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FILM

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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An Ordinary Family (2 Stars) An Ordinary Family aspires to a teachable moment about tolerance, but mostly just succeeds in making you feel like a rotten human being. The promising concept of a Christian minister forced to reconcile with his gay brother is sacrificed on the altar of laborious pacing and relationships so unbelievable they end up reinforcing stereotypes instead of shattering them. The movie appears to have been substantially improvised by actors who weren't told the tactic requires them to actually listen to each other: At one point, the minister cracks that he only loves his wife on certain days, and she exhibits no reaction whatsoever. One ostensibly gay character reads as straight, while one who is allegedly hetero comes across as gay enough to raise hopes of some scandalous reveal that will finally redeem the whole affair. (Don't hold your breath.) Meanwhile, the minister's brother-in-law, who is apparently supposed to be a lovable rogue with no filter, instead strikes the reasonable viewer as a socially stunted, borderline-autistic dweeb who would be shunned by the cast of The Big Bang Theory. “How did this guy land a thoroughly presentable wife?” I found myself asking. While I should have been examining the film's admirable precept that heaven smiles on us all, I was instead entertaining the distinct possibility that I myself am going to hell. – SS (4 p.m. at Regal Winter Park)

Bury the Hatchet (3 Stars) Giving new meaning to the term “peacocking,” filmmaker Aaron Walker's painstaking analysis of largely unknown Mardi Gras tradition – the practice of hand-making elaborate, feathered costumes to represent the history and continued presence of Native Americans in New Orleans – is perhaps 20 minutes too long, but for good reason. Diving into the oral tradition of music and storytelling, Walker paints a vivid landscape of pride, racism and heritage against a backdrop of tone-deaf local politics. The climax occurs when a St. Joseph's night celebration – a tradition spanning centuries – is disrupted by overzealous police officers, which leads to a heated city council meeting in which Chief Allison “Tootie” Montana takes to the dais, calls for unity and understanding, then collapses and dies on the spot, his spirit carried to the heavens by an impromptu musical outburst. It's a jarring, gorgeous conclusion, but nature has other plans: Soon after, Hurricane Katrina destroys both the city and Walker's narrative, forcing the film to take on a broader analogy than it has the juice for. – JS (5 p.m. at Regal Winter Park)

Eye of the Hurricane (4 Stars)This moody drama focuses on the struggles faced by a small Everglades town called Hatchee as it tries to rebuild after a devastating hurricane ravaged the area. One little family in particular finds itself torn apart by the storm – 9-year-old Homer loses his eye and spends his days wandering the rubble searching for it. His father, an Air Force specialist, doesn't come home after the storm, and his mother, Amelia, camps outside the base waiting for someone to tell her whether her husband is dead. Homer's sister, Renee, is caught between responsibilities she feels for her family and her desire to simply enjoy her teenage years. Professionally rendered and masterfully edited, Eye exposes the confusion, conflict, humor and pain in even the most mundane details of childhood and small-town life. – ES (5:45 p.m. at Enzian Theater)

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