TCFF 2017 Day 3 – ‘Hearts Want’ first screening in the ‘Ties That Bind Us’ short block and ‘A Gray State’ documentary

Day 3 of the Twin Cities Film Fest is actually quite a momentous one for me… If you know me well or have been following my blog and/or Facebook you might’ve guessed why.

I took the day off Friday because I knew it’s be quite an emotional day for me, showing my artistic baby, my passion project I’ve been working on the past year to the public for the first time. We had a private screening to the cast/crew and our close friends, but to actually seen it on the big screen in an actual theater is another thing entirely.

The moment the first scene came on screen, accompanied by the score… I went a bit verklempt, naturally. There weren’t many people in the theatre, which is typical for an early afternoon screening, but I’m so grateful to my friends, coworkers and even fellow bloggers who did come out and saw it… you know who you are, your support means a lot to me guys!

Hearts Want’s leading man Peter Christian Hansen attended the Friday screening

The Ties That Bind Us short block itself is chock full of wonderful relationship-themed films. Kudos to our short programmer Josh Dahlman and Angela Andrist for the awesome film selections! Of course I’m biased as to which is my favorite (hey you’re always going to think your baby is the cutest, right?) but I was truly impressed with all the films within this block: All That Was Broken, Head Above Water, Hearts Want, Heath Takes a Trip, Deadbeat, Resolutions, and Sundogs.

I really love Heath Takes a Trip, which is about a famous writer who suffers a breakdown and goes on a road trip with a stranger. It grabbed me right from the get go (which is quite a feat since it played right after my own film). It was emotional, funny, beautifully-shot, with a dreamy-like quality that has its own twist. It reminds me a bit of M Night Shyamalan’s Signs at times perhaps because of the corn fields, but also because it made you think one thing but it turns out to be another. I love Arch Harmon in the lead, as well as Ted James (who’s also the writer/director) as the rather whimsical stranger.

Resolutions is an intriguing, brutally-honest slice-of-life story of two couples that takes place over one New Year’s eve. It starts out like a low key celebration but as the evening progresses, something is revealed that turns things upside down for one of the four characters. It’s a simple setup that packs an emotional punch with the right amount of smolder and tension. The acting is brilliant, especially Nadine Malouf as Frankie. It’s got a female director, Tamara Fisch, who I hope will continue to make more films in the future!


Honestly, I don’t think I could really properly review a film such as A Gray State. I didn’t know much about the events surrounding the death of David Crowley, an Iraq vet who’s a charismatic aspiring filmmaker. I was going to read this New Yorker article by Alec Wilkinson before we see this documentary, but I decided I’ll read it after. A few people sitting near me know the subject of the film so naturally it’s so emotional watching the film as I could hear sniffles all around. Since the filmmaker was based in Minnesota, I’ve seen some of the actors who appeared in the trailer of the feature film he wanted to make, called Gray State. In fact I took a photo with the main actor in that trailer, Danny August Mason, when his short film Windage played at TCFF a few years back.

I went into the film pretty much blind, and the way filmmaker Erik Nelson set up the film, he played up the conspiracy theory aspect. I think it’s best that you find that out for yourself why that is, which is rather obvious given the subject matter of making a film called Gray State. The film is set in a dystopian near-future where civil liberties are trampled by an unrestrained federal government.

Erik Nelson is no stranger to doing a film about a grim subject matter, as he directed Grizzly Man. The film’s executive produced by Werner Herzog whom he frequently collaborated with. At the Q&A, Erik revealed that he combed through Crowley’s archive of 13,000 photographs, hundreds of hours of home video, and exhaustive behind-the-scenes footage of David’s work in progress. It’s a heart-wrenching look at what looks like an ordinary family tackling an extraordinary project… but something along the way, something went horribly wrong. What actually happened and what people want to believe is at the core of the film and the lines between them are inherently blurry. It’s pretty riveting, unsettling and emotional film, one that will linger for a long time after you saw it.

Q&A with Erik Nelson – conducted by TCFF managing director Bill Cooper

Fun at Industry Night!

It was a warm Autumn night with temps in the 70s. Great to catch up with friends and some visiting filmmakers during TCFF’s Industry Night.

Stay tuned for my recap of a jam-packed Day 4 starting with two insightful film panels and two features, Beauty Mark and Cold November, back to back.


What’s in store for Day 5


So, stay tuned to more daily TCFF coverage!


The 8 Twin Cities Film Fest tickets to get – recommendations from our Artistic Director Steve Snyder

It’s now just a week away until Twin Cities Film Fest starts on Wednesday Oct. 18 – Saturday Oct 28. I’ve mentioned some of the studio/MN feature films as well as documentaries you shouldn’t miss.

Now, there are some films you’re probably already excited about that you’ve gotten tickets to. But there are those which are some best we have to offer that for whatever reason just haven’t gotten as much attention. Well, thanks to TCFF artistic director and lead programmer Steve Snyder, we have some recommendations on films you definitely should check out.


Click on each title that’ll take you to its respective page on TCFF site.
Tickets are selling fast, so don’t delay.


The Fall season is always a romantic time of year… and the first two films are romantic comedies…

The Year of Spectacular Men

Screening Wednesday October 18th – 8:15 PM
Lea Thompson, MN native and star of Back to the Future and Caroline in the City, makes her directorial debut with this critically-acclaimed comedy from the LA Film Festival. Starring Zoe Deutch of Why Him and Vampire Academy. Both are coming to Minneapolis in person – and your ticket gets you into the opening party. About two smart and sassy sisters and their crazy romantic misadventures.

We don’t have a trailer yet but here’s a clip from the film:

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Screening Saturday, Oct. 28

Hilarious new adaptation of Shakespeare’s romantic comedy, set in modern-day Los Angeles. Starring an awesome mix of actors who veer from sweet to silly. It stars Rachael Leigh Cook who will be appearing in person, and receiving the TCFF North Star Award. Your ticket also gets you into the epic closing night party.

 
Best Actor Watch
Breathe
Screening Wednesday, Oct. 18 
Andrew Garfield has quickly become one of the top actors of his generation. He now stars in the new biopic that’s on this year’s Oscar watch list – Breathe, an inspiring story about a man who fought for the rights of the disabled. Garfield plays Robin Cavendish, a man who became paralyzed from the neck down at the age of 28 but who spent the rest of his life becoming a pioneering advocate for the disabled.

*Editor’s note: this film is also the directorial debut of motion capture expert Andy Serkis, known for playing Golum in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy
True MN story 
Screenings:
Friday October 20th – 7:20 PM & Saturday October 21st – 2:10 PM
A critically-acclaimed documentary about a true Minnesota tragedy that has become a hit on the film festival circuit, and moved executive producer Werner Herzog to help it get released. It’s the haunting story of local Minnesota filmmaker David Crowley, who in 2010 started working on a film about the government crushing civil liberties. When he and his wife and their children were found dead in their home in 2014, conspiracy theorists went wild with government assassination theories. We will have the filmmaker, and some of Crowley’s family, in attendance. And will host the world premiere of a special “director’s cut” of the film.
Indie Surprise of the Year
Screening:
Friday October 20th – 5:30 PM, Friday October 27th – 12:45 
If you’re looking for one of this year’s true indie discoveries, here’s the surprise you’ll keep talking about: Tater Tot & Patton an incredibly moving and heartfelt family drama shot in South Dakota about a city girl and her rancher uncle – two people who don’t really get along but who bond over one summer as they mourn his dead wife, and her dead aunt. It’s a film that brings you into their world and their life.

Taut Thriller
The Midnighters
Screenings:
Friday October 20th – 9:45 PM, Thursday October 26th – 1:15pm 
A creepy, scary and exhilarating thriller that was a hit at film festivals in Los Angeles…it’s about a couple who accidentally hit a man with their car – and then throw him in the backseat when they flee the scene to avoid the consequences. They chose poorly.

Western / Thriller w/ a great cast 
Screening Wednesday, Oct. 25 

Bill Pullman, Jim Caviezel and Peter Fonda star in this moody, dark Western about a cowboy who sets out on a sprawling, dangerous journey across the countryside to avenge his longtime partner’s brutal murder. It’s the most interesting new Western realized by Hollywood in years.
Family Pick!
Screening Sunday October 22nd – 12:00 PM 
One of the most interesting titles in our first-ever Family Fest – a touching tale about a young girl who leaves a lasting mark on a broken family, bringing healing to their hearts and music to their world. It stars Broadway and Hollywood legend Constance Towers, and is a true gem for families who want to be part of this year’s festival.

One film I choose to champion today is the documentary SHE STARTED IT

She Started It is an award-winning documentary that provides a rare look in the lives of five ambitious young women entrepreneurs (Thuy, Stacey, Sheena, Brienne and Agathe) who will stop at nothing to pursue their startup dreams.


Check out the full lineup schedule on TCFF official site


Thoughts on any of these films? Which one(s) caught your interest?

Spotlight on 10 great documentaries playing at 2017 TCFF!

It’s that time of the year again, folks! Less than two weeks until the 11-day film festivities and cinematic marathon begins. Yep, the 8th annual Twin Cities Film Fest begins starts on Wednesday Oct. 18 – Saturday Oct 28.

I’ve mentioned some of the studio and MN feature films screening at TCFF that I’m excited about, but here I wanted to focus about documentaries specifically. Year after year TCFF has always featured great documentaries that are both insightful and entertaining. Before I get to the list, check out the TCFF documentary promo:


Have you gotten your tickets yet?
They are selling fast, so don’t delay.

Click on each documentary title that’ll take you to its respective page on TCFF site.


Kudos once again to the programming team at TCFF for selecting such a varied list of films that covers so many different genres and topics! Whether it’s a murder mystery, inspirational tales, personal struggles, sports or timely human stories seeking refuge, there’s truly something insightful and illuminating for everyone here.

Here they are in alphabetical order:

A Gray State — Director’s Cut

  • Saturday October 21st – 2:10 PM

Director/Producer: Erik Nelson
Executive Producer: Werner Herzog

In 2010 David Crowley, an Iraq veteran, aspiring filmmaker and charismatic up-and-coming voice in fringe politics, began production on his film “Gray State.” Set in a dystopian near-future where civil liberties are trampled by an unrestrained federal government, the film’s crowdfunded trailer was enthusiastically received by the burgeoning online community of libertarians, Tea Party activists as well as members of the nascent alt-right. In January of 2015, Crowley was found dead with his family in their suburban Minnesota home. Their shocking deaths quickly become a cause célèbre for conspiracy theorists who speculate that Crowley was assassinated by a shadowy government concerned about a film and filmmaker that was getting too close to the truth about their aims.


To be honest with you I’m actually not that familiar w/ the David Crowley story at all. But upon reading about this I’m very curious about it, naturally. At the TCFF Kickoff soirée, my hubby and I ran into Twin Cities’ film legend Al Milgrom as we’re about to head out and got into a conversation with him. He told us to read this New Yorker article by Alec Wilkinson before we see this documentary, so I intend to do that.


ABU

  • Friday October 20th – 2:45 PM
  • Monday October 23rd – 3:15 PM

Director: Arshad Khan

This riveting documentary follows the struggles of Arshad Khan and his relationship with his conservative, strict father (Abu) and traditional mother. Combining vintage footage, animation, and recent interviews, Arshad shares his intimate story of being gay, embracing his culture and dealing with the death of his father.

 


This sounds like the kind of poignant, perhaps even bittersweet film about self discovery and the struggle to be accepted. His journey would certainly resonate with many people, whether or not we deal with sexual orientation or not.


Chasing the Dragon: The Life of an Opiate Addict

  • Saturday October 21st – 12:10 PM

Director: Thomas Benca

Chasing the Dragon chronicles the lives of several people, from different backgrounds, who fell victim to the opioid epidemic. Their testimonies tell a tragic story that is being felt by families and communities across the country.


As someone who dealt with a mother who died partly because of pain meds and sleeping pills, this film would be tough to watch for me. But it’s certainly a story worth telling, as a cautionary tale that’s sadly prevalent in many households.


COYOTE

  • Saturday October 21st – 9:45 AM (SOLD OUT)
  • Sunday, October 22nd 7:10pm (SOLD OUT)
  • Sunday, October 22nd 9:40pm (Tickets Available)

Director: Thomas Simmons

The inspiring true story of legendary sailor, Mike Plant, the “Saltwater Cowboy” (Sailing World) who completed three solo circumnavigations and set the American record for the fastest lap of the planet. His adventurous spirit and colorful past make Plant “as close as yachting gets to a James Dean character” (The New York Times) with a universal story about daring to dream.


Though I haven’t been on a sailing trip before, I’ve always found the idea of sailing so fascinating. I’ve never heard of Mike Plant before but his journey sounds so fascinating, and the ‘dare to dream’ story is definitely a universal one. Plus, being in the ocean is always a fun escapism for me.


Human Flow

  • Thursday October 19th – 7:45 PM

Director: Ai Weiwei

Artist, activist and director Ai Weiwei captures the global refugee crisis – the greatest human displacement since World War II – I in this breathtakingly epic film journey HUMAN FLOW.


No doubt this film is as timely as ever. It’s definitely one I have to pack tissues for, even the trailer moved me to tears. As an immigrant, I’m always cognizant about what it means to have a home away from home… and I realize not many people are as blessed as I am in that regard.


Legends of The Road

  • Monday October 23rd – 3:30 PM

Director: Gary Thomsen

Legends of The Road is a captivating blend of documentary techniques, mixing a unique style of candid student shot vérité footage with the in-your-face style of Leon Gast. It’s a deeply moving account of 28 public high school students from Chief Sealth High School, in Seattle, Washington, who in 1999-2000 completed an extraordinary research project on a largely unknown baseball phenomenon known as barnstorming. And, then in 2000, re-created a “Barnstorming Tour” to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Barnstorming.


This sounds like a must for baseball fans (as our blog contributor Sarah Johnson can attest!). But even if you’re not into the sport, we can all enjoy an inspiring story about overcoming obstacles and achieving something against all odds.


Purple Dreams

  • Monday October 23rd – 6:15 PM

Director: Joanne Hock

“Packing all the drama of “A Chorus Line,” the adolescent charm of “Fame” and the talent of “Glee,” “Purple Dreams” is the story of students at Northwest School of the Arts in Charlotte.

From auditions to callbacks to ultimate triumph, filmmaker Joanne Hock follows a group at the school as they undertake a production of “The Color Purple”.



Speaking of overcoming obstacles, this is another story about the triumph of the human spirit. Even the trailer is a charmer, I can’t wait to be swept off my feet by these Charlotte school children tackling an important play based on Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize–winning novel.


Screenagers

  • Sunday October 22nd – 2:15 PM

Director: Delaney Ruston

SCREENAGERS probes into the vulnerable corners of family life, including the director’s own, and depicts messy struggles over social media, video games, academics and internet addiction. Thru surprising insights from authors and brain scientists solutions immerge on how we can empower kids to best navigate the digital world.


I’m surprised I actually haven’t seen a documentary on this topic sooner. I mean it’s not just teenagers who are suffering from screen addiction, I know I am guilty of that as well. As soon as one gets oneself a smart phone, we are prone to this addiction. I don’t have kids myself, but I certainly feel for parents who have to discipline kids in the digital age.


She Started It

  • Monday October 23rd – 6:30 PM

Director: Nora Poggi, Insiyah Saeed

She Started It is an award-winning documentary that provides a rare look in the lives of five ambitious young women entrepreneurs (Thuy, Stacey, Sheena, Brienne and Agathe) who will stop at nothing to pursue their startup dreams.


This is the kind of important documentaries I hope people would make more of. I can’t wait to watch and learn each of these women’s stories as they pursue their dreams. ‘Here’s to the fools who dreams…’ says La La Land, but y’know what, it’s not all all foolish to dream when you’ve got a plan.


Supergirl

  • October 23, 2016 3:45 pm

Director: Jessie Auritt

Naomi seems like a typical 11-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl; watching her lift almost three times her bodyweight tells a different story.

///

The word ‘uplifting’ takes a whole new meaning in this film. I always love stories of people who shatters people’s expectations and those who refuse to conform to what’s expected of them.


Check out the full list of documentaries on TCFF official website


As you know, this year I have even more reason to be excited about…


Thoughts on any of these docs? Which one(s) caught your interest?