TCFF 2015: It’s a Wrap!! Reviews of ‘The 33’ & ‘Thank You For Playing’ doc, highlights and winners of Twin Cities Film Fest top awards


Woot woot!! Can’t believe the 11-day Twin Cities Film Fest has wrapped last night. I was far too beat to do any kind of blogging when I got home from the final night Mixer aka after party around Midnight. Thank goodness we’ve got an extra hour of sleep thanks to Daylight Savings Time, talk about perfect timing! 😀

Well, I still have a few reviews in the pipeline that have yet to be published (a collection of short films and indie drama Krisha review will be up tomorrow). Just because the film fest is done, doesn’t mean the TCFF-related posts are over. I got to meet a few filmmakers throughout the night whom I haven’t got around to interviewing and exchanged business cards, so more filmmaker interviews are coming in the next few weeks! I’ll also be working on my Top 10 list from TCFF 2015 (some of which also won the top awards last night).

Well, TCFF ended on a high note once again. The final day started off with one of the great educational panels (a free event!) with cinematographers and DPs working in the industry, including Checco Varese who shot last night’s gala film The 33. Lots of interesting discussions about some technical stuff, and they answered my question about the whole dialog of film vs digital filmmaking.


THE 33

The last two films both deal with heart-wrenching subject matters but done in such an inspiring and uplifting way. The 33 chronicled the event that gripped the international community when 33 Chilean miners were buried under 100-year-old gold and copper mine and trapped for 69 days!

Director Patricia Riggen did a phenomenal job telling a compelling story of human resilience and the courage of both the miners and their families above ground who refused to give up. Great ensemble cast featuring Antonio Banderas, Juliette Binoche, Rodrigo Santoro, Gabriel Byrne and Lou Diamond Philips. It was exquisitely shot by Checco Varese, which was shot on location in two different mines in Bolivia, Colombia. It certainly looked authentic as the environment of the set made the actors felt as if they were real miners for a while. In fact, the 33 miners were consulted for the film and the final shots showed the real miners who are still as close as brothers to this day. There were moments that might’ve felt too ‘Hollywoodized’ but overall the film didn’t feel emotionally manipulated. The genuinely stirring score came from the late James Horner, which the film paid tribute in the end.


During the Q&A afterwards, Mr. Varese shared that the mountain would shift during filming inside the mine, just like in the film! He also shared that he’s actually married to the director. What a team, hope they’ll collaborate on a film again in the future!

Thank You For Playing documentary

ThankYouForPlayingPosterRemember I said this year the film fest opened AND ended with a documentary? Well it couldn’t have ended on a better film than Thank You For Playing. The synopsis alone should tell you it’ll be a tear-jerker, but it’s not a sad story, in fact it’s an uplifting one that should inspire everyone going through a tough time in their lives. Critics have called this film one of the most important film about video game ever made and it certainly lived up to that.

The story chronicled the Green family, as Ryan and Amy deal with their son Joel who’s diagnosed with a terminal cancer. When Joel was one year old, he was told he only had a few months to live but he ended up living for another three years. Ryan is a video game designer and he embarked on creating a most unusual and poetic video game to honor Joel’s life. He captured the motion and voice of his son, including his infectious laughter, in the game and took us through the heart-rending journey in making that game. Most video games deal with a lot of deaths, that is people getting shot or chopped to pieces violently. But never has a game dealt with death the way That Dragon Cancer game does it, tackling the issue of death head on in such a personal, affecting and encouraging way. Its website called it A Journey Of Hope In The Shadow Of Death and that could’ve easily been the tagline for this doc as well.


I LOVE that their Christian faith is ever present in the documentary (as well as in the game itself), as they continue to be thankful to God despite their difficult situation. It also showed the church community coming alongside them and helped them through it all, as Amy Green later shared during the Q&A was a huge part of their lives. It certainly altered my feelings about video games, which I tend to see in a negative light given my late brother’s addiction to it. But every form of art can be used for bad or good and in this case, the Green family gave a moving testimony of the empathetic power of the art of video game and how they process their grief through technology. Kudos to filmmakers David Osit and Malika Zouhali-Worrall for crafting such a beautiful and reflective film honoring the memory of Joel Green. It deservedly won Best Documentary at TCFF last night (see more winners below).

P.S. Stay tuned for my interview with filmmaker David Osit in the next few weeks!

TCFF Favorite Moments in pictures…

“Room,” “Brooklyn” and “Too Late” Win Top Awards at 2015 Twin Cities Film Fest

Post by TCFF executive director Jatin Setia

Concluding a star-studded showcase that featured more than 100 films over 11 nights, the largest-ever Twin Cities Film Fest unveiled its 2015 award winners Saturday night at a ceremony held in downtown St. Louis Park.

Top awards went to the critically-acclaimed mother-son drama Room, which just last month earned standing ovations at the Toronto International Film Festival, Brooklyn, the sweeping, much buzzed-about period immigrant drama starring Saoirse Ronan, and Too Late, the daring independent noir thriller starring Minnesota native John Hawkes who appeared in person to receive the festival’s Northstar Award.

“You look at daring stories like Room and these are the kinds of journeys and characters that stick with you for a lifetime,” said Twin Cities Film Fest Executive Director Jatin Setia. “Leaps of faith like that are why film festivals are so essential – the chance to discover great films before the rest of the world sees them, the chance to champion independent projects that deserve extra attention and the chance to talk about the art and the craft with the very artists who are making the next great movie.”

Awards were handed out in nine categories Saturday night. Each category also officially recognized three standout honorable mentions. “Room,” directed by Lenny Abrahamson, took home the trophy for best feature film; Thank You For Playing, the festival’s official closing night documentary directed by David Osit and Malika Zouhali-Worrall, won best documentary; and Skunk, a short film by Annie Silverstein, won the 2015 award for best short.

Minnesota audiences who attended the festival were invited to cast ballots for the 2015 audience award. John Crowley’s “Brooklyn” took home the feature film trophy (honorable mentions included : “The Dust Storm,” directed by Ryan Lacen & Anthony Baldino; “The Polar Bear Club,” directed by Brett Wayne Price; and “Shut In,” directed by Adam Schindler). Sarah Smith’s “D.Asian” took the top audience prize for short films (honorable mentions included Adam Burke’s “Boardroom,” Matthew G. Anderson’s “The Caper” and Bruce Southerland’s “The Last Vanish”)

“This year’s ballots were noteworthy, because they recognized projects both big and small, and celebrated such a wide and eclectic range of tones and topics,” said Steve Snyder, the festival’s artistic director. “I think the diversity of the voting this year reflected the wider diversity of the Twin Cities filmgoing —and filmmaking — communities. And maybe in that regard it shouldn’t be surprising at all. Year in and year out, we hear from filmmakers and studios alike that it’s the sophistication of Minnesota movie audiences that make them want to debut and premiere here. We know good movies when we see them, we know how to celebrate art that deserves recognition, and I think filmmakers across the country know that.”

As always, the festival culminated with two “Indie Vision” awards, recognizing standout independent productions released over the last year that broke new creative ground. The 2015 Indie Vision Breakthrough Film Award went to the Dennis Hauck thriller Too Late, in recognition of its immersive storytelling techniques. (The film was composed of five unbroken and carefully choreographed 20-minute “acts”) The 2015 Indie Vision Breakthrough Performance Award went to Rosa Salazar, actress in the notable Charles Hood’s romance Night Owls, in recognition of a raw, brilliant and pitch-perfect character arc and a performance that required hitting notes across the emotional spectrum.

Here’s the full slate of 2015 award winners, as well as honorable mentions:

Best Feature Film

“Room,” directed by Lenny Abrahamson.

Honorable Mentions:
“It’s Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong,” directed by Emily Ting; “Brooklyn,” directed by John Crowley; and “The Quiet Hour,” directed by Stephanie Joalland.

Best Documentary

“Thank You For Playing,” directed by David Osit and Malika Zouhali-Worrall.

Honorable Mentions:
“Man Vs. Snake: The Long and Twisted Tale of Nibbler, directed by Tim Kinzy and Andrew Seklir; “A New High,” directed by Samuel Miron and Stephen Scott Scarpulla; and “Out in the Cold,” directed by J.D. O’Brien.

Best Short Film

“Skunk,” directed by Annie Silverstein.

Honorable Mentions:
“D.Asian,” directed by Sarah Smith; “Even the Walls,” directed by Sarah Kuck and Saman Maydani; and “Myrna the Monster,” directed by Ian Samuels.

Audience Award, Feature Film

“Brooklyn,” directed by John Crowley.

Honorable Mentions:
“The Dust Storm,” directed by Ryan Lacen & Anthony Baldino; “The Polar Bear Club,” directed by Brett Wayne Price; “Shut In,” directed by Adam Schindler.

Audience Award, Short Film

“D.Asian,” directed by Sarah Smith.

Honorable Mentions:
“Boardroom,” directed by Adam Burke; “The Caper,” directed by Matthew G. Anderson; and “The Last Vanish,” directed by Bruce Southerland

Indie Vision, Breakthrough Film

Winner: “Too Late,” directed by Dennis Hauck.

Honorable Mentions:
“Anomalisa,” directed by Duke Johnson and Charlie Kaufman; “Thugs: The Musical,” directed by Greg Bro; and “Out in the Cold,” directed by J.D. O’Brien

Indie Vision, Breakthrough Performance

Winner: Rosa Salazar, “Night Owls.”

Honorable Mentions:
Brie Larson, “Room;” Saoirse Ronan, “Brooklyn;” Nathan Tymoshuk, “Snail Mail” and “The Writer.”

2015 Changemaker Award:

Dr. Heather Huseby, executive director of YouthLink.

2015 Northstar Award for Excellence:

John Hawkes.


Shout out to all TCFF volunteers for making the film fest possible! THANK YOU to all who’ve volunteered this year, you all rock!!

Well that’s my recap of 2015 Twin Cities film fest. Hope you enjoyed the coverage so far, stay tuned for some additional reviews and more filmmaker interviews!

17 thoughts on “TCFF 2015: It’s a Wrap!! Reviews of ‘The 33’ & ‘Thank You For Playing’ doc, highlights and winners of Twin Cities Film Fest top awards

  1. Thank you for Playing looks great!! I’ll have to keep an eye out for that one.

    If you don’t mind me asking, how did you score interviews with filmmakers?? I tried to get in contact with some people during our festival but everyone was too busy to even answer a set of questions in an email, or even reply to my emails =/

    1. Hello Jordan! If you’re into video games, you must see Thank You For Playing, but really, it’s for anyone.

      As for the interviews, well I was fortunate the fact that I’m the official blogger for TCFF so the filmmakers expected that I’ll be contacting them. Sometimes it helps if you reached out to them ahead of time too, most of my interviews were done via email.

      1. Oh I see, Hmmm, I tried to reach out for interviews over email a couple of months before the festival and then when I waited a bit and emailed back I never got a response. =/ Hmph!

  2. Great stuff, Ruth! The 33 and Thank You for Playing both look like rewarding tearjerkers. Glad to see Room and Brooklyn won awards, as I’m really looking forward to them.

    1. Hello Josh! Yes they are indeed. I have a feeling though that The 33 probably won’t be as well-received by critics as it’s a bit too formulaic, but I enjoyed it, and it was beautifully-shot to be sure.

      YES for Room and Brooklyn!! Glad that the female-driven films won awards 😉

  3. You’ve been busy! Thanks for the coverage. I haven’t commented on everything you posted from TCFF, but nice to read the early reactions to films I have not yet seen myself. Which is your favorite film from the festival Ruth?

    1. Hi Chris! Thank you for checking out the post. It’s always a treat to be able to see films ahead of its release, and in the case of indie films, it could be even a year before it’s available for the public. I’ll be posting my Top 10 faves later this week but for sure Brooklyn will be on my top 5 🙂

  4. Great coverage Ruth. Lots of cool stuff. Room is getting a lot of good press. Not surprised to see it win. The 33 really interests me. It’s funny, you mentioned the one thing I was a little apprehensive about – the Hollywoodized effect. It is only a few days away from its full release.

    1. Thank you Keith! ROOM is a really challenging film but it was so well-done and well-acted. As for The 33, I didn’t have much issues with it. I expected some melodrama given the story, but the story is engaging and there some humor to prevent it from being too heavy-handed.

  5. Pingback: TCFF 2015 Indies Reviews: Krisha & Wildlike |

  6. Thanks for your hard work and great coverage of the festival. It was my pleasure to have attended for six nights Oct 21 – Oct 26th. I was also quite pleased to have met you personally – and truth be known, I decided to come out to the TCFF from Florida this year instead of repeating the Mill Valley Film Festival in Marin County, CA and I am so glad I did.

    While I did miss the final nights and did not get to see the John Hawkes film or 33, I had a wonderful time in Minnesota.

    1. Thanks Mike! Glad you’re able to join me for part of TCFF and you did some amazing coverage yourself man. I had a great time chatting with you, and hope our paths will cross again one day.

      I didn’t get to meet John Hawkes either, just seeing him up close on the red carpet, but the film was good and very creatively-done.

  7. “You look at daring stories like Room and these are the kinds of journeys and characters that stick with you for a lifetime.”

    Ugh…I didn’t have that feeling. Kind of disappointed, honestly. Great acting, though!

  8. Pingback: My Top 10 Picks from Twin Cities Film Fest |

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