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More IFFB!

 

How good is this year's Independent Film Festival of Boston?  So good we couldn't fit all our glowing reviews on one page of hard copy. Here are eight more of them.


**1/2
DRAGONSLAYER

73 MINUTES | SOMERVILLE THEATRE | APRIL 29 @ 9:15 PM

Something between a hipster extraordinaire and an extraordinary nihilist, Fresno-bred amateur skateboarder and professional train wreck Josh "Skreech" Sandoval is one of those ideal drunken degenerate subjects who stays just conscious enough to give hysterical confessionals. Skreech is gold to watch, with his constant vomiting of Ramen noodles and futile attempts at impossible skate tricks; but at its best moments, Dragonslayer offers a devastating yet subtle critique of the commercialization of the once free-spirited sport, and shows how the skateboarding world still has a competitive underground that respects the empty pool-side culture. Filmmaker Tristan Patterson even does a solid job of partitioning a storyline that has no obvious beginning or end, but in another sense this is also just a very dope nostalgic skate video with some deeply personal behind-the-scenes highlights.

_Chris Faraone

**1/2
GOD WILLING

73 MINUTES | SOMERVILLE THEATRE | MAY 1 @ 5:15 PM

Few topics make for more compelling documentaries than cults and Jesus nuts in general. In God Willing, director Evangeline Griego flips the script on that age-old set-up, telling the story of self-styled messiah Jim Roberts and his elusive "Brotherhood," but through the eyes of friends and family members who lost loved ones to this separatist clan. God Willing is beyond sad and even painful; in their cross-country pursuit of this nomadic tribe, moms and dads become full-time detectives, even memorizing the group's scriptures in preparing to hopefully deprogram their possessed children. Griego's fly-on-the-wall approach falls just short of being journalism, and she could have gone much further in impugning Roberts. But with that said, the faces on these parents when their reunification efforts prove futile may be damning enough.

_Chris Faraone

***1/2
IF A TREE FALLS: A STORY OF THE EARTH LIBERATION FRONT

85 MINUTES | BRATTLE THEATRE | MAY 1 @ 3 PM

The feds call Earth Liberation Front members domestic terrorists. In reality they're better described as aggressive hippies who got the full attention of corporate crooks and environmental criminals. Director Marshall Curry's If A Tree Falls tells the total tale of the ELF's genesis in Oregon, and of the group's badass campaign of "economic sabotage" that left more than 1200 symbols of bourgeois excess burned to the ground. But it also zeroes in on one particularly tragic member who paid dearly for his strong convictions. While kind to the plights of activists who face hard time for victimless crimes, this film is balanced - conservative dicks could easily interpret it as validation of the group's persecution. Progressives, however, will likely walk away with ideas on how to replicate ELF efforts twenty times over in the Twitter age.

_Chris Faraone

***1/2
PROJECT NIM

93 MINUTES | BRATTLE THEATER MAY 1 @ 5:30 pm

Once regarded as cuddly, chimpanzees now seem downright demonic after the incident in Connecticut in which a pet ape destroyed somebody's face. Nim, the subject of this provocative documentary by James Marsh (Man on Wire), won't do much for his species' reputation, and even less for that of homo sapiens. Four decades ago Herb Terrace, a Columbia University linguist, took the infant Nim (full name: "Nim Chimpsky") and resettled him with the well-to-do family of Stephanie, a former student (and lover). The purpose: to teach Nim sign language and prove that chimps can use it to communicate. Inevitably, the experiment revealed more about the humans than about the animal. As he grew older, Nim developed an Oedipal relationship with Stephanie. "It was the 70s," says the foster mom as she recalls how the ape explored her body. The story gets more absurd and sadder after that, and though Marsh's Errol Morris-like style can get glib, it never gets boring.

_Peter Keough

***
PUSH: MADISON VS. MADISON

105 MINUTES | SOMERVILLE THEATRE | APRIL 30 @ 7:30 PM

Before his semi-retirement, Dennis Wilson was an assistant football coach, history teacher, pep squad ringleader, and chief disciplinarian at Madison Park High School in Roxbury. If that wasn't enough, he was also head coach of the best varsity hoops team in Massachusetts, and a surrogate father to every at-risk kid who passed through his program. The subtitle of Rudy Hypolite's impassioned documentary is a reference to how the only team that can beat MP is itself; between homelessness, gang wars, and domestic violence, the guys on this squad have more than free throw percentages to worry about. The team profiled, which was upset by Braintree High School in a 2007 regional semi-finals game, was even plagued by two star players who refused to pass to one another on account of their ties to different housing projects. If you ever doubted that life is different on the black side of the tracks, then look no further than this critical work of local pride.

_Chris Faraone

***1/2
SUBMARINE

94 MINUTES | SOMERVILLE THEATRE | APRIL 29 @ 9:30 PM

Lindsay Anderson's If... (1968) set the standard for movies about rebellious teens in stuffy schools, and Richard Ayoade's tart black comedy does credit to the tradition. Here the eloquent misfit is Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts), a cynical wise guy whose inept horniness competes with his existential anxiety. He's bullied, of course, but that doesn't stop him from bullying others, especially if it pleases a girl, Jordana (Yasmin Paige), who's alluring despite her eczema, morbidity, and possible pyromania. Bullying aside, though, Oliver has a good heart, and he fears that his mother will leave his depressive dad for an old flame who teaches a self-help course involving auras. Inevitably, his love for Jordana and his dread of a broken home come in conflict. A bit contrived, maybe, but with Oliver's drily hilarious voiceover, Ayoade's eye for whimsically profound visuals, and music by Alex Turner of Arctic Monkeys, it makes more sense than it should.

_Peter Keough

***
THE TRIP

109 MINUTES | SOMERVILLE APRIL 29 @ 7:15 pm

In his brilliant "adaptation" of Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy, Michael Winterbottom created a self-reflexive parodic movie of the quintessential self-reflexive parodic novel. He couldn't have done it without cast members Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon, and all three are back for this less clever and funny semi-sequel. Playing themselves, Coogan and Brydon go on a tour of British restaurants to research a magazine article that Coogan is inexplicably. Perhaps The Trip is intended as an update of Sterne's A Sentimental Journey, but more often it resembles a road version of My Dinner with Andre with numerous competing impressions of Michael Caine and Sean Connery plus excursions to literary sites like Coleridge's Cottage in Somerset. Nonetheless, if you're going to be stuck in a car driving on the M-6, you could do worse than having this ebullient, bickering pair as company, even if it all ends with platitudes about fame, ambition, loneliness, and family.

_Peter Keough

**
TROLL HUNTER

NORWEGIAN | 103 MINUTES | BRATTLE THEATRE | APRIL 29 @ 9:30 PM

"Dere's trolls in dem dar hills," could be the catchphrase for Hans (Otto Jespersen), the weary huntsman of  title - and it'd have to be muttered in Norwegian too, as André Øvredal's mythic mockumentary takes place among the bucolic ravines and forests of Norway where a troll problem exists that the public is largely unaware of. Øvredal, ostensibly operating on a low budget, keeps it tight, throwing in a government cover-up (bears are to blame for attacks) and the Blair Witch POV device (a shaky hand-held camera operated by a trio of students trying to find out what Hans is up to). The trolls (and you see them early on) are gaudy computer FX that tower over trees and bellow with the force of a hurricane. How the Norwegian government has kept the wraps on something so conspicuous is hard to figure, however. But if you buy that, Troll Hunter might appeal to the cult hungry.

_Tom Meek

| More


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