spanish and various languages, with subtitles. 4:30 p.m. Sun., Nov. 13, and 7:15 p.m. Tue., Nov. 15. Regent Square (Ted Hoover)


MANDERLAY. The second film in Lars von Trier's trilogy continues where Dogville left off, as Grace (Bryce Howard) and her father (Willem Dafoe) take up residence in a gated community, a plantation where slavery still exists. After the death of the master, the pair try to enact a democratic society, with disastrous results. To be preceded by the short "Still Life With Fruit," by local filmmaker Eric Fleischauer. 9:15 p.m. Fri., Nov. 11, and 3:45 p.m. Sat., Nov. 12. Regent Square


THE MEMSAHIB. Kruti Majmudar's gorgeously depicted love story, with historical and spiritual overtones, spans two centuries, borne upon the shoulders of two women who initially seem unlikely compatriots. There's the British Grace who, in 1851, arrives in India to marry the local raja; predictably their union, based in love, not political or economic convenience, causes grave consternation among both the Indian nobility and the colonial British. After Grace's story has been told, we meet Asha, a contemporary British woman visiting Grace's former palace, where she becomes intrigued by the estate's tumultuous history. Asha feels a connection to Grace, the strong-willed outsider -- neither British nor Indian -- who loved the country, its people and culture. Here in the ghostly palace, are there lessons for Asha, also a British-Indian hybrid of sorts, about the resiliency of love and culture? Director Majmudar, a Pittsburgh Filmmakers alumna, is scheduled to appear at the screenings. 8:30 p.m. Sat., Nov. 12, and 8 p.m. Mon., Nov. 14. (AH)


MY BEAUTIFUL GIRL MARI. In this quiet, reflective anime from Korean director Lee Sung-kang, Namwoo, a young boy from a rural fishing village, finds solace in a pastoral dream world, a domain marked by flowers, a gentle polar bear, clouds and a white-haired girl he names "Mari." While the fantasy sequences have a vague, nostalgically psychedelic tone, Namwoo's real life is marked with melancholy; he's fatherless, his grandmother is ill, and his best friend is moving to Seoul. Mari hasn't much plot -- it's the aimless ennui of 10-year-olds -- but the film builds to a surprisingly moving conclusion, as the adult Namwoo reflects with some poignancy on his childhood, and its sweet dreams so easily lost. In Korean, with subtitles. 9 p.m. Sat., Nov. 12, and 7:15 p.m. Mon., Nov. 14. Harris (AH)


PURE. Scottish director Gillies MacKinnon depicts the world according to Paul, the 10-year-old son of a widowed junkie, forced to come of age too quickly while struggling to keep his faltering family afloat. A sleek visual style conveys a real sense of place in the seedy neighborhood beneath London's West Ham stadium and presents heroin abuse with a "train-wreck" approach that is horrifyingly captivating. Fans of Ken Loach's Sweet Sixteen or Lynne Ramsay's Ratcatcher will appreciate in the dark reality of MacKinnon's characters. But don't be fooled by the poster for Pure, which feature Brit It Girl Keira Knightly (who has a supporting role): This film belongs first to young Harry Eden, who acts with superb naturalism as Paul, and, secondly, to Canadian actress Molly Parker, who plays Paul's mum, a woman both pathetic in her addiction and

sympathetic in her angst. 7:15 p.m. Wed., Nov. 9. Regent Square (Heather Mull)


SHORTS COMPETITION. Finalist entries in a short-film competition sponsored by Kodak and FinalDraft will be presented. Each screening will offer a different selection of films. The prize-winners will be screened on Fri., Nov. 11. The shorts include: "Algeria," by Carolina Loyola-Garcia; "Exhibit 42," by Glenn Komsky; "Flag Day," by Kristy Higby; "Handshake," by Patrick Smith; "Holiday," by Marcel Sawicki; "In the Morning," by Danielle Lurie; "Irene Williams, Queen of the Lincoln Road," by Eric Smith; "Joe: Body Electric," by Jack Beck; "La Vie d'un Chien," by John Harden; "Ladies in Waiting," by Hope Dickson Leach; "Nativity," by Mahyar Abousaeedi; "Night Movie," by Sarah Soquel Morhaim; "The Sexorcist: Revirginize," by Diane Nerwen; "The Sky Is Falling," by Adam J. Kreps; "Superfan," by Paul Germain; "What I'm Looking For," by Shelly Silver; and "Winter Sea," by Erik Tasini. 7:30 p.m. Fri., Nov. 11 (Harris); 3:30 p.m. Sun., Nov. 13 (Harris), and 9:15 p.m. Tue., Nov. 15 (Melwood)


STORY OF A FRUCTIFEROUS SOCIETY. Pittsburgh's tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE, an underground prankster/provocateur and self-styled "sprocket scientist," is a filmmaker with screening credits across the country. While cONVENIENCE calls this recent work "an ecstatic kabbalist's eruption of language," Fructiferous -- a feature-length experiment combining word games, performance, philology and sensory overload -- has little to do with the study of ancient Jewish texts. Instead it revolves around an Umberto Eco quote suggesting a broader relationship with language, including the creation of new languages. Visually, the piece features a rapid montage of medicinal-plant prints, alternative comics, clips from Werner Herzog's The Enigma of Kasper Kauser, and subtitles sampling the millennia-long search for an "Adamitic," or original, language; the audio includes an hypnotic blend of human voices and electronic sounds. There's also audio and psychotropically altered still images from a game played in Berlin by the artist and some friends, involving an attempt to construct an alternate language. The director is scheduled to appear at the screenings. To be screened by video projection. 9:15 p.m. Sat., Nov. 12, and 9:15 p.m. Mon., Nov. 14. Melwood (BO)


A TOUT DE SUITE. Benoí®t Jaquot's drama about a bourgeois art student's sojourn in the underworld has philosophical concerns -- one being "What is the true life?"-- but it's such riveting cinema you might not immediately notice. The never-named young heroine (played by Isild le Besco) falls for a handsome crook, and after a deadly botched bank job they and another couple become international fugitives. The dialogue is minimal, soundtrack music almost nil; shot in grainy black and white for a verité feel, A Tout de Suite is an almost casually intense story of doomed romance and innocence lost, the particulars of its setting (1970s Paris, Tangiers, Athens) made universal by Jacquot's masterly touch. Many French new-wave references will spring to mind, but while there's nothing new under the sun, the camerawork is scintillating, and le Bisco's dreamy concupiscence enthralls, as when Jacquot shoots her watching a bullfight with appalled fascination. In French, with subtitles. 9:15 p.m. Thu., Nov. 10, and 6:30 p.m. Sat., Nov. 12. Regent Square (BO)


VIDEO DATA BANK PRESENTS SOFT SCIENCE. This collection of short innovative videos mines the cross-fertilization between art and science, whether it's examining form, technology or odd creatures that grow in the laboratory. This 100-minute program includes digital movies by biologists alongside contemporary video art. Brigid Reagan from Chicago's Video Data Bank is scheduled to appear. 8 p.m. Wed., Nov. 9. Melwood


WHY WE FIGHT. This provocative documentary from Eugene Jarecki (The Trials of Henry Kissinger) examines America's vast military-industrial complex developed after World War II, and questions whether such a heightened state of readiness prohibits or encourages the desire for war. 7:15 p.m. Fri., Nov. 11, and 7 p.m. Sun., Nov. 13. Regent Square


WILLIAM EGGELSTON IN THE REAL WORLD. Photographer William Eggleston once summarized his work by saying, "I am at war with the obvious." He was referring to the subject matter of his photos, which are often dull in theme but drenched in colors that seem almost to pop in three dimensions. This intimate documentary from Michael Almereyda observes him at both work and play, and the filmmaker employs a subtle yet precisely watchful eye. And certainly, it's rare for a figure as iconic as the 65-year-old Eggleston to allow himself to be trailed by a film crew for weeks on end. But as it happens, observing the artist at work is about as captivating as watching grass grow. Toward the end of the picture, Eggleston himself says it best: "Art -- you can love it and appreciate it, but you can't really talk about it. It doesn't make any sense." To be preceded by the short "Fifty States," by local filmmaker Jared Larson. 7:15 p.m. Tue., Nov. 15, and 8 p.m. Wed., Nov. 16. Melwood (DE)


THE WORLD'S FASTEST INDIAN. In this comedy-drama inspired by a true story, a New Zealander, Burt Munro (Anthony Hopkins), having spent a lifetime souping up his 1920 Indian motorcycle, finally makes his odyssey to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah to see just how fast it can go. 6:30 p.m. Sat., Nov. 12, and 1 p.m. Sun., Nov. 13.


SCHEDULE - BOX THIS, or put in column


Wed., Nov. 9



7:15 p.m. Iron Island

9:15 p.m. Cí´te d'Azur


Regent Square

7:15 p.m. Pure

9:15 p.m. Dear Wendy



8 p.m. Video Data Bank


Thu., Nov. 10



7:15 p.m. The Last Victory

9:15 p.m. Cí´te d'Azur


Regent Square

7:15 pm. Dear Wendy

9:15 p.m. A Tout de Suite



7:15 p.m. Electric Edwardians

9 p.m. Filmic Achievement


Fri., Nov. 11



7:30 p.m. Award-Winning Shorts


Regent Square

7:15 p.m. Why We Fight

9:15 p.m. Manderlay



7:15 p.m. Electric Edwardians

9 p.m. Dogplayers


Sat., Nov. 12



4:30 p.m. The Last Victory

6:30 p.m. The World's Fastest Indian

9 p.m. My Beautiful Girl Mari


Regent Square

1:30 p.m. La Petite Jerusalem

3:45 p.m. Manderlay

6:30 p.m. A Tout de Suite

8:30 p.m. The Memsahib



4:30 p.m. Derailroaded

7 p.m. Filmic Achievement

9:15 p.m. Story of a Fructiferous Society


Sun., Nov. 13



1 p.m. The World's Fastest Indian

3:30 p.m. Selected Shorts


Regent Square

2:15 p.m. La Petite Jerusalem

4:30 p.m. Lost Embrace

7 p.m. Why We Fight



2:30 p.m. Derailroaded

5 p.m. Ballets Russes

7:30 p.m. Dogplayers


Mon., Nov. 14



7:15 p.m. My Beautiful Girl Mari

9 p.m. Keane


Regent Square

8 p.m. The Memsahib



7 p.m. Ballets Russes

9:15 p.m. Story of a Fructiferous Society


Tue., Nov. 15



7:15 p.m. Keane

9:15 p.m. Harry Knuckles and the Pearl Necklace


Regent Square

7:15 p.m. Lost Embrace

9:15 p.m. At Last



7:15 p.m. William Eggleston in the Real World

9:15 p.m. Selected Shorts


Wed., Nov. 16



8 p.m. Harry Knuckles and the Pearl Necklace


Regent Square

8 p.m. At Last



8 p.m. William Eggleston in the Real World


Thu., Nov. 17


Regent Square

8 p.m. Blackmail


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