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Woodpecker

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Venture unprepared into writer-director Alex Karpovsky's Woodpecker, and you might leave the movie feeling unsure about what you've seen. Rough-edged, beautifully shot, sometimes idyllic and pitiless in the end, it's a feature-length exercise in narrative chain-yanking, a genre experiment that gums up truth and fiction without sacrificing the pleasures of story. Karpovsky comes on at first like any earnest indie documentarian chasing a built-in narrative: a sad-sack birdwatcher (Jon E. Hyrns) heads to the Arkansas woods to track down a woodpecker that's supposed to be extinct. Tramping through the forest is fun, especially with Hyrns, who appeared in the doc Johnny Berlin last year and never appears to be acting, but Karpovsky is after bigger game. Soon, Woodpecker seems to become one of those invasive documentaries about delusional American weirdos, or a parody of the same, and then it becomes something richer and stranger still. By the end, this sad, savvy film has demonstrated how easily movies can trick us — but also how fun it is to let them. Screens at 8 p.m. Saturday, September 20, as part of the Kansas International Film Festival. See the schedule at kansasfilm.com. All shows are at the Glenwood Arts Theatre, 9575 Metcalf in Overland Park, 913-642-4404.

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