Cover Story: Felicia Feaster's festival favorites
What Remains, Home Front, Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story
__WHAT REMAINS 5 stars. This intimate portrait of controversial photographer Sally Mann catches viewers up on the reasons why her photographs have proven so influential. Director Steven Cantor follows the Virginia-based photographer as she undertakes a provocative new body of work centered on death and inspired by her husband's battle with muscular dystrophy, the adored flesh of her own children as they change into adults, and her own urge for artistic immortality. Her children and husband feature prominently in this fascinating documentary, and Mann herself emerges as a genuine iconoclast, pursuing her artistic quest even when galleries and her own instincts make her second-guess herself.
Thurs., June 15, 8 p.m., at Rich Theatre, Woodruff Arts Center.
__AL FRANKEN: GOD SPOKE 3 stars. A voice of dissent amid the right-wing blitzkrieg, Al Franken emerges in this documentary as a very human, vulnerable, idealistic man with brilliant comic timing and a refreshingly humble persona who drags his own bag through the airport and exhibits an endearing devotion to his longtime wife. The film itself may prove both traumatic and cathartic for lefties. They will appreciate the unmasking of the bullying, deceptive tactics of right-wing ideologues such as Bill O'Reilly and Ann Coulter, but may recoil from the still-fresh pain of the film's slow, inevitable build to the defeat of John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election.
Sat., June 10, 7 p.m.; and Fri., June 16, 12:15 p.m., at Landmark Midtown Art Cinemas.
__HOME FRONT 3 stars. The war in Iraq is often discussed in terms of body count, but those numbers hide the lingering, devastating effects of the war on the soldiers who survive, including the 16,000 who suffer mental and physical injury for the rest of their lives. A painful but important portrait of the dramatic way a family copes with the changes wrought when their son Jeremy Feldbusch loses his eyesight and suffers brain damage, Home Front provides no dramatic explosions or even a build to some emotional catharsis, only a slowly developing feeling of sitting on the shoulder of this family as it tries to return to normalcy.
Sat., June 10, 4:30 p.m., at Landmark Midtown Art Cinemas.
__QUINCEAÑERA 4 stars. It is hard to think of a film centered on Hispanic-Americans featuring characters as complex, fully drawn and dynamic as the ones in this Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award winner. On the eve of her traditional Quinceañera, a kind of sweet 15 party, preacher's daughter Magdalena (Emily Rios) discovers she is pregnant. Her parents banish her, and her unlikely allies in L.A.'s close-knit Echo Park neighborhood become her gay gang-banging cousin Carlos (Jesse Garcia) and her aging great-great uncle Tomas (Chalo González), who offers his folksy home as a refuge to both of them. Quinceañera tackles a myriad of ideas — from the conflict between traditional values and the text-messaging new generation to gentrification — without ever losing its focus or succumbing to PC stereotypes.
Fri., June 9, 8 p.m., at the Rialto Center.
__ABDUCTION: THE MEGUMI YOKOTA STORY 5 stars. A harrowing, unbelievable story, this finely crafted documentary centers on the nefarious plot by the North Korean government to abduct Japanese children and young adults to help them train their spies to infiltrate other countries. The families of the stolen children, among them the parents of 13-year-old schoolgirl Megumi Yokota, abducted on her way home from school in 1977, fight tirelessly and for decades to reunite with their children, expressing a level of grief and loss it is often hard to shake.
Sun., June 11, 7 p.m.; and Mon., June 12, 3 p.m., at Landmark Midtown Art Cinemas.__