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Here are our picks and skips for this year festival, which kicks off tomorrow evening.

Preview: Which Movies Should You See — And Avoid — at The 2012 Dallas International Film Festival?

The Dallas International Film Festival kicks off tomorrow night with actor-director Josh Radnor’s sophomore effort, Liberal Arts. After that, the next 12 days will see more than 110 films screened at the Magnolia Theatre, Angelika Film Center, Texas Theatre, and AMC NorthPark. There’s a lot to see and sift through, but we were able to sample a number of the films showing at this year’s festival, and here are our reviews. Be sure to check back throughout the week as we bring you daily updates, news, recommendations, previews, and reviews from the festival.

Cinema Six

Cinema Six

Apr. 13, 4:30 p.m.
Magnolia 5

Apr. 14, 2:15 p.m.
Magnolia 4

Rating: Go See It 

In high school, I worked as a lifeguard at a really ridiculously wealthy country club in New York. Everyone who worked there was middle-class or poor. The lifeguards hung out with the chefs, who hung out with the maintenance guy who lived in the golf shed, who eventually died of a drug overdose. We were one big, reasonably happy family.

Watching Cinema Six, I was transported back to Millbrook Golf and Tennis Club, where people worked because they had to. The film is set in a family-run movie theater, the kind of place that still sells pickles in bags and the ticket-rippers let their friends in for free. The leads — Mason, Dennis, and Gabe — couldn’t be more different, less their hatred of Stanton Family Cinemas. The movie examines their day-in, day-out lives in an Adventureland kind of way, a realization I made even before an apropos cameo. It’s quick, fun filmmaking at its finest, with the movie wrapping up enough plots and leaving enough loose ends to make it believable. It feels like a deeply personal film, but one that can be appreciated by anyone who’s held a job just for the money. Cinema Six also reaches Departed levels of vulgarity and profanity, complete with defecation. In other words: it’s pretty close to perfect. — Bradford Pearson

 

Faith, Love, and Whiskey

Faith, Love and Whiskey

Apr. 13, 4:30 p.m.
Angelika 8
Apr. 14, 5 p.m.
Angelika 8

Rating: Go See It

Never has a Communist Bloc country looked so beautiful to me. Director Kristina Nikolova’s long-form debut, Faith Love and Whiskey, tells the story of Neli, a Bulgarian 20-something who falls in love in the United States, then returns to her native Bulgaria. Upon her return, she falls in with her old, alcoholic boyfriend, then has to choose between the decidedly American-sounding Scott and the equally Bulgarian-sounding Val.

Nikolova takes us through the mountains, fields, forests, and streams of Bulgaria, letting the camera linger on a sunrise or pooling water. It makes you cherish youth, but also reel at its violence and foolhardiness. Whiskey is anchored by Ana Stojanovska, who plays Neli. Beautiful and sad, Stojanovska bounces between her character’s two worlds flawlessly, weighing her role in each. In the end, the viewer doesn’t know which world she should choose, but is confident it doesn’t matter: Neli will be fine.

Nikolova crams years of history, backstory, and Eastern European culture into 75 sharp minutes, a feat that does not go unnoticed. This is the debut of a filmmaker that should also not go unnoticed. — Bradford Pearson

 

Patriocracy

Patriocracy

Apr. 14, 12 p.m.
Magnolia 4
Apr. 16, 1 p.m.
Angelika 8

Rating: Worth A Shot

Have you heard? The American political system is a mess. The culprits: the polarizing politics of entertainment-oriented news channels, campaign financing that allows for too much corporate influence in Congress, and the galvanizing of public opinion on the fringes of the left and right. Driving home these points comprises the majority of Brian Malone’s political film, Patriocracy, which reads like a recap of a few years worth of news reports. The problem is that the movie can’t find its way behind the headlines, avoiding any real provocation into the nature of democracy or capitalism itself for a familiar grazing of the “issues.” It’s an unsatisfying rehash, and its own lack of new ideas is indicative of the fact that Malone seems to terminate his search for solutions at a “rally” held by Daily Show host Jon Stewart. Man, we really are in trouble. — Peter Simek

 

Wolf

Wolf 

Apr. 14, 12:30 p.m.
Magnolia 5
Apr. 18, 10:15 p.m.
Angelika 7

Rating: Go See It

There’s a lot of buzz surrounding University of Texas at Arlington professor Ya’Ke Smith’s first feature, which debuted at South by Southwest last month and garnered Smith an Indiewire nod. If the film doesn’t completely meet expectations, it is not because it isn’t an exasperating, emotionally tense, well-acted social unpacking. Set in a suburban Texas community, the movie introduces us to a young, obviously emotionally troubled high school student, Carl (Jordan Cooper), who is ailing from lost love, haunted by dreams, and scaring himself. A suicide attempt is a call for help, roping his gruff, if affectionate trucker dad, night student mother, and church preacher, Bishop Anderson (with a show-stealing performance by Eugene Lee,) into the mystery of his soul’s unrest. Wolf pulls us tightly to its uncomfortable subject matter, blurring the kind of scandal easily reduced to a headline into a complex knot of personal suffering and emotional malice. The movie’s momentum is a bit uneven, some of its visuals are a tad overwrought, and its multi-last shot ending could find more punch with a few simple edits, but it is the characters that count here, and Smith finds their dimension in a way that makes Wolf a frontrunner in the Texas competition.  — Peter Simek

 

My Way

My Way

Apr. 14, 12:30 p.m.
Magnolia 5
Apr. 18, 10:15 p.m.
Angelika 7

Rating: Worth A Shot

Je-kyu Kang’s bloated, nationalistic World War II man-love melodrama feels like the child of Chariots of Fire and Steven Spielberg’s War Horse. There’s lots of Spielberg in My Way, in fact, down to the reshot Saving Private Ryan D-Day sequences that flip the perspective from the Allies to the Nazis. How we got there comprises the rest of My Way’s often hackneyed narrative, which tells the tale of two star runners, one Korean (Jun-shik Kim, Dong-gun Jang), and one Japanese (Tatsuo Hasegawa, Jo Odagiri), who end up in the throws of the world war. When Kim is forced into the Japanese army after a disputed marathon win sparks a riot in Japanese-occupied Korea, he begins his lily pad hop from conscripted soldier to Soviet POW, to Nazi soldier. He continues to encounter his arch sporting rival, Tatsuo, who is a ruthless Japanese officer, but softens through the struggles of the survival through the war.

The storyline is patchy, with director Kang offering his full attention to the bombastic war scenes, which are as baroquely orchestrated as they are dull. There are handful of signature shots that are neat to look at, bodies bouncing off tanks, cameras falling with bombs, and tank shells setting soldiers a-fly. But My Way is an American-style blockbuster that unfortunately likewise mimics the Yankee preference for spectacle over substance. — Peter Simek

 

America's Parking Lot

America’s Parking Lot

Apr. 14, 1:45 p.m.
Angelika 6
Apr. 16, 5 p.m.
Angelika 7

Rating: Worth A Shot

A somewhat sloppily produced documentary about diehard Dallas Cowboys fans who spent more than 20 years tailgating together at Texas Stadium only to find themselves having to adjust to the uncomfortable new reality of the NFL as a mega-business catering to corporate customers when the team’s new Arlington stadium opens. The movie, which clocks in at only 73 minutes, isn’t sure what it wants to be: a complaint that regular fans are being priced out of seeing games? A portrait of the sort of people who would delay building their dream home in order to buy season tickets? An indictment of the public financing of pro sports? All these subjects are touched upon, but none are explored with the appropriate depth.  — Jason Heid 

 

Cowgirls 'n' Angels

Cowgirls ‘n’ Angels

Apr. 14, 5 p.m.
NorthPark 5
Apr. 15, 2:15 p.m.
Angelika 6

Rating: Don’t Bother

A piece of “family-friendly” pablum that’d be right at home airing some Saturday afternoon on ABC Family or the Disney Channel. Ida, a trouble-making 12-year-old, convinces her mother to let her join the Sweethearts of the Rodeo, a troupe of trick-riding cowgirls, so that she can search for the cowboy father she never knew. The Sweethearts travel “all over the West” — Oklahoma and Kansas — with James Cromwell strangely cast as the ex-champion rider who teaches Ida to ride and acts as a surrogate grandfather. Pre-teen girls may enjoy seeing the horses and be moved by the subplot about Ida’s fellow rider who’s forced to choose between romance and staying with the Sweethearts. I was amused only by the fact that Ida has (without irony) a Chuck Norris poster on her bedroom wall, and by counting how many former Friday Night Lights cast members I could spot (3). — Jason Heid

 

Satellite of Love

Satellite of Love

Apr. 14, 7 p.m.
Magnolia 4
Apr. 15, 12:30 p.m.
Magnolia 5

Rating: Don’t Bother

Will James Moore sets a simple romantic dichotomy in motion in Satellite of Love, a kind of mumbling, pop-advice Jules et Jim, as two men hash out their lives and love while sipping wine on a Hill Country stand-in for Provence. At the movie’s opening, Samuel (Nathan Phillips) is a stoned Aussie in love with Catherine (Shannon Lucia), while the pokier Blake (Zachary Knighton) looks on. We reunite years later after Catherine has switched teams, marring Blake, who now runs a bistro, while Samuel flops about Europe. Samuel has skipped his best friend’s wedding (you know, because he stole his girlfriend), but to make it up to the couple, he invites them out to the vineyard which is owned by a sage-like old dude, Alex (Patrick Bauchau) who pops up towards the film’s end to spout some mellow platitudes about life. Tagging along is Michelle (Janina Gavankar) a sexy, uninhibited aristocrat DJ.

Back at the ranch, the wine pours freely, and the libidos simmer. Blake finds himself in the kitchen as Samuel shamelessly moves in on his ex. Catherine loves him, because she loves life, but she also loves Blake, because she loves responsibility. What will she do? Frankly, it is hard to care, as we quickly tire of slogging through a muck of relationship babble alongside four of the dullest wannabe libertines ever to unfasten a belt buckle. It all comes to resolve itself in the status quo, as Samuel stairs off at a sunset, glassy-eyed, a little more drunk than enlightened. — Peter Simek

 We’re Not Broke

We're Not Broke

Apr. 14 7:30 p.m.
Angelika 8
Apr. 15, 6 p.m.
Angelika 8

Rating: Worth A Shot

I really sympathize with Victoria Bruce and Karin Hayes in We’re Not Broke, an advocacy documentary that turns its attention to the way multi-national corporations manage to avoid taxation. There is something sickening — in an Enron-sort of way — about the fact that you and I likely pay less in income tax each year than Bank of America or Cisco. Doubly infuriating is that Joe Small-Business-Owner is also paying more taxes than these companies, and he or she has to compete on unfair ground. Still, unlike its stylistic forebear, the fantastic info-economic documentary Inside Job, We’re Not Broke proves less than convincing in its diagnosis of America’s fiscal woes because it lacks the same intellectual authority and broad-based comprehension of its subject matter. Collecting money is one thing; spending it well is quite another, and We’re Not Broke overemphasizes solving corporate taxation woes as a cure-all. When the movie lands on Occupy Wall Street as a hope for the future of American policy, it already feels both dated and quaint. — Peter Simek

 

An Oversimplification of Her Beauty

An Oversimplification of Her Beauty

Apr. 14, 9:30 p.m.
Magnolia 4
Apr. 16 4:30 p.m.
Magnolia 5

Rating: Worth A Shot

Any film that begins with an explanation of how the film works should probably take a step back and examine its role. Is it to engage the audience? Teach them something? Or just to exist for art’s sake?

An Oversimplification of Her Beauty is one of those films. Or, rather, two of those films, since it’s a pair of intertwined pieces. The story revolves around Nance and a woman he’s falling in love with. It’s undulating and repetitive, which is exactly what the director Terence Nance wanted, I imagine. The problem is that within that context, the repetition can occasionally become boring, replacing character development with character introspection, often to the point (again) of repetition.

That’s not to say Nance hasn’t created something beautiful and forward-thinking, because he has. The circular storytelling is unique, it just needs some tweaks. And its shuffling between live-action and animation, while not necessarily groundbreaking, is deftly done, and not too heavy-handed. It allows an insight into the character’s psyche that may not be as clear with live-action. Oversimplification soars artistically; I hope Nance eventually finds a story to match that art. — Bradford Pearson

 

Thank You For Judging

Thank You For Judging

Apr. 15, 2:30 p.m.
Magnolia 4
Apr. 16, 7 p.m.
Magnolia 4

Rating: Worth A Shot.

Sean Fornara and Sean Michael Urie (Ugly Betty) return to their high school, Plano Senior, to make another Spellbound set around a speech and debate tournament. Populated with undeniably talented and dedicated competitors, the documentary walks through the highs and lows of the Texas state championships and makes it case for why these kids work harder than any high school football players. Fornara and Urie used to be debaters themselves, and Urie appears on camera to muse about how his participation in dramatic and humorous interpretation, two branches of speech and debate in which students act-out scenes and dialogue, set the stage for his entire career. Charming and engaging, Thank You For Judging will surely pack its screenings as it plays to a hometown crowd. Still, I was left longing for more of the debate performances themselves and less of competition-style drama, which felt like something of a repeat. — Peter Simek

 

Under African Skies

Under African Skies

Apr. 15, 4 p.m.
Angelika 6
Apr. 20, 10 p.m.
Angelika 6

Rating: Go See It

Paul Simon’s Graceland album has become such a ubiquitous part of American musical culture that it is difficult to place it back in the context of its creation. That’s what filmmaker Joe Berlinger tries to do with his documentary, Under African Skies. To shirk Behind the Music convention, Berlinger roots his music doc in the political conflict which played out around Simon’s album. South Africa is suffering Apartheid as Simon makes his way to record with South African musicians in 1985, violating a United Nations cultural boycott. In the movie, Simon sits down with Dali Tambo, a founder of Artists Against Apartheid and a critic of Simon’s work on Graceland, to retell the story from their conflicting perspectives. The result is a recapped version of the tense historical situation alongside studio shots with the Boyoyo Boys, the “discovery” of Ladysmith Black Mumbazo, and some notes on Simon’s completion of the album inNew York.

Ultimately Under African Skies strives to paint Graceland as a celebration of how art can transcend specific political environments, but Berlinger’s movie feels incomplete in that his championing of the artist glosses over some of the controversy surrounding the creation of the art. For example, while the doc touches on some of the controversy over Simon’s songwriting credits – and thus royalty control – on Graceland, much is left omitted. Paul Simon still gets full credit for “You Can Call Me” Al, even though the documentary clearly shows an African guitarist originating the song’s signature riff. And completely missing from the conversation are some of the non-African studio musicians, such as King Crimson’s Adrian Belew and Los Lobos, who have publically quarreled with Simon over songwriting credits. Ignoring all this – and likely more – left Under African Skies feeling enjoyable, but incomplete. — Peter Simek

 

Qwerty

Qwerty

Apr. 15, 9:30 p.m.
Angelika 6
Apr. 17, 1:30 p.m.
Angelika 7

Rating: Worth A Shot

To say Qwerty is a movie about Scrabble is a misstatement. But to say it isn’t a movie about Scrabble would be a bit disingenuous. Let’s just say it’s a movie where Scrabble is maybe the, eh, fourth lead.

Word nerd Zoe meets Marty in an unlikely scenario: while he’s getting fired from his security guard gig for screaming at customers, asking why they’d ever spend $55 on underwear. It’s a legitimate complaint, I think, and one that makes Marty’s disheveled, hobo-esque character loveable. The two loners begin a whirlwind romance, topped off by the National Scrabble Championship. Zoe’s a competitor; Marty’s just there to watch.

It’s a pretty standard love story, but rarely do romances focus on characters so alone. Marty is a recluse by choice; Zoe by circumstance. Within each others’ flaws they find a way to step out together, or at least step away from the threat of suicide.

The film could use a bit of editing — including the complete removal of a homeless man who lives outside of Marty’s house, who serves little purpose other than to remind the viewer, “Hey, at least Marty has a job.”— but is an otherwise warm, endearing look at love. — Bradford Pearson

 

Father's Chair

Father’s Chair

Apr. 15, 10:30 p.m.
Magnolia 5
Apr. 16, 4 p.m.
Magnolia 4

Rating: Worth a Shot

A father goes in search of his missing teenage son, and the ordeal unexpectedly helps him to reconnect with his estranged wife and father. This Brazilian film develops quietly as the father, Theo, encounters a series of characters during his trying journey who help him to see things about his son Pedro that he’d never appreciated before. The strained relationships tidy themselves up a little too easily, leaving us wondering what could have caused the rifts in the first place. Yet we’re still left with nice thoughts about our own connections to those we love and don’t perhaps appreciate enough for who they are, rather than who we’d like them to be.  — Jason Heid

 

Escape Fire: The Fight To Rescue American Healthcare

Escape Fire: The Fight To Rescue American Healthcare

Apr. 16, 7 p.m.
Angelika 6
Apr 17, 4:30 p.m.
Angelika 8

Rating: Go See It

Taking a careful look at the American health care system with a desire to uncover real possibilities for solutions, Escape Fire: The Fight To Rescue American Healthcare feels like the documentary the American health care industry needs right now. Lacking the publicized ire of Michael Moore’s Sicko, Escape Fire is a more sober assessment, and it systematically picks away at the incongruities in the system that warp American health care. One of the movie’s chief complaints is the way doctors are compensated on per-procedure basis, which drives up the overall costs of health care, while economically crippling doctors who specialize in general care, the frontlines in real disease prevention. Some of the film’s most moving moments come when it looks at a pilot program in the U.S. military which uses alternative techniques, such as acupuncture and mental therapy, in treating pain and post-combat psychological disorders in lieu of freezer bags full of prescription drugs. Escape Fire doesn’t have all the answers, and it doesn’t gloss over the fact that there are powerful forces and systematic dysfunctions preventing reform. But at least it offers a glimmer of hope. — Peter Simek

 

Let Me Out

Let Me Out

Apr. 16, 7:30 p.m.
Magnolia 5
Apr. 17, 4 p.m.
Magnolia 4

Rating: Don’t Bother

Either something is lost in the translation of this cartoonish South Korean comedy, or it’s just plain not funny. It’s the story of a film student who’s full of criticism of other people’s work but has never actually made a movie himself. Finally, in his senior year, he’s required to take the helm of his own work: a zombie melodrama. He’s got to deal with diva actresses, the demands of his sponsors’ product placements, and compromising when he can’t afford to shoot his original vision. Surprise: making a movie is tough. Let Me Out has the tenor and look of a low-budget late-night basic-cable comedy from which all the titillating scenes have been excised. — Jason Heid

 

Andrew Bird: Fever Year

Andrew Bird: Fever Year 

Apr. 16, 9:45 p.m.
Angelika 8
Apr. 17, 7:30 p.m.
Angelika 8

Rating: Worth a Shot

In a world of AutoTune and saxophone solos, Andrew Bird is a welcome respite. Beautiful and meandering, Bird’s orchestral pop transports the listener to a parallel place, one where Katy Perry has no place. That same conceit, however, also makes falling asleep during a movie pretty easy. Fever Year follows Bird on tour for a year — “I’m either sweating bullets or freezing all the time,” he admits, without seeking medical help — from the stages of Chicago to his family farm. It’s beautifully shot, with a built-in soundtrack.

The problem is it doesn’t go anywhere. Moviegoers unfamiliar with Bird may love or hate the film, but it’s entirely based on whether or not they like his music. Unlike the tension that builds in 2002’s Wilco documentary I Am Trying To Break Your Heart, Fever Year serves as little more than a concert film with snippets of interviews interspersed. And, as that, it’s fantastic. The intricacies of Bird’s recording and performing styles are explored, but at only surface level. A welcome cameo by St. Vincent lets the viewer explore Bird’s collaborative side, but director Xan Aranda leaves plenty of Bird unearthed. I found myself nodding off during Fever Year, because Aranda left me nothing to do but listen to Bird’s music, which I could just do with my iPod. — Bradford Pearson

 

The Salt of Life

The Salt of Life

Apr. 17, 4:30 p.m.
Magnolia 5
Apr. 18, 4 p.m.
Magnolia 4

Rating: Go See It

In his second film, Italian filmmaker Gianni Di Gregorio plays a middle-aged man taking one last chance at a zesty, extramarital affair. He comes on to his mother’s endowed caretaker, lunches blondes with his licentious lawyer friend, and sips drinks with his hard-partying downstairs neighbor. Literally “Gianni and the women,” in Italian, The Salt of Life feels like a cousin to Di Gregorio’s debut (at age 59, no less), Mid-August Lunch. It is rich in the colors of lackadaisicalRome and salted by the details of life in the contemporary Italian city: young men are out of work, old men are taking their pensions early. You can’t help but root for the poor sap, whose romantic escapades seem doomed to fail, but at least churn up a series of buffo moments rounded out by a softly smirking existential malaise. — Peter Simek

 

Sironia

Sironia 

Apr. 17, 7 p.m.
Angelika 6
Apr. 19, 4 p.m.
Angelika 8

Rating: Worth a Shot

Singer Wes Cunningham plays Thomas, a talented musician who’s never quite gotten his big break in Los Angeles and decides to move with his pregnant wife (played by Dallas native Amy Acker) to a small city in Texas so that he can experience “a real place, with real people, just raising a family.” Of course, he learns that the grass is never quite as green as it seems to be from afar, and that finding where you belong in this world has much more to do with whom you’re with than it does the physical place you’re in. Much like Cunningham’s music (featured throughout the film), Sironia is an agreeable enough entertainment, if not terribly original or insightful.  — Jason Heid

 

Biba! One Island, 879 Votes

Biba! One Island, 879 Votes

Apr. 18, 7:30 p.m.
Angelika 8
Apr. 19, 8 p.m.
Angelika 6

Rating: Go See It

On the island of Tinian, part of the US-controlled Mariana Islands, a mere 879 people participate in a heated democratic process to elect a local leader. Holding sway over a great number of jobs, not to mention the future of the island’s grasp at prosperity (a fledgling casino industry) the election is all-important on this little island, but through its sharp focus, it also paints a sharp picture of the stakes and mechanisms of the democratic system. The incumbent is supported by civil employees whom he feeds and boozes with copious picnics (whole-roasting pigs is an almost daily, mouth-watering occurrence on Tinian), while his challengers accuse the incumbent of corruption. Colorful and pertinent, there is something almost Monty Python-like in the quaint and quirky microcosmic satire of Biba!’s scope, only none of it is very funny. – Peter Simek

 

Girl Model

Girl Model

Apr. 18, 9:45 p.m.
Angelika 8
Apr. 19, 5:15 p.m.
Angelika 7

Rating: Go See It

David Redmon and Ashley Sabin’s wonderful Girl Model looks at the underbelly of the fashion industry and its voracious appetite for new faces and talent. Former model-turned-agent Ashley Arbaugh goes deep into Siberia to warehouses full of poor, bikini-clad peasant girls hoping their sharp looks will offer them and their families a way out of poverty. Girl Model follows the story of one such girl, Nadia, who ends up entangled in a seeming scam that lands her in an agency in Japan, lonely, heartbroken, and broke, despite the promise of a glamorous career. But the film’s real emotional center is Ashley, whose job is the product of a lonely life in the trade, constantly traveling, living alone in an echo-y modern house, and still troubled by her own experiences as model — offered through video diaries she made – as well as the dubious workings of an industry for which she is a vital cog. — Peter Simek

 

Dirty Energy

Dirty Energy

Apr. 18, 9:45 p.m.
Magnolia 4
Apr. 19, 7 p.m.
Magnolia 4

Ratings: Go See It

In the aftermath of the Gulf oil spill, the government and British Petroleum rushed to clean up contaminants that threatened to decimate one of the world’s richest seafood habitats. But did they clean the Gulf, or just cover up the mess? That’s the question Bryan Hopkins’ Dirty Energy asks, but never quite definitely answers, by going to the people who know the waters the best: the fisherman. The stories that come out are disheartening, as an entire way of life seems on the verge of disappearing. Sickening are the insinuations that not only BP, but the US government, were colluding in a plan that sought to first get images of the spill of television sets, while taking measures to address the environmental catastrophe that may have worsened the situation, for example, by using toxins to sink oil to the Gulf floor. Dirty Energy is a canary, the first indication that the story of the BP oil spill is only just begun its second chapter. — Peter Simek

 

No Ashes, No Phoenix

No Ashes, No Phoenix

Apr. 19, 4:30 p.m.
Magnolia 5
Apr. 21, 5:30 p.m.
Angelika 8

Rating: Worth a Shot

A documentary about a German professional basketball team, freshly promoted to the country’s premier league, struggling to avoid a finish at the bottom of the standings. After a series of lopsided losses, the Hagen Phoenix obtain star player Michael Jordan (no, not that Michael Jordan) to improve its roster. Instead they learn how destructive an outsized, self-obsessed personality can be to a locker room. As the Phoenix fight to avoid relegation to a second-tier league, we don’t hear enough about the motivations of the individual American and German players and coaches. Are they seeking a long-shot launching pad to the NBA, or are they just happy to be playing the game anywhere? The movie isn’t concerned. Still, No Ashes, No Phoenix was worth watching just to learn the delightful fact that there’s a German pro team whose mascot is the “New Yorker Phantoms.” — Jason Heid

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