Final MSPIFF 2010: Monday May 3: USA, Ethiopia, Finland

Well, it’s been a while since the MSPIFF “Best of the Fest” series finished.  I did manage to see three films that I’d wanted to catch but couldn’t, due to work conflicts or sleep or whathaveyou.  All three were on Monday, May 3rd:

  * [No More Smoke Signals](, USA.  This is a Swiss film about the [Pine Ridge Indian Reservation]( in southwest South Dakota.  The central character is [a radio station, KILI, 90.1MHz FM](  This radio station is the prairie home companion (lack of capital letters are intentional) and part cultural glue for the Oglala Lakota nation in Pine Ridge and elsewhere in South Dakota.  It's run on a shoestring budget, including an eagle feather substitute for a more expensive lightning arrestor system.  The feather didn't work, unfortunately: the station was blown off the air by a strike in 2006 and caused enough damage that it took over a year to raise the funds to fix the damage.  We see how the station knits the Lakota nation together as poverty and (the filmmaker suggests) the US government's persecution of the American Indian Movement threaten to undo it.  **Recommended**.  May show again in the Twin Cities later in the summer? ([MSPIFF link](, includes link to trailer)
  * [The Athlete](, Ethiopia.  A based-on-the-true-story story about Abebe Bikila, the barefooted marathon runner who surprised the Olympic world in 1960 with his gold medal finish in Rome.  ([MSPIFF link](  The start-from-the-middle beginning was a bit confusing, but things fell together quickly.  With so much resentment in Ethiopia toward Italy's invasion in World War II, the entire nation was overjoyed by Bikila's win in Rome.  "It took 500,000 Italian soldiers to conquer Ethiopia.  It took only one Ethiopian soldier to conquer Italy," the saying goes now.  Bikila wins gold in 1964 and even more fame, especially since he'd had an appendectomy six weeks before The Games in Tokyo.  But injuries prevent him from finishing races in Mexico City and other high profile races ... and those failures torment him.  A car accident leaves him unable to walk, much less win.  But Bikila is one amazingly tough, competitive son-of-a-gun.  Over a third of the crowd in the theater were east African, and their cheers were as infectious as the movie itself.  The director's very occasional use of news & film clips from the 60's and 70's of Bikila himself were, I think, very effective.  **Recommended**.  There's talk that it may get a distribution deal in the US for later this year?
  * [Tears of April](, Finland.  ([MSPIFF link]( The civil war in Finland at the end of World War I was quite a whopper.  The nationalist Whites defeated the Russian-supported Reds, who were then hunted and killed in revenge.  One principled lieutenant refuses orders to shoot "fleeing" prisoners and instead brings the lone survivor to a judge for trial.  He's a noted author and poet, an intellectual man who'll give her a fair trial.  But war has sunk its claws deep into Finland, and the judge and his staff are not immune.  Not a happy ending, but then again, how many civil wars do?  The Cekov/study of the asylum/One Flew Over the Cookoo's Nest themed bits were too thick, but they're tolerable.  **Recommended**.

So, that’s it.  I may follow with a follow-up to this follow-up, since the festival’s audience poll numbers were printed and distributed during the Best of Fest period.  When/if I do that, it’ll be another 11 months before the next Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival.  {sniffle}  I had a blast and am most definitely looking forward to next year.