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2009 Film Festival - 'Convention,' 'Bollywood,' 'Headless Woman'

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 18, 2009 - Convention, Directed by Al Schnack

Filmmaker Al Schnack, a native of the St. Louis area, turned a team of documentarians loose in Denver for the 2008 Democratic convention and skillfully assembled what resulted. The filmmakers focused on the newsroom of the Denver Post, the mayor's office, the convention hall and the streets around it.

"Convention" mainly deals with the logistics of staging and covering a convention rather than political issues or backroom wheeling and dealing, and is interesting and informative. A few noteworthy characters emerge - a couple of top female assistants to the mayor, a young reporter for the Denver Post who tends to get flustered when things don't go right, and two older radicals, a man and a woman, who met during Vietnam and have been a couple ever since. He's a sourpuss and a whiner, but she is kind of adorable, a bright-eyed spreader of good vibes.

The film ends where it has to end - with the inspiring acceptance ceremony at Mile High Stadium. -- Reviewed by Harper Barnes | Special to the Beacon

Bollywood Beats, Directed by Mehul Shah

Raj, a handsome young dancer, dreams of creating a hip new kind of India-influenced dance. His immigrant parents want him to go into the family jewelry business. He starts a dance class for Indian women, soon accruing a motley crew: a saucy grandma, her nerdy granddaughter, an independent single woman, a perfect housewife -- and one gay boy. Soon, they are in a dance competition. This easygoing movie looks amateur around the edges but is full of fun. Pooja Kumar as Laxmi, the unappreciated housewife, nearly steals the movie.

Consider it with “Amreeka” as interesting bookends for the festival. -- Reviewed by Nick Otten | Special to the Beacon

The Headless Woman, Directed by Lucrecia Martel

Distracted by the ring of her cell phone, Veronica (Maria Onetto) looks away from the road -- and then hears a thud and feels a jolt. She has hit something, maybe a dog, maybe a person, but she dares not look or move from her car. After struggling to regain her composure (Onetto's face registers a cascade of emotions in seconds), she drives off.

Numbed, dazed, bored, Veronica sleepwalks through her life -- and the rest of the film. Her interactions with her odd extended family seem shallow and disconnected. Eventually, Veronica admits her suspicions that she has killed someone to her husband, but she never seems particularly remorseful or guilt-ridden. He's ultimately more interested in covering up her traces, should anyone investigate, than getting to the truth.

Did Veronica kill someone? Maybe, maybe not. This movie is more allegory than mystery. Veronica's unwillingness to confront her actions evokes Argentina's willful amnesia during its "dirty war," during which thousands disappeared and died. Unfortunately, though, "The Headless Woman" is too detached from any heart or soul to care. -- Reviewed by Susan Hegger | Beacon Staff