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AFI Fest, A to Y

Unless otherwise noted, all films screen at ArcLight Cinemas, 6360 W. Sunset Blvd., Hlywd. To purchase tickets, go to www.afifest.com.

AFTER THE WEDDING (Denmark) The good stuff in After the Wedding actually occurs before the titular nuptials: As in her previous film, Brothers, Danish director Susanna Bier proves adept at getting our attention but fails to hold it. Mads Mikkelsen cuts a typically compelling figure as a terse do-gooder whose attempts to find a patron for an India-based orphanage bring him into unexpected contact with a figure from his past, in turn spinning the plot into jaggedly melodramatic territory. (Thurs., Nov. 9, 9:15 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 10, 12:30 p.m.) (Adam Nayman)

 ANTONIA (Brazil) With one foot planted in the social-realist school of Brazil’s 1960s Cinema Novo movement and the other in hip-hop-inspired music culture, rising young filmmaker Tata Amaral’s Antonia sensitively dramatizes the rise and fall — and possible survival — of an all-girl singing group from the tough Sao Paolo streets. As this often dazzling quartet bonds and then atomizes, their various personal crises skirt with pure bathos yet remain firmly grounded in the musically rich but brutally unforgiving climate that inspired their songs in the first place. In the end, Amaral refuses to sugarcoat these young women’s prospects, but she hasn’t given up on them either. (Sat., Nov. 4, 9:45 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 5, 4:15 p.m.) (Robert Koehler)

THE ART OF CRYING (Denmark) What at first appears to be a rather conventional child’s-eye view of rural Danish life in the 1970s turns quickly into a dark portrait of a shockingly dysfunctional family. In director Peter Schønau Fo’s adaptation of Erling Jepsen’s novel, Allan (a haunting Jannik Lorenzen) is a daddy’s boy who quietly manipulates the goings on in his provincial town, disposing threats to his small-minded father with the ruthlessness of a mini Macbeth. The film’s cinematic style is conventional, but fine performances and Fo’s attention to detail create a truly claustrophobic setting. Soaked with suicidal themes and Schubert lieder, this is a domestic drama that’s more frightening than most horror films. (Fri., Nov. 3, 7 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 4, 3:15 p.m.) (James C. Taylor)BAB’AZIZ (France/Iran/Switzerland/Tunisia) An example of the sort of scenic, sentimental and thoroughly forgettable exotica that has come to dominate AFI Fest’s world-cinema selection, this third feature by the Tunisian filmmaker Nacer Khemir follows an old blind dervish and his precocious young granddaughter as they cross a wide desert expanse en route to an unspecified “gathering.” Along the way, the two cross paths with fellow travelers, each of whom has a fablelike story to tell with a fortune-cookie moral at its center. Those who have faith will find their way, says the dervish. Those who have sense will pick up a copy of Arabian Nights instead, says the critic. (Sat., Nov. 11, 6:45 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 12, 12:30 p.m.) (SF)

BACK HOME (Rwanda/USA) This brief documentary about one family’s horrifying experiences during the Rwandan genocide jumps without notice across time lines, has the nondescript visual quality of a home movie (when not employing graphic stock news footage) and features at its center a man who is at times too aware of the camera. None of that matters. Few of the more polished films on the subject have taken us so close to the human anguish of this atrocity. After detailing how a family made up of a Tutsi mom, Hutu dad and their children was ripped apart by the ethnic strife, Back Home then tells how the youngest child, J.B. Rutagarama, managed to make his way to London after the brutalization of his family, and how he returned home years later to seek out survivors. A reunion with one family member is straight tearjerker fare. Highly recommended. (Sun., Nov. 5, 6:45 p.m.; Mon., Nov., 6, 5 p.m.) (Ernest Hardy)BIG DREAMS, LITTLE TOKYO (USA) Gangly “white boy” Boyd Wilson has a hard-on for all things Japanese, speaking the language flawlessly and spouting minutiae about the culture. His tubby, immature Japanese roommate Jerome sports a frat-boy accent and wants to be a sumo wrestler, but otherwise knows little about Japanese culture. Their clash, like the rest of the film, is drenched in ironic cultural observations that are both old and obvious (Mexicans manning the kitchen of a Japanese restaurant). Cool — if self-consciously so — soundtrack. (Thurs., Nov. 2, 9:45 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 3, 1:30 p.m.) (EH)

BLINDSIGHT (Tibet/U.K.) In 2004, sightless American climber Erik Weihenmayer led six blind Tibetan teenagers up one of Everest’s peaks. Judging by the mishaps that befell them, documentary filmmaker Lucy Walker could have delivered a sharp commentary on the cultural differences between aggressive Western thrill junkies and their more tranquil Eastern companions. But Blindsight’s uncontrollable compulsion to be an uplifting crowd pleaser glosses over the emotional trauma the kids experienced on their ascent, insisting instead that, really, adversity is being overcome. (Mon., Nov. 6, 7:15 p.m.; Tues., Nov. 7, 1 p.m.) (Tim Grierson)

 

BUDDHA’S LOST CHILDREN (Netherlands/France) Almost every line spoken in this documentary about Khru Bah, a Thai kickboxer turned Buddhist monk who’s spent the last 15 years caring for orphans, sounds lifted directly from a spiritual guide. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. In this fittingly meditative, beautifully filmed look at how Bah trains his often traumatized young charges to be monks, life lessons are doled out for the viewer in soft but irresistibly poetic tones. (Sat., Nov. 4, 6:15 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 5, 12:30 p.m.) (EH)

COMIC EVANGELISTS (USA) The best film to come out of Kalamazoo, Michigan, in ages, this amusing mock documentary, shot on video, follows a Christian improv troupe as they travel to a Toronto comedy festival they haven’t been invited to attend. Co-directors Daniel Jones and Dann Sytsma, plus a half dozen of Sytsma’s fellow performers from the real-life improv group Crawlspace Eviction, don’t poke fun at Christianity so much as the naiveté of a group of people even Jesus would’ve found nerdy. (Sun., Nov.5, 9:45 p.m.; Mon., Nov. 6, 4:30 p.m.) (Chuck Wilson)

A CRUDE AWAKENING — THE OILCRASH (Switzerland) We know about the political and environmental fallout from oil dependency, but we rarely worry about running out of the crucial substance. Filmmakers Basil Gelpke and Ray McCormack explore that nightmare scenario in this dry but very effective documentary, laying out the potential consequences for a civilization whose continued prosperity and development depend on newfound oil deposits, which are becoming increasingly scarce. Gelpke and McCormack’s dispassionate tone gives the dire material an extra level of doomed resignation, while their unwillingness to end the film on even the most remotely positive note underlines the urgency of their purpose. (Sun., Nov. 5, 9 p.m.; Mon., Nov. 6, 1:30 p.m.) (TG)

DANIKA (USA) In the wake of The Sixth Sense, Mulholland Drive and Memento, the psychological twists of Danika may seem familiar, as Marisa Tomei navigates nightmares, hallucinations, and a waking reality in which she feels her children are in constant, increasing yet unspecified danger. Writer Joshua Leibner and director Ariel Vroman ply their story cards with energy and skill, but it’s Tomei — always a first-rate actress, seldom given a role this wildly dimensional — who communicates such raw fear and subtle layers of guilt as she fights her tide of delusions that the movie becomes more poignant, and more truly terrifying around her. (Thurs., Nov. 2, 10 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 3, noon) (F.X. Feeney)

DARKBLUEALMOSTBLACK (Spain) Despite its title, Daniel Sanchez Arevalo’s debut film is a light drama about an upwardly mobile janitor (Quim Gutierrez) whose infertile, ex-con brother (an over-the-top Antonio de la Torre) wants him to impregnate his still incarcerated girlfriend (the profoundly alluring Marta Etura). The wild plot has accents of Almodovar, but Arevalo’s real model seems to be early Mike Nichols. His highly choreographed, often stagey widescreen compositions recall The Graduate and Carnal Knowledge, as does his subject matter: the complicated sex lives of men in their 20s. Darkbluealmostblack has a breezy tone that often flirts with farce (mainly in a subplot about a male masseuse), but its characters all have tragic sides that give this coming-of-age story sincerity as well as style. (Thurs., Nov. 2, 9:30 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 3, 4 p.m.) (JCT)DARK CORNERS (U.K./USA) Thora Birch gets put through the wringer in Dark Corners, playing not one but two women (one blonde, one brunette, in the best David Lynch tradition) plagued by subconscious terrors and a seemingly supernatural serial killer. The basic premise — Birch’s light-and-dark characters seem to dream each other to life — has potential, but writer-director Ray Gower doesn’t do anything with it: Eventually, watching Birch drift off and wake up with a different hairdo becomes soporific, though there are a few solid cheap jolts and gushy gore shots for the genre hounds. (Fri., Nov. 10, 10 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 11, 2 p.m.) (AN)

DISAPPEARANCES Ever since his exquisite 1994 debut feature Where the Rivers Flow North, the Vermont-based writer-director Jay Craven has devoted himself to filming the work of the acclaimed regional novelist Howard Frank Mosher. Here, Craven doesn’t quite get his grip all the way around Mosher’s Prohibition-era tale of father (Kris Kristofferson) and son (Charlie McDermott) bootleggers traversing the Canadian border. The movie is pocked by odd touches of comedy (a whisky-guzzling monk) and mysticism (a cursed, shape-shifting villain) that one suspects worked better on the page. But as usual in Craven’s films, there are many strong performances (Kristofferson, Gary Farmer as a jovial uncle, and Genevieve Bujold as a superstitious grandmother) and the kind of richly evocative landscape photography one associates with the work of Carroll Ballard or Terrence Malick. (Mon., Nov. 6, 9:30 p.m.; Tues., Nov. 7, 1:30 p.m.) (SF)

 

ELECTION (Hong Kong) A Triad family elects its next leader, but Big D (Tony Leung Ka Fai) rejects the result, kidnaps two of the “uncles” (elders), and tries to steal the ritual baton that is the symbol of the new chairman’s authority. How will Lok (Simon Yam), the rightfully elected chairman, preserve the Triad and assert his control? The two men have very different styles, but Johnny To’s gripping thriller makes it clear they’re two sides of the same coin. Their eventual showdown is shocking and horrific — and absolutely inevitable. Naturally none of this is meant to impugn democratic institutions beyond the realms of the Hong Kong underworld. (Fri., Nov. 10, 10 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 12, 1 p.m.) (Tom Charity)FALKENBERG FAREWELL (Denmark/Sweden) They might have called it The Long Goodbye: The 91 minutes of this portentous Swedish mood piece about young men brought low by small-town undertow feel like a death sentence. First-time director Jesper Ganslandt has been winning comparisons to Gus Van Sant, but the analogy is superficial. The long takes, languid pacing and abundance of beautiful, shirtless sourpusses (many with righteous facial hair) aren’t in the service of anything particularly original or interesting. (Wed., Nov. 8, 7 p.m.; Thurs., Nov. 9, 4:15 p.m.) (AN)

FISSURES (France) In the home of her recently murdered mother, Charlotte (Émilie Dequenne), a young sound engineer, discovers that her recording equipment is picking up the ghostly echoes of conversations that once took place in the house. While the mystery it helps her to solve isn’t particularly compelling, Charlotte’s technique for creating a timeline to events in her mother’s house is intriguing and raises questions about the nature of memory that writer-director Alanté Kavaïté is smart enough to leave unanswered. (Sun. Nov. 5, 9:15 p.m.; Mon., Nov. 6, 4:15 p.m.) (CW)

FORGIVEN (USA) This Sundance also-ran is that relatively rare dramatic U.S. indie that attempts political commentary head-on. Writer-director Paul Fitzgerald also stars as Republican senatorial hopeful Peter Miles, a born-again Christian and family man, and the local D.A. to boot. When convicted killer Ronald Bradler (Russell Hornsby) is pardoned from death row, Miles’ case against him is questioned. Forgiven looks cheap, and the dramaturgy is crude, but at least it dares to push beyond liberal point scoring with a radically unpleasant — and uncommercial — plot twist. (Thurs., Nov. 2, 7 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 3, 1 p.m.) (TC)

FROZEN DAYS (Israel) Meow (Anat Klausner), a beautiful young drug dealer on the Tel Aviv party circuit, ends up living in the apartment of a man she’s just met, after he’s injured in a nightclub bombing. Mistaken by neighbors for the man’s wife, Meow lingers on, and finds her own identity fracturing. Although this well-made, black-and-white thriller from writer-director Danny Lerner has a rather prosaic final twist, it maintains one’s interest, thanks to the intensity of Klausner’s performance. She’s a discovery. (Thurs., Nov. 2, 9:30 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 5, 4 p.m.) (CW)

GLUE Argentine newcomer Alexis Dos Santos follows in the path of so many other first-timers with a loosely autobiographical trawl through the adolescent minefields of sexual discovery and family dysfunction. Much of Glue is instantly recognizable, but the film benefits from a quite literal sense of alienation, taking place as it does in desolate Patagonia (or, per the film’s subtitle, Historia Adolescente en Medio de la Nada, “in the middle of nowhere”). The teenage ambivalence is perfectly matched by the textured, handheld video photography and the insistent Violent Femmes soundtrack. (Sat., Nov. 4, 7 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 5, noon) (Dennis Lim)

GRBAVICA (Austria/Bosnia and Herzegovina/Croatia/Germany) Jasmila Zbanic’s Berlin-feted debut, set in the titular Sarajevo district and concerning a ground-down single mother’s attempts to shield her headstrong teenage daughter from the horrors of war times past, is exceptionally well acted and directed. It’s also a little too well thought out. Its themes are so neatly lined up and its protagonist’s painful secret so obviously telegraphed that the ostensibly raw emotional content comes off seeming preheated. (Tues., Nov. 7, 7 p.m.; Wed., Nov. 8, 4 p.m.) (AN)

HOLLYWOOD DREAMS (USA) The 15th film in 35 years written and directed by Henry Jaglom, that love-him-or-hate-him iconoclast of American independent filmmaking, is also one of his warmest and most inviting, despite the potential for cynicism inherent in its premise — that old saw about a would-be starlet (newcomer Tanna Frederick) living out of her car and scrounging for a gig. (In one hilarious scene, she’s even refused a role in an amateur video being made by schoolchildren!) The movie buzzes with the quirky rhythms of Jaglom’s patented improvisational shooting style, and those of Frederick herself, whose go-for-broke zaniness recalls that of a former Jaglom ingénue, Karen Black. By the time Black appears here (as an actress musing with a mix of melancholy and acceptance about her former stardom), it’s clear that Hollywood Dreams is a walk down memory lane for its own maker, stuffed with references to earlier Jaglom films and appearances by many members of his stock company. Consider it a wistful contemplation of the fickle nature of movie success and the altogether unlikelihood of being Henry Jaglom. (Sat., Nov. 11, 7 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 12, 1 p.m.) (SF)

 

KURT COBAIN: ABOUT A SON (USA) In this quasi-experimental film, never-before-heard audiotapes of the late Nirvana front man being interviewed about everything from his childhood and his often contentious relationship with bandmates to his impassioned defense of wife Courtney Love play out against images of Northwest American landscapes, small-town strip malls and man-on-the-street photo montages. This documentary is primarily for those already deeply enmeshed in Cobain’s myth and mystique. To the nonfaithful, he just comes off like an elitist snot. (Sat., Nov. 4, 9 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 5, 1 p.m.) (EH)

LIES & ALIBIS (USA) For all of its slickness and ultracontemporary Westside Los Angeles vibe, what makes Lies & Alibis charmingly quaint is its aspiration to be nothing more — and nothing less — than an elegant entertainment in the Cary Grant/Stanley Donen tradition. It hinges on a clever-enough idea: A con man opens a firm offering airtight alibis for clients cheating on their spouses. Directors Kurt Mattila and Matt Checkowski’s rollicking movie seals the deal with Steve Coogan as the sly, dry con, and a supporting cast — including Sam Elliott, James Brolin, Rebecca Romijn and Debi Mazar — that puts “character” back in character actors. (Fri., Nov. 10, 9:30 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 11, 4 p.m.) (RK)

LIFE AFTER TOMORROW (USA) A look at the not-so-hard-knock life of child stage actors who starred in the 1970s Broadway musical smash Annie. Co-director Julie Stevens — herself an ex-Annie cast member — interviews countless women who once played orphans and belted out “Tomorrow.” The result is a comprehensive, well-edited feature documentary about a subject that merits, at most, a segment on Entertainment Tonight. Some fans will no doubt enjoy hearing Sarah Jessica Parker talk about going to Studio 54 after taking off her red wig each night, but does anyone really want to know what the production’s dog trainer thinks about the effects of show business on little girls? (Sat., Nov. 11, 6:45 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 12, 3:30 p.m.) (JCT)

LUXURY CAR (China/France) In writer-director Wang Chao’s understated, internalized drama, a provincial schoolteacher (stage actor Wu Youcai, whose deadpan, peasant face belies a canny intelligence) travels to the bustling city of Wuhan to enlist the help of his daughter (Tian Yuan) in the search for her missing brother. Despite her evident respectability, the daughter is revealed to moonlight as a paid escort, while her supposed fiancé (Huang He) turns out to be just one of her johns. More disquieting revelations follow, though rather than tilting into melodrama, the movie retains its cool, tranquil surface, becoming a beautifully acted, precisely observed meditation on the gap between appearances and realities in modern China. (Sat., Nov. 11, 7 p.m.) (SF)

MEMORIES OF TOMORROW (Japan) Give or take a smattering of dream sequences and frequent, overly symbolic shots of clouds, this drama from director Yukihiko Tsutsumi about a high-powered advertising executive felled by Alzheimer’s disease is no more than conventional. A strenuous subtext about the notorious workaholism and after-hours whoring of Japanese businessmen feels grafted on. Still, Memories of Tomorrow is distinguished by Ken Watanabe’s affecting performance as a man facing up to the loss of everything that mattered to him, including his neglected wife (an excellent Kenji Sakaguchi). This heartfelt tale of disintegration and acceptance, seasoned with family devotion, will both raise and soothe the anxieties of those of us who regularly ask ourselves why we came into the kitchen two minutes ago. (Thurs., Nov. 2, 6:45 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 3, 3:30 p.m.) (Ella Taylor)

MORE THAN ANYTHING IN THE WORLD (Mexico) The notion of an overworked single mom and her uncontainable kid has been played to death in Hollywood women’s movies, most of them starring Michelle Pfeiffer. For their variation on the situation, co-writer-directors Andres Leon Becker and Javier Solar situate their mom and daughter in a cramped and traffic-choked Mexico City and an apartment adjacent to a dying man. The growing distance between parent and child, who sees a monster under every bed and believes that the ill neighbor is a vampire, provides the film with a strong sense of psychological pressure, deflated only by a Hallmark-card ending. (Fri., Nov. 10, 9:45 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 11, 4:15 p.m.) (RK)MOTHERLAND AFGHANISTAN (USA) The title has a dual meaning — director Sedika Mojadidi documents her family’s return to their home country, post-9/11, to offer medical assistance, but it also refers to the large number of mothers in Afghanistan who get substandard pre- and postnatal care, leading to an infant-mortality rate of 18 percent. Sedika’s doctor father travels back to Afghanistan the first time under the auspices of the U.S. government, but gets so frustrated that he later returns independently. Graphic footage — premature babies, urinary surgery, raw sewage — ensures that you won’t remain unmoved. (Fri., Nov. 3, 7:15 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 4, 1:30 p.m.) (Luke Y. Thompson)

 

NEXT: A PRIMER ON URBAN PAINTING (Canada/France) Documentary filmmaker Pablo Aravena wants to demonstrate how graffiti painting, which blossomed in New York in the 1970s, ignited a worldwide artistic revolution that’s still vibrant today. But while his film circles the globe to prove the point — setting down in London, Sao Paulo and several other cities — Next squeezes too many artists into its short running time, resulting in a superficial overview rather than a comprehensive look at either the art form or its practitioners. (Fri., Nov. 3, 9:30 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 4, 4 p.m.) (TG)

NO SWEAT (USA) Is it possible to be a profitable, competitive business in this country without exploiting, even abusing, workers? That question forms the core of No Sweat, which takes garment-industry upstarts American Apparel and SweatX as its case studies. Both companies profess to be progressive, proworker outfits, but when the dust clears and only one is left standing, it’s not the one that truly strove to embody its claims. In a packed, informative 54 minutes, this documentary bleakly explains why. (Tue., Nov. 7, 9:45 p.m.; Wed., Nov. 8, 5:30 p.m.) (EH)

OFFSIDE The Iranian filmmaker most adept at bending the national cinema’s formalist rigors into crowd-pleasing shapes, Jafar Panahi here combines the real-time soccer-match structure of The Mirror (1997) with the roundelay feminism of The Circle (2000). Offside darts among a group of teenage girls who have donned male drag to infiltrate a World Cup qualifying match, only to end up in a holding pen while the game unfolds, out of view. Deceptive in its lightness, Panahi’s expertly choreographed allegory is at once blunt and complex, a meditation on the acts of seeing and being seen in a society where appearances are often everything. (Wed., Nov. 8, 7:30 p.m.; Thurs., Nov. 9, 4:45 p.m.) (DL)

SCREAMERS (U.K.) System of a Down are no Dixie Chicks — it’s hard to imagine anyone trying to tell Serj Tankian to shut up and sing. In the U.S., the band are the most visible spokespeople for the recognition of the Armenian genocide of 1915, which many of their grandparents lived through. (That some of them are still alive and healthy today may be a testament to the wonders of pomegranate juice, an Armenian staple.) So many documentaries about genocides play art-house theaters that it can be easy to get jaded, but combining one with tour footage from the most innovative metal band in the world is genius, banging the viewer’s head before he realizes it’s being filled with awareness too. (Thurs., Nov. 2, 9:45 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 3, 2:30 p.m.) (LYT)

THE SECRET LIFE OF HAPPY PEOPLE (Canada) College senior Thomas (Marc Paquet) is an inattentive dreamer who’s awkward with the ladies, but things change when he literally bumps into the gorgeous Audrey (Catherine de Lean), who appears to fall hard for him. The sad truth, however, is that she’s been secretly paid by his parents to serve as a muse until he graduates with an A average. This French Canadian “cruel and enticing dramatic comedy” (per the press notes) heads in some interesting directions, but favors conventional resolutions just when you hope it won’t. (Sat., Nov. 4, 9 p.m.; Sun., Nov. 5, 3 p.m.) (LYT)

SOMEBODIES (USA) A spiritual slacker comedy set in Athens, Georgia, mostly in the half-empty pews of makeshift churches. Writer/director/actor Hadjii’s first feature, about avoiding a DUI by doing the Lord’s work, is thoroughly amateurish and profane, but hard to dislike. Somebodies shows middle-class life in black suburbia as a seemingly endless series of sermons, which, thanks to a talented cast of Southern comedians, are often as amusing as they are crude and outrageous. (Fri., Nov. 3, 7 p.m.; Sat., Nov. 4, 1 p.m.) (JCT)

SPECIAL (USA)Pushover parking enforcer Les (Michael Rapaport) volunteers for a clinical trial for a drug that will supposedly make him more confident and fearless. Instead, it gives him superpowers... or so he thinks. Everyone else sees him crash into walls rather than phasing through them, falling on his face instead of flying, and so forth. Things get dangerous when he decides he’s going to fight crime. The concept would be more fun on a bigger budget — locations and supporting characters are in short supply here — but Rapaport’s utterly fearless and committed performance is, well, heroic. (Wed., Nov. 8, 10 p.m.; Thurs., Nov. 9, 2 p.m.) (LYT)

 

TIME Korean director Kim Ki Duk’s latest celluloid Möbius strip finds a jealous woman (Park Ji-yun) seeking out a plastic surgeon to alter her (quite lovely) visage so that she can reseduce her wandering-eyed boyfriend (Ha Jung-Woo). The debt to Hiroshi Teshigahara’s 1964 classic The Face of Another is obvious, but where that film used reconstructive surgery as a metaphor for Japan’s scarred post-Hiroshima consciousness, Time’s themes — the tyranny of self-image and the amorphousness of attraction — are no less lucidly realized. (Tues., Nov. 7, 10 p.m.; Wed., Nov. 8, 4:45 p.m.) (AN)TO PLAY AND TO FIGHT (Venezuela) Nearly a quarter of a million kids from all walks of life participate in classical youth orchestras across Venezuela. It’s an inspiring story, though Alberto Arvelo’s documentary gives us too little of how it came to pass, and arguably too much spiritual sales pitch. The program has been running for several decades now, so perhaps it transcends politics — at any rate, they go unmentioned . The film is handsomely shot though, and the quality of the music speaks for itself. With performances by Simon Rattle, Placido Domingo, et al. (Thurs., Nov. 9, 9:30 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 10, 4:30 p.m.) (TC)TV JUNKIE (USA) For those who didn’t get their fill of dysfunctional autodocumentation from Capturing the Friedmans, Tarnation and Grizzly Man, TV Junkie arrives to tell the tale of former television journalist Rick Kirkham, whose fast rise from local crime reporter to national anchor was matched by an even faster slide into alcoholism, drug addiction and spousal abuse. As it happens, Kirkham also had a yen for recording himself, and TV Junkie co-directors Michael Cain and Matt Radecki have been granted access to thousands of hours of his rambling, weirdly confessional home videos. While the concept is intriguing, the results are marred by Kirkham’s loathsome personality and the filmmakers’ downright creepy eleventh-hour attempts to turn their subject into a motivational hero. (Thurs., Nov. 2, 7 p.m.; Fri., Nov. 3, 1 p.m.) (SF)

2:37/TWO THIRTY SEVEN (Australia) After hearing a strange noise in a school utility closet, a high school teacher opens the locked room to discover a student suicide, but the viewer doesn’t see who it is. The rest of the film follows six likely candidates (gorgeous jock, beauty queen, gay boy, geeky outcast, etc.) from the day’s start to that final moment. Dark secrets are easily guessed, histrionics are substituted for emotional depth, and the offered psychology of the tormented is clichéd and flimsy. (Tues., Nov. 7, 9:30 p.m.; Wed., Nov. 8, 1 p.m.) (EH)

THE YACOUBIAN BUILDING (Egypt) Based on a taboo-breaking 2002 novel by Alaa el Aswani, this big, sweeping melodrama is nothing less than an Egyptian state-of-the-nation address. Even at 165 minutes, there is a surfeit of incidents involving a half dozen principal characters rubbing shoulders in Cairo’s once grand Yacoubian apartment block: a world-weary aristocratic roué, a hypocritical but god-fearing entrepreneur, a homosexual journalist, an angry young man pushed into dissidence, and the women in their lives. It’s as compelling as a good soap and sometimes as glib, but audiences looking to glean insights into the Arab world won’t feel shortchanged. (Mon., Nov. 6, 6 p.m.; Tue., Nov. 7, 3 p.m.) (TC) YOUNG BLOOD (Argentina) A newly orphaned city boy going to live on a farm with a cranky grandfather he’s never met isn’t the most original idea for a film, yet writer-director Leo Ricciardi has infused his version with deep feeling. Thanks to some gorgeous scenery and tough-minded, unsentimental performances from Oscar Alegre (as the grandfather) and Norma Aleandro (as a neighbor with a disabled son), Young Blood qualifies as a guilty pleasure. (Sun., Nov. 5, 6:30 p.m.; Mon., Nov. 6, noon.) (CW)


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