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DIFF: Weekend Picks
by Stephen Becker 1 Apr 2011

A mixture of documentaries and features, plus a couple of excellent North Texas shorts, make up our weekend picks.


Pioneer, directed by David Lowery


Shorts Program – A pair of SXSW award-winners made by North Texas filmmakers are part of this program. Pioneer, by David Lowery (director of the excellent St. Nick) follows a 15-minute conversation in which a father tells his son a bedtime story about how the son was lost and eventually found. While all the action takes place in the child’s bedroom, Lowery innovatively mixes in sounds from the story being told. The effect puts us in the little boy’s shoes, with one foot in bed and the other in his dreams. Also onboard is 8, Julie Gould’s meditation on how a parent/child relationship changes when one of the parents is no longer around.  In the eight-minute film, we watch as a mother and pre-teen daughter sneak into a baseball field and do the kinds of things the child might have done with her baseball coach father if he were still alive. The alternating moments of happiness and sadness ring true and resonate. (3 p.m., Angelika)

The Greatest Movie Ever Sold – Morgan Spurlock is back at it again. The man behind Super Size Me returns with a documentary about how advertising infiltrates all areas of life. The film was completely financed by product-placement, adding another layer to the conversation. (3 p.m. Magnolia)

Soul Surfer – You may not remember the name Bethany Hamilton. But you certainly remember her story. She’s the 13-year-old surfer who had her arm ripped off by a 15-foot tiger shark while catching a wave off the coast of Kauai. In Soul Surfer, AnnaSophia Robb stars as Hamilton, with Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt on board to play her parents. Quaid is scheduled to attend the screening (7:30 p.m., NorthPark)

Most Valuable Players, directed by Matthew Kallis


Most Valuable Player – This is a doc for all you Gleeks out there. It follows theater students in eastern Pennsylvania as they prep their high school musicals in hopes of being recognized at the Freddy Awards, a sort of regional Tonys. The film focuses on three high schools, and when two of them pick Les Misérables, the competition really heats up. The other school chooses Bye Bye Birdie, and as in Glee, it even has a reluctant jock take on the starring role. The push-pull of art for art’s sake vs. art for awards’ sake hovers over the film. The Freddys certainly drive the kids to be their best, but at times the thirst for recognition can cause the participants to lose focus. Like other documentaries, Matthew Kallis’s film benefits from an unexpected plot twist that packs an emotional wallop and adds perspective. (2:30 p.m., NorthPark)

Five Time Champion – This film has got Texas written all over it, from its Austin-based director (Berndt Mader) to its cast, which includes Betty Buckley. (That’s probably a good reason it’s in the Texas competition.) The film world premiered at SXSW, and while I did not get to see it there, it was one of those films that seemed to be on everyone’s lips. In the movie, a boy discovers that his small-town relatives don’t quite fall into small-town stereotypes. When he sets out to make everything as he thinks it should be, he learns a lot about how life really is. (3:15 p.m., Magnolia)

Booker T Washington High School Showcase – See what the students at the arts magnate school are up to with this collection of their short films. (4:15 p.m., NorthPark)