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Film Festival offers 23 movies on its first day

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Nov. 8, 2012 - Each day we will review movies that have caught the eye of Beacon film critic Harper Barnes and others. Find below two of the offerings for Friday, Nov. 9.

Between Two Rivers

Cairo, Ill., which perches precariously at the confluence of the Mississippi and the Ohio rivers, even today a prime location for potential commerce, had a population of more than 15,000 in 1920 and was thriving. The population today is less than 3,000, and much of the old city is in shambles. In the documentary film "Between Two Rivers," Cairo is aptly described as "the city that history forgot." What happened?

The explanation is complicated, but on the most basic level this river city's decline can be explained by one term: racism. Most infamously, Cairo's white citizens made headlines around the world in 1909 when a black man was lynched and set on fire, and pieces of his body were sold as souvenirs. More than half a century later, Cairo, the southernmost town in Illinois, was again swept up in racial violence as some whites resisted black demands for equal treatment by police and merchants and some blacks responded with riot.

"Between Two Rivers" uses a rich trove of historical photographs and film clips to bring the past to life, and extensively interviews residents and public officials -- including Cairo's first black mayor -- to tell a story that, in miniature, is the story of many American cities in the past century.

As filmmakers Nick Jordan and Jacob Cartwright were shooting in Cairo in 2011, the Mississippi was in flood. And some wanted to let Cairo flood to save thousands of acres of Missouri farmland. The filmmakers make skillful use of the debate, stretching it out over the length of the film, and even if you know what ultimately happened, you'll find yourself caught up in the suspense the film evokes.

-- Reviewed by Harper Barnes | Special to the Beacon

Songs for Amy

A soulful eyed Irish lad with a raspy voice and a guitar messes up royally the night before his wedding, sending him into two years of Guinness and composing angst. The music is good. And that would be enough. But the cast connects and pulls you along as Sean O'Malley (Sean Maguire) struggles to compose the perfect CD to win back his love. The stoner, the narcissist and the older rocker who make up his band and are his mates have his back and give texture to a story that has more than a few twists, some subtle, some not at all. Set in Galway, “Songs for Amy” could send you to McGurk's to find your own pint to raise.

-- Donna Korando, features editor

Donna Korando started work in journalism at SIU’s Daily Egyptian in 1968. In between Carbondale and St. Louis Public Radio, she taught high school in Manitowoc, Wis., and worked at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the copy editor and letters editor for the editorial page from 1973-77. As an editorial writer from 1977-87, she covered Illinois and city politics, education, agriculture, family issues and sub-Saharan Africa. When she was editor of the Commentary Page from 1987-2003, the page won several awards from the Association of Opinion Page Editors. From 2003-07, she headed the features copy desk.

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