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Astronauts, Sandmen and Dog Poo 

From Greenland to the Phillipines, here are some of your best bets for this year’s Spokane International Film Festival.

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Natural Selection

AMC | Thurs, Jan. 26 | 7 pm

TRAGI-COMEDY

Linda believes. She believes in God, she believes in marriage. She believes people are good. Above all, she believes that her husband’s reasoning for not having sex with her is because of their unshakeable devotion to God. But when her husband has a stroke while masturbating (!) to priest-and-nun porn (“the meek shall inherit the girth!”) at a sperm bank (!!!), Linda starts questioning her beliefs. And when she finds out her husband has a son out there somewhere, Linda starts to change. USA | 90 mins (Leah Sottile)

The Green Wave

Magic Lantern | Fri, Jan. 27 | 5:30 pm

ANIMATED DOC

When Iranians took to the streets to protest a fraudulent election in the summer of 2009, many recorded the events in any way they could — cellphones, Twitter posts, blogs and YouTube videos. German-Iranian director and writer Ali Samadi Ahadi uses those elements in his film, combining them with vivid animation to weave first-hand accounts of the devastation that occurred. GERMANY | 80 mins (Tiffany Harms)

The Selling

Magic Lantern | Fri, Jan. 27 | 10 pm

SCARY COMEDY

Man, this real-estate market is tough. When you come across a deal, it’s hard to pass it up. Such is the case with chipper real estate agent Richard Scarry (not to be confused with the children’s author), whose business partner has convinced him to acquire an old house and flip it for a profit. But all is not well with the house — it’s haunted. Scarry tries to find a way around this very serious problem, but trying to sell a house that has a bedroom closet that is (sometimes) a portal to the spirit world is no small task. But it is a funny one. USA | 100 mins (Tiffany Harms)

The Kingdom of Survival

Magic Lantern | Fri, Jan. 27 at 5:45 pm | Sat, Jan. 28 at 6:30 pm

RADICAL DOC

Documentarian M.A. Littler tours America to produce a best-of reel of the country’s radical thinkers, from Noam Chomsky on wage labor in Boston to Mike Oehler on underground housing in North Idaho. Littler’s style can be a little hard to take, though. The gritty, self-aggrandizing shots of him strutting around, or cruising down forlorn highways in a vintage car, suggest a college freshman who’s just read his first Kerouac and wants the world to know. Littler seems to know his stuff, but all of this romanticism produces a lingering suspicion that he’s every bit the propaganda artist as the capitalist pigs he decries. Those who already dig this kind of thing will probably still dig this. But others may tune out the wisdom of some of his guests, who raise questions that can haunt you for days. GERMANY/USA | 96 mins. (Joel Smith)

Jesus Was a Commie

Bing Crosby Theater | Fri, Jan. 27 | 7 pm

AVANT-MEDITATION

Were Jesus alive, would he really be bummin’ around with capitalists like Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin? Actor and director Matthew Modine (Memphis Belle, Vision Quest) thinks not. And he uses this short film —which he directs, narrates and meanders around inside of — to discuss his take on the Bible, the nature of Jesus and how people could live a better life, both for each other and our smokestack-infused garbage dump of a modern world. (See our interview with Modine on page 23) USA | 15 min (Joe O'Sullivan)

Waking the Green Tiger

Magic Lantern | Fri, Jan. 27 | 7:30 pm

DOCUMENTARY

Under the control of Chairman Mao, the lands of China were ravaged in the interest of progress for the nation. Waking the Green Tiger catalogues China’s rise to right itself, “go green,” and make sure future generations do the same. This film is a gem among environmental documentaries. With strong characters, compelling visuals and deep insight, it’s informative, and its compelling story just doesn’t slow down. CHINA/CANADA | 78 mins (Tiffany Harms)

Question One

Magic Lantern | Fri, Jan. 27 at 7:45 pm | Sat, Jan. 28 at 11:45 am

POLITI-MARRIAGE DOC

In 2009, Maine Gov. John Baldacci became the first governor in the United States to sign a same-sex marriage law. The law was due to take effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourned, but opponents of the bill successfully launched a campaign to repeal it through voter referendum. The film chronicles the 73 emotional and agonizing days leading up to Nov. 3, 2009 and the “foot soldiers” on either side. The documentary delves equally into the lives of Baptist ministers, moral crusaders, housewives, political strategists and same-sex couples. Although the result is no surprise — that is, if you know your gay-rights news and information. USA | 113 mins (Jordy Byrd)

The Sandman

Bing Crosby Theater | Fri, Jan. 27 | 9 pm Magic Lantern | Sun, Jan. 29 | 6 pm

DARK COMEDY

This is the story of a not-so-likable guy who is losing sand. There’s sand in his coffee, sand on the stamps he peddles in at work, sand in his bed — and it’s leaking from his body. He’s not sure why at first, but it gets worse. His apartment is as sandy as a beach. Desperate, he turns to his nemesis, the woman who works in the coffee shop below him, for help. The sand he sheds makes them instantly fall asleep, and reality is traded for an idyllic dream world. But like an hourglass, his time is running out. SWITZERLAND | 90 mins (Nicholas Deshais)

The Mill and the Cross

Magic Lantern | Sat, Jan. 28 at 2 pm | Sun, Jan. 29 at 11:45 am

SWEDISH HISTORY

This movie is like cinematic trail mix. It’s part silent film, with only a handful of words being spoken until a third of the way through. It’s also part historical play, with actors performing in front of a painted backdrop for the majority of the film. And its part documentary, with the day-to-day activities of a dozen or so characters from Pieter Bruegel’s epic painting “The Way to Calvary,” including Jesus and the Virgin Mary, showcased on screen. As the film progresses, we see how each character’s actions, some seemingly mundane, affect those of another, and change the dynamic of the town. SWEDEN/POLAND | 92 mins (Azaria Podplesky)

Man on a Mission

Magic Lantern | Sat, Jan. 28 | 4 pm

SPACE ADVENTURE

Richard Garriott’s boyhood dreams of becoming an astronaut were a little closer than most. As the son of U.S. astronaut Owen K. Garriott, he grew up seeing that it is possible for someone to go to space. As an adult, he became a millionaire through the creation of the Ultima computer games and sunk his hard-earned cash into making his space dreams come true. Man on a Mission follows Garriott through his training, tests, eventual blastoff and emotional re-entry back to Earth. USA | 94 mins (Leah Sottile)

The Fairy

Magic Lantern | Sat, Jan. 28 | 8 pm

LE QUIRK

The Fairy is a weird combination of Le Havre and Bugs Bunny. Like the recent film from Aki Kaurismaki, this is set in the northern French port city of Le Havre and deals with some of the same issues of economic depression and illegal immigration. But then there’s the screwball comedy. When hotel night-clerk Dom meets a woman who grants him three wishes, the two scramble through an increasingly madcap series of set pieces, including an underwater dance scene, a classic bit with a trenchcoat, and a seemingly endless chase scene involving a baby on the back of a car. This is weird and wonderful comedy from a Belgian trio known for it. BELGIUM/FRANCE | 94 mins (Joel Smith)

Dog Poo: The Truth at Last

Magic Lantern | Sat, Jan. 28 | 9:45 pm

EEEEW DOCUMENTARY

There’s nothing worse than taking a nice stroll on a warm, sunny day only to get home and realize you’ve stepped in dog poop. At that point, you’ve probably tracked it all over your carpet, too. This humorous film spans the world to show how others deal with the waste left behind by man’s best friend. And if you don’t think dog poo is something you need to learn about, think again — that pile on the sidewalk actually has some pretty serious implications for us humans. AUSTRALIA | 100 mins (Tiffany Harms)

Tyrannosaur

Magic Lantern | Sun, Jan. 29 | 2 pm

FAMILY DRAMA

Why is Joseph so angry? Why is Hannah so sheepish and easily rattled? What is causing both these people so much pain? These are questions that are answered through the 91-minute emotional drain that is Tyrannosaur. Paddy Considine’s script and direction show a maturity beyond his years. He has such a strong grasp on the material that he holds it with a steady hand, not letting any scene get ahead of itself. Likewise, the cast doesn’t waste a single line. This is a complete story of two miserable lives meeting. The last 20 minutes will leave your mouth hanging, proving the power of good cinema. UK | 91 mins (Joseph Haeger)

Top Floor, Left Wing

Magic Lantern | Sun, Jan. 29 | 4:00pm

FRENCH DRAM-COM

Lines get crossed, blurred, and butchered into calligraphy throughout this dramedy focusing on poor communication. A day that begins with a routine eviction becomes a bustle of confusion involving a drug-dealing teen, his passive and mysterious father, and an indifferent bailiff, who is unintentionally taken hostage in their small apartment. News crews, SWAT teams, and several fabricated terrorist plots later, the barricaded three must conquer their generational and cultural differences if they intend to leave the building. FRANCE | 110 mins (Ethan Wolcott)

We Were Here

Magic Lantern | Sat, Jan. 29 | 6:30 p.m.

CRY-UMENTARY

The way AIDS decimated San Francisco’s vibrant gay community starting in the late 1970s is chronicled in this disturbing piece. Most of the movie is made up of the men and women recalling how they watched their friends and partners succumb quickly to strange diseases in the early days of the epidemic. This is not an easy film to watch. There is little uplifting about it, and it is incredibly frank about how AIDS caused immense suffering and loss while remaining, for many years, misunderstood by much of the public. But it is important; after all, there is no cure or vaccine for AIDS. USA | 90 mins. (Chris Stein)

Amador

Magic Lantern | Mon, Jan. 30 | 6:30pm

SPANISH DRAMA

Corpse desecration has never been more beautiful. (Well, except in Weekend at Bernie’s.) After discovering she is pregnant, Marcela, the impoverished and unhappy wife of a small-time flower vendor, generates new income as a caretaker. The dying man under her watch offers stimulating conversation that bears hope for her future. Things look better until he dies. Marcela can either report the death and forfeit her income, or fake his life as she sorts out her own. Though the movie delivers complex circumstances, its themes of humanity are universal. These ideas are accented tastefully with powerful symbolism and great directing. Spain | 112 mins (Ethan Wolcott)

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

Magic Lantern | Wed, Feb. 1 | 6:30 pm

EXISTENTIAL CRIME DRAMA

The headlights of a caravan of small Turkish cars cut through the lonely Anatolian steppes, searching for a murdered body. But instead of producing action or twists, this premise mainly catalyzes quiet, deep conversation. Long silences are punctuated by long periods of a doctor, a prosecutor, and a police officer talking. They talk in cheap cars, they talk huddled around a village campfire. They talk of lamb, of yogurt, death and depression. The conversation is never hurried, always heavy with melancholy. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, winner of the Cannes Grand Jury prize, highlights the crags in every face, a warm glow in every light. TURKEY | 150 mins (Daniel Walters)
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