If you want to see The Shining re-made with chickens, a gut-punching animation about Africa during WWI, or Alan Rickman in his last feature role—there is a film. 97 to be exact, plus 62 shorts.
The Portland International Film Festival starts Thursday, Feb. 11 and runs for 17 days at theaters throughout the city. It's the biggest of Portland's innumerable film fests.
While there are some themes—the program divides films into chunks like Oscar nominees and family-friendly, and we noticed a farm animal trend—wading through the lineup can be like trying to find an non-white Oscar nominee.
So we watched every one available to press in order to tell you what to watch:
39th Portland International Film Festival
100 Yen Love [WW PICK]
B [JAPAN] Isolated and morose, 32-year-old hikikomori Ichiko (Sakura Ando) is forced into self-reliance by her mother and reluctantly takes a job at a 100-yen konbini. Mistreated by the men around her, she becomes aware of her own inner resolve and gradually learns to assert herself. The low-key visual style reflects the grungy characters and their small-town environment, and Ando carries the film with a genuine humor that holds your attention, even if the final act does feel rushed. MIKE GALLUCCI. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium. 5:45 pm Friday, Feb. 12.
A- [FRANCE] Africa's role in World War I is rarely told, but Simon Rouby's family-friendly animation and precious story make it surprisingly relatable in this movie about a young West African boy who goes in search of his older brother and ends up at the battle of Verdun. Mixing 3-D models of characters with 2-D animations for the background, Rouby's film looks like The Polar Express set in the world of Little Bear on Nick Jr. While the film lovingly protracts Adama's coming-of-age story into an allegory for Africa's own growth, it's runs long. ENID SPITZ. Fox Tower. 1 pm Sunday, Feb. 14.
C+ [ROMANIA-CZECH REPUBLIC-FRANCE] If The Princess Bride were transplanted to 1830s Wallachia, stripped of its humor and fattened with lengthy, black-and-white riding sequences and a man having his balls cut off in public sounds like a good time, this antique epic will woo you. The Berlin Film Festival winner for best director is a meandering epic about Constable Costandin and his son scouring the land for a runaway Gypsy. Radu Jude's monochromatic, cinéma vérité look at feudal squalor does boast swarms of extras, Ansel Adams-style landscapes and piercing lines like "I will whip-fuck you." But you might walk out feeling whip-fucked yourself, unless you enjoy your meditative art films punctuated with genital mutilation. ENID SPITZ. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium. 6:15 pm Saturday, Feb. 13.
April and the Extraordinary World
C [FRANCE-BELGIUM-CANADA] Releasing a subtitled animated feature is a tall order. Originally based on a graphic novel, which translated to April and the Twisted World, this steampunk epic is an uneven affair. The backgrounds are gorgeous. The characters leave much to be desired. The story begins in an alternate-history Europe in which electricity was trumped by coal and Napolean V is in power in the 1930s. A dour young girl and her talking cat must breach a vast scientific conspiracy that goes above the government to a place that is delightfully and unexpectedly reptilian. NATHAN CARSON. Fox Tower. 1:15 pm Saturday, Feb. 13.
Arabian Nights, Volume 1: The Restless One
C+ [PORTUGAL-FRANCE- GERMANY-SWITZERLAND] The Restless One, first volume of Miguel (Tabu) Gomes' Arabian Nights trilogy, layers a dizzying swirl of tone and genre within this politically charged, playfully abstruse extrapolation of Middle Eastern folklore. Opening with footage of a shipyard devastated by massive layoffs, Gomes condemns his overmatched ambition via self-deprecating voice-overs before fleeing the location shoot altogether and abandoning the documentary approach for something far bolder. Employing the timeless story of Scheherazade and her 1,001 tales as framing device, the Portuguese director unfurls a selection of fantastical allegories at turns whimsical and chilling to illustrate the societal decay wrought by internationally mandated austerity measures. JAY HORTON. Cinema 21. 8:30 pm Monday, Feb. 15.
Chevalier [WW PICK]
A [GREECE] After days of fishing, diving and playing cards, six men on a luxury yacht resort to nitpicking each other until they decide to play a game to decide who is the best man among them. Each awards points to the others based on how each man does everything, whether he's the one who has the best relationship with his wife or cooks calamari the most traditionally—it devolves into an actual dick-size contest at one point. The banal competition brings out the best and worst in each man, leaving you cheering for your favorite and laughing at the rest. LAUREN TERRY. Fox Tower. 8:30 pm Monday, Feb. 15.
D [CANADA, SHORT] Nick DenBoer and Davy Force have used their animation prowess to remix Stanley Kubrick's horror masterpiece The Shining into a 5-minute comedy short. The Chickening is an impressive showcase of technical chops, but it's also a drastic aesthetic failure. The dialogue (delivered through composite mouths) only reinforces the stereotype that Canadians have a goofy sense of humor. Every single frame of this film is an eyesore. The conceit is that this movie will begin a classic film remix movement. Followed by Baskin. NATHAN CARSON. Cinema 21. 10:30 pm Friday, Feb. 12.
C [CHILE] A handful of offending priests exiled to a coastal group home, ostensibly to atone for their misdeeds, gets an unexpected visit from a character from one man's past in this overlong, quiet film. When the encounter leads one priest to suicide, a representative of the church steps in to investigate. But there's little intreigue in the dark tale, told with lengthy takes and limited dialogue. MERYL WILLIAMS. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium; 8:45 pm Saturday, Feb. 13. Moreland Theater; 4 pm Sunday, Feb. 14.
B- [INDIA] The Indian caste system is alive and well—in all its Kafkaesque glory—in this look at an aging folk musician's ludicrous trial. As the singer's modern, young lawyer looks on helplessly, the wealthy judge relies on superstitious beliefs and arcane laws to send the singer to prison. The charge? His lyrics caused a sewage-shoveling peasant to commit suicide. With humor as dry as the Thar desert, the film's main problem is pacing. But if Blade Runner deserves a dozen recuts, this film is more than deserving of one. ZACH MIDDLETON. Fox Tower; 5:45 pm Friday, Feb. 12. Moreland Theater; 8:30 pm Tuesday, Feb. 16.
Eye in the Sky
C+ [UNITED KINGDOM] When a British colonel (Helen Mirren) orders a drone strike on a meeting of Somali terrorists in Kenya, one American pilot has a crisis of conscience over the collateral costs: the likely death of a nearby girl. Aaron Paul brings Jesse Pinkman-level pathos to the role of the drone pilot, and Alan Rickman is witheringly funny in one of his last roles. Still, it's hard to laugh at landing jokes when tears for landing missiles feel more appropriate. ZACH MIDDLETON. Cinema 21. 8:35 pm Friday, Feb. 12.
The Forbidden Room
b [CANADA] Cobbling together a playfully disjointed collection of sequences based on silent movies and early talkies, the latest release from Winnipeg provocateur Guy Maddin and his corps of daft cineastes follows the path of his Seances project—a series of film shoots he turned into an interactive website. The Forbidden Room strings together more than a dozen narratives into a crazy quilt of surrealist dementia. Avoiding any semblance of thematic or stylistic coherency, the film dives deep into the OTT weirdnesses of past genre flicks for an absurdist spree fueled by bravura technique, goofball wit and a vibrant passion for the forgotten works of cinema's golden age. JAY HORTON. Cinema 21. 8:30 pm Tuesday, Feb. 16.
B [UNITED STATES] What starts out as a superficial rumble through the old boys' club of Michelin-rated restaurants evolves into a surprisingly moving rags-to-riches story about Curtis Duffy, a chef who sacrifices everything to open his first restaurant. This doc, which premiered at South by Southwest, has plenty of food porn, but it also gives us a look at the punishing, up-all-night work ethic and the astonishing craftsmanship of people who devote their entire lives to turning food into art. JENNIFER RABIN. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium. 4 pm Saturday, Feb. 13.
B+ [FRANCE] The Louvre is more than an art museum. It is a palace filled with artwork, relics and culture of Europe past and present. Even the Nazis did their best to protect and preserve it. Francofonia is a Russian documentary that weaves between archival footage and pictures and historical re-creation to tell the story of the Louvre, primarily during the German occupation of France during WWII. The switching between Russian, French and German only adds to the feeling that the Louvre is so much more than just a museum in France. JOHN LOCANTHI. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium. 8:30 pm Monday, Feb. 15.
A Good American
A- [UNITED STATES] Almost immediately after 9/11, people began making unbelievable claims about the U.S. government's role in the tragedy. This documentary is uniquely convincing in its argument that the National Security Agency sat on key intelligence, backed up by claims from the men and women who wrote the programs that Snowden famously blew his whistle on. Few movies so thoroughly explore the definition of the word "intrigue." ZACH MIDDLETON. World Trade Center. 1:15 pm Saturday, Feb. 13, and 8:30 pm Monday, Feb. 15.
B [CZECH REPUBLIC-SLOVAKIA] In this bittersweet Czech tale, Vlasta is a self-sacrificing matriarch who, as a home care nurse, knows how to take care of everyone but herself. When she becomes terminally ill, she must learn to regain her self-love. In doing so, she discovers that healing isn't always formulaic or scientific. The film is quietly intimate, favoring silent moments and showing long steadicam shots of the Czech countryside and Vlasta doing the mundane, like watching a fly buzz past her. SOPHIA JUNE. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium. 8:30 pm Monday, Feb. 15.
B- [UNITED STATES] The final film by acclaimed cinéma vérité documentarian Albert Maysles, In Transit follows Amtrak's Empire Builder on its three-day run from Chicago to Seattle, though the destination proves far less important than the journey. As the eerily majestic landscape rushes by, Maysles' team weaves a rich tapestry of ordinary Americans in transition, from a reported 400 hours of eavesdropping on a remarkably eclectic blend of passengers compelled to describe what they're seeking (or, just as likely, running away from). JAY HORTON. World Trade Center. 7 pm Sunday, Feb. 14, and 1 pm Saturday, Feb. 15.
C [SWITZERLAND] Four million Iraqis are living in a diaspora today. In his documentary, Samir grounds this reality through the stories of his own Iraqi relatives, who are now living on almost every continent. He shows us his family tree and then creates a living history of Iraq and the Jamal Aldin family, told through interviews and Ken Burns-style shots of photographs. The voices of Iraqis previously silenced by war and Saddam Hussein are powerful, but with a runtime of almost three hours, the film feels self-indulgent and academic. SOPHIA JUNE. World Trade Center; 7 pm Friday, Feb. 12. Cinema 21; noon Monday, Feb. 15.
Knife of the Party
B- [UNITED STATES, SHORT] This cute—and bloody—short is the result of a 53 percent-funded Indiegogo campaign, produced by the guy who brought you Glee and crafted by two first-time directors. It depicts two party DJs hired to entertain a Lovecraftian cultist, and I hate to give away any more than that. But if you are interested in DJ culture or horror fiction, this one will give you a good 8-minute laugh. Followed by Liza the Fox-Fairy. NATHAN CARSON. Cinema 21; 10 pm Sunday, Feb. 14. Moreland Theater; 1 pm Monday, Feb. 15.
Lamb [WW PICK]
A [ETHIOPIA] The first Ethiopian film ever shown at Cannes, Lamb tells the story of a boy trying to escape his relatives' house before they can sacrifice his beloved lamb for a religious feast. The verdant mountains of Ethiopia, which you have probably never seen before on celluloid, provide the backdrop for this quiet film that unfolds in unexpected ways. First-time director Yared Zeleke coaxes gorgeously nuanced performances out of his first-time actors, and you will be hard-pressed to find a film at PIFF that is more thoughtfully directed or beautifully photographed. JENNIFER RABIN. Moreland Theater. 1:30 pm Saturday, Feb. 13.
Last Cab to Darwin
A [AUSTRALIA] Glowing in its gorgeous Australian setting, Darwin takes us on a road trip with a man dying of stomach cancer. He's driving 2,000 kilometers to Darwin, to find the one doctor willing to give him death with dignity. But government red tape stands in his way when he arrives. Michael Caton stars as Rex, a man you really won't want to see die, in a road-trip movie you won't want to see end. MERYL WILLIAMS. Cinema 21. 1:15 pm Saturday, Feb. 13.
Liza the Fox-Fairy [WW PICK]
A [HUNGARY] Fans of Amelie, Wes Anderson, Like Water for Chocolate, and Harold and Maude—drop what you are doing and pencil this film into your cute little day planners. This Hungarian feature brings magical realism to the present. Liza is a space cadet, a dreamer and a home care nurse. Her imaginary friend is a Japanese crooner who also happens to be a poltergeist. She imagines that she will find true love at the burger joint across the street. Under the curse of the ghost who loves her, nearly every man who crosses Liza's trail meets a humorously morbid ending. NATHAN CARSON. Cinema 21; 10 pm Sunday, Feb. 14. Moreland Theater; 1 pm Monday, Feb. 15.
C [IRELAND-GREECE] The Lobster is one of those dystopian sci-fi movies that needs to spend the first 30 minutes laying out the ground rules of the setting. David (Colin Farrell) is single, which is outlawed, so David goes to a singles retreat with one catch: If you don't find a mate within 60 days, you'll be turned into an animal. On the plus side, you get to pick your animal. David chooses the lobster. Interesting concept, but this vision of the future involves Farrell, John C. Reilly, Rachel Weisz and the rest of cast lurching through their lines in a dull, passionless monotone. JOHN LOCANTHI. Cinema 21. 6 pm Saturday, Feb. 13.
Magallanes [WW PICK]
A [PERU-ARGENTINA] In this Peruvian thriller, Magallanes, a soldier-turned-taxi driver, tries to help Celina (Magaly Solier), an Indigenous woman whom his superior kept as his sex slave for more than a year when she was 13. His amateur plan and bumbling demeanor set him up as a sympathetic character, but as the story goes on, he reveals himself as a complex antihero. Solier gives the best performance of the film as a realistically traumatized survivor who ends up being stronger than anyone. SOPHIA JUNE. Fox Tower; 6:15 pm Saturday, Feb. 13. Moreland Theater; 9 pm Monday, Feb. 15.
A- [FRANCE] A shrill French lady is so rich that no one dares snuff her dreams of becoming an opera singer, in Xavier Giannoli's portrait of splendor, a surprisingly humorous drama that's all fur collars, stage lights and silk robes. But there's melancholy too, as Marguerite's husband arranges sad, private concerts filled with pre-screened patrons. MERYL WILLIAMS. Moreland Theater. 8:45 pm Saturday, Feb. 13.
Men & Chicken [WW PICK]
A- [DENMARK] While watching their late father reading his own will on film—the camera accidentally pointed at his groin—brothers Gabriel and Elias (Hannibal's Mads Mikkelsen) find out the real truth: He wasn't their father, and they have different mothers. Men & Chicken lets us know that these brothers aren't normal from the get-go, with the erstwhile Hannibal Lecter nonsensically berating his therapist before sprinting to the restroom to jerk off. Men & Chicken is The Island of Dr. Moreau meets an irreverent slapstick comedy. Better yet, it's a version of Dr. Moreau that's intentionally funny. JOHN LOCANTHI. Fox Tower. 8:45 pm Saturday, Feb. 13.
B [ITALY, SHORT] Margherita Buy plays an intense, driven film director in the midst of several personal crises. Her mother is dying, she has just kicked her doormat boyfriend to the curb, and the star of her film can't remember his lines. The fact that this actor is John Turturro speaking fluent Italian goes some distance to make the film interesting, especially as he's such a likable jerk in this role. All the performances are strong, but there is nothing artful about the cinematography. The theme of regret and loss carry the film to its conclusion, buoyed by an excellent soundtrack that includes Arvo Part and Leonard Cohen. NATHAN CARSON. Cinema 21. 7 pm Sunday, Feb. 14.
D [EGYPT] A young housemaid quietly awaits a better life while maintaining the empty villa of her expatriate employers in this aimless feature. Set during the aftermath of the Egyptian Revolution of 2011, the film tries to mount incisive questions about social class, love in the face of criminal pursuit, and the naiveté of blind faith. Instead, the meandering screenplay discards nearly every threat and goes nowhere despite its 122-minute running time. Director and writer Hala Khalil can't elicit sympathy with her static characters, as the aimless story trudges to an unsatisfying conclusion. MIKE GALLUCCI. Moreland Theater. 1 pm Sunday, Feb. 14.
No Home Movie
C- [BELGIUM-FRANCE] Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman's mother is the muse for this two-hour film, which is made up entirely of home videos. Calling the film hyperrealism, documentary or even voyeuristic is a stretch. It is simply a loosely constructed biography told through shots of everyday life, including three minutes of her reading a magazine and nine minutes of the Belgian countryside through a car window. SOPHIA JUNE. NW Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium; 4 pm Sunday, Feb. 14. World Trade Center; 5:45 pm Tuesday, Feb. 16.
The Other Side
A- [ITALY-FRANCE-UNITED STATES] A pregnant woman shoots heroin into her arm while her bug-eyed boyfriend spouts non sequiturs about Obama. In the next scene, she is at her evening shift at the strip club with dollar bills between her butt cheeks, while he sells heroin to his sister. This is a documentary portrait of life in rural Louisiana, fixated on images like empty plastic tubs of potato salad and old men whose eyes are tinted red from liver damage. Italian director Roberto Minervini starkly captures Americana at its grimiest and most brutally honest, and in a way only someone who's not American can. SOPHIA JUNE. Moreland Theater; 8:30 pm Friday, Feb. 12. Fox Tower; 6 pm Monday, Feb. 15.
The Pearl Button
B [CHILE] The Pearl Button explores what's left of the indigenous peoples of Western Patagonia and their connection to the water. But it's never sure which one to focus on. Poignant reflections and old photographs of a disappearing, marine people are interrupted by images of ice comets streaking through the cosmos. It's an important story about a little-known people, especially for an American audience. JOHN LOCANTHI. World Trade Center. 8:45 pm Saturday, Feb. 13.
A- [ICELAND] With their rounded guts, woolen shoulders and hard heads, brothers Gummi and Kiddi have started to look like the prized rams they raise. Despite living within a stone's throw of each other, the two haven't spoken in 40 years. Granted, there's not much dialogue between anyone in this almost comically minimalist Scandinavian film. When an infection threatens to wipe out all the sheep in their valley, they must put aside their biblical feud to save their way of life. ZACH MIDDLETON. Fox Tower. 4 pm Saturday, Feb. 13.
Road to La Paz
B+ [ARGENTINA] Sunny, funny and full of cute dogs, Road to La Paz seems to have landed on a winning formula for the road-trip film. When a mustachioed man-child (Rodrigo de la Serna) is commissioned to drive an elderly, staunch Muslim (Ernesto Suarez) from Argentina to Bolivia, a clash of cultures, diets, and music choices leads to hilarity. The film is subtitled, but when a joke setup comes, it's most satisfying to simply watch actors for the punch line and ignore the words. With performances so well done, nothing lost in translation is missed. ZACH MIDDLETON. Fox Tower. 7 pm Sunday, Feb. 14.
A [CANADA] Bereft of proper supervision and emotional support, three teenagers clash with each other and their own inner selves, manifesting their boundless frustration as reckless violence. Suffused with stunning photography of the Canadian wilderness and a haunting, ethereal score, this dreamlike film is a psychological examination of being young. As the youth's hasty decisions balloon into unexpected consequences, it's enthralling and unremitting to watch. MIKE GALLUCCI. Moreland Theater; 6:15 pm Friday, Feb. 12. Cinema 21; 6:15 pm Tuesday, Feb. 16.
Songs From the North
B- [SOUTH KOREA-UNITED STATES] Calling our collective understanding of life in North Korea anything but hazy is an understatement. Soon-Mi Yoo's Songs From the North doesn't do much to lift the shroud, but it does offer a sometimes fascinating view of life in the world's most reclusive nation. Turns out, well, it's kind of boring. The film intersperses propaganda films, TV footage of rallies, and archival news with very limited vignettes from the director's three trips to the nation. Mostly, they're long shots—obscured by trees and curtains, probably because they were shot clandestinely—of people going about their lives, sometimes speaking in hushed tones on Dear Leader and reunification, but mostly working menial jobs or walking isolated streets. It's part tourist diary, part history lesson and proof that, well, even life in a militarized hermit nation is pretty damn slow for normal people. AP KRYZA. World Trade Center. 6:15 pm Monday, Feb. 15.
B [IRAN-GERMANY-SWITZERLAND] On the surface, Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami's Sonita might seem a normal teen in the slums of Tehran. She's energetic in spite of her impoverished circumstances. She's popular in school. And she dreams of becoming a hip-hop superstar. Trouble is, as an Afghan refugee with family back home, her dreams conflict with her destiny of being sold into marriage. Her plight is sadly common, but Sonita herself—a fiery and opportunistic fighter wrapped in a head scarf—is anything but. And once she launches into staccato, socially driven hip-hop, her dreams of changing the world don't seem fanciful. AP KRYZA. World Trade Center. 1 pm Sunday, Feb. 14.
B [UNITED STATES, SHORT] Middle school is awkward for most of us, and especially so for Daisy, whose front teeth stubbornly refuse to stop growing. "Hamster face" and other slurs abound in this musical short about Daisy's attempts to fit in. Followed by Demon. JOHN LOCANTHI. Cinema 21. 11 pm Saturday, Feb. 13.