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2012 Florida Film Festival

The 2012 Florida Film Festival's brightest star is Central Florida itself. Are we ready for our close-up?

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Monsieur Lazhar (5 Stars) The title character is an Algerian refugee, seeking political asylum in Canada, who poses as a middle-school educator in Montreal following a teacher's unseemly classroom suicide. This recent Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Language Film has much to say about modern education and the world at large, particularly the tendency of well-meaning but wrong-headed people to sweep “incidents” under the rug rather than confront them. But what's most inspiring about Monsieur Lazhar is its avoidance of inspirational-teacher cliches. Lazhar is not a platitude-speaking maverick sent to reform the anarchic status quo, and the kids are not the wretched, nihilistic rapscallions that have lurked in cinematic schools since Blackboard Jungle. They're all just people, suffering life's injustices and hoping to emerge unscathed. – JT (7 p.m. at Regal Winter Park)

Jobriath A.D. (3 Stars) Required viewing for any fan of the iconic '70s star known as the “true fairy of rock,” this film is nevertheless not compelling. (Having a fascinating subject and/or a historically significant topic isn't the same thing as being able to tell a story well.) Jobriath, né Bruce Campbell, was a musical prodigy who starred on Broadway in Hair, a golden boy who turned on all who met him. His eventual adoption of a glitter-chic androgyny predated David Bowie (who seems to have ripped him off wholesale); as well, rather than coyly skirting the issue, Jobriath was openly gay – a first in pop music. But none of it sold records, and the doc details his fall into obscurity, poverty and death, partly in animated sequences of shockingly poor taste. Director Kieran Turner amasses a relevant parade of talking heads – current musicians who owe a huge debt, family members, and ex-manager Jerry Brandt, the cardboard villain of the piece. – JBY (7:15 p.m. at Enzian Theater)

See Girl Run (2 Stars) Writer-director Nate Meyer, a former award winner at FFF (2007, Pretty in the Face), cast Robin Tunney of TV's The Mentalist as a 30-something mope-about trapped in an overly familiar marriage who goes home to Maine to see her brother (Jeremy Strong) and an old flame (Adam Scott of Parks and Recreation) to try and recapture her dwindled inner spark. It's a musty setup that maintains a humid air of punishing depression in contrast to its cloudy yet vibrant New England setting. Tunney and Scott, both excitingly relevant '90s-movie veterans, seem not restrained but shackled by Meyer's downbeat tone, and while the screenplay boldly leaves no easy way out for its characters, the finished product fails to really take flight. – JS (7:30 p.m. at Regal Winter Park)

Andrew Bird: Fever Year The punishing pace of endless touring takes its emotional and physical toll on the Chicago-based songster Andrew Bird, and director Xan Aranda's cameras caught every cough, fit and dizzy spell during the Noble Beast tour. Although it takes a roundabout path to its story, even letting go of its concert film idea to delve into Bird's background, Fever Year is a great look into the creative mind of a musician who is almost too good for his own good. His drive to create and stay fresh may be doing his body serious harm, but not creating might be worse. Fans of Bird will likely get more out of this, but it could just as easily be the thing that turns you on to his soulful violin and whistles. – RB (9:15 p.m. at Regal Winter Park)

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