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Picks and previews from this year's Florida Film Festival 

From April 10-19, the Enzian Theater hosts the 24th annual Florida Film Festival. For 10 days, more than 170 films, including documentaries, narrative features and shorts programs, screen at Enzian Theater (1300 S. Orlando Ave., Maitland, 407-629-1088) and Regal Winter Park Village (510 N. Orlando Ave., Winter Park, 407-628-0035). In addition, Enzian hosts a handful of free panel discussions, the Locally Fresh farmers market, a block party, industry party and more. Check out the website at floridafilmfestival.com for a complete lineup of films and events. In the meantime, here are the movies we reviewed in advance of the festival that we think you might be interested in checking out. For more reviews and up-to-date festival information, keep up on our website at orlandoweekly.com.

Across the Sea ★★☆☆☆
Damla and Kevin are New York newlyweds expecting a baby she doesn’t seem to want. Hoping to better understand his wife’s upbringing in Turkey, Kevin proposes a trip to the Aegean Sea resort where Damla spent her childhood summers. What he doesn’t anticipate are the ghosts of an old relationship, which may doom their future. Across the Sea, an unrelentingly depressing, though well-acted, drama in both Turkish and English, is a story of painful regret. It’s filled with moody, music-filled, handheld shots of contemplative characters walking the beach or strolling city streets – and almost nothing else, at least until the final emotional minutes. Directors Nisan Dag and Esra Saydam try to overwhelm us with atmospheric longing and thereby create a movie that is greater than the sum of its parts. Perhaps they want to bathe us in the light of lost love and conjure up an image of Jay Gatsby, transfixed by the metaphorical light at the end of Daisy’s dock. But the only light here is the green one that this film should not have gotten. – Cameron Meier

Screenings: 4 p.m. Tuesday, April 14, at Regal Winter Park Village and 6:45 p.m. Saturday, April 18, at Enzian Theater

Aspie Seeks Love ★★★☆☆
David Matthews is 46 years old, lives outside Pittsburgh, is perpetually single despite his mildly successful writing career, and, oh, he has Asperger’s. If that last tidbit sounds like a casual add-on, it sort of is, as he wasn’t diagnosed with the highly functioning form of autism until he was 41, despite years of social awkwardness and odd behavior that included posting flyers on trees and buildings advertising his interest in dating women. “I really do want to share my creative output with the world,” he says, “but, on the other hand, I feel self-conscious about presenting myself.” Those feelings are normal for David and others who suffer from the same neurological condition, but instead of presenting a figure isolated from the world, Aspie Seeks Love, an ambitious, multi-year documentary project from director Julie Sokolow, reminds us that we’re all quirky and unbalanced in our own unique way. Shot amateurishly and too reliant on the everyday events and chatter of David’s life, Aspie is still a sweet and startlingly intimate examination of one man’s quest for companionship and acceptance. The doc struggles to find a style to fit the quirkiness of its subject – Crumb it is not – but it ultimately succeeds by honestly embracing its odd humanity. – CM

Screenings: 7 p.m. Sunday, April 12, at Regal Winter Park Village and 4 p.m. Wednesday, April 15, at Regal Winter Park Village

Billy Mize and the Bakersfield Sound ★★★☆☆
If you’ve ever tapped your toes to a Buck Owens tune, you can blame Billy Mize for the wear in your soles. Credited as a founder of what became known and widely embraced as the Bakersfield Sound, Mize became a huge personality and influential performer in country music (like the country music equivalent to Carson Daly, if anyone still paid attention to music television) from the ’50s to the ’80s. In Billy Mize and the Bakersfield Sound, you are teleported through the stages of his career (and flashy fitted suits that made even Elvis swoon) and the personal tragedies that become a focal point of the documentary: Is there anything more authentic than a down-on-his-luck country singer? Mize’s career came to a halt in the ’90s following a stroke that rendered Mize mute for years. The film intersperses old clips from hit shows like Town Hall Party (California’s Grand Ole Opry), interviews with massive stars like Merle Haggard (who owes his first time onstage and his first time on television to Mize, both of which you get to see in the doc) and an emotional account of Mize’s continual struggle with painful, earth-shaking life events. It’s a story country music fans should hear. At times the film drags, but with a glimpse into the Crystal Palace and a heartfelt underdog angle, it’s a nice video collage of an exciting scene in a “little podunk town in the Valley” that launched chart-topping smash hits. – Ashley Belanger

Screenings: 9:15 p.m. Monday, April 13, at Enzian Theater and 2:45 p.m. Saturday, April 18, at Regal Winter Park Village

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  • 'Body'

Body ★☆☆☆☆
To say a film is bad is one thing; to say it’s unnecessary may be an even deeper cut. Yet that’s the word that comes to mind when watching Body, a wanna-be Hitchcockian thriller that, despite nice pacing and a refreshingly no-nonsense structure, feels unoriginal and tiresome from the get-go, relying too much on its score to deliver chills. Growing weary of their pot smoking, three 20-something valley-girl types are seeking fun on Christmas Eve. Their quest leads them to a deserted mansion that two of the women believe is the abode of the third woman’s wealthy uncle. When they learn the truth, it’s too late, and predictable trouble ensues, leading to, of course, bloodshed and infighting. To successfully use the “innocent everyman in trouble” formula that the master of suspense perfected, the innocents in question must be, well, innocent. Even more importantly, they must be somewhat likeable and in a predicament that seems plausible. But after a healthy dose of unbelievability, a fairly large plot hole and such classic Hitchcock lines as “This place is fucking sick” and “Christmas is fucking awesome,” it matters little that first-time writer-directors Dan Berk and Robert Olsen actually have some interesting things to say about morality and decision-making in a time of crisis. “What was it like, him dying? Was it fast?” one girl ponders. “Yeah, it just sort of happened,” another responds. If only the death of this film could have been as quick. – CM

Screenings: 7 p.m. Saturday, April 11, at Enzian Theater and 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 14, at Regal Winter Park Village

The Cult of JT LeRoy ★★★☆☆
Teen literary sensation JT LeRoy burned bright, but not for very long. After a meteoric rise, this fire of “transgressive fiction” was extinguished in 2006 at the age of 26. But he never truly died because he never really lived, and if you don’t already know LeRoy’s weird tale, that’s the only spoiler you’ll get here. Directed by Marjorie Sturm, The Cult of JT LeRoy doesn’t break much new journalistic ground – credit the New York Times with that – but it does present LeRoy’s life in a unique, revelatory way, complete with original interviews and an appropriately uncomfortable examination of the pretentious bullshit that accompanies fandom and fame. Once Sturm reveals the twist behind the “extraordinary found object” that is LeRoy, the documentary loses steam, as does a narrative fiction piece that has just lost its protagonist. But then it carefully navigates those difficult storytelling waters, managing to switch audience sympathies – or hatred – onto another player who is accurately described as “one of the craziest motherfuckers ever.” It’s just too bad this worthwhile feature is preceded by Everything That Smiles Back, a rambling, pointless, badly shot short doc about an eccentric trailer-park resident. I guess just about everything is film fodder these days. – CM

Screenings: 7 p.m. Monday, April 13, at Regal Winter Park Village and 9:30 p.m. Thursday, April 16, at Enzian Theater

The Editor ★★★★★
Canadian film-production company Astron-6 has released a couple of awesome genre satires in recent years. With The Editor, the company has raised its own bar, crafting a riotous homage to 1970s Italian giallo films that’s as sharply clever as it is absurd. Rey Cisco is a renowned editor who was driven mad one day and accidentally severed his fingers. When the actors in the latest film he’s editing begin to turn up dead with their fingers cut off, all signs point to Rey. But there’s something darker at the heart of this mystery, one that will send Rey and the investigator on his tail into the deep abyss of irreverence, bad lip-synching, neon lighting and blaring synth scores. Even if you aren’t familiar with giallos, The Editor has plenty to offer. It’s also the most quotable film you’ll see at the festival, so don’t be surprised if afterward at Eden Bar you hear people explaining how “a good man holds a beer.” – Patrick Cooper

Screenings: 11:59 p.m., April 11, at Regal Winter Park Village and 11:59 p.m., April 17, at Enzian Theater

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  • 'Gabriel'

Gabriel ★★☆☆☆
All too often in film, mental illness is treated like an adorable quirk – something hunky eccentrics have to deal with (see 2013 Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook). Very rarely is it depicted as the debilitating condition it actually is, the motherfucker that breaks families apart and leaves its victims in cuffs or drugged to high hell. Lou Howe’s debut, Gabriel, takes its titular protagonist Gabriel (Rory Culkin) and his condition very seriously, but the script is so painfully flat and lacking in emotional resonance that by the end of Gabriel’s slim running time, who the hell cares. This is a movie about a psychopathic kid acting psycho and his desire to rope in his one true love who wants nothing to do with him. On paper it sounds awesome, but watching it play out is agonizing. Culkin does his best with what’s on the page, but there’s zero connection between his character, his family and his love. It’s like watching a patchwork ensemble cast shade for 90 minutes. – PC

Screenings: 9:30 p.m. Saturday, April 11, at Enzian Theater and 4:30 p.m. Thursday, April 16, at Regal Winter Park Village

Gosford Park ★★★☆☆
No director dealt with multiple stars and storylines like Robert Altman. His skill at juggling and ultimately merging myriad plots and characters into a single, emotionally profound experience is legendary. From his masterpiece, Nashville, to classics such as Short Cuts, The Player and M.A.S.H., down to underappreciated gems like Popeye and A Prairie Home Companion, Altman left an indelible mark on cinema. Regrettably, Gosford Park is not among the master’s top-tier work. For most other directors, that would mean a thumbs-down review, but not for Altman, as the 2001 British mystery starring everyone from Maggie Smith to Clive Owen to Helen Mirren has energy, charm and intelligence. It just doesn’t crackle quite like Altman’s best work, perhaps because it needed a director with more of a British sensibility to match that of writer Julian Fellowes (of Downton Abbey fame). Veteran character actor Bob Balaban co-produced Gosford Park and also plays, appropriately, American film producer Morris Weissman, so it’s no surprise he chose the film for his April 12 “Evening With” event, at which he will participate in a Q&A. (But if you’re like me, you’ll want to ask the legendary character actor about his roles in Seinfeld and Close Encounters of the Third Kind – and why he never seems to age.) – CM

Screening: 7:30 p.m. Sunday, April 12, at Enzian Theater

Homeless ★★★☆☆
This movie, made by husband-and-wife team Clay and Tif Hassler, is a distressingly depressing piece about a teenager named Gosh who travels to North Carolina after the death of his grandmother. With no resources and no family to help him (his father is in prison), he ends up living in a homeless shelter, searches for work and tries to figure out who he can trust. This movie was shot in a homeless shelter and correctional facility in Winston-Salem, and among the actors are actual staff members and residents of the shelter. This gives the film an epic heaping of realism that makes it feel super bleak, uncomfortable and unfair. However, it also makes those moments when the movie tries to tell a story or hint at the motivations of its characters feel too forced and empty, making it tough to empathize (in more than in a detached way) with Gosh as he tries to navigate his cold, unwelcoming world. – Erin Sullivan

Screenings: 6:30 p.m., Monday, April 13, at Regal Winter Park Village and 4 p.m., Wednesday, April 15, at Enzian Theater

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  • 'I Am a Knife With Legs'

I Am a Knife With Legs ★★★☆☆
What is this monstrous mound of low-budget primitive absurdism called I Am a Knife With Legs? It’s part-animated, part-musical, part – wait, what is this thing with letters and numbers I’m typing on? It’s not really a typewriter and it’s not really a keyboard. It’s weird. I digress. So, “I’m a knife with legs and special pants and a cat with a bag of eggs,” pop superstar Bené (writer-director-musician Bennett Jones) sings to us amid halfhearted jump cuts, dream sequences, music videos and intentionally bad mixes of looping and live sound. He’s struggling to get over the death of his girlfriend Baguette at the hands of a suicide bomber while dodging a random fatwa. Yet he still finds time to croon such classics as “Changes Make Things Different,” “Sexy Love” and “All Religion Is Stupid, Especially Yours.” Accompanying Bené is his “manager/security/DJ/foil character/drinking buddy” Beefy (Will Crest) who, in a metaphor for the film, asks his abhole-shirt-wearing, Tommy Wiseau-acting friend, “Where are we going with this?” The answer: absolutely nowhere. Yet if you love folk-art cinema, long for an even-lower-budget Borat or have recently been beaten severely about the head and face with a custard-filled éclair while watching Harrison Ford fend off a bear and converse with a tiny Frankenstein’s monster, see this movie. Because movie. – CM

Screenings: 4:15 p.m. Sunday, April 12, at Regal Winter Park Village and 9:30 p.m. Thursday, April 16, at Regal Winter Park Village

I Am Thor ★★★★☆
One thing the Florida Film Festival is unfailingly good for: introducing audiences to oddball has-been types like Jon Mikl Thor, a bodybuilder/actor/metal musician who fronted the band Thor beginning in the 1970s. The movie recounts Thor’s early days working as a buff blond sex symbol who let women give him blowjobs on stage, follows him through the highlights and low points of his music career (the band tours, finds itself on the cover of metal fanzines, then eventually goes down the tubes and disappears), and eventually morphs into a movie star. But the fame is fleeting, and Thor (the man, not the band) recounts how he burned out: The stress gets to him, he has a nervous breakdown, and he tries to commit suicide. After recovering, he gets out of the business and tries to become normal, but a decade later, he decides to revive his music career. These days, the band Thor is back together, touring and trying to recapture some of the notoriety they used to enjoy. The film follows the band as they travel to shows and cons, playing as mostly a novelty act. They dress in elaborate getups and practice ridiculous stage moves in which the aged Thor conquers monsters while the metal band plays in the background. Diehard fans eat it up. It’s equal parts hilarious and depressing. If you remember Thor from when the band played in the ’70s and ’80s, go see this movie. If you don’t remember Thor, but you enjoy those “where are they now” docs about B-list (or even C-list) celebs, go see this movie. – ES

Screenings: 5 p.m., Sunday, April 12, at Enzian Theater and 9:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 15, at Regal Winter Park Village

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  • 'Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter'

Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter ★★★★☆
As an unmarried, misunderstood 29-year-old office worker in Tokyo, Kumiko (the extraordinary Rinko Kikuchi) leads a depressing, lonely life, eschewing everything and everyone except her pet rabbit, Bunzo. Her only joy is her obsession with the movie Fargo, which she perceives as real and, therefore, assumes that the money Steve Buscemi’s character buries in the snow is ripe for her plucking, if only she can traverse the 5,000 miles that separate her from the treasure. “I am like a Spanish conquistador,” she says. “Recently I’ve learned of untold riches hidden deep in the Americas. Long ago, Spanish conquistadors learned of such things from American Indians. Now I have learned from an American motion picture.” Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter could have been a ridiculous comedy substituting spoof for heart, but in the mature hands of David and Nathan Zellner – and executive producer Alexander Payne – it becomes a haunting homage to the Coen brothers and to every troubled soul who has been cinematically inspired to dream an impossible dream. – CM

Screenings: 7 p.m. Friday, April 17, at Regal Winter Park Village and 9 p.m. Sunday, April 19, at Regal Winter Park Village

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

Once Upon a Crime: The Borrelli-Davis Conspiracy ★★★★☆
“Seven years ago, I set out to tell a story involving crooked cops, a mafia godfather, murder, poisonings, Elvis Presley, prison gang leaders and a coke-addicted newspaper editor,” writer-director Sheldon Wilson tells us. “Who would have thought that that was just the beginning of the story?” OK, so Wilson’s documentary, Once Upon a Crime: The Borrelli-Davis Conspiracy, has virtually nothing to do with Elvis, cocaine or poison, but the facts of the real story are actually more fascinating. Retired New York policeman Mike Borelli and his friend and former cop Bob Davis were falsely accused in 1975 of the murder of a man Borelli worked with. It mattered little that there was no evidence tying them to the crime; they weren’t in the city at the time and Davis didn’t even know the victim. The police simply wanted a conviction. Wilson doesn’t exactly uncover a unique smoking gun to explain the case these 40 years later, but through emotional interviews with most of the participants, non-obtrusive re-enactments and a careful presentation of the facts, he forges an intriguing marriage of solid journalism and thrilling entertainment that’s on par with some of Errol Morris’ best work. Playing before the feature is the documentary short Mr. Gold (★★☆☆☆), which won’t mean much to non-locals but will grab the interest of Orlando residents who have seen the unique sign holder tipping his hat and waving to passersby on Colonial Drive. – CM

Screenings: 9:30 p.m. Saturday, April 11, at Regal Winter Park Village and 3:45 p.m. Friday, April 17, at Regal Winter Park Village

Proud Citizen ★★☆☆☆
It’s quite an accomplishment to make your narrative feature seem like a documentary. So congrats to Proud Citizen for that. But when said film is also lacking in emotional impact, implausibly plotted, badly paced and student-filmy, you’ve got a problem. Writer-director Thom Southerland’s black-and-white drama, which is getting its Southeast premiere at the festival, focuses like a laser on amateur playwright Krasimira Stanimirova (co-writer Katerina Stoykova-Klemer), who travels to Lexington, Kentucky, from her home in Bulgaria after winning second place in an international writing contest, to see her play performed. But when she gets there, she finds that the community theater troupe has little time for her. “I didn’t know traveling would be so lonely,” she says to herself in Bulgarian-language voiceover. “I keep waiting for people to appear and yell ‘surprise’ at me, or at least ‘Welcome to Kentucky, genius playwright.’” She wanders the streets, tours horse farms and befriends a single mom who invites her into her home and, preposterously, gives her complete control over her young child while she spends the night with an old boyfriend. Thanks to a promising premise and an interesting autobiographical, even extemporaneous, feel, Proud Citizen has its heart in the right place as it tries to offer unique commentaries on unmet expectations and cultural differences. But like Krasimira’s American Dream, the film never quite congeals. – CM

Sceenings: 5:15 p.m. Saturday, April 11, at Regal Winter Park Village and 1:15 p.m. Wednesday, April 15, at Enzian Theater

The Search for General Tso ★★★★☆
Be sure you eat before seeing this film, because the sticky-sweet, citrus-pungent, crunchy-fried, orange-and-green indulgence known as General Tso’s chicken is on screen making your mouth water for at least three-quarters of The Search for General Tso’s 71 minutes. Where did this delicious American-Chinese hybrid come from? The filmmakers stand on an American street asking passers-by about the dish; every one knows it, but no one’s heard of General Tso (though they’re happy to advance imaginative theories regarding his person). They repeat the exercise on a street in Shanghai, and everyone’s familiar with the general – a well-known historical Chinese figure – but no one recognizes the dish. (Again with the theories: One woman pokes at the picture and says, “It doesn’t look like chicken. It looks like frog.”) And there you have it: What we think of in America as “Chinese food” is in fact not Chinese in the least, aside from being cooked for us by Chinese people. We aren’t eating Shanghai-style frog; we’re eating dishes created specifically for American palates with American ingredients, presented in a theatrically pleasing “ethnic” fashion. In The Search for General Tso, Ian Cheney and Jennifer 8. Lee trace the history of Chinese immigration to America, the few jobs that were open to the Chinese after the breathtakingly racist Exclusion Act of 1882 was passed, and the device by which regional Chinese associations assiduously disseminated the model of the American Chinese restaurant. Maybe you’ve never wondered why a Chinese restaurant in the middle of Boondock, Utah, has the same name, the same decor, the same scrolly script on a menu offering the same dishes as a Chinese restaurant in Sticksville, Massachusetts, but Cheney and Lee did. And they’ve not only answered that question, but used it as a tidy metonym for racial discrimination and patterns of integration. “I don’t think that General Tso’s chicken is the most popular ethnic dish in the country,” says restaurateur Ed Schoenfeld at the beginning of the film, “only because there’s pizza.” The history of Italian immigration to America parallels that of the Chinese in some ways, as does the history of “Italian” restaurants in America. The fact that this culinary strategy for assimilation seems to be shared by all émigrés proves on a larger stage the adage that the best way to someone’s heart is through the stomach. – Jessica Bryce Young

Screening: 12:30 p.m. Sunday, April 12, Regal Winter Park Village

click to enlarge 'Tomorrow We Disappear'
  • 'Tomorrow We Disappear'

Tomorrow We Disappear ★★★★☆
From the very beginning you know where this is going. An artist colony in New Delhi, India – one that features some of the more remarkable, sometimes utilitarian, hired personalities that bend over backwards to pick up sticks or don comic masks for parties or work the strings of a marionette in order to make events seem otherworldly – is under attack, because the land that they live on in the Kathputli Colony is purchased for development. It’s an odd take on gentrification (usually these stories don’t involve the amount of methodical whimsy shown by the artists in this film), but it’s familiar in its futility. Typical documentary gazes aside, Tomorrow We Disappear brings an artistic flair to its storytelling, and also the pain and grimaces of a generation and a culture being pressed out of its history. The personalities here are magical – as are some of their acts – but the frustration and fear is likewise palpable, which makes for some occasionally saddening asides, especially when it comes to bringing up another generation. The so-called “tinsel slum” will never be the same, but it’s definitely worth the 85 minutes to watch its heart beat. “Are we artists,” one of the subjects of the doc asks, “or are we poor people? We have no idea.” – Billy Manes

Screenings: 11:45 a.m. Sunday, April 12, at Enzian Theater and 7 p.m. Wednesday, April 15, at Regal Winter Park Village

Uncle John ★★★☆☆
The debut of writer-director Steven Piet, Uncle John is a tale of crime and its consequences that stars seasoned character actor John Ashton (Beverly Hills Cop) as the titular character, a small town carpenter whose surface calm is masking a sinister secret. Meanwhile, in Chicago, his nephew Ben (Alex Moffat) is struggling with his feelings for his new boss. As his romantic feelings are met with constant frustrations, his uncle’s life is unwinding as the police and a local good ol’ boy cast shade on him. The parallel stories both involve characters trying their best to keep primal feelings at bay, but every time the film cuts to Ben, all the wonderful tension built up with John is lost. His relationship with his boss is not nearly as interesting as what’s going on in the country. Fortunately, once the two stories converge, Piet ratchets up the anxiety to nearly unbearable levels. Ashton delivers a remarkably expressive performance and the always-great Ronnie Gene Blevins (Joe) brings an unnerving menace to every frame. The seesawing between nerve-wracking crime drama and romance just doesn’t always work. – PC

Screenings: 6:15 p.m. Sunday, April 12, at Regal Winter Park Village and 4 p.m. Friday, April 17, at Enzian Theater

Welcome to Leith ★★★★☆
It must be wicked exhausting to go through life hating everyone. It’s probably more draining if you’re absolutely oblivious to the world. Such is the case with vile knucklehead Craig Cobb, an infamous white supremacist whose exploits in a small North Dakota town are documented in Welcome to Leith. The titular town consists of only 24 (yes, 24) residents who are all blue collar, hard-working folks who enjoy their seclusion. Then along came Cobb, buying available land for his fellow scumbags to stake their National Socialism flags on. Cobb and his band of neo-Nazis try to hijack Leith through childish antagonism and a hate group message board. Their scheme to take over the town sounds laughably pathetic, but they’re also heavily armed with itchy trigger fingers. Filmmakers Michael Beach Nichols and Christopher Walker have crafted a gripping documentary that isn’t interested in exploring First Amendment legal rights. We’re clearly rooting against Cobb and all of the film’s tension is drawn from wondering what idiotic thing he’ll do or say next. The one downside is that Welcome to Leith ends on a very anticlimactic note. It’s obvious Nichols and Walker should’ve pursued the story further, but what they do present is both horrific and humorous. – PC

Screenings: 2:30 p.m. Saturday, April 11, at Regal Winter Park Village and 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 14, at Enzian Theater

click to enlarge 'Wildlike'
  • 'Wildlike'

Wildlike ★★★★☆
When 14-year-old Mackenzie’s mom goes into rehab, she’s sent from Seattle to Juneau, Alaska, to stay with her uncle for the summer. What seems at first like a sullen teen/eager-to-please adult scenario soon morphs into a situation surely worse than whatever was happening when she lived with her mom. As the creepily unnamed “Uncle,” Brian Geraghty (the priggish co-pilot in Flight; the by-the-book bomb specialist in The Hurt Locker) ably builds on his repertoire of straitlaced guys who come unhinged. Newcomer Ella Purnell, as Mackenzie, doesn’t act so much as point her Clara Bow face at people and things, but the Alaskan wilderness in which much of the film is set is as heartbreakingly gorgeous as her mug, so it’s a good match. Bruce Greenwood, the reluctant father figure she turns to when she runs away from Uncle, could do this role in his sleep, but luckily, he doesn’t – he is fully present in each scene, his intense focus sometimes filling in for Purnell’s lack of articulacy. That deficit can’t be blamed completely on her; she may not yet have the screen presence of her more seasoned co-stars, but she’s given very little coherent dialogue, reduced to sucking on her hoodie sleeve to demonstrate her agitation. Rounding out the cast, the marvelous Ann Dowd (The Leftovers) is underutilized but magical in her brief on-screen time. Cinematographer Hillary Spera renders the landscapes and the actor’s faces with equally lucid beauty, and composers Daniel Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans provide a haunting underpinning. Any flaws in this, writer-producer-director Frank Hall Green’s debut feature, are wiped away by the intermittent moments of loveliness Wildlike strings together. – JBY

Screenings: 1:30 p.m. Saturday, April 11, at Enzian Theater and 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 14, at Regal Winter Park Village

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