Screenings take place at the AMC Loews Wisconsin Avenue, 4000 Wisconsin Ave. NW; American University’s Greenberg Theatre, 4200 Wisconsin Ave. NW; the Avalon Theatre, 5612 Connecticut Ave. NW; the E Street Cinema, 555 11th St. NW; the Embassy of Canada, 501 Pennsylvania Ave. NW; the National Gallery of Art’s East Building Auditorium, 4th and Constitution Avenue NW; and the Regal Gallery Place, 701 7th St. NW.

Admission is $9 unless otherwise noted. For more information, call (202) 628-3456 or visit filmfestdc.org.

Filmfest DC is 20 this year, a landmark that has been greeted with—well, more of the same. And perhaps not even that. It’s impossible to be certain without viewing all of the films—the Washington City Paper’s critics were able to see only about half of the 69 programmed features—but 2006 does not seem destined to be one of Filmfest’s better years.

Of course, no one can watch all of those movies in the fest’s 12 days, and devoted Filmfestgoers who choose wisely can still have a fine cinematic experience. The City Paper recommends several of the previewable films, notably the documentaries Beyond Beats and Rhymes: A Hip Hop Head Weighs In on Manhood in a Hip Hop Culture, East of Havana, Letter to the President, and The Long Haul of A.I. Bezzerides and the fiction features Live-In Maid, My Uncle Killed a Guy, Netto, and Passion. There are also a few movies—but only a few—that seem good bets based on their directors or reviews elsewhere, especially Mohammad Rasoulof’s Iron Island, the Brothers Quay’s The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes, and Mark Dornford-May’s U-Carmen eKhayelitsha, which was chosen as the best film at the 2005 Berlin Film Festival.

For 2005, Filmfest added guest programmers to organize sidebars on Indian and Chinese film—a wise move that expanded the festival’s programming and its worldview. This year, despite spotlights on Brazil and hip-hop, the festival seems narrower than ever. The largest country in South America has hardly been underrepresented at Filmfest. Nor has popular music, which has perennially appeared in the fest’s Global Rhythms program. Between it and the hip-hop program, this year’s event includes some 20 music features, enough to crowd the rest of the selection.

Filmfest is not required, of course, to do what similar festivals do. Still, it’s notable that a lot of the current hits on the international circuit are missing from D.C.’s lineup. When arranging a film festival, timing is a major factor, so the American fests most closely aligned with Filmfest DC are the Philadelphia Film Festival, which ended on April 11, and the San Francisco International Film Festival, which began on April 20. As might be expected, the three overlap: Philadelphia screened 13 movies that will also be shown in D.C., and San Francisco will show 11.

Yet the Philly and Frisco fests feature more of the talked-about flicks on the circuit today. One or both of them obtained Masahiro Kobayashi’s Bashing, Patrice Chéreau’s Gabrielle, Laurent Cantet’s Heading South, Andrucha Waddington’s The House of Sand, Ryuichi Hiroki’s It’s Only Talk, Seijun Suzuki’s Princess Raccoon, Alexander Sokurov’s The Sun, Rashid Masharawi’s Waiting, and Tsai Ming-liang’s The Wayward Cloud. This list shares five entries with the current Village Voice–sponsored program of the best overlooked films of 2005, which continues to April 26 at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Of the BAM selections, only one, Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Three Times, will be shown in Filmfest DC. Like a large number of fest selections, it’s scheduled to open in Washington over the next several weeks. Plan accordingly.

A lot of the movies mentioned in the previous paragraph are from East Asia, a filmmaking nexus that has been largely neglected by Filmfest DC in recent years. This year’s program includes not a single movie from Japan, Korea, or Thailand, only one from Taiwan, and two Hong Kong co-productions, one with China and the other with Singapore and Australia. Instead, we get dubious Hollywood stuff such as Akeelah and the Bee and Hard Candy and, as always, the new one from Argentine sentimentalist Eliseo Subiela.

For now, Filmfest DC deserves congratulations for surviving 20 years—and thanks for bringing us such movies as Beyond Beats and Rhymes and Three Times. Before next April, however, a little rethinking would be welcome. Like other U.S. film festivals, Washington’s can be expected to accept a certain proportion of almost-mainstream schlock and to cultivate audiences who would never attend a Hou Hsiao-hsien film. But a fest that excludes the most challenging contemporary cinema risks becoming irrelevant. Filmfest DC needs to give us more of what we can’t get anywhere else in town.—Mark Jenkins

Friday, April 21

Akeelah and the Bee

Following last year’s Jewish-mystical Bee Season comes director Doug Atchison’s African-American variant of the spelling-bee drama—which turns out to be pure Oprahvision. An indifferent student at a crummy South Central L.A. middle school, 11-year-old Akeelah (Keke Palmer) became an orthographic prodigy while communing with the spirit of her murdered father. When her principal learns of her skill, he pushes Akeelah into the citywide bee and then onward to the national event in D.C. He even recruits a coach for her, brooding UCLA professor Joshua Larabee (producer Laurence Fishburne, in another of his righteous-teacher roles). Larabee extols Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. DuBois but keeps a snippet of Marianne Williamson self-affirmation framed on his wall. He also needs a boatload of healing, of course, which will be arranged before the final narrative cheat of Akeelah’s showdown with arrogant Chinese-American superspeller Dylan Chiu (Sean Michael). (The next spelling-bee movie should go to Dylan’s ethnicity, if only to make up for Akeelah’s crude depiction of his dad as a suburban Ming the Merciless.) This Starbucks-produced movie is a competent example of megaplex uplift, but it’s not an exemplar of the cinematic arts. It belongs on cable TV, not in an international film festival. —Mark Jenkins

At 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the Avalon Theatre. Both screenings are free.

A World Without Thieves

While driving an extorted BMW into the Chinese outback, thieves Wang Bo and Wang Li happen upon a Buddhist monastery. Li (Rene Liu), in the midst of a crisis of conscience, insists on stopping to pray and befriends a young carpenter from the countryside, “affectionately” called Dumbo (Baoqiang Wang). They meet again on a train bound for Dumbo’s hometown. The guileless tradesman has just withdrawn his entire life savings to head home and find a wife; he decides not only to carry it with him on the train but also to announce that fact to all, perking the ears of a team of professional thieves led by Uncle Li (a shape-shifting You Ge). Li vows to protect her newly adopted little brother, but Bo (Hong Kong pop star Andy Lau) wants to roll the kid—for Dumbo’s own good, he reasons: Everyone needs to understand that evil lurks everywhere. Eventually, Li convinces Bo otherwise, and he becomes drawn into a series of allegorical battles against Uncle Li’s henchmen for Dumbo’s money and his own soul. Hong Kong writer-director Feng Xiaogang’s modern fairy tale is occasionally overstylized and heavy-handed—Dumbo, carpenter, orphan, keeps company with wolves; hmmm—but ultimately entertaining. The magnetic Lau plays his complex character with weary confidence and feline grace, and he and Liu make a good couple—their bickering has the right mix of familiarity, pettiness, and anger. Xiaogang may not achieve Wong Kar-wai subtlety, but he doesn’t lapse into Stephen Chow absurdity, either. —Huan Hsu

At 6:30 p.m. at the Regal Gallery Place. Also at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, April 29.

Netto

German writer-director Robert Thalheim’s sometimes heartbreaking feature debut is about broken families, failed dreams, and how the reunification of Germany is ostensibly the source of one particular clan’s troubles. When we meet Marcel (Milan Peschel), who runs an electronics repair shop in East Germany, he’s ordering a nonalcoholic beer at a bar and rambling to anyone within earshot about how security is the future—and that, by the way, his ex-wife (Christina Grosse) is a “stupid bitch” for running off to the West with her wealthy new husband. Later on, the former couple’s 15-year-old son, Sebastian (Sebastian Butz), shows up at Marcel’s door wanting to crash with him although they haven’t seen each other in two years. His reason? He hates his stepdad, and his mom’s pregnant. Peschel, here a greasy schlump of a man, is fantastic as the bitter Marcel, forever yelling at people or bragging about how busy he is or how successful he will become. (Whether he believes his lies, one can’t quite tell.) And Butz plays the sullen but slowly responsive son with subtlety. The two get closer as Sebastian helps Dad get his act together regarding résumés, interview processes, and even keeping his apartment clean. Flirtations with neighborhood women and singing along to German country singer Peter Tschernig give both an occasional lift, but these are clearly people depressed and struggling to adapt to the shifts in their lives. Still, among all the themes in Netto (the name of a Wal-Mart-like discount chain), the most prominent is the power of music not only to enhance lives but also to save them. —Tricia Olszewski

At 6:45 p.m. at the E Street Cinema. Also at 8:30 p.m. Sunday, April 23.

Zozo

The tale of an 11-year-old boy who flees bomb-cratered Beirut for the less lethal battles of a Swedish schoolyard, Josef Fares’ latest film attempts to balance dread and whimsy but overemphasizes the latter. The writer-director, a Lebanese-born Swede, provides a disturbing prologue: On the day that Zozo (Imad Creidi) and his family are set to fly to Sweden, where Grandpa and Grandma now live, the boy’s parents and sister are killed by a bomb, and his brother disappears, never to be seen again. Yet this setup is overly sweetened by fairy-tale music, a mystical light, and Zozo’s discovery of a talking newborn chicken. (The chick’s final speech alone is a deal-breaker.) Once he makes it to Sweden, Zozo’s problems are simpler: big-kid bullies and his grandfather’s insistence that the boy fight back. Of the several movies about kids in ’80s Beirut that Filmfest has presented over the years, this is the sappiest and least persuasive. —MJ

At 6:45 p.m. at the AMC Loews Wisconsin Avenue. Also at 6:45 p.m. Saturday, April 22.

My Uncle Killed a Guy

Like Snakes on a Plane, director Jorge Furtado’s My Uncle Killed a Guy pretty much gives away its setup in the title: The opening scene shows a family in their home when the dad’s brother, Eder (Lázaro Ramos), unexpectedly visits. They buzz him in, open the door, and without so much as a hello, he announces, “I killed a guy!” Turns out it was the husband of his girlfriend, and everyone buys his claim that it was an accident. Everyone, that is, except 15-year-old Duca (Darlan Cunha), Eder’s nephew, who was obviously raised on crime dramas and already has the mind of a detective. (When inquiring whether the wife has been told yet, he adds that the police should do it in person, “to see her face when she hears her husband is dead.”) The teen is also secretly in love with his best friend, Isa (Sophia Reis)—who is crushing on another friend, Kid (Renan Gioelli). Together they visit Eder in jail, meet the girlfriend, and get surveillance photos taken of her as they try to solve the case. The script is sweet and dryly funny, with the theme of love and its perils trumping the murder itself. Best of the cast is Cunha, who extends Duca’s keen, mature sense of observation in his uncle’s predicament to a matter equally important to a high schooler: the apparent futility of puppy love. —TO

At 7 p.m. at the AMC Loews Wisconsin Avenue. Also at 8:30 p.m. Sunday, April 23.

October 17, 1961

Like 2001’s Bloody Sunday, this docudrama focuses on a peaceful demonstration that went horribly wrong. This time it’s the 1961 march through Paris for Algerian independence that ended in a police massacre, an event largely written out of French history and never officially investigated. Though most of the characters are Algerians or their French sympathizers—ranging from committed anti-colonialists to mere bystanders radicalized by official misconduct—director Alain Tasma also includes a young Parisian policeman among the principal players. Thus the film acknowledges that radical Algerians’ murders of French cops (21 in 1961 alone) fueled the authorities’ rage and led to a showdown in which as many as 200 unarmed protesters were killed and dumped in the Seine. Tasma starts the story weeks before the march, which gives him time to introduce key characters but dilutes the effect of the film’s climax somewhat. October 17, 1961, which also includes passing references to Resnais and Godard, tries to encompass too much, but it’s a worthy attempt to bring a horrific, historically pivotal incident out of the shadows. —MJ

At 9 p.m. at the E Street Cinema. Also at 8:45 p.m. Monday, April 24.

Favela Rising

Between 1987 and 2001, Favela Rising wastes no time telling us, more minors died in Rio de Janeiro than in Israel and Palestine combined. The corrupt cops, entrenched drug peddlers, and appalling lack of hygiene in Vigário Geral, the shantytown featured in this 82-minute documentary, surely played a part in that. Matt Mochary and Jeff Zimbalist’s film has a lack of focus paralleling that chaos, but it finds purpose when it looks at Anderson Sá, the compelling lead vocalist of Banda AfroReggae, a musical project founded after police massacred 21 residents of Vigário Geral in 1993. Sá is a natural star, good-looking and quick with an aphorism. But he’s at his best just walking around, relating to his fellow favelados. Indeed, for being ostensibly about music, Favela Rising doesn’t spend much time letting us hear it. Newcomers will leave the theater having seen plenty of hectic concert footage—much overdubbed with dialogue—but almost no idea what AfroReggae sounds like. The film at least vividly captures the nonviolent group’s martial side: Its rhythms sound like drums of war. Its garb borders on camouflage. And when Sá faces the prospect of lifelong quadriplegia after a swimming accident, he reminds us he’s “a warrior of the people.” Each successively bigger show is packed to saturation with teens, and more than once we see girls lost in positively Beatlemaniacal ecstasy—compelling evidence of Sá’s claim that AfroReggae has transformed the favela. If only it could have done the same for this haphazard film. —Ian Martinez

At 9:30 p.m. at the Regal Gallery Place. Also at 8:15 p.m. Sunday, April 23.

Saturday, April 22

My Brother Is a Dog

As movie-biz caricatures go, it’s hard to top the shrieking dog-food-commercial director who pops up partway through Peter Timm’s My Brother Is a Dog. When he’s not ordering his pudgy canine star to go on a starvation diet, he’s threatening to quit with the words “It’s him or it’s me.” That he comes across as basically a Europeanized take on Middle America’s view of Hollywood is appropriate for this German production soundtracked by English-language pop songs. The story is pretty standard Hollywood-family-comedy fare: As the film opens, 10-year-old Marietta (Maria Ehrich) loves dogs and hates Tobias (Hans-Laurin Beyerling), her allergic 4-year-old brother. But she kills two birds with one magical wish-granting stone (provided by her African pen pal, Said), and Tobias becomes a floppy mutt named Tobi. If the ensuing complications aren’t unexpected—hiding the truth from her forbidding Grandma Gerda (Irm Hermann) and her vacationing parents, fleeing bumbling security guards, and even embarking on a four-way street chase involving an elongated cargo bike, a police mountain bike, a four-wheel ATV, and one of those senior-citizen go-karts—neither are the resolutions: Technologically minded Dad learns to pay more attention to Mom than to the sputtering engine of the boat they’re vacationing on, that forbidding grandmother conquers her kid and pet phobias, and Marietta learns a valuable lesson about magic rocks. Brightly lit, and only occasionally oversweet, My Brother Is a Dog is good-natured enough to make even that fatuous director come around: “You’re going to have a big career!” he tells his star. —Joe Dempsey

At 10:30 a.m. at the National Gallery of Art’s East Building Auditorium. Also at 11:30 a.m. Sunday, April 23. Both screenings are free.

Water

Set in 1938, the final film in Indian-born Canadian writer-director Deepa Mehta’s elemental trilogy deals with the rigors of widowhood under the country’s old religious law. Married as a child to a man she doesn’t know, Chuyia (Sarala) finds herself widowed at age 7. Because remarriage is not an option, Chuyia’s family dumps her at a home for widows in the holy city of Varanasi. There, the girl becomes friendly with Kalyani (Lisa Ray, who appeared in Mehta’s weak 2003 musical comedy, Bollywood/Hollywood). A striking young woman who lives apart from the others, Kalyani is the only one of them allowed to keep her hair long. It’s gradually revealed that she’s forced to prostitute herself to support the other women. Like Chuyia, she’s apparently trapped in the house for life. Then she meets a young follower of Gandhi who rejects the old ways and wants to marry her—but doesn’t, of course, know how Kalyani earns money for the house. The target of Hindu fundamentalists in India, Water can be surprisingly lighthearted: It includes comic interludes and musical numbers and at times seems over-romanticized. (When Kalyani is punished by having her hair chopped off, the rough cut just makes her look more like a young Isabella Rossellini.) Still, the film makes its point. If it’s not as harrowing as Earth, the best of Mehta’s trilogy, that’s only because the director ultimately shows mercy to her young protagonist. —MJ

At 6 p.m. at the Avalon Theatre.

Beyond Beats and Rhymes: A Hip Hop Head Weighs In on Manhood in a Hip Hop Culture and Scene Not Heard

First-time director Byron Hurt begins Beyond Beats and Rhymes with a disclaimer. “One thing I want to say right away: I love hip-hop.” And then he tears it apart. What Hurt addresses in this 62-minute documentary may be tired subjects: the violence in hip-hop, the misogyny in hip-hop, the posturing that hip-hop artists believe is necessary to become successful. But the director doesn’t just get on a soapbox. He talks to rappers, teenagers, and other experts on the genre—including a college professor and even a “hip-hop minister”—about not only the music, but also the culture of African-American men in general. Some of the artists are defensive: When asked about violent lyrics, Jadakiss responds, “Do you watch movies? What kind of movies do you watch?” And Busta Rhymes walks away when the topic turns to homophobia: “I can’t talk to you about that stuff.” Hurt captures appalling scenes at BET’s annual Spring Bling, with men sticking cameras right up between women’s legs, lifting up their skirts, and grabbing whatever they can. The kids there tell Hurt how to differentiate between a bitch/ho and a sister, which mostly has to do with dress. (“There you have it—the definition of a bitch,” Hurt narrates, deadpan.) The sheer range of topics covered and theories gathered in this short film is impressive, and unlike knee-jerk howls from parents, Hurt’s analysis is genuinely thought-provoking. The majority opinion from both aspiring rappers and established artists is that gangsta rap sells and that they’re just giving label suits and fans what they want. Most insist that there’s a disconnect between the persona and the person, but the gunning down of artists (D12’s Proof being merely the latest) suggests otherwise. Still, it’s heartening to hear Fat Joe talk regrettably about the demeanor some black men feel the need to project even when just hanging out, asking, “Why can’t we walk around and smile at each other?”

Fans of Russell Simmons’ Def Poetry Jam—or even of your average open-mic night dedicated to the spoken word—might enjoy Maori Karmael Holmes’ Scene Not Heard, a documentary about female hip-hop artists in Philadelphia. The film’s title acknowledges the director’s and other artists’ sense that Philly doesn’t get enough cred when it comes to its hip-hop contributions, symbolized here by the closure of the Black Lily, a space that hosted mostly female open-mic nights for six years. But for most of the 45-minute movie, Holmes speaks to female rappers—Bahamadia, Monie Love, Ursula Rucker—about women’s position in hip-hop in general. Besides the usual but valid complaint that females are mostly just decoration for male artists’ videos and live performances, the commentators here also point out that a dude can be ugly as hell and still get a record deal if he’s talented—or has the right connections or the right amount of money. (Though it doesn’t hurt to look like Usher or LL Cool J, either.) Emerging female rappers, however, are immediately turned ghetto-fabulous with trips to the salon, personal trainers, and outfits that allow for maximum boob-and-booty impact. Unfortunately, that’s the only interesting point of this doc—the rest is heavy on the a cappella preach-rap, which may make some viewers hope the film’s title continues to be true. —TO

At 7 p.m. at the Regal Gallery Place. Also at 8:45 p.m. Sunday, April 23.

Letter to the President

“I am not patriotic,” hip-hop artist David Banner says in Thomas Gibson’s Letter to the President. “America don’t give a fuck about me.” Addressing everything from the civil-rights movement to cocaine importation to the private-prison system, Letter to the President is a thorough examination of the social and political issues that gave birth to hip-hop. Narrated—often colorfully—by Snoop Dogg (Jesse Jackson’s failure to reach out to inner-city voters resulted in “another presidency for Ronald Reagan’s bitch ass”), the film is a quick-moving collection of opinions from artists, activists, and even a congresswoman (California’s Maxine Waters) about the evolution of hip-hop from the days of “The Message” to the gangsta rap that dominates today. The government is highly criticized, of course—“The CIA and the FBI are two of the most corrupt groups,” activist Dick Gregory says. “They do stuff that would make Hitler blush”—especially when it comes to allegations that Reagan- and Bush-era officials used money earned from drug sales to finance hush-hush affairs. The commentary and social portrait Letter to the President offers will grab the interest of viewers regardless of their taste in the music, with one artist’s remarks standing out in particular: “Hip-hop has taken such a turn for the worse, because as it goes on, it dumbs down,” rapper Saigon says. “Why would you call yourself a pimp? I got a prediction: Twenty years from now, the rappers with the pimp hat and the pimp cup—they’re going to look just like the people who used to dance around in blackface.” —TO

At 9:45 p.m. at the Regal Gallery Place.

Sunday, April 23

This Is Bossa Nova: The History and the Stories

Focused intently on a few years (1957 to 1963) in a single place (Rio de Janeiro), Paulo Thiago’s 129-minute documentary may be too much for casual fans of the breathy vocals and pitter-patter rhythms of Brazil’s “new thing.” Yet the film, hosted by veteran composers Carlos Lyra and Roberto Menescal, justifies its concentration with a wealth of anecdotes and more than a few songs. Primarily a cross between samba and American lounge balladry—Julie London guitarist Barney Kessel is cited as a prime influence—bossa nova was fresh, young, and “light,” created for (and often by) Rio’s upscale college students. João and Astrud Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim, and their peers made music for people who lived in a sun-kissed city with fine beaches and excellent scenery and who rejected the mournfulness of traditional Brazilian song. Not all of the explanations are definitive: One expert claims that the genre’s vocal style derived from practicing in apartments with paper-thin walls, while another—more plausibly—attributes it to microphones. (“Anyone can sing today, right?”) The film leaves many unanswered questions, from the rise of tropicália to the decline of Rio, but it thoroughly covers its chosen stretch of musical beachfront. —MJ

At 5:30 p.m. at the Regal Gallery Place.

Antarmahal: Views of the Inner Chamber

The latest gender-war saga from Bengali director Rituparno Ghosh—who had two films in last year’s fest—opens with the remarks of an Englishman who’s painting the portrait of feudal landlord Bhubaneswar (Jackie Shroff). But the painter is merely an occasional commentator on the story, which turns on Bhubaneswar’s two fervent desires: a son and a title bestowed by the British colonial government. For the former, the childless zamindar has acquired a young second wife, Jasomati (Soha Ali Khan), who thus far has not gotten pregnant. The latter, Bhubaneswar imagines, will come if the new statue of the goddess Durga, sculpted on his estate every year for a festival, has the face of Queen Victoria. (British rule is new in 1878, and Bhubaneswar doesn’t realize that the goddess’s highly eroticized body is incompatible with the uptight monarch’s mug.) While the landlord’s religious advisers counsel a series of absurd rituals to guarantee an heir, his first wife quietly suggests to Jasomati a simpler strategy: that the younger wife sleep with the new sculptor, Brojo (Abhishek Bachchan), who has the sort of smoldering gaze common in Bollywood tales of meaningful-glance romance. Even so—and despite the fact that it features a few songs—Antarmahal doesn’t quite follow Bollywood formula. Rendered in lush widescreen images, the film offers satire and suggestions of romance, but only as contrasts to the final chapter’s cataclysm. Like the whole movie, the closing scene is predictable yet powerful nonetheless. —MJ

At 6 p.m. at the Avalon Theatre. Also at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 29, at the AMC Loews Wisconsin Avenue.

Romeo and Juliet Get Married

In São Paolo, two soccer clubs, Palmeiras and Corinthians, have been feuding for generations, their rivalry renowned for being the most heated in all of Brazil. Aspiring women’s soccer coach Julieta (former Ford model Luana Piovani, the perfect combination of tomboy and glamazon) is the only child of a prominent Palmeiras soccer family. Her father, chairman of the club’s board, named her after two famed Palmeiras players, Julinho, a winger, and Echevarrieta, a center. It’s love at first sight when Julieta meets ophthalmologist Romeu (Marco Ricca, a Hank Azaria look-alike with the same ability to convey emotions with a flick of the eyes), who also happens to be the head of the Corinthians fan club. That setup is about as much as director Bruno Barreto borrows from Romeo and Juliet, so don’t spend too much time searching for Tybalt or Mercutio. Romeu and Julieta get off to a rocky start—Julieta’s bedspread bears the Palmeiras logo, and Romeu can’t bear to consummate their relationship atop such an image—but soon Romeu is posing as a Palmeiras fan to win over Julieta’s father. Though he passes his first test with flying colors, the charade begins to take its toll, and when Julieta’s father insists that Romeu accompany him to a Palmeiras match against Manchester United in Tokyo, it’s only a matter of time before the game is up. Luis Gustavo, who plays Julieta’s unsuspecting, obsessed father, who’s perpetually on the verge of a coronary, and Berta Zemel, Romeu’s equally fanatical Corinthians-supporter grandmother, who can’t even say the rival club’s name without slapping herself, embody the rival families and provide much of the comic relief. What happens to the star-crossed lovers is utterly predictable, but that doesn’t take away from the film’s charm. —HH

At 6 p.m. at the AMC Loews Wisconsin Avenue. Also at 6 p.m. Monday, April 24.

Monday, April 24

Bal Can Can

You can tell the genre of Darko Mitrevski’s new film from the opening sequence, in which corpses crammed into a hospital cooler discuss their deaths. It’s a black comedy, of course, but then you could guess that from the country of origin: Macedonia, a splinter of the bloody mess that used to be Yugoslavia. This is a frantic, abundantly violent farce modeled on the work of such ex-Yugo directors as Emir Kusturica. Trendafil (Vlado Jovanovski) and Santino (Adolfo Margiotta), the sons of two former “blood brothers,” are reunited when the former calls the latter to ask for help: Someone has snatched the carpet in which he rolled the body of his dead mother-in-law, and his wife insists they get it back. (The body, that is, not the carpet). Trendafil and Santino embark on a series of adventures, encountering ghostly drug dealers, a Hatfield–McCoy–like family feud, and a supervillain who trades in human organs. The comedy sometimes cuts very close to the realities of life in the Balkans, even if a few of the bits are overly familiar. (Santino, for example, can’t stop quoting dialogue from old Hollywood movies.) Ultimately, though, Mitrevski ditches the penis-enlargement gags for a curiously unironic climax that transforms a former draft-dodger into an action hero. Bal Can Can may be dedicated to Billy Wilder, but its finale relies more on sprayed bullets than sparkling wit. —MJ

At 6:30 p.m. at the AMC Loews Wisconsin Avenue. Also at 8:45 p.m. Tuesday, April 25.

The Long Haul of A.I. Bezzerides

“Writers have no business kissing ass,” says the subject of Fay Efrosini Lellios’ documentary. Bezzerides, a novelist and screenwriter responsible for films such as Thieves’ Highway and Kiss Me Deadly, reminisces about why he chose to go to college and become a writer—despite his father’s insistence that he forget about higher education and join the family’s trucking business—how he discovered and was blown away by Faulkner, and the distaste he had for Hollywood and its phonies even though he worked for Warner Bros. (“Boy, was I furious,” Bezzerides says about director Robert Aldrich’s decision to change the ending of Kiss Me Deadly.) Lellios’ interviews with Bezzerides took place when the writer was 97 years old, with a bountiful crop of nose hair and out-of-control eyebrows but a remarkably sharp and clever mind. Writers such as Mickey Spillane and George Pelecanos—who prefers to label Bezzerides’ work “proletariat literature” instead of noir—are also interviewed, but the screenwriter himself is the most captivating. He’s still opinionated, headstrong, and proud, and whether he’s re-creating detailed stories about standing up to his dad, telling of love at first sight, or going on about the beauty of good writing and why he loved his work, Bezzerides is terrific company. To any audience, but especially to those passionate about movies or the written word, the only flaw to be found in this doc is its 51-minute runtime, which goes by all too quickly. —TO

At 6:45 p.m. at the E Street Cinema.

Tuesday, April 25

Factotum

It takes a leap of faith to watch pretty boy Matt Dillon sidle up to bars, smack women around, and blow money on horses in Factotum, director Bent Hamer’s adaptation of Charles Bukowski’s tales of drinking, finding shitty jobs, drinking, losing shitty jobs, drinking, and writing all the while. Can an actor who’s more or less reprised his Outsiders role in everything from Drugstore Cowboy to Crash tackle the canonized Bukowski’s complex alter ego, Henry Chinaski? Surprisingly, yes. Dillon has plugged into his character’s deadpan humor and quiet dignity, and his bearded, pudgy Chinaski is a study in understatement, saying more with a sidelong glance than with the many tough-guy voice-overs drawn from Bukowski’s works. Dillon’s character is a wordsmith who’s most interesting when he’s silent, such as when Chinaski quits a demeaning job at a pickle factory in an alcoholic haze and, forgoing profanity, wrestles his diminutive supervisor to the ground in a hilarious, heartbreaking attempt to reclaim his dignity. Of course, Factotum is less narrative than notion. Not much happens, and Chinaski’s adventures with women grow tedious, even with talents such as Lili Taylor and Marisa Tomei playing the drunken love interests whom he inevitably leaves or who inevitably leave him. Still, Dillon and Taylor’s wordless tag-team hangover-puking ritual in the bathroom of their rooming house says as much about human relationships as the best of Bukowski’s prose. —Justin Moyer

At 6:45 p.m. at the AMC Loews Wisconsin Avenue. Also at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 26.

Passion

Although her brother is in jail on trumped-up charges of political subversion and her husband must moonlight as a taxi driver to supplement his meager income as a civil servant, Imane is not unhappy. The Syrian housewife (Salwa Jamil) loves her two children and her brother’s two kids, who also live with her. She’s also discovered the music of the late Umm Kulthum, an Egyptian singer revered throughout the Arabic-speaking world, and has tentatively begun to sing herself. It’s this new interest in music, which propels Imane out of the house and into stores and the home of a retired singer, that concerns her father’s brother, Abu (Mahmoud Hamed). First, severe Uncle Abu takes her brother’s children away from her. When that fails to crush her independence, he plans a more severe punishment. With shots framed by doors, windows, and hallways, director Mohammad Malas creates a vivid sense of intrigue, depicting Aleppo as a city of lurking observers and men whose own bad consciences poison their views of everyone and everything. Passion is a potent indictment of a society in which a woman’s attempt at any sort of freedom is inevitably met with the most drastic penalty. —MJ

At 8:30 p.m. at the E Street Cinema. Also at 8:45 p.m. Thursday, April 27.

C.R.A.Z.Y.

Huh: A dad exposes his five boys to a day-in, day-out diet of Patsy Cline and Charles Aznavour, and he’s shocked when one of them turns out queer? Well, let’s give the benefit of the doubt to Gervais Beaulieu (Michel Côté), the patriarch of C.R.A.Z.Y. He’s a French-Canadian Catholic of a certain era, and when his fourth son, Zac, is born on Christmas Day 1960, Papa naturally expects him to follow the procreative path of his ancestors. Destiny’s got other ideas, though: Zac (played sequentially by Emile Vallée and Marc-André Grondin) has a gift for healing, according to the local spiritualist. He has a gift for imitating David Bowie, too, and struggle as he might, he can’t quite suppress the damp feeling he gets from watching his cousin’s boyfriend dance. This engaging and visually resourceful saga follows Zac and his family down the bumpy, unmarked road to mutual acceptance. To be sure, the ultimate destination is as clearly mapped out as the cultural milestones along the way: glam, disco, Europop. But writer-director Jean-Marc Vallée and co-scenarist François Boulay navigate the years with impressive fluency and remain ever-attentive to the individualizing quirks of the Beaulieu clan: a dad who turns family gatherings into Aznavour cabarets, a mom who irons toast. The uniformly strong cast includes Danielle Proulx as the pious mother and, in the role of Zac’s reprobate older brother, the grubby and grinning Pierre-Luc Brillant, who, unless my hormonal surges deceive me, will soon be an étoile brillante on both sides of the U.S.–Canadian border. —Louis Bayard

At 8:45 p.m. at the E Street Cinema. Also at 9 p.m. Thursday, April 27.

Jails, Hospitals & Hip-Hop

“People be like, ‘Shut the hell up’ when I talk,” claims Danny Hoch near the beginning of this film. It doesn’t take long to see why: Hoch’s characters are—how do I put this—fucking assholes, delivering rants that are endless and unbearable. Except, of course, for the performance artist’s predictably sweet disabled characters, whom he portrays alongside a rapper, a prisoner, and a prison guard. Hoch and co-director Mark Benjamin place each in an appropriate environment and make seamless transitions to Hoch speaking the same lines onstage or before prisoners. It’s not exactly clear that the interactions in the apparently real world are fake—until, that is, a horrible David Letterman imitator shows up. At least Hoch is sometimes funny. And within his tirades are often worthy messages about race relations, his most famous being an offer to appear on Seinfeld as Ramon the Pool Boy. Hoch objected to the stereotype, so the suits said he could change the character’s name. But when he performed his first scene, he was asked to do it in a Hispanic accent. Why? According to Hoch, Jerry Seinfeld himself said, “Because it’s funnier that way!” Jokes about blackface allegedly followed. OK, so Hoch speaks out for equality. But perhaps he could do it in a way that doesn’t make even those who agree with him want to punch him in the face. —TO

At 8:45 p.m. at the Regal Gallery Place. Also at 9:45 p.m. Friday, April 28.

Wednesday, April 26

The Fisherman and His Wife

The latest film from German satirist Doris Dörrie returns to her customary subject, marital discord. But it’s interlaced with elements of a more recent interest: Japan. Somewhere in northern Honshu, fledgling fashion designer Ida (Alexandra Maria Lara) bums a ride from two ornamental-fish experts, Otto (Christian Ulmen) and Leo (Simon Verhoeven). It turns out that they’re all from Germany, and that in Japanese—as we’re repeatedly reminded—the words for “love” and “decorative carp” are pronounced the same: “koi.” Ida and Otto flirt while observing fish parasites under a microscope—“Somehow everything becomes beautiful if you look at it closely,” he says—and she impulsively asks him to marry her. Cut to a Buddhist-temple wedding. But back home the union falls victim to an ambition gap: She’s got plenty, and he has none. This is potentially bad news for the talking fish who open the movie. They constitute a formerly human couple whose marriage collapsed, and they’re convinced that they can be restored to human form only if Ida and Otto stay together for at least three years. As that plot strand (and the Brothers Grimm–derived title) establishes, this is a whimsical tale, more inclined toward easy fabulism than trenchant commentary. It’s lively, colorful, and amusing but about as deep as a backyard koi pond. —MJ

At 6:30 p.m. at the Regal Gallery Place. Also at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 27.

Isn’t This a Time! A Tribute Concert for Harold Leventhal

Practice, schmactice. In director Jim Brown’s concert doc, folkie Theodore Bikel prescribes a surer, if longer, path to Carnegie Hall: “Get old enough.” Over the past five decades or so, Bikel’s friends the Weavers (whose surviving members include Pete Seeger) have gone from success to who-they? to gray eminence. Not that Brown’s follow-up to his 1982 The Weavers: Wasn’t That a Time! addresses such ups and downs with much flair. Documenting a November 2003 tribute to storied promoter/producer Harold Leventhal, Isn’t This a Time! doesn’t rise very far above PBS-pledge-week conventions: concert scenes, backstage footage, artist interviews, vintage photos. The offstage stuff offers occasional glimpses of the unweird America, contracts-and-royalties world of folk music. (“[‘Alice’s Restaurant’] put the car under your butt,” Arlo Guthrie tells his daughter.) The concert itself is pretty good, with the Weavers taking on their old hits with impressive agility and Guthrie bouncing in for a fun take on “City of New Orleans” and some others. But by the time the movie gets to Peter, Paul and Mary’s earnest delivery of “Don’t Laugh at Me,” whose lyrics embrace everyone from bespectacled or unathletic kids to the Hutus and Tutsis, that title seems less like a request than, well, a dare. Mary Travers might be right when she says that investing old songs in new causes keeps them fresh, but it’s telling that Isn’t This a Time! takes place on a Thanksgiving weekend. A few broad shots at the Bush administration aren’t enough to make it much more than a warm, cozy, cross-generational gathering. —JD

At 6:45 p.m. at the Regal Gallery Place. Also at 6:45 p.m. Tuesday, April 25.

Pelé Forever

At this summer’s World Cup, Brazil will be the prohibitive favorite, and the United States could enter the tournament ranked No. 5 in the world, its highest standing ever. Both teams owe much of their success to one man: Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pelé. But Aníbal Massaini Neto’s uninsightful, tedious documentary won’t illustrate how or why Pelé had such a profound influence on the sport. Sacrificing depth for breadth, the film catalogs each of Pelé’s accomplishments and championships, and after two hours, we know all about the Pelé the hero but precious little of Pelé the man. Details such as a former teammate’s revealing that Pelé used to shout, “Goal!” in his sleep are painfully scarce, and the matter of Pelé’s status as a black icon in a country whose elite is almost purely European is dismissed in 30 seconds. The production has the feel of PR, the crowd shots reek of B-roll, and Fúlvio Stefanini’s fawning narration becomes stupefying at times (“But Pelé has the sacred aura of the insatiable, and with his blessed feet, he increases the score to 3-0”). The film gets a burst of life when the World Cup footage turns to color and during Pelé’s stint with the New York Cosmos in the North American Soccer League, but it’s too little, too late. As a compilation of some of Pelé’s best goals—and there are plenty—Pelé Forever is passable. But the man who became the international face of soccer, establishing Brazil’s World Cup reign and ushering the United States out of the dark ages, deserves better. —HH

At 8:30 p.m. at the Regal Gallery Place. Also at 8:45 p.m. Thursday, April 27.

Bellek

The infancy of Moroccan hip-hop looks a lot like what you might expect: dudes in Ecko T-shirts doing their best B-boy moves, postadolescent rappers who seem to take most of their cues from America, and DJs with cross-fader tricks that are more clumsily enthusiastic than anything. The no-frills, shot-on-video Bellek (“Get Out of the Way”) follows a handful of dancers, MCs, and producers through the back alleys and bedroom studios of the apparently tidy city of Sale, where they pursue their interest in Western-style beats and rhymes. Although they talk a good game about taking over the country’s pop market, they appear to be nothing but a strong local clique. Belgian director Bart Van Dijk emphasizes the Moroccans’ understanding of hip-hop culture’s cornerstones; they expound a lot about individuality, truthfulness, self-respect, economic empowerment, love of neighborhood, and so on. To his credit, Van Dijk presents the influence of American rappers as a benign sort of hegemony, one that fosters freedom of expression more than anything. But ultimately both the Moroccans and the filmmaker are limited by the newness of it all. The beat junkies and rhymers of Sale acknowledge the looming power of traditional Arab and Muslim culture—even in a relatively liberal country such as Morocco. And Van Dijk himself, despite his energy-infused view of the ’hood, seems hard-pressed to show how their turntable-and-microphone music follows another important hip-hop tradition: innovation. —Joe Warminsky

At 8:45 p.m. at the Regal Gallery Place. Also at 8:45 p.m. Thursday, April 27.

Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey

Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey could have been a bland but efficient history—the kind of rock doc Ken Burns might make if he were a fan of the stuff. But director Sam Dunn frames the proceedings with a question that is past its freshness date: Why has metal provoked such polar reactions? PMRC types, if they still exist, already know one answer. And true believers, as always, couldn’t care less. The latter, of course, are the natural audience for an attractive-looking flick about heavy metal. But Dunn, a longhair with a master’s in anthropology, and his co-directors, Scott McFayden and Jessica Joy-Wise, have only the slightest grasp on what these folks might want from a movie ticket. Academics pad the film’s running time with ivory-towerish observations about gender and class, and when the subject turns to black metal, Dunn introduces Norway as “an isolated country in Northern Europe”—something that goes without saying for both extreme-music fans and anyone who has, say, a high-school diploma. More important, there’s just not enough music in Metal. Though Dunn & Co. highlight classic bands such as Blue Cheer, Iron Maiden, and Slayer, the filmmakers either interrupt performances with voice-overs or cut away before viewers can get their bearings. Those in search of metallic frisson would be better served by a six-pack and a stack of Black Sabbath discs. —Brent Burton

At 8:45 p.m. at the E Street Cinema. Also at 6:15 p.m. Thursday, April 27.

Thursday, April 27

La Fabri_K: The Cuban Hip-Hop Factory

It’s now cliché in rap commentary to lament a simpler time when the genre’s limited commercial prospects gave the musicians the kind of perspective no royalty check can buy. Lisandro Pérez-Rey’s highly engaging, highly stylized La Fabri_K, about five wide-eyed hip-hoppers collaborating to put Havana’s Alamar barrio on the musical map, reminds us why. It’s fair to call the members of Doble Filo and Obsesión, who pool resources and talent to record as La Fabri_K, somewhat small-time, but they still outclass many preening U.S. counterparts with raw skill, unspoiled love for performance, and a political perspective far beyond their alleged provinciality. At times, the last translates to outright disgust: “It’s no longer about resistance or liberation—it’s commercial,” says MC Edgar Gonzalez during the Miami hip-hop festival at which La Fabri_K performs on a 2003 goodwill tour. The film doesn’t sugarcoat some of the Cubans’ own failings—the words of Afrika Bambaataa go straight over their heads, and they almost blow a gig with the Roots over rehearsal time. But when MC Alexey Rodríguez tells an MTV2 VJ “Those [rappers] with all that cheddar should break some off and help those they left behind,” he reminds us why he and his collaborators make such compelling subjects: He means it. —IM

At 6:15 p.m. at the Regal Gallery Place. Also at 7 p.m. Saturday, April 29.

Live-In Maid

There are only two essential human characters in this domestic parable, but a third figure hovers just out of sight: the Argentine economy. Beba (Norma Aleandro) still maintains a large Buenos Aires apartment, complete with in-residence maid Dora (Norma Argentina), even though her husband has left her, her daughter has moved to Madrid without a backward glance, and money has gotten tight. Dora, who hasn’t been paid in months, finds it easier to face facts: She’s leaving, the maid announces, even though she has no prospects and lives with a man who shows little interest in work. Wheedling money from her ex and signing up with some Mary Kay–like cosmetics peddler, Beba tries to forestall the inevitable, even as the strain behind the façade becomes overwhelming. Writer-director Jorge Gaggero makes the most of simple gestures, in one scene having Beba marshal a freezer’s worth of ice to accompany her last few drops of whiskey. Don’t expect a climactic meltdown, though: This gently perceptive film is a tale of gradual acceptance, both of economic reality and of friendship across now-blurred class lines. —MJ

At 6:30 p.m. at American University’s Greenberg Theatre. Also at 7 p.m. Friday, April 28.

Friday, April 28

East of Havana

The tranquil Caribbean sun leaks into almost every shot of East of Havana—as if paradise were somehow immediately accessible to Soandry, Magyori, and Mikki Flow, three Cuban rappers from El Cartel, a hip-hop collective that survives outside the country’s official music system. But this is the Land of Castro, so although the MCs live within spitting distance of a pristine beach, their lives are defined by concrete housing projects and virtually no financial support. Co-produced by Charlize Theron and directed by second-generation Cuban-Americans Jauretsi Saizabitoria and Emilia Menocal, the doc is visually exquisite without relying too much on the kind of imagery that populates well-financed travelogues. Even better, it’s all about the rappers: Soandry is the serious-faced philosopher prince; Magyori comes off like a younger, harder Lauryn Hill; and Mikki is a skinny, cocky baritone whose charisma translates instantly. Though they rap in rugged Spanish and their grooves have the requisite rumba samples, the music’s overall vibe is far from the hyperactivity of Puerto Rico’s reggaeton. This stuff is distinctly North American, influenced via U.S. airwaves dominated by the titans of the ’90s: Biggie Smalls, Tupac Shakur, and so on. The film gets its excitement from other places, though. Family life is important to the three young stars, and their sense of national responsibility is unexpectedly strong. If it’s just a pose, it doesn’t show: To them, the country’s micromanaged annual hip-hop festival is more than just a chance to go off—it’s an opportunity to prove that the hip-hop thing is a revolution unto itself. —JW

At 6:30 p.m. at the Regal Gallery Place. Also at 9 p.m. Saturday, April 29.

Rice Rhapsody

Seeing Jackie Chan listed as executive producer of Rice Rhapsody, I had to wonder if rice grains make the same satisfying smack as craniofacial cavities when you stomp on them. Now that I’ve seen the soft-headed Singaporean comedy-drama he’s pushing, I can report that the only dead bodies belong to poultry and the only character who really threatens violence is Jen Fan (Sylvia Chang), a 50-ish restaurateur who specializes in chicken rice and maternal disappointment. Her two eldest sons have turned out gay, and when Boy No. 3 (LePham Tan) gets a little too close to his high-school buddy, Jen calls in sexy French exchange student Sabine (Mélanie Laurent) to keep him on the straight and narrow. Writer-director Kenneth Bi intends Sabine as the embodiment of unfettered life force—which is another way of saying she’s intolerable, whether biking in the rain, saving animals, or resolving the conflicts of her new Asian devotees. Actually, what conflicts? The movie accepts the Fan boys’ sexuality as easily as the boys do, and the only thing to do is wait for Mama to come around, which, all things considered, takes too long. Chang, though, is a sweet and spicy matriarch, and celebrity chef Martin Yan is surprisingly touching as her consort, whose love offerings consist of platters of duck rice that arrive as punctually as the sun. —LB

At 6:30 p.m. at the AMC Loews Wisconsin Avenue. Also at 9 p.m. Saturday, April 29.

Changing Times

For his second cinematic voyage to Morocco, French director André Téchiné takes some of his country’s biggest stars with him: Gérard Depardieu plays Antoine, who has decided late in life that he can’t live without his girlfriend from three decades ago. Catherine Deneuve is that lost love, Cécile, a Tangier radio host now in an unraveling marriage to Moroccan doctor Natan (Gilbert Melki). Meanwhile, the couple’s bisexual son, Samy (Malik Zidi), arrives from Paris with his pill-addict spouse, Nadia (Lubna Azabal, also seen in the director’s 2001 Far Away). Samy is there to see his one-time (male) lover; Nadia is trying to contact her twin sister. The film’s motifs include separating and reconciling, opposition and congruence, and twins in either two bodies or one—Samy is described as half-French and half-Moroccan, half-man and half-woman. The director employs his trademark style, which is loose, gliding, and kaleidoscopic, and introduces a fractured chronology. Add Iraq-war tension, Gnawa superstitions and spell-casting, and the politics of trans-Mediterranean illegal immigration, and the result seems overloaded. Téchiné is a master, though, and he balances all of these elements better than almost anyone else could. —MJ

At 8:45 p.m. at the AMC Loews Wisconsin Avenue. Also at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, April 29.

The Second Wedding Night

Italian director Pupi Avati favors period films, perhaps because he finds the past so cute. In this mildly grotesque romantic comedy, the late ’40s are just darling—aside, of course, from the lack of food and shelter and the small problem of unexploded bombs and mines. Shell-shocked, childlike Giordano (Antonio Albanese) is dealing with the latter, one detonation at a time, when a more potentially explosive situation arises: He writes a love letter to his older brother’s widow, Liliana (Katia Ricciarelli), his boyhood friend and pubescent crush. Their two families were once close, but they’ve acrimoniously split, and Giordano’s disapproving aunts want to maintain the icy status quo. So does Liliana, in fact, but her son Nino (Neri Marcoré) insists they abandon Bologna (where they’ve just been evicted) and go visit his Uncle Giordano in Apulia—after all, there may be food down there. Nino is a liar and a thief, and your reaction to The Second Wedding Night will likely depend on whether you find him a lovable rogue or a tiresome wretch. Avati clearly thinks he’s a charmer, and he blesses Nino’s crime spree by ultimately propelling him into the movie biz. After about 30 minutes, however, less indulgent observers may hope that Nino steps on a land mine. —MJ

At 9 p.m. at the AMC Loews Wisconsin Avenue. Also at 9:30 p.m. Saturday, April 29.

In Bed

In Bed is what Before Sunrise might have been had the youngsters gotten a cheap motel room instead of wandering Vienna right after they met. Director Matías Bize opens the movie with a blurred close-up of moving somethings, heavy breathing, and moaning—lots and lots of moaning. Just when you start wondering if scripter Julio Rojas got lazy and wrote 85 minutes of only this, the couple appears, the guy on his back and the woman on her side, facing away from him. There’s awkward quiet for a while, and then they start a conversation—by asking each other’s names. The entirety of In Bed takes place in the no-tell, with moments of talk interrupted by more steamy sex. As Daniela (Blanca Lewin) and Bruno (Gonzalo Valenzuela) offer their theories on everything from people who like more than one kind of movie genre (“There’s something wrong with them,” Bruno thinks) to the futility of asking each other personal questions (“Are you going to call me?” Daniela asks, then answers no when Bruno says, “What do you think?”). There are a few zzz-inducing sequences, such as when the couple get into a pillow fight. But overall, In Bed is a relatively attention-grabbing, relatively realistic portrayal of human beings being human. Both partners peek into the other’s stuff when one goes to the bathroom, and even though this is a one-night stand, there’s a clear affection between the two that keeps them from leaving even as they’re constantly saying they should. The film is compelling in its voyeurism and sometimes interesting in its style: Bize’s use of a split screen, for example, when either lover is on the phone—one gabbing to a mystery person, the other keeping occupied—reinforces the message that though their bodies have joined, their minds probably never will. —TO

At 9:45 p.m. at the Avalon Theatre. Also at 9:45 p.m. Saturday, April 29.

Sunday, April 30

Housewarming

In its opening scene, Brigitte Roüan’s new comedy demonstrates that its heroine, do-gooder Paris lawyer Chantal, rules the courtroom. Her defense of a shady Russian businessman turns into a dance number, complete with levitation and a concluding bow. In her own apartment, however, the divorced attorney (Carole Bouquet) is less at home. After her mom suggests some renovations, the parade of mostly illegal immigrants hired to do the work trashes the place, and such basics as electricity and plumbing—not to mention most of the ceiling—no longer exist. To add to the hysteria, the acquitted Russian businessman has become a romantic pest, teenage Pulchéria is flirting with all the workmen, Grandma won’t shut up about feng shui, and Chantal’s pro-immigrant employer closes the fleabag hotel in which one of her workers lives. As anyone who’s seen Roüan’s autobiographical Overseas knows, the filmmaker grew up in Algeria and is genuinely concerned with the residents of Europe’s former colonies. Yet however grave immigration issues are in reality, they don’t do much grounding here: Housewarming is a frantic, featherweight musical comedy that’s primarily about bourgeois inconvenience. Bouquet is charming, there are lots of amusing touches, and the last-minute cameo is cute, but even at barely 90 minutes, Roüan’s latest seems overextended. —MJ

At 4 p.m. at the Regal Gallery Place. $15.CP

The Cheat Sheet

Friday, April 21

DEFINITELY GO SEE

My Uncle Killed a Guy

See this page.

TAKE A CHANCE ON

Swindled

At the most recent Málaga Film Festival, this slick thriller was nom’d for the Golden Biznaga. That’s a cactus, but trust us: It’s more impressive than the fact that the director is Javier Bardem’s brother. At 9 p.m. at the Avalon Theatre.

A World Without Thieves

See this page.

DON’T BE TEMPTED BY

Akeelah and the Bee

See this page.

The Cheat Sheet

Saturday, April 22

DEFINITELY GO SEE

Beyond Beats and Rhymes: A Hip Hop Head Weighs In on Manhood in a Hip Hop Culture

See p. 22.

Letter to the President

See p. 22.

TAKE A CHANCE ON

U-Carmen eKhayelitsha

Mark Dornford-May, it seems, can set anything in South Africa: the New Testament in his latest; Bizet’s Carmen in this Golden Bear–winning debut. Until you get to see Satan speak Xhosa, content yourself with watching Pauline Malefane sing it. She is, says the Observer, “the Carmen by which others should be measured.” At 6:30 p.m. at the Regal Gallery Place.

Water

See this page.

DON’T BE TEMPTED BY

Zozo

See p. 20.

The Cheat Sheet

Sunday, April 23

DEFINITELY GO SEE

Netto

See p. 20.

TAKE A CHANCE ON

Iraq in Fragments

Another heartbreaking documentary about Iraq? Yeah, but this one was made by a man who described a piece of music in his last film as “a tortured version of a Bach aria that sounds like a cross between Humphrey Bogart barfing black tar and several monkeys being killed at once.” Three awards at Sundance, too. At 8:45 p.m. at the E Street Cinema.

This Is Bossa Nova: The History and Stories

See this page.

DON’T BE TEMPTED BY

Heart Lift

Four words: directed by Eliseo Subiela. If that doesn’t mean anything to you, try these: This inexplicable Filmfest fave “combines magical-realist flourishes with the most banal of soap-operatic situations,” traffics in “10th-rate Wim Wenders–isms,” and favors dialogue that “reads like an assemblage of portentous fortune cookie inserts.” You may hate them, but three City Paper critics can’t be wrong. At 8:45 p.m. at the AMC Loews Wisconsin Avenue.

The Cheat Sheet

Monday, April 24

DEFINITELY GO SEE

The Long Haul of A.I. Bezzerides

See p. 24.

TAKE A CHANCE ON

October 17, 1961

See p. 20.

Romeo and Juliet Get Married

See this page.

DON’T BE TEMPTED BY

Bal Can Can

See this page.

The Cheat Sheet

Tuesday, April 25

DEFINITELY GO SEE

Passion

See this page.

TAKE A CHANCE ON

Factotum

See this page.

The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes

All those classic, gothy Brothers Quay touches are here: diabolical inventor, operatic automaton, lush soundtrack. And this time, it looks like there might actually be a plot, too. At 6:30 p.m. at the E Street Cinema.

DON’T BE TEMPTED BY

Isn’t This a Time! A Tribute Concert for Harold Leventhal

See p. 25.

The Cheat Sheet

Wednesday, April 26

DEFINITELY GO SEE

Something you’ve been meaning to get to for ages: Brick, Brokeback, Capote….This isn’t Filmfest’s best night.

TAKE A CHANCE ON

The Fisherman and His Wife

See p. 25.

John & Jane Toll-Free

Meet the people at the other end of that 1-800 call: Glen, Naomi, Nikki, Nicholas, Sydney, and, uh, Osmond. Director Ashim Ahluwalia says he shot this doc in 35 mm instead of DV to draw attention to just how fictionalized the lives of Indian call-center agents are: fake names, fake accents, fake nationalities—everything, really, except the “lives” part. “We’re some fucking human beings here,” Sydney reminds us. At 8:45 p.m. at the E Street Cinema.

DON’T BE TEMPTED BY

Pelé Forever

See this page.

The Cheat Sheet

Thursday, April 27

DEFINITELY GO SEE

Live-In Maid

See this page.

TAKE A CHANCE ON

3 Needles

The story: how AIDS affects a South African missionary, a Chinese blood collector, and a Canadian porn actor. The cast: Stockard Channing, Lucy Liu, Sandra Oh, and Chloë Sevigny. The languages translated in the subtitles: Afrikaans, French, Mandarin, and Xhosa. This is what Filmfest is for, right? At 6:30 p.m. at the Embassy of Canada.

C.R.A.Z.Y.

See p. 24.

Iron Island

J.G. Ballard goes to the Persian Gulf, where a microcosmic society lives on an abandoned oil tanker. There’s even a half-mad patriarch: Captain, ahem, Nemat. Think Ali Nasirian will be as good as John Malkovich was in Empire of the Sun? We’re bettin’. At 6:15 p.m. at the AMC Loews Wisconsin Avenue.

DON’T BE TEMPTED BY

Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey

See p. 26.

The Cheat Sheet

Friday, April 28

DEFINITELY GO SEE

East of Havana

See p. 28.

TAKE A CHANCE ON

In Bed

See p. 30.

Dance Party: The Teenarama Story

This doc is requisite viewing for anyone who thinks D.C. kids don’t dance: They do, and they did—from 1963 to 1970, on WOOK-TV’s legendary Soul Train forerunner. Still, James Brown, Smokey Robinson, and Martha Reeves probably won’t be coming to the Warehouse any time soon, no matter how hard you shake your kitsch. At 9 p.m. at the Regal Gallery Place.

DON’T BE TEMPTED BY

Jails, Hospitals & Hip-Hop

See p. 25.

The Cheat Sheet

Saturday, April 29

DEFINITELY GO SEE

Antarmahal: Views of the Inner Chamber

See p. 23.

TAKE A CHANCE ON

Changing Times

See p. 29.

The Grönholm Method

A few years ago, director Marcelo Piñeyro looked at sex among bank robbers in the Goya-winning Burnt Money. Now he looks at treachery among corporate suits, with reportedly hilarious, near-perfect results. Says one IMDb user: “My only complaint has to do with some restroom scenes.” At 7 p.m. at American University’s Greenberg Theatre.

DON’T BE TEMPTED BY

The Second Wedding Night

See this page.