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Movie Blog MSPIFF Spotlights: 2 Docs, ‘Applause’

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Working to end the cycle of violence in Chicago in "The Interrupters." (credit: Kartemquin Films)

Working to end the cycle of violence in Chicago in “The Interrupters.” (credit: Kartemquin Films)

Eric Henderson Eric Henderson
Eric Henderson joined the WCCO.COM web team in June 2006 and currently...
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By Eric Henderson, WCCO

No shortage of what the MSPIFF Facebook page just termed “post-Easter brunch options” today. And some of them are, I hate to tell those of you already nursing a chocolate egg hangover, just about essential viewing.

Two documentaries screen inconveniently at the exact same time, but both still have encore performances later this week, so you can feel better about missing one now and catching it later.

First up is the new documentary from Hoop Dreams director Steve James, The Interrupters, an astonishing piece of reportage on the repeating cycle of violence in Chicago and the seemingly Sisyphean efforts of those who aim to curb it.

The “Interrupters” of the title are former gang members themselves who, having an intimate, first-person knowledge of the social structures and external forces that foster violence, come off as our best hope. But the movie’s real coup is erasing the lines of division that one would normally expect. This is no “Us vs. Them” melodrama. (Theater 1, 4:30 p.m.)

On the flip of the Interrupters’ attempt to stop ongoing violence, Better This World covers violence that never actually happened (sort of): an attempted bombing at the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul.

The documentary follows the story of Bradley Crowder and David McKay, who, fixated on the war in Iraq, work up an, um, alternate solution. Having been one of the approximately 3 million journalists who descended on the city three years ago, and having spent an hour hearing the “RNC Welcoming Committee” discuss the St. Paul Police Department’s fixation with scatology, it’s interesting to see another, darker portrait of political discontent. (Theater 3, 4:30 p.m.)

Violence of a more emotional tenor penetrates Applause, a very Cassavetes-style, Opening Night sort of joint. The similarities between stage actress Thea’s turbulent life offstage, out of the limelight and her life embodying one of modern drama’s most volatile characters (Edward Albee’s Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) are somewhat too close for comfort.

The drama itself does pale a bit in comparison to the entirely sui generis brilliance of the John Cassavetes movies Applause seems to clearly be imitating, but you can be sure that you won’t see too many more performances this year as penetrating and vivid as Paprika Steen’s central role here. (Theater 4, 9 p.m.)

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All shows are playing at the St. Anthony Main Theatre. For the complete festival schedule, click here. An alphabetical listing of all the movies being shown can be found here. Ticket information is here.

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