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Orlando Weekly's guide to the 2013 Florida Film Festival

Central Florida’s annual festival of film and food returns for its 22nd year

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I DECLARE WAR

All’s fair in love and war, and I Declare War has a little of the former and a lot of the latter. But to be completely fair, the drama deserves a bit more than just one star. However, it is the least competent of the 15 flicks I saw for this year’s festival.

Director-writer Jason Lapeyre and co-director Robert Wilson were obviously inspired by both the friendship themes of Stand By Me and the darker tones of Lord of the Flies. In an odd hybrid of the two, they have created a story of middle-class kids who infuse their simple summer war games with jealousy, revenge and real violence.

All the young actors pour their hearts into the project, but only P.K. (13-year-old Gage Munroe) truly stands out. A romantic subplot, though well-acted by the only girl in the film (Mackenzie Munro), goes nowhere, as do the various “battle scenes,” which slowly build to a contrived conclusion. Yet the worst mistake Lapeyre makes is not allowing the kids to show their innocence at the beginning of the film, as Lord of the Flies does. Instead, he launches right in with nastiness and brutality, making it difficult to relate to the characters or even tell which kids are on which teams. And the misguided blend of real, pretend and imagined violence only lessens the emotional impact.

Much like the kids’ “war,” the movie feels like a work in progress, something that’s being made up as it goes along. In short, it’s only a step or two above a student film. – CM

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ICEBERG SLIM: PORTRAIT OF A PIMP

★★★★

Many of the best documentaries take a subject with which you’re either unfamiliar or uncomfortable and allow you to embrace it, if only for an hour and a half in the dark. That’s especially true with Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp, a unique glimpse into the world of Robert Beck, aka Iceberg Slim, a famous Chicago pimp of the 1930s and ’40s who somehow transformed himself into one of the most famous urban writers of his generation.

Directed by Jorge Hinojosa, this dynamic doc – one of the best of the festival – makes good use of animation, graphics and music to transport you to Beck’s gritty world, but it’s the interviews that make you want to stay. All the black-culture commentators you might expect are here, from Snoop Dogg to Quincy Jones to Chris Rock. However, it’s a complete unknown – Beck’s first wife, Betty – who steals the show. In a jaw-dropping, almost nauseatingly honest interview, she transforms the film into something part sad, part enlightening. Half-dressed, half-coherent and smoking her head off, she tells the real story of Iceberg as only she can. Add in some offbeat interviews with Beck’s daughters, and the story of a juicy figure in American literature gets even juicier.

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