Parting Shots: The St. Louis International Film Festival wraps Sunday, but there's still plenty worth checking out

SLIFF's eighteenth installment will come to a close with a free party and awards ceremony at the Moonrise Hotel at 8 p.m. on Sunday, November 22. But read on for a small sample of what else is in store for this week. Plus, click here for information about a triple bill playing at Webster University that includes Errol Flynn's The Adventures of Robin Hood, and click here for a sneak peek at two films about legendary local bands Mama's Pride and Pavlov's Dog.

Munyurangabo
A heaviness — call it lived-in shellshock — hangs over the green Rwandan hills in Lee Isaac Chung's serious-minded, immersive debut. Sangwa joins fellow capital-city flotsam Ngabo on a trek to avenge Ngabo's father, but first, they visit Sangwa's estranged family. There, the journey stops before it begins: Sangwa takes root in his home turf, yielding to his mother's cooking and reconciling with his rigid father. Ngabo (short for "Munyurangabo") finds a drinking buddy, but as a Tutsi, he's suspect, and, watching father and son, feels orphaned and friendless anew. The 28-year-old Chung, an American, shot the movie on Super 16 in eleven days in 2006 while teaching filmmaking at a relief mission, but it feels fully formed, re-energizing the idiom of pastoral drift, folklore and elemental tension that is so popular in festival-circuit village narratives. Blunt dialogue undercuts the elliptical plot, and the acting is lethargic beyond any intended mood. But Chung's handle on a super-fraught milieu is sure, and carefully considered images of Sangwa's family farming or Ngabo vacillating stick. Without proselytizing, what's left in this machetes-to-plowshares tale is, unexpectedly, a powerfully Christian film. Wednesday, November 18, 5 p.m. at Plaza Frontenac.
—Nicolas Rapold

The Wonder of It All
Just last week, the NASA probe LCROSS found a "significant amount" of water on the moon. Significant enough to earn a breaking-news tag on the MSNBC, FOX and CNN websites, anyway. That big ball o' green cheese continues to make headlines, evoke emotion and even inspire debate about its place in our nation's future. The Wonder of It All talks to seven astronauts from the Apollo missions — Buzz Aldrin, Alan Bean, Eugene Cernan, Charles Duke, Edgar Mitchell, Harrison Schmitt and John Young — as they reflect on their experiences leading up to, and finally setting foot upon, the moon. Here, they're portrayed not as brainy, stoic science types, but as humble, appreciative (and sometimes downright giddy) men recounting their lives' most far-out trip. Instead of calculating incomprehensible numbers and miles between here and there, the film focuses on the humanness of their incredible journeys and the reactions to them here on Earth. Mostly comprised of straight-on shots of the former astronauts interspersed with footage from the moon landings, The Wonder of It All is not the festival's most action-packed offering, but indeed fulfills its mission of being a genuine, spirited look into the vastness of space and the human soul. Wednesday, November 18, 5 p.m. at the Tivoli.
—Kristie McClanahan

Pop Star On Ice
Like a lot of figure skaters, Johnny Weir has a soft spot for tight-fitting clothes and all things Russian. Unlike a lot of figure skaters, Weir's sashayed down a runway in New York's Fashion Week, answered questions from the press peppered with drug references and has a gaggle of fans who call themselves "Johnny's Angels." (Or, yes, "Archangels.") While some of skating's biggest names gush over his natural (if late-blooming) talent, others are less impressed with his flip comments and perceived take-it-or-leave-it attitude toward the sport and the country he represents. But Pop Star On Ice also suggests that Weir is perhaps more concerned with the artistic-expression side of figure skating than the average athlete — one that seems to have become lost in skating's new points system that rewards artless, formulaic programs. The film mostly avoids the montages typical of a sports-centered movie and instead proves a surprisingly funny and personal look at one of figure skating's most colorful phenoms. Wednesday, November 18, 7 p.m. at the Tivoli.
—Kristie McClanahan

The Wonder of It All
The Wonder of It All
Youssou N'Dour: I Bring What I Love
Youssou N'Dour: I Bring What I Love

Jerichow
Retooled noir with less pulp than its original source, Christian Petzold's Jerichow wryly riffs on The Postman Always Rings Twice for late-capitalist Deutschland. Mostly cool where James M. Cain's 1934 novel and the 1946 and 1981 film versions run hot, Jerichow is interested less in the frictions of bodies rubbing up against each other than in the static of class and cultural tensions as wads of euros exchange hands. As in Petzold's previous movie, Yella, the dehumanizing qualities of commerce drive the narrative. But where the earlier film lost some of its punch to a cheap plot contrivance, the tight twists and turns of Jerichow suggest that Petzold has become a far more robust storyteller. The players in Jerichow's love triangle — Ali (Hilmi Sözer), a Turkish snack-shop proprietor; his wife, Laura (Petzold regular Nina Hoss); and Thomas (Benno Fürmann), the ex-soldier Ali hires as a driver — are consistently excellent, with Sözer's broken, pathetic magnate starting out pitiful before becoming contemptible and, finally, human, as his tentative swagger is constantly undermined by his outsider status. Petzold's film forgoes the prolonged double-crosses of The Postman Always Rings Twice, its simpler ending made all the more powerful—and a little heartbreaking. Wednesday, November 18, 9:30 p.m. at Plaza Frontenac.
—Melissa Anderson

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