Upcoming local film festivals offer over 50 films to see


I return to the Optimistic Pessimist column after taking a month off to prepare for the 14th annual Sound Unseen music/film/art festival and work on the 6th annual Flyway Film Festival, which took place a couple weeks ago in beautiful Pepin and Stockholm, Wisconsin.

In my time away from my weekly writing duties, the Twin Cities Film Fest took place in St. Louis Park, and I missed the entire festival. However, a few days ago, I was able to catch the somewhat remake, or better yet, re-imaged 2010 Mexican horror film We Are What We Are by American filmmaker Jim Mickle. His previous film Stake Land was a surprising effective look at the United States on political decay and economic crisis with a vampire outbreak for more added dreary news. The 2013 We Are What We Are version was a film I had no interest in seeing at Sundance earlier this year, mainly because I was enamored with the Mexican original. But Mickle’s film is a confident and reserved slow-burn horror drama with a completely psychotic breakout in the final reel. It’s definitely worth a look not only for the frightening ending, but a twisted allegory on the decay of the American household. The problem now is the film screened once at TCFF and may not come back to Twin Cities theater as its overall box office success at other theaters across the U.S. has been abysmal. So if you saw it at TCFF, you were probably the only audience to see it in a theater before it heads to home video in January 2014.

Many who read my columns have asked me why I focus or write on so many film festivals instead of reviewing film reviews weekly. And why do I bring a film up that played at a local festival over two weeks ago? A film like We Are What We Are is a small niche film and will eventually show up on DVD, Blu-Ray and VOD, but it may not return to a Twin Cities theater unlike some films at other local film festivals that are used to springboard an upcoming release of a few weeks or months before its actual theatrical release. There is a large percentage of films shown at local film festivals, that you may never see again, for various reasons. The biggest probably being it will be unable to secure any type of American distribution and it survives on the festival circuit, so going to a film festival might be the only way to see it. There is also something exciting about going to any type of festival where you will likely be taken in to experience something new or be the first to witness something magical or dunderheaded. Also, it might be your only chance to see some truly independent and/or foreign films that survive by living on the festival circuit and need people to see their work in order to work on their next project.

Film festivals have been popping up all over the the region over the past few years, and I am a believer in bringing more diverse film programming to town than ever before. There are close to thirty different film festivals in Minnesota with still the biggest being the Minneapolis (St. Paul) International Film Festival taking place again this April. The last article I wrote for TCDP was about the Minneapolis Underground Film Festival and I will continue to write about film festivals in Minnesota, outside of Minnesota, for as long as they keep being produced and shown. 

In fact, the Edina Film Festival with screenings at the Landmark Edina theater is this weekend, Thursday November 7 to Saturday November 9. I have not dug too deep to find out why there is an Edina Film Festival and what its theme is, but I can say that all the proceeds will benefit the Edina Art Center. Maybe the Edina Film Festival is playing films that were played at MSPIFF in April, The Fabulous Ice Age, and even TCFF, Ghost Light, two weeks ago. They are screening Joel and Ethan Coen’s stoner burnout cult classic, The Big Lebowski, where you can double up your ticket price and go bowling at Southtown Lanes after the screening where you can quote lines with your friends and drink some White Russians.

Last weekend, there was a film festival at St. Anthony Main with the Film Society of Minneapolis/St. Paul presenting the first annual Reelabilities: Minneapolis/St. Paul Disabilities Film Festival, being dubbed as the first ever film festival showing films by and about people with disabilities. Next week, I will preview an African film series: Images of Africa starting Friday, November 15 through Thursday, November 21, screening at St. Anthony Main and featuring some 25+ contemporary films with most of the films making their local/Midwest premiere.

Sound Unseen is a film festival dedicated mostly to music and art films, (full disclaimer, a festival where I serve as director and programmer) starts next Wednesday, November 13 through Sunday, November 17 with screenings in Minneapolis and St. Paul, will also be previewed on TCDP next week.

So over the next two and a half weeks, there is an opportunity to see some 50+ films at three local film festivals, where many of these films may not return to the Twin Cities unless you wait months or years for the DVD or Netflix stream. This could also be your only chance to see some entertaining and informative films on the big screen at one of these local festivals and a few more upcoming festival previews.