TCFF 2020 Reviews: The Sound of Metal

It was only my second time back inside a theater since March, but I caught one of the Twin Cities Film Fest in-person screenings yesterday. The Sound of Metal, a film distributed by Amazon Studios, is set to be released theatrically on November 20th, and will stream on Prime Video in December 2020. The film stars Riz Ahmed and Olivia Cooke as Ruben, a drummer and his girlfriend Lou, a singer in the punk metal band Blackgammon. They live in their airstream trailer between gigs and make a living while on tour of metal bands. Ruben, a former heroin addict and metal head, starts out in euphoria as he furiously jams out on his drums as Lou screams the lyrics to their songs. Soon thereafter, Reuben gets a slight ring in his ears, which turns into a full blown dull roar. It leaves him only able to hear all surrounding noises muffled beyond recognition.

The situation that Ruben and Lou are in leaves them no choice but to put their tour on hold as Ruben seeks help for his newly diagnosed hearing loss. When Lou leaves in a cab to catch a flight, Ruben heads to a deaf community, headed by the calm and cool Joe (Paul Raci), who tells Ruben that he reads lips. Joe, a former addict himself, also tells Ruben that he lost his hearing in Vietnam War but he insists that he and everyone living at the deaf community believe that their deafness is not a handicap, but rather a tool to build community around. Soon enough, Ruben is immersed in this deaf community and even learns sign language and makes friends with others around his age and even some deaf kids, who are supervised and taught in the classroom by Diane (Lauren Ridloff – a deaf actress who I remember with fondness from AMC’s post-apocalyptic series The Walking Dead).

Ruben is determined to return to “being inside the sound” and is found at odds with Joe, who is a religious man. Ruben, a self-proclaimed atheist, doesn’t understand when Joe tells him “those moments of stillness, that place, that’s the kingdom of God. And that place will never abandon you.” He acts on his desires and tries to reconnect with Lou, but by that time, his ability to grasp his life-altering change has completely changed the kind of person he is. Even when he is given the chance of some hearing, he is much more at peace and relishes the stillness of his new-found life. Riz Ahmed brings inspiration and passion to his performance, but his ability to showcase the character’s vulnerabilities make this portrayal very real and believable. Olivia Cooke brings a sense of loss to her character (we learn something about her mother in the movie) and how singing in a punk rock band helps her cope with her circumstances. Director Darius Marder also does a great job putting his audience in Ruben’s head, hearing — or not hearing — everything as it happens.

The film features closed captioning throughout the film which helps us as viewers understand everything happening from start to finish. I can see The Sound of Metal competing for some awards this year, especially for Riz Ahmed’s performance as the confounded punk metal band drummer. This film adds to a growing list of strong films from Amazon Studio that will have limited theatrical releases and also stream on Prime Video in late 2020 or early 2021, including other Twin Cities Film Fest titles Herself, Uncle Frank and Sylvie’s Love.


The 2020 Twin Cities Film Fest has ONE pass available for purchase that you won’t want to miss out on. The All Access STREAMING Pass will give you access to all of our 70 films for only $50, that’s less than $1 per movie! This pass can be used as many times as you would like during the 10 days of the festival (October 22nd-31st) on our streaming platform and website.


2020 TWIN CITIES FILM FEST SCHEDULE

(Only Available to Sponsors, Donors and Members – Reservation Required)

Friday Oct 30th
Herself,
Phyllida Lloyd – 6:30pm
Uncle Frank, Alan Ball – 8:30pm

Saturday Oct 31st
Nomadland
, Chloé Zhao – 6pm and 8:30pm


To learn more about TCFF, events, film submissions or to donate, visit twincitiesfilmfest.org

TCFF 2020 Reviews: Hollywood Fringe | Born Just Now documentary

It’s already Day 2 of Twin Cities Film Fest!! For the 11th year, TCFF is certainly alive and kickin’ with 70 online films that are available to stream from October 22nd-31st, as well as in-theater films (scroll down below for more info).

In fact, I’ll be seeing SYLVIE’S LOVE, starring Tessa Thompson tonight!

HOLLYWOOD FRINGE

Fringe

/frinj/
N
ot part of the mainstream; unconventional, peripheral, or extreme. 

Nice when a film perfectly describes the premise just from its title alone. This indie dramedy centers on two married, down-on-their-luck, actors who decided to put on a site-specific play about their unsuccessful life in Hollywood. All the world’s a stage – as Shakespeare would say, and the title of the film also played on the term ‘Fringe theatre,’ that is stage performances that are produced outside of the main theatre institutions, and that is often small-scale and unconventional in style or subject matter.

Well, Hollywood Fringe is certainly unconventional storytelling, fusing in surrealistic elements that blur the lines between fiction and reality. Certain scenes where a couple, Samantha (Jennifer Prediger) and Travis (Justin Kirk) are having a conversation in bed about their future, seem conventional. But then at the end of it, I heard people clapping in their room and realized what I’ve just watched is part of a play.

Many scenes are deliberately set up this way and it took some time for me to figure out which one is real and which one could be a staged performance. Filmmakers Megan Huber and Wyatt McDill leave hints to the audience if you pay close attention, but I think they wanted the audience to get lost in the narrative that we don’t really care about what’s real or not. I have to say that while I commend their vision and innovative storytelling style, it took a bit of time for me to grasp what it is they’re trying to do and to get into the characters’ head.

I do sympathize with Prediger’s character right away, who’s dealing with ageism in Tinseltown where 40 is considered ancient. There’s a certain Tina Fey’s vibe about her and it’s not because she has dark hair & wears glasses. The project she and Travis had worked on for years, called Rainbow Farm has finally been green-lit, but with one condition–a younger actress plays Samantha’s role. She copes with this heartbreak by putting together an alien-themed fringe play which creates some of the most absurd moments in the film. Some are more comedic than others, and the rehearsal process does try to deal with hefty subjects such as identity, privilege and racism that at times feel on the nose (whether deliberate or not). I have to mention Rainbow Underhill who plays Chakra is quite hilarious.

I realized later that both filmmakers have a Minnesota connection. Even a Google search took me to their fiscal sponsor, FilmNorth’s website. I feel that at times the film seems to have an idealized vision of Minneapolis’ arts scene, but obviously when compared to the cutthroat showbiz of  Hollywood, Twin Cities is much ‘nicer.’ One character actually said the clichéd-but-true quip ‘in Hollywood, show business is not about the ‘shows’ it’s all business.’

As someone who loves films that mixes film and live-theater aspects, I enjoy this movie quite a bit. The pacing could be improved and some performances from the supporting cast seem amateurish, but overall it’s a well-crafted indie film that delivers a thought-provoking message through comedy. Sometimes we just have to laugh at life’s harsh reality, which is perhaps the whole point of the movie.


BORN JUST NOW

This is the first TCFF 2020 film I decided to stream. I was immediately intrigued by the premise of Belgrade-based artist, Marta Jovanović, seen through the lens of Los Angeles-born, Miami-based filmmaker Robert Adanto. I have actually never heard of either of them, and what I love about documentaries is that it takes you to a world you don’t know anything about, and this film certainly gives me that.

Jovanović is a visionary artist who struggles to cope with the abuse and violence that ended an eight-year marriage, using art, at times provocatively, to explore heavy subjects such as intimacy, motherhood and the trauma of the Balkan wars. As many artists would say, the freedom to expressing oneself through art can be a liberating, therapeutic experience. I love that Adanto presents such an intimate portrait of  Jovanović, with his camera often shows close-ups of her beautiful, yet world-weary face as she talks about her struggles in perfect, albeit heavily-accented English. She lamented that the work of female artists remains largely under-represented and underpaid in comparison to their male counterparts, and later in the film she reflected on her painful, abusive marriage… and there’s a certain defiance in her eyes and perhaps even shock that someone as strong as her could end up in an abusive relationship.

There is a mesmerizing quality about Jovanović that makes her a perfect documentary subject. She is brilliant, charismatic, daring non-comformist, but not as cold as she seems to be on screen. Some of her performance arts are really bizarre and out there. The Motherhood installation where she stuff eggs inside pantyhose and dangle them from the ceiling is unlike anything I’ve seen before. Then she proceeds to smash each egg with a hammer and she’s drenched in eggshells. Many of her art, whether it’s video installations, sculptures, or performance art are always unusual and thought-provoking.

I highly recommend this film to anyone who appreciates creativity and innovative self-expression. I’m certainly inspired by Jovanović and by Adanto’s work. I should definitely check out his other documentaries that explore other eccentric, unconventional artists from different parts of the world.


The 2020 Twin Cities Film Fest has ONE pass available for purchase that you won’t want to miss out on. The All Access STREAMING Pass will give you access to all of our 70 films for only $50, that’s less than $1 per movie! This pass can be used as many times as you would like during the 10 days of the festival (October 22nd-31st) on our streaming platform and website.


2020 TWIN CITIES FILM FEST SCHEDULE

(Only Available to Sponsors, Donors and Members – Reservation Required)

Thursday Oct 22nd
Black Boys,
Sonia Lowman – 6pm and 8pm

Friday Oct 23rd
Sound of Metal,
Darius Marder – 6pm and 8:45pm

Saturday Oct 24th
Sylvie’s Love,
Eugene Ashe – 6pm and 8:45pm

Friday Oct 30th
Herself,
Phyllida Lloyd – 6:30pm
Uncle Frank, Alan Ball – 8:30pm

Saturday Oct 31st
Nomadland
, Chloé Zhao – 6pm and 8:30pm


To learn more about TCFF, events, film submissions or to donate, visit twincitiesfilmfest.org

TCFF 2020 Reviews: Gossamer Folds | The Father | Thank You 5

Twin Cities Film Fest officially kicks off today!!

For the 11th year, the film fest is going with a hybrid concept of online and in-theater screenings. There are 70 films that are available to stream during the fest, October 22nd-31st (scroll down below for more info).

Thanks to FC’s loyal contributor Vitali Gueron for these reviews!

GOSSAMER FOLDS

Lisa Donato follows up on the success of her first feature film Signature Move, which she co-wrote with Fawzia Mirza, with her feature length directorial debut of the indie film Gossamer Folds. This is smaller budget but very charming film, is set in the warm 1968 summer in a suburb in Kansas City, Missouri. The movie begins as we meet the Millikin family – the father Billy Millikin (Shane West), the mother Frannie Millikin (Sprague Grayden) and ten-year-old Tate Millikin (Jackson Robert Scott) – all trying to start a fresh life after a conflict-ridden past of city life behind them. They move into a small but quiet new home, which Tate isn’t a big fan of at first. Living next door to them is their transgender neighbor Gossamer (Alexandra Grey), who lives with her father Edward (Franklin Ojeda-Smith).

One day, while playing by himself in the front yard, Tate ends up meeting and befriending his new neighbor Gossamer, angering his father who calls Gossamer “the deviant next door.” It starts slowly, but sure enough Gossamer and Tate’s friendship starts to bloom as Tate’s own family dynamics fall apart. We learn that Billy was having an extramarital affair in the city before the family left for the suburbs. Unsurprisingly, Billy is quick to leave his wife Frannie and son Tate alone, while he goes to pursue his own desires. Thankfully, this leaves more time for Tate to spend with his new friend Gossamer, and not only does their friendship deepen but it also expands both of their horizons.

Gossamer shares with Tate that she has to deal with her own retired father, a former English professor, who is not only transphobic but also struggling to deal with Gossamer’s own sexual identity and freedoms. She has to deal with the constant fear of violence for the trans community, and even though she portrays a calm and cool manner, she is aware of these and other trans issues that are discussed in the movie. Tate’s ability to reject the hate that he’s been taught by his family and Gossamer’s ability to connect with others and accept them for who they are makes their friendship even stronger. Both Jackson Robert Scott (you might remember his as Georgie in the 2017 remake of Stephen King’s It) and Alexandra Gray (known from Amazon’s award-winning show Transparent and FOX’s hit drama Empire) are fantastic in their roles. Jackson is charming yet very level-headed and Alexandra is heartfelt, but also exudes strength and stability.

Gossamer Folds is one of those films that will embolden your will for acceptance of others, no matter what gender they identify with or whom they love. These issues are even more relevant today, with the current presidential election and ramifications of the judicial appointment to the Supreme Court.


THE FATHER

The Father is a very real and current story that can impact any one of us on a moment’s notice. Written and directed by Jonathan Oster and starring Kelechi Jaavaid and Lee Evans, The Father is a slow burn, but full of mystery and contemplation. The premise is basic and straightforward; suddenly having to cope with the trauma of the sudden death of his son, a father kidnaps and interrogates the man he knows is responsible. Kelechi Jaavaid is haunting and unnerving as the father, and Lee Evans is cold and unapologetic as a man who doesn’t take responsibility for his own actions.

It was fun to see many familiar places in the film, as it was shot in Minneapolis, Minnesota. One of my favorite scenes comes towards the end, where the father is sitting on a street bench overlooking the Mississippi River, opposite downtown Minneapolis, on a snowy winter day. The father is joined there by someone who’s been on his mind during the entire movie. Who is that? Well, you’ll just have to watch The Father, streaming online during the 10 days of the 2020 Twin Cities Film Fest.


THANK YOU 5

Thank you 5, directed by Reid Estreicher and Michael Barnard, is a comedic movie but it felt more like watching a comedy improvisation troop. The Chicago-based actors including Meghan Murphy, Richard Kallus, Theo Koppel, Timmy Carroll, John T. O’Brien, Stevie Shale, Jason Amplo, Jodie Meis and the directors themselves Reid Estreicher and Michael Barnard.

The film begins on the first day of rehearsal for the production of ‘Prelude to a Tradition,’ an original work by playwright and director Kurt McAbbott. Each cast member has their own quirk, tick, and backstory. During the film, we follow the cast through their tech rehearsal, then their dress rehearsal and finally into the play’s opening night and after party.

Some of the actors obviously know each other and some are even in serious relationships together. Others are quick to pick fights with each other and/or with their play director. Each story is as unique as the unsung artists who endure so much, specifically each other, to create something memorable for audiences. My favorite scene comes towards the end, where one character forgets a fake gun in the dressing room, and has to run back to get it. She drops the blank bullets and doesn’t have time to load them before she’s due up on stage. What follows is a true comical moment that had me laughing out loud. To see this moment and others, you’ll just have to watch Thank you 5, streaming online during the 10 days of the 2020 Twin Cities Film Fest.


The 2020 Twin Cities Film Fest has ONE pass available for purchase that you won’t want to miss out on. The All Access STREAMING Pass will give you access to all of our 70 films for only $50, that’s less than $1 per movie! This pass can be used as many times as you would like during the 10 days of the festival (October 22nd-31st) on our streaming platform and website.


2020 TWIN CITIES FILM FEST SCHEDULE

(Only Available to Sponsors, Donors and Members – Reservation Required)

Thursday Oct 22nd
Black Boys,
Sonia Lowman – 6pm and 8pm

Friday Oct 23rd
Sound of Metal,
Darius Marder – 6pm and 8:45pm

Saturday Oct 24th
Sylvie’s Love,
Eugene Ashe – 6pm and 8:45pm

Friday Oct 30th
Herself,
Phyllida Lloyd – 6:30pm
Uncle Frank, Alan Ball – 8:30pm

Saturday Oct 31st
Nomadland
, Chloé Zhao – 6pm and 8:30pm


To learn more about TCFF, events, film submissions or to donate, visit twincitiesfilmfest.org

TWIN CITIES FILM FEST unveils 2020 lineup! 70+ Movies set to screen and stream online.

TCFF 2020

TORONTO STANDOUT NOMADLAND NAMED CLOSING NIGHT TITLE, CRITICALLY-ACCLAIMED BLACK BOYS TO OPEN FEST OCT. 22

For first time ever, TCFF to showcase catalog of premieres, documentaries and Midwestern productions via hybrid model that includes physically-distanced screenings, live-stream exclusives as well as digital on-demand. 2020 program to include special series dedicated to technology, female filmmakers and BIPOC communities


Minneapolis, Minnesota (October 1, 2020) — The Twin Cities Film Fest, presented by VumaTV, announced its full 2020 film schedule Thursday, set to screen Oct. 22-31 via a ‘Hybrid’ format that will include online on-demand streaming through TwinCitiesFilmFest.org as well as select distanced screenings at the Kerasotes ShowPlace ICON Theatres at The Shops at West End. TCFF 2020 marks the organization’s 11th anniversary and arrives at a time where many visual arts organizations are struggling to stay open and continue providing their service of bringing communities together.

“There was never a doubt that TCFF was going to take place this year,” said Jatin Setia, TCFF’s Executive Director. “We know the positive impact that film arts, independent storytelling, and unique perspectives can have on the fabric of our culture and community.  We wanted to lean into the opportunities and hit ‘fast forward’ on what our organization could bring to the wider arts conversation during this most difficult year. I’m so proud of my team and our supporters in making sure that TCFF not only happens this unprecedented year, but it leaps forward and innovates new ways to bring a cinematic community together to share a vision — and a conversation.”

The festival opens Oct. 22 with the acclaimed documentary Black Boys, an intimate, inter-generational story that offers profound insight into black identity and opportunity at the nexus of sports, education and criminal justice. Director Sonia Lowman will appear in a pre-recorded conversation.

This year’s closing night selection is NomadlandChloe Zhao’s festival award-winning drama starring Frances McDormand as a displaced widow who chooses a nomadic lifestyle. The film won the coveted people’s choice award at the Toronto International Film Festival, instantly catapulting it into the Oscar conversation.


Editor (Ruth’s note): I’m beyond thrilled that NOMADLAND is one of TCFF’s lineup this year!! That’s the one film I’ve been hugely anticipating, as I absolutely loved Zhao’s sophomore feature The Rider.

Nomadland‘s synopsis: Following the economic collapse of a company town in rural Nevada, Fern (Frances McDormand) packs her van and sets off on the road exploring a life outside of conventional society as a modern-day nomad. The third feature film from director Chloé Zhao, NOMADLAND features real nomads Linda May, Swankie and Bob Wells as Fern’s mentors and comrades in her exploration through the vast landscape of the American West. Here’s the teaser:


Other notable 2020 selections: Sound of MetalDarius Marder’s directorial debut, which features a powerful performance from actor, rapper, and activist Riz Ahmed;

Sylvie’s LoveEugene Ashe’s new Harlem romance starring Tessa Thompson;

and Uncle Franka comedy by Alan Ball, the writer of American Beauty, True Blood and Six Feet Under, featuring an all-star cast including Paul Bettany, Steve Zahn and Sophia Lillis.

The majority of this year’s festival selections will be available via the TCFF STREAMS platform at TwinCitiesFilmFest.org, a new TCFF initiative that launched earlier this year to give a platform to MN Connected filmmakers.  The online platform will feature premieres of award winning narratives, documentaries and shorts curated from all across the country.  Several notable film categories include TECH Series, HER Series, MN Connected films, and the newly launched EMPOWER Series focused on BIPOC stories and storytellers.

Every year, the Twin Cities Film Fest identifies a Social Justice Cause and programs a special series of films to call attention to a specific social issue. This year’s cause is “affordable living” and the film series includes stories spotlighting housing, healthcare, childcare and eldercare.  Through the generosity of local companies (Spire Credit Union, Dominium Apartments, City of St. Louis Park and AARP Minnesota), all films in the Changemaker Series will be presented free to all viewers. Minnesota Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan is being presented with the 2020 TCFF Changemaker Award at the festivals’ Virtual Gala (Oct 2nd – 4th)  in recognition of her work towards affordability.


TCFF’s complete 2020 schedule is listed below.  Tickets are on-sale starting tomorrow, Oct 2nd. All of the In-Person theater screenings at the ICON Theaters will be reserved for TCFF Donors, Members and Sponsors on a first come first served limited capacity.  To learn more about how to attend these screenings, please visit www.twincitiesfilmfest.org.

For all of the ONLINE films, simply check out the lineup on the website and purchase the films.  All films will be available for purchase for $9/film with a few offered for free.

An ‘All Access STREAMING Pass’ is also available for $50 on the website providing access to ALL of the 70+ films online. Click on the banner above to purchase.

The passes are such an incredible deal!! Get it soon so you can order your tickets right away. Trust me, it’s SO worth it!!


2020 TWIN CITIES FILM FEST SCHEDULE

In Theater Films:  ICON Theaters

(Only Available to Sponsors, Donors and Members – Reservation Required)

Thursday Oct 22nd
Black Boys,
Sonia Lowman – 6pm and 8pm

Friday Oct 23rd
Sound of Metal,
Darius Marder – 6pm and 8:45pm

Saturday Oct 24th
Sylvie’s Love,
Eugene Ashe – 6pm and 8:45pm

Friday Oct 30th
Herself,
Phyllida Lloyd – 6:30pm
Uncle Frank, Alan Ball – 8:30pm

Saturday Oct 31st
Nomadland
, Chloé Zhao – 6pm and 8:30pm

————————

Special Streaming Events on TCFF Website

Sunday Oct 25th
Inside Lets Deal Live
, Steve Zahn/Rick Gomez – 5:30pm
The New Corporation: The Unfortunately Necessary Sequel, Jennifer Abbott/Joel Bakan – 7pm

Monday Oct 26th
Definition Please,
Sujata Day – 7pm

Tuesday Oct 27th
Hollywood Fringe,
Megan Huber, Wyatt McDill – 7pm

Wednesday Oct 28th
Through The Night,
Loira Limbal – 7pm

Thursday Oct 29th
Women In Blue
, Deirdre Fishel – 7pm

Saturday Oct 31st
Black Boys
, Sonia Lowman – 5pm


To learn more about TCFF, events, film submissions or to donate, visit twincitiesfilmfest.org


So yeah, TCFF 2020. BRING. IT ON!

Cheers Virtual Cinema! Minnesota Film Festivals go online

In this strange and difficult times, it’s particularly tough for movie fans everywhere as movie theaters are closed and new movies are being delayed as we’re all in lockdown mode. But hey, I just thought how we should still be grateful we live in the age of the internet! Imagine if this happened in a time where there’s no online content to help us cope and escape from our every day life… I mean Coronavirus or not, I honestly can’t imagine life without having internet access!

The MSPIFF tag line for this year’s fest is ​Adjust Your View… I can’t imagine whoever came up with that has a crystal ball to predict that we’ll be in this um, predicament. Nor would that person realize how fitting that tagline as the audience is called to adjust our view as to how to experience a film festival. Per this MNDaily article, The MSP Film Society’s Virtual Cinema Collection platform, which went live March 20, offers access to what programming director Jesse Bishop calls “festival-style content.” It will be open 1-3 new movies every Friday, with most films running for at least two weeks. Ticket prices range from $10 to $12, and films are available for viewing anywhere from 48 hours to a few days after purchase, depending on the film. Here are just a small sampling of the lineup…

BALLOON

A thriller-like true story of one of the most spectacular escapes of the 20th Century.

With a theatrical release to coincide with the 30th anniversary of Germany’s reunification, Balloon is based on the true events of one of the most daring escapes of the Cold War in which two families living in Communist East Germany sailed over the heavily fortified border in a homemade hot-air balloon.


THE ROADS NOT TAKEN

Now this one is by an acclaimed female director with a star-studded cast!

Sally Potter’s The Roads Not Taken follows a day in the life of Leo (Javier Bardem) and his daughter, Molly (Elle Fanning) as she grapples with the challenges of her father’s chaotic mind. While they weave their way through New York City, Leo’s journey takes on a hallucinatory quality as he floats through alternate lives he could have lived, leading Molly to wrestle with her own path as she considers her future. Also starring Salma Hayek and Laura Linney.

 


The Etruscan Smile will be ready for home viewing starting tomorrow. I love Brian Cox, so definitely intrigued by this.

The Etruscan Smile stars Brian Cox (HBO’s Succession and recent Broadway leading man in The Great Society) as Rory MacNeil, a rugged old Scotsman who reluctantly leaves his beloved isolated Hebridean island and travels to San Francisco to seek medical treatment. Moving in with his estranged son, Rory’s life will be transformed, just when he expects it least, through a newly found love for his baby grandson.


MSPIFF isn’t the only MN film festival that offers online programming. Twin Cities Film Fest also launched its own independent movie streaming platform, called TCFF Streams, on April 6. Not only would the platform offer thought provoking and entertaining American independent storytelling content, it will also spotlight past TCFF films and filmmakers, alongside other award winning content from across the country. Best of all, TCFF will revenue share with our artists!

Check out some of the best indie docs, feature films and shorts that have screened at TCFF. Even as we’re self-quarantining amidst state-mandated lockdown, we can still support local non-profit organizations AND the filmmakers that made the films!


What are YOUR thoughts about film festivals going virtual? 

TCFF19 – Reviews of ‘The Present Is Female’ Short Block

The Present is Female is a strong block of shorts. As the name suggests, this block is all about the lives of modern women. Tonally this block is mostly comedic, although there are a couple darker stories thrown in for good measure. The block kicks off with a music video and from there, the stories range from workplace harassment to relationships to vengeance to mental illness and more. There is something for everyone in this block. Thanks to our contributor Holly Peterson.


Black Girls Fly 2

I’m not used to seeing music videos in short film blocks, but this little flick was a great exception to the general rule. Black Girls Fly 2 is a sweet black and white ode to the potential and beauty of black girls set to visuals of black girls playing on a playground, in front of a building, and running through a park. It is a heart-warming start to the block.

Lunch Break

Lunch Break is an unflinching look at micro-aggressions in the workplace told with a delightfully poppy visual aesthetic and a persistent comedic tone. Despite every scene of this film being chock full of material that will keep you squirming uncomfortably in your seat, it is hard not to enjoy the film. Mel (Mo Allen) is a relatable, harassed receptionist who struggles to stand up for herself; the boss’s son (Eli Michael Kaplan) is equal parts adorable and hate-worthy; and Mel’s boss (Josh Server), is so wonderfully played that you will want to punch him in the face by the time all is said and done.

To Ana

To Ana is a sweet little film about ghosting, broken hearts, and the unique steps we take to find healing and closure when it isn’t forthcoming from external sources. Alyssa DiVirgilio is funny, subtle, and relatable. Although the short never leaves the confines of her little apartment, the film is fully developed, leaving the audience with a slightly more whole version of Ana at the end of the film. One of my favorites.

The Tattooed Heart

The Tattooed Heart is an intense little film about a creative writing instructor (Jennifer Morrison) who has more in common with a juvenile delinquent (Madison Wolfe) in her writing class than she expects. The coloring of the film is as dark as its content, which creates a moody, ponderously paced film with a shocking conclusion.

Jane’s Comet

Jane’s Comet is about Jane (Sandra Struthers) who is so intelligent that a bunch of aliens are willing to hang out earth-side waiting for her to accept their rather extraordinary proposal. Told over the course of several decades, this is a cute film about priorities, love, career, and passion. I would have liked to see more of an effort to age the actresses down for the college scene (it took the next scene for me to realize that our main character was not, in fact, a grad student), but I think we all get that not everyone has the budget and resources of Geminae Man. Jane’s Comet is a neatly directed, science-y treat.

Girl Stuff

Girl Stuff is a laugh riot. Taylor (Kendra Alaura) and Gina (Tiffany Cornwell) are friendship goals as they bully each other into living their best lives. Taylor has been avoiding taking the next step with a man she has feelings for and Gina is terrified of getting hurt in love, but through the power of friendship, they are both going to make it. Written and produced by the two lead actresses, this one is about as fun and relatable as it gets. One of my favorites in the block.

The Star of Therapy

The Star of Therapy is a glimpse into the ridiculous world of group therapy, where tensions run high and everyone is obnoxious. Kendra (Ana Pacheco), suffering from both anxiety and depression, struggles to complete her weekly assignments and forms a not-so-friendly rivalry with the overachieving OCD Leanette (Stella Lai). There are great moments in this movie (Kendra’s victory dance and the montage of her room being overtaken by sticky notes were two of my favorites), but it sorely needed a tighter edit and a more natural script. The short frequently drags and although I believe that the over-the-top nature of the dialogue is inspired by real-life experience, it felt too fabricated within the story. Still a highly compelling look at mental illness and how we deal with it.

Grace*

Grace is probably one of the most powerful shorts in the block. Grace (Shenell Edmonds) and her aunt (Mary Hodges) are evicted from their home, which leads to all kinds of related problems. Edmonds is very gifted at giving the viewer the tiniest of glimpses into her internal world while maintaining a mostly stony teenagery exterior. Beautifully shot, this is a stark, abrupt film and an amazing conversation starter.

*The featured image of this post is a still from Grace short film.

– Reviews by Holly Peterson


For all the Twin Cities Film Fest coverage, type TCFF2019 in the search box on our homepage.

 

 

TCFF19 CringeFest Shorts Block Reviews – chills, thrills, & post-apocalyptic frills

TCFF may have come and gone, but hey, doesn’t mean that we’re all done with our coverage and reviews. Just in time for Halloween, we’ve got reviews of 9 horror/thriller films in the Cringe-fest shorts block. Thanks to our horror reviewer Laura Schaubschlager.

For all the TCFF coverage, type TCFF2019 in the search box on our homepage.


I was lucky enough to spend my Tuesday night at TCFF’s Cringe Fest – a block of 9 short horror films advertised as “chills, thrills, and post-apocalyptic frills.” Because of the number of films, I’ll keep my reviews of each brief, but overall, this was a spectacular variety of shorts and it absolutely delivered on its promised chills and thrills.

Killer Hike 7

I had the same problem with this film that I had with Puppet Killer: it makes fun of teen slasher movies, but it doesn’t have any new takes-it just points out how the teens are played by older actors and the characters each fit into specific tropes; again, even the jokes about the horror cliches are cliches themselves. I will say that the cast was a lot of fun to watch despite the stale material; they all gave really over-the-top performances that could have been embarrassing if done wrong, but were genuinely entertaining thanks to this talented group of actors.

Meat Eater

I’m not even sure I should review this one, since it is really short-a couple minutes long at most. We see a young woman running through the woods, trying to escape an unseen tormentor, towards what she hopes will be her salvation. It does manage to keep the suspense high despite its short run time, which is impressive.

Footprints

This one could have easily been boring-a supernatural found footage movie sounds almost lazy-but I really enjoyed it. The found-footage style really worked with the dark, snowy forest setting, and using the set-up of a husband suspecting his wife of cheating as a framing device was a creative way to tell a story about an otherwise traditional movie monster.

Wrong Level

Based on “The Elevator Game,” an internet urban legend about riding an elevator to a different dimension, Wrong Level follows a young man trying to rescue his girlfriend by playing the game himself. As silly as it sounds, I actually think the “Elevator Game” story is kind of creepy, and it’s a great idea for a short film; the tension literally rises as the elevator ascends. The set-up allows for excellent pacing, which isn’t easy for a short film.

Break In Break Out

This was another suspenseful, well-paced short, and is one of two fantastic films by the talented Michael Drisoll in the Cringe Fest block. Not only is it wonderfully tense and full of twists (I don’t even want to try and describe the plot because I worry I’ll give too much away), but the color scheme and lighting are also gorgeous in a gritty sort of way.

Frost Bite

I didn’t expect a zombie movie to make me cry, but Frost Bite managed it. The young actress playing the girl leading the zombie across the frozen wasteland is incredibly talented. The zombie effects are creepy and well-done. And if the ending doesn’t make you shed at least one tear, you’re made of stronger stuff than I am.

The Birdwatcher

A quiet, awkward corporate employee on a birdwatching hike through the woods stumbles upon a potentially dangerous situation and has to decide what to do. With the majority of the focus on one actor with absolutely no dialogue, The Birdwatcher is lucky to have a talented lead- he’s goofy and charming but mysterious enough to make you wonder if there’s something darker going on with him. I also really enjoyed the ending; the short did a great job of building up to it, and it struck the perfect balance of comedy and horror.

To The Boats

The second film in the Cringe Fest lineup by Michael Driscoll, To the Boats follows two men running to the coast of England, trying to reach their final method of escape from the horror of their once beloved home country. This movie is visually stunning, with some gorgeous, sweeping shots of the countryside and coast, and the actors give a gripping, emotional performance.

Check out Ruth’s interview from last year with Michael about this film.

Mr. Sam

Oh, boy. This movie was…a lot. It’s about Sam, an eccentric mortician and his relationship with his mother, a young girl he tutors, and the corpse of a man he’s infatuated with. There are a lot of incredibly dark topics in this film-rape, incest, child abuse, and necrophilia-that feel like they’re mostly there for shock value. I’m not saying dark subjects shouldn’t be included in movies, but because this was a short, there was no time to explore them, and it never felt like there was a real reason for them to be there, as there barely seems to even be a narrative arc, just these loosely strung-together plot points. The cast is good, with Sam and his young student being the stand-outs, and hopefully their roles in this lead to bigger projects, but this was an uncomfortable film to end on.


Stay tuned for more TCFF reviews and interviews!