2013 Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival: Don’t miss these hidden gems

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The sun is now staying out longer and temperatures are on the rise, which only means that, the dirty snow will begin to melt, the flowers will begin to bloom, and right around the corner is the biggest film event in the state of Minnesota.

This week the Film Society of Minneapolis/St. Paul announced their entire lineup for the 2013 Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival (MSPIFF), running Thursday, April 11 through Sunday, April 28. (Though it’s a gigantic program, it’s actually four days shorter than the festival last year.) Tickets will go on sale for Film Society members on Monday, April 1; and tickets for general public will go on sale Thursday, April 4. You can download a pdf of the entire catalog here.

Over the next few weeks, along with other Daily Planet writers I’ll be covering the events, parties, film screenings, and guests. There are over 175 films screening at MSPIFF; I’ve seen close to two dozen of them already and I’m looking forward to seeing many more during the festival.

As previously reported, the opening night film is English director Ken Loach’s 2012 Cannes entry, The Angels’ Share (Thursday, April 11 at 7:30 p.m. and 7:45 p.m.), with longtime screenwriter Paul Laverty in attendance for opening night and on hand for a Q&A after the screening. With your opening night ticket, there will be a party following afterwards at the Aster Café that includes two drink tickets, complimentary appetizers, and live music.

Featured as the closing night film is writer/director/star Lake Bell’s surprise 2013 Sundance hit, In a World…. (Saturday, April 27 at 7:30 p.m.). It’s about a young woman (Bell), trying to break into the movie-trailer voice-over business; her father is the king of voice-over work, and she tries to make it a career for herself. The film was well-received at Sundance and features a supporting cast of comedians Demetri Martin, Michaela Watkins, Ken Marino, and Rob Corddry; there should be a few laughs in the film. According to the catalog, filmmakers have been invited but nothing is confirmed.

Some of the other Special Presentation features include films from India, Italy, Denmark, the United Kingdom, and even Minnesota.

Chosen as one of two centerpiece films is Deepa Mehta’s Midnight’s Children (Thursday, April 18 at 7 p.m.), based on the novel by Salman Rushdie. It’s an epic story set against India gaining its independence from Great Britain: two babies in a Bombay hospital are switched and grow up with different lives than were intended for them.

Local filmmaker Philip Harder’s film, Low Movie (How to Quit Smoking) (Friday, April 12 at 6:30 p.m. and Saturday, April 20 at 9:30 p.m.) will be featured; Harder’s film chronicles the relationship of Duluth’s Low with Harder and how they have been making music, videos, and short films together for over 20 years. Harder found footage of old 16mm negative film stock, outtakes, and new material to create a stirring vision of Low and how their music has impacted listeners for years. After the April 12 screening, Low will be performing an intimate showcase at the Aster Café, so it would probably be wise to grab your tickets soon.

Out of the 20+ MSPIFF titles I’ve seen, here are a few gems that risk getting lost in the shuffle as you try to set your schedule over these 18 days.

Pieta, by controversial South Korean director Kim Ki-duk (3-Iron and Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter) is a chilling-to-the-bone story of a frightening debt collector who encounters an older woman who claims to be the mother that gave him up and asks him to change his ways; that proves to be harder than expected, and has some grave consequences. (Friday, April 26 at 4:30 p.m. and Sunday, April 28 at 8:30 p.m.) 

Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me is a documentary on the Alex-Chilton-led band from Tennessee. They never got the credit they were due in their 70s prime; they’ve since gained something of a cult following. It features wonderful interviews from journalists, producers, fans, and musicians who were in love with Big Star, including Paul Westerberg. How many times have you heard the Replacements’ “Alex Chilton” on the radio?  This is one music documentary not to miss. (Tuesday, April 23, 6:45 p.m.) 

Jackpot is based on a book by Norwegian mystery writer Jo Nesbo (last year’s Headhunters). Director Magnus Marten’s thoroughly entertaining crime/suspense action flick is in the Late Night program at MSPIFF, but it is well worth staying up late and losing an hour or two of sleep for. Oscar is questioned by police about what went wrong in a shooting at a sex shop, and the film turns itself upside down as Oscar tells his story to police authorities. There are plenty of twists and turns in Marten’s narrative that keep us guessing until the shocking and surprisingly hilarious violent end to Oscar’s absurd madness.  (Thursday, April 18 at 9:55 p.m. and Saturday, April 27 at 10:30 p.m.)