Short Takes for the weekend of 9/12


4 stars

Documentary about a Southern plantation. At Lincoln Plaza and the IFC (1:38). Not rated: Mature themes.

When film critic Godfrey Cheshire decided to make a movie of his own, he found the ideal subject right in his backyard. Or, more specifically, in the backyard of the family home, a North Carolina plantation with a long-buried history.

Cheshire's determination to dig up the truth uncovers decidedly unwelcome revelations, given the efforts some relatives have made to forget about the slaves who once shared their land. But he refuses to look away, no matter how complicated things get. In fact, it's the tangled, tortured roots that most inspire him, turning this deeply personal film into a potent meditation on our nation's past. - Elizabeth Weitzman


1 star

An Arab-American girl has a troubled life in Texas. With Aaron Eckhart, Toni Collette. At the Angelika and AMC Lincoln Square (1:56). R: Sexuality, language.

Uncomfortably single-minded, this tale (from Alicia Erian's memoir) of Jasira, a 13-year-old Lebanese-American girl living in Houston, is so eager to be frank it turns into a dark parody. That's surely the intention of director Alan Ball, who made dark parodies his stock in trade with "American Beauty" and HBO's "Six Feet Under." But here his deadpan expressions of lust are even more shallow.

As the teen subject of the title insult (and worse), Summer Bishil is un-nuanced; part naive victim, part nymphette hungry for experience. Peter MacDissi is her stern hypocrite father, Aaron Eckhart a creep next door, Toni Collette a by-the-numbers earth mother. Ball knows one trick, and it's sure over. - Joe Neumaier


2 stars

Documentary about the effects humans have on the Earth's water supply. At the Angelika (1:24). Not rated.

If the realities of what passes for "natural water" in our world make you uneasy, this smart documentary may be tough to take. For anyone who needs further proof that pollution is endangering our own and the planet's health, jump in - the water's not fine.

Touching on everything from the cost citizens of poor countries pay for water to corporate hoodwinking in the bottled-water business, "Flow" makes you thirsty for more information - Joe Neumaier

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