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IFFBoston 2010: Weekend

A sampling of the films on IFFBoston's chock-full weekend slate includes: Cell 211, Anne Perry: Interiors, 9500 Liberty, and The Killer Inside Me.

Eight-time Goya Award-winning Cell 211 is a taut prison thriller whose central characters are a new guard trapped on the inmate side of a nascent prison riot and the brutal rebellion’s emergent leader.  This excellent Spanish export leaves no breaks in the pacing or in the lives of the characters.  Each battle is hard fought, hard won, and hard lost.  The rich stew of personas in this cauldron of tension reveals, as so often happens, that there can be more honor among thieves and murderers - people that have nothing left but honor - than among the so-called “good guys”.

The subject of the documentary Anne Perry: Interiors knows what goes on inside the head and heart of a killer.  Today, Anne Perry is known internationally as a best selling author of historical murder mysteries.  Historically, her connection to murder and mystery is a little more personal.  Anne Perry was born Juliet Hulme and, as a teenager, Hulme was known internationally for murdering her best friend’s mother.  This murder was so horrific that it became the basis for a movie, 1994’s Heavenly Creatures.  In Interiors, we are allowed visitation into Anne’s tightly controlled world.  After a slow introduction to her cool, collected exterior and her smiling and loyal inner circle, surface cracks begin to appear that provide a glimpse inside to the troubles and doubt lingering within them all.

9500 Liberty is an address.  It is also the title of a documentary that, on the surface, tracks a local battle over immigration policy that lit the fuse on the powder keg that has blown into a national issue.  On a deeper level, it shows what happens when a community is “infected by fear”.  This local battle is not centered on the recent legislation in Arizona, but goes back years further, to 2007, and Prince William County, Virginia – just outside the nation’s capitol.  As a rising population of Latin American immigrants flows into this historically predominantly-white area, ignorance (as it so often does) leads first to apprehension and then intolerance as the longer-termed residents try to stem the tide.  Local residents Eric Byler & Annabel Park took it upon themselves to try to balance the pre-packaged negative misinformation that was toxifying the discussion and causing people to disengage.  Their fight was waged with clips from the front lines of the struggle that were released on YouTube.  Those clips became the basis for the long-form film.  In an effort to continue balancing misinformation in a wider arena, Park, with Byler, founded the Coffee Party in January 2010.

Michael Winterbottom’s The Killer Inside Me is based on by Jim Thompson 1952 pulp novel of the same name.  In working to be true to the book, the film is an unflinchingly brutal portrayal of a small-town sheriff who is crisp and clean on the surface, but sadistically rotten at the core.  The IFFB intro for this film actually came with a verbal caution: “I’ve never done a warning in eight years… having sex with a horse, aborted fetus… no warning.  In this film, there are two scenes of brutal violence.  If they’re too much… look away.  By listening, you’ll know when you can look again.”  That said, the violence is central to the story.  If you change the violence, you change the story.  I’m reminded of the discussion about Oliver Stone’s reputed desire for Natural Born Killers to be over the top so that it would be cartoonish, and the violence would therefore be obviously commentary and not endorsement.  By other voices forcing him to edit the worst visuals, it reigned in the violence enough that it actually made the film seem worse because it was more realistic.  Well, The Killer Inside Me is supposed to be horrific, and it succeeds – because it is so true-to-life.  With the violence being what most people discuss about this film, what gets lost is that it is a well-told tale that is worth the time, if you can handle the darkness of the material.  After all, as Salon.com’s Andrew O’Hehir opined, “On some level, complaining that "The Killer Inside Me" is full of misogynistic violence is akin to reading "Moby-Dick" and objecting to all the stuff about whaling.”

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