ABC Africa, Old School, and Vakvagany


Runs Fri., Feb. 21-Thurs., Feb. 27 at Grand Illusion So green, so red, so fertilehow is it that Uganda has been the seat of so much suffering? What went wrong? Long after the exile of Idi Amin, the great Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami takes a fact-finding visit to the unhappy equatorial African country and produces this impressionistic video diary. The resulting documentary is both characteristically cryptic and deeply compelling. By and large, Ugandans speak for themselves in lilting English (with subtitles), describing a horrific epidemic of AIDS-caused deaths and the resulting 1.6 million orphans among a population of 22 million. It's an incredibly powerful, disturbing film, although Kiarostami doesn't help his cause by stooping to CARE-level images of saucer-eyed children and essentialist sequences in which orphans dance and sing to inscrutably joyous rhythms. An altruistic Austrian couple's adoption of one adorable little girl provides a somewhat hopeful coda to Africa, but as Kiarostami himself dryly intones, "Our only good fortune is that we humans can adapt to anything." Some consolation. (NR) BRIAN MILLER OLD SCHOOL

Opens Fri., Feb. 21 at Meridian and others Let the sweater puppies out of the pound, the f-bombs out of the armory, and Will Ferrell's mashed-potato ass cheeks out of your worst nightmare: The hard-R comedy is back with a filthy fucking vengeance. Road Trip director Todd Phillips has grafted the perfect trio of early-thirtysomething comic actors onto the college daze raunch-a-thon and, um, sorta delivered an instant word-that-rhymes-with-Jurassic. Slovenly just-marriedsbut not to each other, dude!Ferrell and Vince Vaughn encourage real-estate drone Luke Wilson to turn his campus-area bachelor pad into a frat house, and memorable debauchery ensues. School's first half tweaks Fight Club, as Wilson's stuffy co-workers request pledge time in worshipful whisper; the second half salutes Revenge of the Nerds, as the misfits fight corrupt dean Jeremy Piven (a.k.a. comedy poison) to stay legit. Ferrell and Vaughn, finally liberated from NBC censors and misguided dramatic purgatory, will quite simply never be this on fire again. (R) ANDREW BONAZELLI VAKVAGANY

8 p.m. Fri., Feb. 21-Sun., Feb. 23 at Consolidated Works ConWorks begins its five-weekend "Filter" film series with a documentary that frustratingly illustrates the program's intent. Vakvagany is a self-deconstructing work that constantly calls attention to the unreliability of film. Found footage of an apparently normal Hungarian family takes on all kind of ominous subtexts and nuances when director Benjamin Meade screens it for crime novelist James Ellroy, avant-garde filmmaker Stan Brakhage, and a psychiatrist. They comment periodically as Vakvagany alternates between the old home movies and Meade's subsequent investigation of the dysfunctional Locsei family. For a while, the whole enterprise is fascinating, like Errol Morris or Crumb. But as Meade nears the truth about the Locseis, Vakvagany sputters to a disappointing nonconclusion. The title translates as "dead end." Very funny. (NR) B.R.M.

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