Ten to watch 

Our must-sees for this year's Little Rock Film Festival.

'PASSENGER PIGEONS': Deals with disaster.

'PASSENGER PIGEONS': Deals with disaster.

Dir.: Pedro Gonzales-Rubio, 70 min.

Having already garnered a number of awards in, amongst others, the Rotterdam International and Miami Film Festivals, this minimalist piece of cinema verite is the topic of much cineaste chatter for the way it delicately treads the line between fiction and non-fiction. In fact, after the film's premiere, newcomer Gonzales-Rubio couldn't escape being asked whether "Alamar" is a feature or documentary film, to which he replied "I just think of it as a film." Very loosely dramatized, it follows an actual father in real life circumstances as he takes his aging father and his five-year old child on a days-long Mayan fishing trip before his ex-wife returns to her native Rome with their son. Taking cues from remodernist heroes like Bela Tarr and Gus Van Sant, this nautical, coming-of-age meditation on masculinity and cultural identity may not be the fastest-paced film, but the beautifully colored, bittersweet trailer is one of the most hypnotically engaging and promising of the entire festival. Riverdale, 1:15 p.m., Thu. June 3; Riverdale, 3 p.m., Sun. June 6.

Dir.: Phedon Papamichel, 93 min.

The latest directorial effort from celebrated cinematographer and director of photography Phedon Papamichel ("Sideways," "Walk the Line," "W.") takes him back to his native country to show the story of two teenage stepsiblings, a guarded, sarcastic young photographer and his dour but newly sexually empowered stepsister. Stuck in rural Greece after a car wreck, they have to rely on a drunken American expat drifter (played by Nick Nolte) as a guide as they traverse the ancient landscape to return to civilization. Little Rock plays home to the world premiere of "Arcadia Lost" and, as such, the little information about the film is closely guarded. But doesn't that pique your curiosity even more? It certainly does for us. Director Papamichel and others will be on hand during the festival. Riverdale, 8 p.m., Fri. June 4.

Dir.: Sam Wainwright Douglas, 90 min.

Architect, Auburn University professor and fifth-generation Mississippian "Sambo" Mockbee founded the radical, charitable Rural Studio to lead his students in an ongoing project to provide residents of Alabama's "Black Belt," one of the most impoverished areas in North America, with houses that are "warm, dry and noble." Also, beautiful examples of modernist architecture built on a budget — good-hearted Fallingwaters specking a rural, post-apocalyptic neighborhood completely crippled by poverty. The Rural Studio participants not only worked, they lived, ate, played (a lot of baseball with) and socialized with the community at large. Now, if you're one of the folks that finds "Extreme Makeover" a bit garish, you'd probably scoff at this writeup. But don't worry — the movie opens with archival footage of one of the residents chastising one of the students for being opportunistic. It's a feel-good, but a smart one that acknowledges its own controversies. Also, it's my pick for the one Clinton School of Public Service Showcase film you can't miss. Clinton School of Public Service, 12:30 p.m. Sat., June 5.

Dir.: Brent Stewart, 74 min.

Another deliberately paced meditation on kinship and loss, this one takes a bit more of a subtly twisted slant than "Alamar," thanks to the direction of Brent Stewart, cohort to one of the great American cinematic provocateurs, Harmony Korine. The dimly lit, melancholic character study sees a Vietnam veteran turned real-estate broker in Tennessee wed a much younger Vietnamese mail-order bride to quell his uneasiness about his war. It's sure to slowly tug a tear and a smirk or two from anyone with even a hint of sympathy for the lonelier of our neighbors. Prospective viewers, look out for the "I doh" scene. Riverdale, 5:45 p.m., Sat. June 5

Dir.: Petra Epperlein, Michael Tucker, 85 min.

The fourth and final of their series of acclaimed documentaries about the second Gulf War, Epperlein and Tucker's "How to Fold a Flag" follows four disparate soldiers returning home to find a wrecked veterans system and a country whose idea of appreciation barely extends past yellow ribbon bumper stickers. Unsentimental and never simplistic, beautifully shot and paced, it's as affectingly humane as any war documentary you'll find anywhere this year. Sticking with four members of the same company — now a cage fighter/single dad, a college student/stoner, a school teacher/congressional candidate and a convenience store attendant/metal singer — we see the contrasts in their returns home and the unfortunate common threads that still bind. By simply filming the four complex characters and avoiding any patronizing hero worship or piety, the film becomes a no-frills snapshot of four brave men lost in a system gone awry. Riverdale, 4:15 p.m., Thu. June 3.

Dir.: Martha Stephens, 106 min.

Poignant in the shadow of the recent West Virginia coal mine deaths, "Passenger Pigeons" interweaves four different stories surrounding an accidental death of a young man in an Appalachian mine: his brother, driving cross-country for the burial; two coal company executives, sent to inspect the mine, who end up camping in the woods; a young, concerned couple on vacation during the closure, and activists from Washington, D.C., in town to protest a mountaintop removal. The trailer is a series of brief vignettes culled from the film, soundtracked by live recording of a primitive Baptist gospel quartet. If that's any indication of the feel of the movie as a whole, expect a fantastic, clever one. Riverdale, 5:15 p.m., Thu. June 3; Riverdale, 7:45 p.m., Fri. June 4

Dir.: Marshall Curry, 94 mins.

Think of it as "Spellbound" with nitrous oxide. Or "Mad Hot Ballroom" in the fast lane. Or just watch the trailer and join in on the anticipation for this movie that's zooming around the Times office. Following three pre-teen NASCAR hopefuls in the World Kart Association (think mutton bustin' rodeos for racing) throughout the course of a season. They zoom around the track in pint-sized race cars and, of course, keep their turbulent, pubescent tempers in check in the face of tumultuous home lives, demands at school, racing practice and, well, puberty. Sure to be a crowd-pleaser, this one took home the Best Documentary award at last year's Tribeca Film Festival. Riverdale, 11:30 a.m., Fri. June 4; Riverdale, 11:30 a.m., Sat. June 5.

Dir.: Philip Montgomery, 81 mins.

"The current generation is caught up in a crisis like no other with no purpose..." That statement opens the trailer for "Regeneration," an exploration of the apathy of the youngest (and, yes, my) generation towards the ongoing, unrivaled worldwide disarray that busies the thoughts of the thoughtful yet, for much of the "Millenials," stops just short of...well, something. That's what this documentary aims to discuss. Why is there such widespread passivity about global conflicts, corporate injustice, corrupt governments, civil rights, and on and on. Media? Education? Parents? Did we inherit a culture of selfishness from generations past? Why is it that, when faced with damning, documented evidence about, say, the 2000 elections, we choose to shrug it off and log back in to Facebook? Are the problems so widespread, overwhelming and complex that most (subconsciously?) choose to retreat? What's the difference between the current generation and those of the '60s and The Great Generation? It's a hefty question, no doubt, but one that this film will attempt to tackle with the help of Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn and, surprisingly, Talib Kweli. Clinton School of Public Service, 8 p.m., Sun. June 6.

Dir.: Tim Hetherington, Sebastian Junger, 70 min.

If there's one film about America's ongoing Afghani war that will be shown in classrooms decades from now, it's hard to imagine this Sundance Grand Jury winner not being it. Hetherington and Junger, two prime examples of adventure journalists, dug their boots in for a year with a 15-man platoon in the Korengal Valley, one of the most dangerous areas in the war. Steering away from any political debates or interviews with families or natives in the crossfire, the two documentarians kept their cameras solely focused on the soldiers and their experiences while traversing the dangerous terrain beside them every step of the way. Even more fascinating, the government gave the two an almost limitless access to the soldiers and battles during filming. Riverdale, 3:45 p.m., Fri. June 4; Riverdale, 3 p.m., Sun. June 6.

Dir.: Lena Dunham, 98 min.

Is this the one? The one that can explore that post-collegiate coming-of-age restlessness and frustration without falling to twee overdramatics? ("This song will change your life," anyone?) On the surface, it looks like another intolerable, all too familiar urban, upper-middle class "woe is me" dig-this-ennui failure that clogs Netflix instant watch. But judging from the trailer — and the Best Narrative Film Award it bagged at SXSW — expect a bitingly funny film from a young, female Woody Allen (the 23-year -old Dunham tackles the writer/director/lead trifecta). As a recent film theory graduate, Aura returns to her artist mother's Tribeca loft, gets stuck in a hostess job and hops in bed, a bit awkwardly, with an egotistic coworker. It seems the widespread verdict is the same as mine: don't judge a movie by (the font on its) cover. Riverdale, 5:15 p.m., Fri. June 4; Riverdale, 8 p.m., Sat. June 5.

Dir.: Don Hahn, 86 min.

It's a well-documented fact that Disney went through a bit of a slump in quality in the late '80s. "Oliver & Company," remember? "The Black Cauldron," which was beat at the box-office by "The Care Bear Movie," is certainly no exception. "Waking Sleeping Beauty" is about, well, Disney getting its ass back in gear to make "The Little Mermaid," "Beauty and the Beast" and its early '90s classics. The documentary uses home videos and archival interviews to document executive tensions in the boardrooms and the physical and emotional exhaustion in the art studios, it's a fascinatingly (sometime unsettlingly) intimate, rare peek behind a tense era in America's most familiar institution. Call it a "Hearts of Darkness" with Francis Ford in red shorts and mouse ears. Also, keep your eyes peeled for a young Tim Burton, whose jowly, but boyish, face had to have been the inspiration for Max in "A Goofy Movie." Riverdale, 1 p.m., Thu. June 3; Riverdale, 12:30 p.m., Sat. June 5.



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