'How I Killed a Saint'

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How I Killed a Saint
Directed by Teona Strugar Mitevska
May 4 through 10, Two Boots Pioneer

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Making economical use of a shopworn metaphorical device, How I Killed a Saint explores Macedonia's 2001 near–civil war with its minority Albanian population through the prism of a house divided: Forward-thinking Viola (Labina Mitevska), back from the U.S. to recover her secret three-year-old daughter, plays pacifist counterpart to her brother Kokan (Milan Tocinovski-Sako), a Macedonian nationalist who works as a courier for an underground political group. Kokan's resentment runs deep—too deep, unfortunately, for an 82-minute feature to spell out with any clarity. Context arrives via well-deployed TV and radio broadcasts, but How I Killed a Saint might have been stronger had it either gone broader— tracing the roots of Kokan's activism, or fleshing out Viola's maternal backstory—or more immediate: A scene in which Kokan is searched by customs inspectors provides the single most gripping interlude. Throughout, first-time director Teona Strugar Mitevska (the sibling of the lead actress) demonstrates a keen eye for off-center compositions, a striking visual depiction of a world out of balance.

 
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