Two good documentaries to choose from today at Cinequest according to Metro’s critics.
Garrison Keillor: The Man on the Radio in the Red Shoes
(U.S.) Gently guiding an eclectic, eccentric ensemble of singers and performers through the down-home radio variety show A Prairie Home Companion for more than 30 years, Garrison Keillor has served as a godlike presence to his longtime listeners. Lacking a story arc, this documentary is less of a biopic and more of a collection of ruminations on the life and personal philosophies of this pragmatic comedian, writer and radio host. Onscreen, Keillor looks like an Al Hirschfeld caricature. His giant fuzzy caterpillar eyebrows and floppy neck make it obvious why Keillor stuck to radio, but his down-comforter of a baritone drives home the man’s genius for observation and pitch-perfect nostalgia. Unfortunately, the film neglects many details of Keillor’s personal life, including anything vaguely controversial. Staying on the comfortable but shallow surface, the film focuses on the backstage goings-on at his show and the corn-pone popularity of a man whose dedicated radio following still tunes in every week to hear him spin tales of the fictional Lake Wobegon. (Jessica Fromm)
March 3 at 7:15pm and March 7 at 6:45pm, both at Camera 12.
Heart of Stone
(U.S.) Beth Toni Kruvant’s documentary about a Newark, N.J., school redefines the concept of surviving high school. At Weequahic High, gangs rule all. Students pass through metal detectors to attend class, the principal wears a bulletproof vest and hallway fights between warring gang members are a common occurrence. The documentary chronicles Ron Stone, the intrepid principal of Weequahic High, and his personal mission to restore the school to its former academic glory. The most compelling scenes are of Stone’s one-on-one chats with gang leaders of the Bloods and Crips and the dedication of the older, Jewish and younger, African-American alumni who are devoted to raise money for scholarships. Kruvant’s gritty documentary is a powerful example of how inner city high schools can turn themselves around by following Stone’s unconventional lead. (Andrea Frainier)
March 3 at 7pm, both at Camera 12; and March 5 5pm at San Jose Rep.