Silent Mary Pickford Classic Brings Thrills to Heights Theater

In the mood for some good old-fashioned melodrama, with snapping alligators, quicksand, and the kind of villains you can’t help but boo and hiss? Then be sure to head to the Heights Theater on Sunday, June 14, at 7:30 pm, when the theater will screen Mary Pickford’s 1926 silent classic Sparrows from a Library of Congress 35mm print. The film tells the story of a young girl named Molly trapped at a backwoods Louisiana “baby farm,” where orphans are held captive by the merciless Mr. and Mrs. Grimes, played by Gustav von Seyffertitz and Charlotte Mineau. After Molly stands up to Mr. Grimes and threatens to run him through with a pitchfork, he drives her and the other children into the swamp, assuming they’ll die there. But led by Molly, the orphans embark on a harrowing quest for survival and maybe, if they ever make it out of the swamp, a better life. Continue Reading

Musicians Jacky Becky and Jonathan Kaiser rehearse at the ASI for their live score of the Phantom Carriage

A haunting score for a haunted film

Musical artists Jackie Beckey and Jonathan Kaiser perform their original live score for the 1921 Swedish silent film classic, Phantom Carriage, in the ASI historic ballroom Wednesday evening. Their musical compositions and improvisation for Phantom Carriage incorporate Beckey’s viola and Kaiser’s cello with amplifiers, electronics and sound effects to create richly textured and sparse soundscapes for this haunting ghost story, featuring ahead-of-its-time special effects and storytelling devices. Beckey and Kaiser, known for their work with bands Brute Heart, Myrrh and Dark Dark Dark, share a passion for cinema and for scoring silent films together. Phantom Carriage is their latest collaboration, a haunting, ethereal film that is a perfect match for their music style and experimentation.

Cyn Collins: How did you first begin collaborating? How did you have the idea to score silent films?

Jonathan Kaiser (JK): …We played music together for a long time, as a configuration for other people and as a duo and in bands and improvising. The scoring for silent films came from Jackie’s Brute Heart being commissioned for “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” for Walker Art Center Music and Movies. They invited me to join them for that. I’d worked on a couple film scores with Dark Dark Dark so I was in a certain mode of working in that kind of thing. So I and John Marks who plays synthesizer and electronics joined them for that. It was a really fun working experience and it was a great combination of five people working on the project. That was kind of the beginning of talking about film and music stuff and working together on film stuff. Continue Reading


Not Ready to Die

The creative life of young Iranian-born Swedish pop singer, Laleh Pourkarim is revealed in candid interviews with Laleh, people who’ve worked with her and performance footage in “Not Ready to Die.” Born in underground Iran, she and her parents who opposed the Islamic regime in Tehran, fled to other cities in Russia and Germany before settling in Sweden when she was 12. A consummate musician, she learned to play guitar as a teen, and later taught herself percussion and saxophone while attending music school in Gothenburg. At age 12, she lost her father, watching him drown while trying to save a woman. Death has often been a theme in her music, there is sadness and yet positivity in her music such as her renowned single, “Some Die Young.”
While working on her self-titled debut, Laleh found she couldn’t concentrate with other producers and writers around, so she requested of Warner Sweden she have her own studio. They agreed, sending an entire studio to her home piece by piece. Continue Reading


The Beatles are back!

Four teenage boys of Oslo, Norway – Kim, Gunnar, Ola and Zeb – are friends “just like the Beatles.” It’s Beatlemania era – the four lads hear the Beatles and form a band. Yet they don’t have instruments or a place to play.This enchanting coming-of-age Norwegian film Beatles is adapted from Norway’s bestselling 1984 coming-of-age novel, Beatles, by Lars Saabye Christiansen, set between 1965 and 1974. Beatles follows the adventures of this band of friends in their mid-teens, poignantly depicting their growing pains, joys and insecurities, as they discover their identities in the mid-60s, a time of social and political turmoil.Kim Karlsen puts Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band on the turntable, as the boys view the album art in awe. The needle drops, while narrator Kim observes, “It was like when God said, ‘Let there be light.” The friends listen in enrapt wonder and their lives are changed, they forget all other stuff boys like, for music. Beatles warmly and humorously depicts the wonders of discovering music as a teen.The teens form a band, The Snafus (Situation Normal All Fucked Up)  – each taking on a Beatles persona. Continue Reading


The Cut: A film about the Armenian Genocide and its Minnesota connection

Editor’s Note: This is second in a series of Minneapolis Saint Paul International Film Festival “citizen reviews”. This one comes on the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide that took place in the waning days of the Ottoman empire in Turkey. The review of The Cut comes from Lou Ann Matossian, who has been working to raise awareness about Armenians who survived and the events leading up to the Armenian Genocide. She also helped director Faith Akin scout locations here in Minnesota, where some of the events in the film take place. In this article, Lou Ann explores the film’s Minnesota connections“Once upon a time / Once upon no time”—the opening words of The Cut evoke a storyteller’s traditional formula in both Armenian and Turkish. Continue Reading

Protesters gathered in and around vacated buildings for a month in 1970 to prevent their demolition for the construction of a fast-food restaurant. Over the roof, you can see Marshall High School in the distant background a block away and some former Victorian homes that had been converted to businesses. Photo by and Copyright Cheryl Walsh Bellville.

Former and current Dinkytown activists will compare notes

Dinkytown activists from the 1970s and those of today will compare notes on a panel discussion from 4:15 to 5:30 p.m. Monday, April 20, in the back room of Pracna on Main at 117 Main St. S.E., Minneapolis.The discussion will follow a showing of “The Dinkytown Uprising,” a film by Al Milgrom about the month-long demonstration in which protestors occupied buildings to stop construction of a fast-food franchise called the Red Barn. The film traces the lives of prominent leaders of the 1970 protest to see where they are today.Some protesters in the film will participate in the discussion that is free, and admission to the film is not necessary to attend the panel.Panelists will include Monte Bute, who was among the protestors who successfully kept the Red Barn out of Dinkytown, and Matt Hawbaker, who helped organize Save Dinkytown two years ago. This more recent group failed to prevent the demolition of businesses to construct a mixed-use midrise apartment building that opened last fall.The panel will explore contrasts and similarities between the two protests and the changing nature of the small business district near the University of Minnesota.Bute, an associate professor of sociology at Metropolitan State University, was among the 1970 organizers featured in Milgrom’s film. Others featured in the film may participate as well.“I came to realize that by our mid-40s that [the philosopher] Camus was right,” Bute said in the film. Continue Reading


Cambodia’s golden age of music illuminates at MSPIFF

April 17 marks 40 years since the Khmer Rouge devastated Cambodia. It also tried to wipe out the country’s incredibly vibrant rock, soul, and pop music and performing artists.For the first time, mysteries of this lesser known, yet no less vibrant music scene are revealed in American filmmaker and director John Pirozzi’s extraordinary film Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock ‘n’ Roll– his love letter to Cambodia’s all but lost music, the artists and audiences in their happy heyday.  This breathtakingly beautiful, stunning film features vintage 1960’s and ‘70s films made by King Sihanouk, captivatingly warm, soft, dreamy coloration of musicians, their audiences and Cambodian culture all found by Pirozzi. Paintings and poppy, bright, playful album covers pop up during interviews with musicians, fans, family members of artists lost. Radio DJ’s candidly share their joyful and ultimately heartbreaking stories.“Music is the soul of the nation,” Prince Sihanouk said of the huge importance of arts in Cambodian culture. Sihanouk, a son of a King who was a musician and mother, the head of a ballet company, was himself a filmmaker and a popular leader of the people, as King.Upon becoming independent from the French in 1953, Cambodia’s arts and cultural scene blossomed” Numerous young musicians in Phnom Penh were deeply inspired to perform fun, buoyant pop, rock ‘n’ roll, surf, Cuban and cha cha cha music by U.S. French, British and Latin they heard. Continue Reading

Legendary independent animator Bill Plympton presented his new feature Cheatin’ at MSPIFF

  Academy Award nominee Bill Plympton presented his new animated feature  Cheatin’ on April 13 and 14 at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival. Plympton drew 40,000 images in pencil to create the film, which is a romantic comedy that is touching, hilarious, raunchy, and doesn’t have a single line of dialogue. Cheatin’ is Plympton’s seventh hand-drawn animated feature. He has also animated over 60 shorts, two of which received “Best Animated Short” Oscar nominations.Before and after the two screenings of his film, Plympton sold his DVDs, books, and art while he spoke with fans and drew characters from the film onto postcards. Continue Reading