Drumroll please… the 37th Minneapolis St Paul International Film Festival opens today! From April 12-28, MSPIFF is showcasing 158 new feature films and 120+ shorts representing 70+ countries to audiences throughout the Upper Midwest. The Film Society is making things easier to watch movies and participate in a plethora of events and parties! You can catch a free ride on opening weekend with Metro Transit, you can download the PDF of the entire schedule, or better yet, get the Film Society App … a new tool to fest year round.
Check out the official trailer:
The opening night film is RBG, the acclaimed documentary celebrating the life and lasting influence of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
From filmmakers Julie Cohen and Betsy West, this documentary feature showcases the life and lasting influence of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, also known as RBG and “the notorious RBG.” With unprecedented access to Ginsburg, the filmmakers chart her life as she grows up in Brooklyn, pursues an education, falls in love, accepts an appointment to the Supreme Court, and establishes a friendship with the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
The film and opening night reception and party will take place at St. Anthony Main, a beautiful venue by the river in downtown Minneapolis.
WOMEN & FILM
MSPIFF’s showcase of female directors from around the globe continues to grow every year, and 2018 is no different, featuring a wide variety of outstanding narratives and documentaries from around the world. MSPIFF programmers have brought in women-directed films that are in the vanguard of global contemporary cinema.
“The #MeToo movement has underscored the inequalities in the film industry like never before. Our Women & Film and Chasms and Bridges programs examine the chaotic and divisive world we live in today, as well as the resistance movements that seek to affect change, and we have sought out films that invite discourse and understanding.”
– Susan Smoluchowski, Executive Director of the Film Society.
There’s a specific ‘women directors‘ tag on the MSPIFF schedule page that shows ALL the films by female filmmakers. Here are some of them:
Let me start w/ this documentary… not only because it’s made right here in Minnesota, but I also happen to know the woman who made it! Melody Gilbert is an acclaimed documentary filmmaker and teacher, and her latest doc is certainly a thought-provoking one. I made a small contribution to its Kickstarter campaign and it’s also scored by Charlie McCarron, who also did an outstanding job scoring my short film Hearts Want.
Love comes in many forms, and in Silicone Soul, the need for companionship and understanding is shown in the bond between humans and their synthetic companions. Tenderly captured by Gilbert, the bonds shown in the film are diverse and layered: from romantic relationships, to friendships, to a recreation of the love between mother and child. Silicone Soul does not allow for its subjects to be easily labeled or judged. Instead, the film is a collection of resoundingly human stories that reflect universal themes—the desire for love, compassion and communication.
ANGELS WEAR WHITE (JIA NIAN HUA)
Xiaomi, a motel cleaner, watches as a district-commissioner checks in alongside two girls, Xiaowen and Xin Xin. On the surveillance monitor, Xiaomi sees the commissioner push his way into the girls’ room, and she decides to record the event with her smartphone. In the wake of the assault, Xiaomi’s story does little good for the girls as they face their unconcerned families and a society that would rather put the blame on them than offend their attacker.
Director Vivian Qu is fearless in her all too true-to-life portrayal of violence against women and how both law and society so often fail to act.
THE BLESSED (LES BIENHEUREUX)
In postwar Algiers, Amal and Samir are a middle-aged couple hoping to celebrate their twentieth wedding anniversary. Drifting through their day, they eventually find themselves at a restaurant. Here, they confront their differences and disillusionment, threaded with the unsettled atmosphere of postwar society. Outside, their teenaged son Fahim and his friends, Feriel and Reda, spend their day on the streets of Algiers. They too reveal ideological differences among them, their banter soon leading to the reveal of hidden wounds left by the Algerian Civil War that shaped their current world.
Sofia Djama’s debut feature employs this multi-layered narrative to craft a stirring drama that illuminates the generational states of unrest left in the wake of the Algerian Civil War.
LET THE SUNSHINE IN
It wouldn’t be MSPIFF without Juliette Binoche! I have seen three of her films at the festival in the last four years.
Joining two icons of French cinema, filmmaker Claire Denis and actor Juliette Binoche, Let the Sunshine In is far from your everyday romantic comedy. Binoche takes the leading role as a newly divorced Parisian artist named Isabelle, who finds herself at a crossroads. Isabelle longs for another chance at love but is not willing to entertain the rolling list of hapless bachelors that drift her way, such as an actor (Nicolas Duvauchelle), a banker (Xavier Beauvois), and a kindred spirit (Alex Descas) who won’t commit.
MARLINA THE MURDERER IN FOUR ACTS
I can’t wait to see this one as the filmmaker is from my hometown Jakarta!
Hailed as the first Satay Western, Indonesian director/writer Mouly Surya’s Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts follows a widow’s quest for justice after a brutal home invasion. A multi-national production (co-produced by Indonesia, France, Malaysia and Thailand), Surya’s feature film charts one woman’s fight to reclaim her body, identity and home after a drifter, Markus, and his gang overtake her world.
Told across four acts, Marlina transforms from a docile victim into a lethal avenger, targeting her oppressors with calculating precision. Marlina, having taken vengeance on Markus and his gang, makes her way to the police station to turn herself in and meets her pregnant friend, Novi, along the way. As the two embark on a journey across the land, we are spectators to Marlina’s emotional journey as she comes to terms with her actions and their consequences.
Another MN female filmmaker made a thought-provoking documentary that’s filmed in Cambodia and Australia to capture stories of forgiveness from two members of Australia’s Aboriginal “Lost Generation.”
Dawn Mikkelson’s Risking Light is a meditation on forgiveness, layered with a theme that is rarely seen on the screen—forgiving the unforgivable. Five years prior to making the film, Mikkelson met Mary Johnson and O’Shea Israel, a meeting she describes as a life-changing event that would lead to the development of Risking Light. It was then she learned that Johnson had chosen to forgive Israel for the murder of her son, which motivates the tone of humanistic mission in the film.
I saw this trailer weeks before it was announced it’ll be the CLOSING NIGHT film at MSPIFF. So I absolutely can’t wait to see this on the big screen!
In Chloé Zhao’s resoundingly human film The Rider, the narrative is framed as both documentary and drama focused on 20-year-old rising rodeo star Brady Blackburn (played by Brady Jandreau) as he undergoes a crisis of identity. In America’s heartland, Brady suffers a head injury that almost kills him; forcing him to pick up the pieces of a life that has forever changed. A truly unique feature, the characters in The Rider, including Brady, are members of the actual Jandreau family, who have experienced events identical to many in the film.
One of the highlights of MSPIFF is of course the MN-connected films. I want to highlight a few films either made by or shot in Minnesota that are playing at MSPIFF this year.
I’ve got my ticket to see this one and I’m looking forward to it!
A story of a fragmented friendship finding new ground, director Daniel Stine’s feature film debut Virginia Minnesota begins with a young woman at a crossroads. A local production, the film was shot during the fall on Minnesota’s picturesque Lake Superior coastline.
For one night, a small hand-crafted shelter glowed in the night. Somali refugee artist Ifrah Mansour, who was behind the project, speaks to art, tradition and collaboration in the face of adversity. Directed by acclaimed MN filmmaker Maribeth Romslo, who’s one of the directing duo of the wonderful feature drama Dragonfly that premiered at MSPIFF in 2016.
CLEAR and Through the Banks of the Red Cedar
Filmmaker Maya Washington actually has TWO films playing at MSPIFF, wow!
CLEAR is a dramatic short under the Chasms and Bridges II block. Synopsis: Ember’s first day home after a 16-year prison sentence for a crime she didn’t commit is bittersweet as she uncovers how her family’s lives have gone on without her after all these years.
Through the Banks of the Red Cedar is a documentary feature. Synopsis: In 1963 at Michigan State University, Head Coach Duffy Daugherty chose 23 black men to play on the college team. From this move came legends Gene Washington, Bubba Smith, George Webster and Clinton Jones. Director Maya Washington, Gene Washington’s daughter, charts the legacy of her father’s career and influence, along with the impact the events of 1963 have shown in the present day.
This film is loving portrait of 92-year-old Minnesota artist, Benjamin Vickery Jr. Directed by MN filmmaker and projectionist Justin Christopher Ayd, this sounds like an intriguing and heartwarming documentary short.
Part of the Freewheelin’ short block.
A 911 dispatcher answers a distressed call from a couple stopped for a suspicious car reported. That’s the premise of this short doc by Alison Guessou and Justin Christopher Ayd.
Part of the Looking Out shorts block.
Of course I’m also thrilled to have my short film be a part of MSPIFF this year! As I’ve mentioned in this post, MSPIFF played a key role in this film as that’s where I first met Sam Simmons who became the lead actress. It was a few months before I finished the feature script, but I felt like I had just met my character Lily when I saw Sam who’s also from the UK! But aside from that, it’s a huge honor to be able to screen my indie romance at this esteemed film festival alongside a variety of international shorts from all over the world.
Two former lovers reunite for a play by the drama teacher who first brought them together. They still carry a torch for each other, but will their love survive after the truth is revealed about their past?
Thanks to Jason P. Schumacher and our team of talented MN filmmakers/crew who brought my vision to life. Click on the banner to get tickets!
MASTERS OF CINEMA TRIBUTE
For the 2018 Master Honoree, MSPIFF will honor the memory of the great Swedish auteur Ingmar Bergman. As we near his centennial on July 14th, Bergman films take centerstage, not only here but in venues across the world. A prolific craftsman, with over 60 projects to his name—from narratives to documentaries, theatrical to television—Bergman was also an unapologetic inquirer in the affairs of the heart and the depth of the soul.
I’m thrilled for this as I have a huge blindspot on Bergman [gasp!] Yes I know, I know, I feel bad that I haven’t followed through on people’s recommendations that I should see his films! But hey, there will be THREE screenings of Bergman’s films at MSPIFF, which then leads to a 16-film Bergman retrospective on May 25-June 7. The Film Society is bringing to the Twin Cities the Swedish master’s iconic classics and lesser-known titles in his oeuvre, a feast for cinephiles and admirers of Swedish culture.
- Summer with Monika—Ingmar Bergman, Sweden, 1953, Narrative
- Persona—Ingmar Bergman, Sweden, 1966, Narrative
- Trespassing Bergman—Jane Magnusson, Hynek Pallas, Sweden, 2013This documentary feature from Jane Magnusson and Hynek Pallas highlights the legacy of Ingmar Bergman’s career through the eyes of a group of filmmakers, creatives and artists inspired by his work. “Trespassing” into Bergman’s home, the filmmakers gather together to share their own experiences with the filmmaker’s collection of work, all arguably masterpieces, and what the films meant to them and the wider world of cinema.
Hope to see you at MSPIFF! The full schedule is now online and they even have an MSPFilmSociety app that’ll surely come in handy in the next three weeks!