Third Time's a Charm

Columbia's True/False Film Festival tops itself. Again.

Chalk (Mike Akel). Chalk is the mockumentary Christopher Guest wishes he had conceived. This glimpse into the world of public high school teaching is so absurd — and yet so plausible — that the audience may spend much of the film mulling the cliché "You can't make this stuff up." Chalk outlines a full school year at Harrison High and follows the teachers' education tactics; some jade students with hokey hipness while others actually impress with jokes like, "I'm going to beat her like a step-child!" One crazed teacher plots a coup of the coveted Teacher of the Year title, while others cram to compete in the Spelling Hornet (a bee that challenges teachers to spell student slang like "shawty" and "scheisty"). While some elements of this funny film may seem a bit far-fetched (like, say, if you're a graduate of Catholic school), anyone who has survived the public education system will empathize all too well. Even when the phys-ed instructor teaches the Robot. Screens at 9:30 p.m. Saturday, February 25, at the Ragtag Cinema. Director Akel attends. — Kristyn Pomranz

Favela Rising (Matt Mochary and Jeff Zimbalist). Rio de Janeiro may be internationally known for its annual Carnaval parade, that giant statue of Jesus and providing inspiration for Barry Manilow's infamous "Copacabana." Locally, however, its six million residents are more familiar with a city of 600 favelas (slums), each teeming with rampant poverty, violence, police corruption and drug wars. In response to a 1993 street massacre, a musical movement called Afro Reggae emerges from within Vigario Geral — "Brazil's Bosnia" — with aspirations of uniting the city's disadvantaged through independent publications, community programs and, perhaps most important, infectious percussion grooves. This festival-circuit warhorse from filmmakers Jeff Zimbalist and Matt Mochary balances harrowing footage with a portrait of movement founder Anderson Sa, a surfing enthusiast and former drug soldier who faces increasing physical, mental and societal challenges as his project successfully presents alternatives for directionless youth, earns a record deal and expands the scope of its efforts with each passing day. Screens at 7 p.m. Saturday, February 25, at the Ragtag Cinema. Sound designer Michael Furjanic attends. (JS)

Holy Modal Rounders...Bound to Lose (Sam Douglas and Paul Lovelace) The Stones aren't the only band that can keep the party going despite decades of drug use and decadence. It's just that sometimes the drugs can siphon all the remaining decadence out of long-time performers' careers. Witness the Holy Modal Rounders, a cult group of post-Beat, pre-hippie musicians who traveled in the same circles as an early-'60s Bob Dylan but experienced only a milli-fraction of Dylan's success. Band members Peter Stampfel and Steve Weber relate stories of taking LSD to relieve headaches, fashioning drug paraphernalia out of basketball-inflation needles and being collared for (alleged) dildo theft — yet they're hesitant to fault hedonism and the inability to adapt to the harsher vibe of the '70s for their current dive-bar-headlining status. Featuring special appearances by Loudon Wainwright III and Wavy Gravy! Screens at 3 p.m. Saturday, February 25, at the Forrest Theater. Directors Douglas and Lovelace and star Peter Stampfel attend. (JS)

Paul Sturtz calls Why We Fight "the most important film we're playing."
Paul Sturtz calls Why We Fight "the most important film we're playing."


Thursday through Sunday, February 23 through 26, in Columbia. Visit or call 573-442-8783 for tickets, venue details and more information.

Homemade Hillbilly Jam (Rick Minnich). From CBS' long-running The Beverly Hillbillies to the 2000 silver-screen moneymaker O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Hollywood's portrayal of backwoods life often relies on stereotypes about prevalent ignorance, fashion sense cribbed straight from Hee Haw and hefty brown jugs cryptically marked "XXX." But that depiction just isn't right, says Springfield-based Big Smith, five Ozark cousins who are fiercely proud of their heritage and center their lives around family, religion and the creation of gospel-blues-country music. Through a handful of shows, a speaking engagement at then-Southwest Missouri State University and a visit to Branson, Jody and Mark Bilyeu, Jay and Mike Williamson, Rik Thomas and their extended kin explore the role that music plays in preserving a legacy. And it's not just the menfolk who do all the pickin' and grinnin'; watch for Aunt Dottie and Grandma Thelma to strut their stuff alongside the family's professionals. Screens at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, February 26, at the Missouri Theatre. Director Minnich and subject Big Smith attend. (JS)

The Last Supper (Lars Bergstrom and Mats Bigert). Hey, murderer! Whaddya wanna eat before we lethally inject you? So stands the core question of the riveting documentary The Last Supper. This film-slash-art-piece covers the four cornerstones of last-meal knowledge: a succinct history (if an exiled soul was hungry in the crossover from life to death, its tummy-rumblin' would cause it to become stuck in limbo); stomach-turning trivia (one woman had her flesh sliced off piece by piece and was forced to eat it fried); last suppers in different cultures (in China, any unfinished eats are given to monks, who consume the food for the departed spirit); and, of course, how to make a mean final meal of fried catfish and onion rings (as annotated, cooking-show style, by convict-cum-jailhouse-chef Brian Price). Additionally, this visually arresting documentary subtitles its facts in stark text on relevant pictorials (a half-eaten loaf of bread; plates being cleaned in blood-stained soapy water), all while providing fodder for your capital-punishment debates. Replete with everything you never knew you wanted to know about Death Row cuisine, Last Supper leaves you satisfied. Screens at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, February 25, at the Ragtag Cinema. Co-director Bigert and subject Brian Price attend. (KP)

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