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International FIlm Fest Opens Thursday
The 25th Annual Mpls/St. Paul International Film Fest kicks off this Thursday, April 19 and runs through April 29. Clearly the most important film event of the year for the Upper Midwest, this year’s festival offers 80 films from more than 40 countries, including a generous mix of independent dramas, short films, and documentaries.
A number of venues will be showcasing the films: Oak Street Cinema, Bell Auditorium, Riverview Theater, St. Anthony Main, and Crown Theatre. For a complete schedule and description of the films, go to www.mspfilmfest.org.
If you’re craving a local film connection, you’ll want to check out the Minnesota Documentaries Program (Monday, April 23, Oak Street Cinema, 7:15 p.m.), comprised of eight short documentaries, five of which won awards from the 2006 Greatest Generation Project Film Fest, produced by the Minnesota Historical Society. You can also catch the world premier of Minnesota director Rob Nilsson’s new film The Opening or view Ole Bull, a fascinating documentary about the Norwegian violin virtuoso (there’s even a bronze statue of the man in Loring Park).
Thespian Danny Glover will be on hand to kick off the festival by introducing the film Bamako, for which he was executive producer as well as played a supporting role on screen. There are many other films worth checking out that don’t bring along opening-night star power: you can see some of the past Academy Award entries for best foreign film, including Israel’s Sweet Mud and Norway’s Reprise. Another film generating buzz for the behind-the-scenes story just as much as the movie itself is Waitress, starring Keri Russell (Felicity) and Cheryl Hines (Curb Your Enthusiasm). Co-star and writer/director Adrienne Shelley met her tragic death at age 40 just as the movie was generating buzz, but this poignant drama promises to deliver and was a crowd favorite at Sundance.
Each spring seems to be a dumping ground for films---from January through May, most studios release the films even they are not that excited about (too early for Oscar Buzz, too late for the holiday crowds). Moreover, there aren’t too many venues in the Twin Cities where one can catch a small, quirky drama that a major studio didn’t financially support (catch Canada’s Snow Cake) or an intriguing documentary (I’m looking forward to Godfather of Disco, based on Mel Cheren’s autobiography). The Twin Cities is fortunate to have such a diverse mix of unique cinema offerings make their way to the 25th Film Festival. So skip the mega-plex during this time and catch one of these 80 films on the big screen while you have the chance...the inevitable summer sequels will be taking over the city before you know it.
-Stephen Sporer works at Macalester College and has reviewed films for KTFM 102.7, San Antonio's #1-rated radio station. He recently moved to the Twin Cities from New York where he worked, studied theater at Sarah Lawrence College, and acted and sang in a wide range of venues.