The second annual Twin Cities Film Fest opened this Tuesday, September 20th, and will feature over 70 films, wrapping up on Sunday, September 25. All the screenings at TCFF will take place at the Showplace ICON theater in St. Louis Park; it will be a major improvement to have all the screenings take place in one venue compared to driving back and forth from last year’s two venues (Mall of America and Block E).
Even TCFF director Jatin Setia likes the move from downtown to a few miles west to the splashy two-year-old theater: “I think people are going to like coming to Showplace for the festival this year,” he says. “There is free parking and you have some great restaurants and shops within walking distance of the theater. It will be nice to have the films all in one theater.”
TCFF will be screening a mixture of studio films, American independent features and documentaries, Minnesota-made features and shorts, and two special showcases: “India Independent” and “Women in Film.” Along with the film screenings, there will be six panel discussions (from everything on acting to directing to “Gaming as Visual Art” taking place at the Doubletree Hotel only a couple blocks away from Showplace, and plenty of parties taking place over the course of the entire festival at local restaurants.
Opening the festival on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. will be Sundance and Emmy-Award-winning documentarian Lee Hirsch’s The Bully Project, which was picked up by the Weinstein Company after it first screened at the Tribeca film festival this past April. Hirsch will be present at the screening and he’ll be participating in a panel before the screening, but the film won’t open in the Twin Cities until next March. According to the TCFF website, The Bully Project is “a beautifully cinematic, character-driven documentary. At its heart are those with huge stakes in this issue whose stories each represent a different facet of America’s bullying crisis.” The film has been very well received, especially when it played as a free community screening this summer at the L.A. film festival, and having Hirsch on-hand should make for an educational and informative Q&A following the film.
Closing the festival on Saturday evening (although there are screenings on Sunday) is Drake Doremus’s Sundance winning film Like Crazy, which was crowned the 2011 Sundance break-out and film darling, featuring a dynamic performance from lead actress Felicity Jones, who plays Anna, a British student who falls for Jacob, an American played by Anton Yelchin. As they fall in love, Anna goes back to London and they are forced to deal with not only a long distance (and overseas) relationship but also other temptations, which could ruin both of them. Doremus and Yelchin, will both be present at the screening on Saturday night, at 7:15 p.m., and will be part of a panel discussion earlier Saturday afternoon to discuss their showbiz careers and their film. (An interview with Doremus and Yelchin will appear in the Daily Planet when Like Crazy is released in the Twin Cities on November 4.)
Like Crazy recently played at the Toronto International Film Festival along with a few other studio films making their Twin Cities premiere at TCFF including 50/50 starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, and Academy Award nominee Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air), who’ll be present at the Wednesday evening screening and on hand for a Q&A after. It’s somewhat of a mixed bag and falls a bit flat in the second half but does have some laughs and handles its sensitive subject very well, considering few films have been anything you could describe as “a buddy comedy dealing with cancer” before. 50/50 opens in the Twin Cities on September 30.
Another Toronto premiere headed to TCFF is Marc Forster’s Machine Gun Preacher, starring Gerald Butler, who plays a former drug dealing who finds faith in the Sudan and becomes a leader for hundreds of child soldiers. Machine Gun Preacher opens in the Twin Cities on September 30.
However, the best film I’ve seen in the entire festival is finally receiving its Minnesota premiere: Mark Landsman’s wildly entertaining and uplifting funk and soul music documentary Thunder Soul, which features musicians from Houston’s Kashmere high school stage band who reunite after 35 years and perform the songs they learned for their now 92-year-old teacher, “Prof.” Thunder Soul might be one of the best films I’ve seen in 2011, and is a wonderful documentary that the whole family can enjoy and groove to. Thunder Soul is tentatively scheduled to open in the Twin Cities on October 7.
Photo: Like Crazy, courtesy Paramount Pictures