Daily Planet Originals

Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival 2014: New festival vibe and recommendations for the final weekend

The Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival's vibe is different this year. I am not really sure how to describe it–maybe a veneer of professionalism. Less rough and tumble, more polish, less scrappy local flair, but still the clear commitment to the diversity of the film world. One thing remains, unlike big festivals, there are no press conferences with visiting filmmakers and actors, but rather a cozy Q&A in the cinema. They did however add the logo-laden backdrop common at big festivals to the area behind the  panelists.  As I chatted with the staff, one clear technical change this year is that there are no 35mm prints being shown. Last year there were six. The year before, I remember one filmmaker worried about the safe projection of his 16 mm film. Shipping of 35mm prints is extremely expensive, so a world of film options is open in this brave new world of technology. The world is officially 100% digital.

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THEATER REVIEW | We Theater's "The Shadow War:" Descendants of Hmong soldiers and CIA operative illuminate history

Gregory Yang and Song Kim. Photo credit Scott Pakudaitis.

The Shadow War focuses on the years leading up to, during, and after the Vietnam War, when the Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. Army Special Forces developed a secret army made up of Hmong and Lao fighters to combat the spread of communism in Southeast Asia. Playwright Amy Russell, who created the play based on her experiences growing up in Laos as the daughter of CIA operative, explained that this became a workshop project as she developed it with the Hmong community and the actors themselves, including producer and actor Sandy ‘Ci Moua.

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Daily Planet offers free video class in preparation for One Day in the Twin Cities event

Citizens across the Twin Cities will take to their camcorders and smartphones Saturday, April 26 as part of the cities-wide media creation event, One Day in the Twin Cities.

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The Rookery — Travail's micro-plate sister in Robbinsdale

We finally made it over last week to the Rookery, Travail's new a-la-carte sister restaurant in Robbinsdale. The two restaurants share one big open space in a new building, so it's a little hard to tell where one restaurant starts and the other ends. As we entered, at around 8:30 on a Thursday night, there was a long line of customers waiting for tables. When I asked, I was told that there would be a one-hour wait for a table at Travail - which offers only a prix-fixe tasting menu for two - but that we could be seated in the Rookery immediately. (Travail's standard fixed-price menu is $110 for ten courses for two people, but it does offer an early-bird special of $85 for diners who are seated before 6 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, and a $90 date night special all night on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.)

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SOUNDING OFF ON SOUND | No secrets in this town

(Photo from David Hanners website)

You need get only a few bars into and a couple verses into veteran singer-songwriter David Hanners' newest, There Are No Secrets In This Town, to recognize sure-handed craftsmanship.

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THEATER REVIEW | "Steel Magnolias" packs an emotional punch at Old Log Theater

A private moment in Steel Magnolias. Photo courtesy of the Old Log Theater

Steel Magnolias is an extraordinary play about ordinary and sometimes terrible events that people live through. Seeing the Old Log Theater's excellent new production will not make you want to go out and change the world, but it will make you laugh a great deal and might make you hug a loved one tightly when you get home. This is a play that resonates with audiences because of its veracity and encapsulation of real life and its rhythms – a drama that resonates with its down-to-earth authenticity and lands very close to home.

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MUSIC REVIEW | Eric Whitacre charms Orchestra Hall with a Minnesota Orchestra and Chorale concert

Photo couresty Eric Whitacre

An unusually age-diverse crowd filled Orchestra Hall for a Minnesota Orchestra and Chorale concert led by Eric Whitacre. The program featured works by the well-known choral composer, supplemented here and there with some of his own favorite pieces by other composers. Soprano soloist Hila Plitmann and cellist Anthony Ross rounded out the evening's musical offerings.

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THEATER REVIEW | Minnesota Opera showcases the magic in Mozart's "The Magic Flute"

Photo credit Robert Millard

To call the Minnesota Opera's current production of The Magic Flute "a reimagining" would be a gross understatement and a disservice. "Outstanding" would be a better word, "revelatory" another, and "hopeful" maybe the best yet. A friend working on the production told me that at the final dress rehearsal last Friday a huge crowd of students "screamed at the end like it had been a One Direction concert." I think Mozart would have been very proud to see this production, even if he wouldn't know who Harry Stiles is.

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THEATER REVIEW | Six Elements Theatre reworks Arthurian legends in "Tales from Camelot"

Morgan le Faye (Emily Knotek, behind) seduces Nimue (Tamara Koltes, front) into participating in Merlin's demise in Broceliande: The Death of Merlin, the first half of Six Elements Theatre's Tales from Camelot; photo by Teresa Townsend

Jenna Papke’s Six Elements Theatre and phillip andrew bennett low’s ongoing exploration of the Arthurian legends of England are such a perfect fit in retrospect I’m surprised a production like Tales From Camelot didn’t happen sooner. As it is, this new iteration of Tales From Camelot brings out the best in both. Tucked away in a gallery space in the art-saturated Northrup King Building in Northeast Minneapolis is a delightfully intimate evening with larger-than-life human beings.

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Achievement gap or education debt? Minneapolis school board candidates face questions

Nelson Inz, seated; Ira Jourdain speaking.

Is “education debt” a more accurate description than “achievement gap?”

This was one of the early questions in the April 12 Minneapolis school board candidate forum put on by Neighborhoods Organizing for Change (NOC). The forum is one of several being held before the  April 26 DFL Convention, when delegates may or may not choose to endorse school board candidates.

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