Picks and previews from this year's Florida Film Festival

Picks and previews from this year's Florida Film Festival

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Limited Partnership ★★★★☆
There may be no nobler way to live your life than to dedicate it to a cause greater than yourself, especially when that cause is forged from love, equality and justice. And that’s exactly what Filipino-American Richard Adams and Australian Tony Sullivan have done during their 40-year-old trailblazing struggle for gay rights and marriage equality. Limited Partnership, directed by Thomas Miller, begins like many other documentaries that have chronicled similar struggles, with flashbacks and flash-forwards, interviews with friends and family, and historical highlights of the war for sexual-orientation equality. But thanks to Miller’s mature storytelling, years’ worth of powerfully personal interviews with Adams and Sullivan and a bit of cinematic luck, we’re able to empathize not just with the on-screen subjects but with all people who have fought to have their marriages and, indeed, their self-worth recognized by the government of the United States. I’ve simply never seen a better documentary about same-sex marriage. Preceding Limited Partnership is the short doc Sandorkraut, about revered food author and fermentation expert Sandor Katz. Though the short and feature are vastly different in subject, they are well matched thanks to their embrace of men with unquenchable passions for their loves and beliefs. – CM

Screenings: 9:15 p.m. Sunday, April 12, at Regal Winter Park Village and 1:15 p.m. Thursday, April 16, at Enzian Theater

Moon ★★★★☆
Directed and co-written by British filmmaker Duncan Jones in 2009, Moon focuses on the psychological struggles of Sam Bell, an astronaut on a years-long solitary mission to mine the moon for nuclear-fusion fuel. But in the grand tradition of Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, nothing is quite what it seems in space, both mentally and physically. The movie stars Sam Rockwell, and the actor will be attending the special screening at the Enzian on April 17 and participating in a Q&A afterwards. Though tickets are already on stand-by, it might be worth showing up early and trying your luck, as the chance to see this smart sci-fi film and listen to Rockwell is just too irresistible. – CM

Screening: 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 17, at Enzian Theater

My Last Year With the Nuns ★★☆☆☆
My Last Year With the Nuns isn’t really a documentary and certainly isn’t narrative fiction. It exists in that twilight between genres, borrowing from such “essay films” as Orson Welles’ F for Fake and from TV shows and movies that were based on stand-up material, such as Seinfeld and Mike Birbiglia’s Sleepwalk With Me. A filmed version of monologist and storyteller Matt Smith’s live show, this walk down memory lane is a re-creation of Smith’s life as a 13-year-old boy in Seattle during the racially, sexually and culturally complex 1960s. Directed competently by first-timer Bret Fetzer, divided into nine chapters and performed entirely by Smith, the movie meditates on such typical adolescent activities as disrupting Mass, smoking, shoplifting, hocking loogies at nuns, discovering stashes of nudie magazines, stealing money from the collection plate, sticking your dick through knotholes, burning said dick with a lit cigarette, street fighting and “queer-bashing.” Ah, boyhood. I wish I could say that my disappointment with this movie stems from my desire to see it live instead of on film, but, regrettably, it’s the material I found tedious. Though Smith is likeable and weaves amusing yarns that those who grew up Catholic might enjoy, he’s essentially a poor (and crude) man’s Garrison Keillor, offering us little meaningful nostalgia, little magic and little wisdom to accompany his endless tales of amateur depravity. – CM

Screenings: 9 p.m. Monday, April 13, at Regal Winter Park Village and 1:30 p.m. Friday, April 17, at Enzian Theater

My Life in China ★★☆☆☆
Cinema is overflowing with immigrant stories. Indeed, those famous words by Emma Lazarus inviting the world’s tired, poor, huddled masses to America practically read like a movie premise. Joining the genre is My Life in China, a documentary by Kenneth Eng about his father’s defection to the United States in 1966 and their recent return to the family’s native village. But instead of reinforcing the idea of the American Dream, this Cantonese film turns that dream upside down, instead seeking an addendum to Lazarus’ poem: profound regret. “If I could choose all over again, I would choose to stay in China – better than in America,” Eng’s father says. “Because nowadays, when I’m in China, there’s freedom to make money. Nobody tries to stop you. … [But back then] I needed to find a way to help my family.” Despite a strong ending, genuine moments of emotional discovery and eye-opening truths about the changing conditions in China and the United States, Eng’s film, at just 53 minutes, feels underdeveloped and only a step or two above an impromptu handheld-camera travelogue. When combined with the 28-minute Vietnamese documentary War Within the Walls, about a group of disabled children living with the effects of Agent Orange, My Life in China could be a worthwhile watch. But judged as a stand-alone feature, it comes up just short. – CM

Screenings: 4:15 p.m. Saturday, April 11, at Enzian Theater and 1:30 p.m. Friday, April 17, at Regal Winter Park Village

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