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

Three Rivers Film Festival

More than four dozen films are on the slate as the long-running local festival kicks off

The 30th annual Three Rivers Film Festival, presented by Pittsburgh Filmmakers, runs from Fri., Nov. 4, through Nov. 19. The program of more than four dozen films includes foreign-language works, American independents, documentaries, shorts, local works and experimental cinema.

click to enlarge Bringing Up Baby
Bringing Up Baby

Of note this year, a focus on the environment, with five documentaries on food, industrial problems and energy; a sidebar of five contemporary Polish films; two silent films paired with live music; and a chance to see some classics, like Bringing Up Baby, Taxi Driver and Effects, a 1980 cult horror film made in Pittsburgh. 

As always, the opening-night films will be followed by a party, celebrating not only the 30th year of the festival, but the 40th anniversary of the founding of Pittsburgh Filmmakers. Tickets for the Birthday Bash at Melwood, which includes your choice of opening-night film, food and drink, are $15 (tickets from ProArts at 412-394-3353 or

Tickets for most films are $9 each, and are available at the door. 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 on tickets and the complete schedule, call 412-681-5449 or visit

click to enlarge A Dangerous Method
A Dangerous Method

Opening Night Options: Get your head examined in A Dangerous Method, David Cronenberg's drama about Freud, Jung and the birth of psychoanalysis. Michael Fassbender, Viggo Mortenson and Keira Knightly star (7 p.m. Fri., Nov. 4, Regent Square).

Get back to the land with Kristin Canty's muckraking doc Farmageddon, which looks at the struggles small farms face. Some aspects will be familiar to locavores -- the high cost of land, the long hours of manual labor -- but Canty also uncovers farmers and food co-ops that have been harassed legally. Often in the crosshairs: suppliers of raw milk, or products the authorities consider "altered" beyond simple produce, such as yogurt or jams. Some of the material in Farmaggdeon feels more anecdotal than authoritative, but it raises some troubling questions about how our food is produced. The director is scheduled to appear (7 p.m. Fri., Nov. 4, Harris).

click to enlarge Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles
Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles

Or, get the story (maybe) on those mysterious "Toynbee tiles" inlaid in city streets throughout the Northeast and Midwest, including several in downtown Pittsburgh. Jon Foy's shaggy but fascinating documentary Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles follows Philadelphia artist Justin Duerr and his two collaborators on a multi-year search to uncover the origin of the tiles. Rail yards, David Mamet, South America, ham radio and a 1968 sci-fi film: Can there be any connection? Resurrect is a detective story, combined with a meditation on what the tiles may mean, and an examination of using art and media to communicate an obsession. (The film is a bit of a meta-text, itself the result of individuals obsessed with the tiles.) The director is scheduled to appear (7 p.m. Fri., Nov. 4, Melwood).

click to enlarge Empty Quarter
Empty Quarter

Two other films screening the first week were also available for preview. The southeast corner of Oregon is large in area, but very sparsely populated. The region is the focus of Alain LeTourneau and Pam Minty's essay Empty Quarter, a series of portraits shot on black-and-white 16 mm film. Still shots capture farms, ranches, factories, various landscapes and small-town streets, among other scenes. There is no narration, but intermittently the screen blacks out while unidentified residents speak, most reflecting on the difficulties of living in the region. Thus, the film is a document, if composed only of glimpses. The directors are scheduled to appear (7 p.m. Sat., Nov. 5, Melwood).

click to enlarge Tales From the Golden Age
Tales From the Golden Age

Romania in the 1980s is the setting for Tales From the Golden Age, a compilation of six short films that illustrate urban legends of life under Communist rule. Situations include frantic preparations for a party-leader visit; retouching of news photographs; and complicated strategies for obtaining extra food and cash. Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) wrote the script and heads a slate of several contributing directors. The film mixes satire with a sympathetic look at how ordinary Romanians endured. Each legend is followed with a bit of whimsical text, a coda of sorts, but the film's final words underscore that the actual deprivation and hopelessness of the Ceausescu era is nothing to laugh about (2 p.m. Sat., Nov. 5, and 9 p.m. Wed., Nov. 9, Harris)


The 30th Annual Three Rivers Film Festival
Starts Fri., Nov. 4.
Regent Square, Harris and Melwood Screening Room
412-681-5449 or



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