Musings on the TCFF 2016 Award finalists … championing indie films & women in film

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I haven’t had even an hour to blog all day today as I was watching films, interviewing talents and socializing at the mixer at the beautiful festival lounge at the Shoppes at West End. My head is still spinning as I’m writing this… my body is exhausted but my spirits are high from the exhilaration of meeting so many great people. My day started with an a delightful interview with actor Dominic Rains, and got to meet Jon Weinberg (the director and star of Funeral Day) whom I had interviewed the night before. Then in the afternoon I got to meet the director of The Babymoon Bailey Kobe, as well as Kate Sloate who’s in the film’s producing team. I will post more pictures in my wrap post!

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I stopped by TCFF lounge for a couple of hours, which was even busier as the night went on. For sure the closing night party tomorrow will be a blast, and I sure wouldn’t want to miss the Award Ceremony!

Speaking of award, Twin Cities Film Fest has announced the TCFF award finalists a few days ago here. I’m so thrilled for so many of these indie filmmakers, whether it’s shorts, features or documentaries, that their hard work are being recognized. For many of them, their indie films are their sweat, blood and tears… as most of these films are made with shoestring budgets. This is why I LOVE covering TCFF, as I get to see more indie films than I otherwise would in a given month! As I meet filmmakers and talents, it’s apparent to see that the limited budget/resources just made them more innovative and creative! This is why I will always support indie films and indie filmmakers!!

2016 TCFF FINALISTS

Best Feature Film:

  • “Blood Stripe,” directed by Remy Auberjonois
  • “Burn Country,” directed by Ian Olds
  • “First Girl I Loved,” directed by Kerem Sanga
  • “Lion,” directed by Garth Davis
  • “Moonlight,” directed by Barry Jenkins.

Best Documentary:

  • “Denial,” directed by Derek Hallquist
  • “The Eagle Huntress,” directed by Otto Bell
  • “Free CeCe!” directed by Jacqueline Gares
  • “I Do?” directed by Joe Brandmeier
  • “IRON WILL: Veteran’s Battle with PTSD,” directed by Sergio Valenzuela.

Best Short Film:

  • “Duffy’s Jacket,” directed by Brian Hoesing
  • “I Want You Inside Me,” directed by Alice Shindelar
  • “Lend a Hand For Love,” directed by John and Amy Thompson
  • “The Story,” directed by Cameron Digwall and Carolyn Pender
  • “Twinsburg,” directed by Joe Garrity.

Indie Vision — Breakthrough Feature Film:

  • “Claire in Motion,” directed by Annie J. Howell and Lisa Robinson
  • “The Eyes of My Mother,” directed by Nicolas Pesce
  • “Girl Flu,” directed by Dorie Barton
  • “June Falling Down,” directed by Rebecca Weaver
  • “No Light and No Land Anywhere,” directed by Amber Sealey

Indie Vision — Breakthrough Non-Fiction Film:

  • “In Pursuit of Silence,” directed by Patrick Shen
  • “IRON WILL: Veteran’s Battle with PTSD,” directed by Sergio Valenzuela
  • “Prison Dogs,” directed by Geeta Gandbhir and Perri Peltz
  • “Tarkovsky: Time Within Time,” directed by PJ Letofsky
  • “They Call Us Monters,” directed by Ben Lear

Indie Vision — Breakthrough Performance:

  • “Blood Stripe,” Breakthrough: Actress Kate Nowlin
  • “Donald Cried,” Breakthrough: Actor Kris Avedisian
  • “First Girl I Loved,” Breakthrough: Director Kerem Sanga
  • “Hunky Dory,” Breakthrough: Actor Tomas Pais
  • “The Other Kids,” Breakthrough: Director Chris Brown
  • “Lend a Hand For Love,” Breakthrough: Directors John and Amy Thompson
  • “Moonlight,” Breakthrough: Writer Barry Jenkins.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Lea Thompson

I’m so glad I got to chat with Lea when she was in town last month for TCFF gala. I also got to interview Jim Hemphill whose wonderfully-crafted drama The Trouble With The Truth was screened at one of TCFF’s Insider Series!

In addition to the staff and audience awards, the 2016 event is also bestowing two North Star Awards to visiting actors Tim Guinee (in town to celebrate the 10th anniversary of “Sweet Land”) and Dominic Rains (starring in three TCFF films now touring the festival circuit — the James Franco-Melissa Leo mystery “Burn Country” screening Saturday night, the neo-noir thriller “The Loner” screening Friday, and the dark comedy “Funeral Day” showing Saturday morning).


Now, I haven’t seen all of the films nominated, as there are only so many hours in a day and I still had to work at my full time job the first week of TCFF. But of the ones I have seen, I definitely agree with most of the choices! I’m especially thrilled to see SO may female filmmakers and talents being represented AND recognized. I think people who read my blog and connected w/ me on Twitter know that I’m not only a big champion of indie films, but also women in film! It’s clear that indie films are the place for women and diverse talents thrive… so I’m glad I got to see many of them thanks to TCFF!

Whether in front of or behind the camera, it always perks me up to see women storytellers, creating and/or portraying multi-dimensional, fully fleshed-out female characters and bringing their stories to life. One of my all time favorite performances is Kate Nowlin in Blood Stripeand having chatted with her in person, she is an inspiration both on and off screen!

Both Prison Dogs and The Eagle Huntress have become two of my all time favorite documentaries! I can’t review the latter until mid November where it’s released here in Minnesota, but I can’t recommend it enough. I guarantee you’d fall in love with 13-year-old Aisholpan who defied the odds to become a champion eagle huntress!

mnwiftIt’s always a blast hanging out with friends and new people you meet at TCFF lounge. But tonight is especially awesome as I got to hang out with two ladies from Minnesota Women in Film and Television (MN WIFT), Joanne Liebeler and Deborah Fiscus. I love their positive energy and warm personality, it’s always encouraging and inspiring to be around such wonderful people!

I feel so blessed to have met to these smart, accomplished, yet warm & lovely ladies, so thank you to my pal Kirsten Gregerson for introducing us! I’m definitely going to join the organization and learn from local women who work in film, television, and new media in Minnesota.

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with MN WIFT’s Joanne, Deborah and my pal Kirsten Gregerson

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Well, tomorrow is the last day of TCFF already! It’s a jam-packed closing day with three gala screenings: LION, Moonlight AND Burn Country, with its star Dominic Rains attending!

I’ll be seeing FOUR movies tomorrow, starting with the documentary on foley artists, Actors Of Sound at 10:15AM, which ends with the closing film Moonlight at 8:30PM! I’m writing this past midnight and in dire need of sleep, but I’m excited for what’s in store for me tomorrow!

 


Counting Down to 2016 Twin Cities Film Fest! Spotlight on the eclectic indie films I can’t wait to see

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TCFF is less than a week away! Those who’ve been reading my blog for a while knows I’ve been covering TCFF since its inception seven years ago. It was only a 5-day festival and it was split between two different locations in Minneapolis. Well now TCFF has made its home at Kerasotes ShowPlace ICON Theatres in St. Louis Park, and this year TCFF will also feature a second screening series at the IFP Theater in St. Paul.

I’ve finalized the movies I’ll be watching during the 11-day film fest. I’m just thrilled that there’s quite an eclectic lineup we’ve got this year, practically there’s something from every genre. I’ve blogged about some of them on this lineup post, but below is the movies what I’m excited about.

Before we get to that though, here’s TCFF’s Preview Video highlighting some of the studio films showing this year …


The perk of blogging for the film fest is that I could watch as many films as I could (yay!). Of course it’d still not be possible for me to see every single film, but I have my pal Sarah Johnson to help me review stuff again this year which allows me to do interviews and support indie filmmakers!


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Full Film Schedule & Trailers at TCFF website


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So here are the list of films I can’t wait to see… I’m going to start with the Opening Night film and then list it alphabetically:

Blood Stripe

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  • October 19, 2016 5:30 pm
  • October 19, 2016 8:30 pm (SOLD OUT)
  • October 28, 2016 3:00 pm

Director: Remy Auberjonois
Runtime: 87 min

A female Marine veteran, battling unseen wounds from her recent service in Afghanistan, flees her suburban life in search of solace and escape in the North Woods.

I’m thrilled that I’ll be going to the 5:30pm screening of this film. I had been looking forward to this since my friend Kirsten Gregerson (who has a supporting role in the film) told me about it a year ago. As you know, I always champion female-driven films and Blood Stripe is co-written by its star Kate Nowlin, and the film won the U.S. Fiction Award from L.A. Film Festival. The film is filmed locally in MN at Lake Vermilion!

Stay tuned for my interview w/ the husband/wife team Remy Auberjonois and Kate Nowlin next week!

Check out the clip below:


After The Reality

  • October 28, 2016 2:30 pm
  • October 21, 2016 7:10 pm

Director: David Anderson
Runtime: 87 min

A contestant on a Bachelorette style reality show is thrown into turmoil when the sudden death of his father forces him to quit the series prematurely and reconnect with his estranged sister at the family cabin.

This sounds like an intriguing comedy drama, featuring a Glee reunion of sort w/ Matthew Morrison and Jane Lynch!


The Architect

  • October 26, 2016 6:15 pm

Director: Jonathan Parker
Runtime: 95 min

When a couple sets out to build their dream house, they enlist the services of an uncompromising modernist architect who proceeds to build HIS dream house, instead of theirs.

I have to say I was immediately intrigued by this when I saw James Frain in the cast! He’s a terrific character actor from Yorkshire UK who’s been in countless of TV shows and films, including the latest obsession of mine The White Queen as Lord Warwick. I also love the two great comedians Parker Posey and Eric McCormack, so I can’t wait to see this!


The Babymoon

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Click on image to view trailer
  • October 28, 2016 5:10 pm
  • October 22, 2016 12:30 pm

Director: Bailey Kobe
Runtime: 99 min

In the adventure-comedy The Babymoon, a husband in a fragile relationship tries to impress his pregnant wife with a luxurious and romantic babymoon vacation to the most beautiful and exotic country imaginable, which places the couple in the middle of a poorly-planned political revolution!

From its press release: This star studded and well-known cast brings a multitude of talent and relatable emotion to the big screen. The Babymoon features Shaun Sipos (Vampire Diaries, Melrose Place), Julie McNiven (Mad Men, Supernatural), Jessica Camacho (Sleepy Hollow, Dexter), Michael Steger (90210), Mark DeCarlo (Curb Your Enthusiasm, Seinfeld, Jimmy Neutron), Phillip Garcia (Telenovela, Fuller House), and Kelly Perine (Drew Carey, The Parent ‘Hood).

The premise sounds really intriguing too! Sounds like a perfect date night movie for anyone in the mood for some fun adventure at the movies.


Burn Country

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  • October 29, 2016 8:20 pm

Director: Ian Olds
Runtime: 103 min

As a former “fixer” for journalists in Afghanistan, Osman (Dominic Rains) finds asylum in a small California town. Promised a job as a crime reporter for the local paper, and a home with his best friend’s mother, the town sheriff (Melissa Leo), Osman is ready to settle in. But, when the job falls through, Osman finds himself restless and looking for action.

His attempts to get to know the area lead him to develop friendships with an elusive local actress, Sandra (Rachel Brosnahan), and a charming local troublemaker named Lindsay (James Franco). But, when a dead body turns up and Lindsay goes missing, Osman must face the possible evil lurking just beneath the surface and the depths of his new home’s darkness.

One of my fave films at TCFF last year also featured James Franco: The Adderal Diaries. The premise of this one really intrigues me, and I’m looking forward to seeing Dominic Rains‘ performance, as he won Best Actor in US Narrative Feature (then called The Fixer) at Tribeca earlier this Spring (per Variety). Melissa Leo also has a supporting role here and she’s a terrific actress!


Claire In Motion

  • October 28, 2016 4:45 pm
  • Alternate Screening at IFP (10/21 8pm)

Director: LISA ROBINSON & ANNIE J. HOWELL
Runtime: 84 min

When Claire’s (Breaking Bad‘s Betsy Brandt) search for her missing husband leads her to an alluring and manipulative graduate student, she uncovers a world of secrets that threatens to shatter her family.

Here’s another female-driven film (written & directed by a pair of female directors too!) I’m excited about. The film premiered at the SXSW Film Festival and recently Breaking Glass Pictures has acquired North American rights to the mystery drama. (per Indiewire)

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Funeral Day

  • October 29, 2016 10:30 am
  • October 20, 2016 3:00 pm

Director: Jon Weinberg
Runtime: 79 min

Scott thinks he might be dying. Not at all an uncommon thought for Scott, but today the lump he believes he found “down there” might actually be real. Today also happens to be the day of his friend Ken’s funeral. ­ Funeral Day is a darkly funny movie about a man who skips his friend’s funeral in an attempt to start living his own life to the fullest.

Now this sounds like a dark comedy that serves as a male health PSA! The filmmaker raises awareness in collaboration with the Testicular Cancer Society.

From its press release: A full cast of experienced and recognizable talent include: Tyler Labine (Deadbeat, The Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil), Tygh Runyan (The upcoming Versailles, Stargate Universe), Suzy Nakamura (Dr. Ken, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Horrible Bosses 2), Dominic Rains (Best Actor award winner at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival for his role in Burn Country, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, The Loner) and many more. Funeral Day is written by Kris Elgstrand, an award winning screenwriter, whose most recent film, Songs She Wrote About People She Knows, premiered at the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival.


June Falling Down

  • October 20, 2016 2:30 pm
  • October 28, 2016 7:25 pm

Director: Rebecca Weaver
Runtime: 115 min

A young woman returns home to Wisconsin for her best friend’s wedding – one year after her father’s death.

This sounds like a personal and heartfelt story about loss and friendship that everyone can relate to. As someone who’s lost a parent early in my life, the story certainly appeals to me.

From its press release: June Falling Down was made primarily by a two-person crew – one of whom was the writer-director-lead actress. What begins as a quirky, homespun movie with a mixture of local Door County, Wisconsin actors and non-actors, reminiscent of Richard Linklater’s Slacker, over time reveals itself to be a film of surprising depth and poignancy, a meditation on grief and growing up.

Stay tuned to my interview w/ Rebecca Weaver!


Miles Between Us

  • October 23, 2016 12:00 pm

Director: Andrew Hunt
Runtime: 91 min

A father and daughter who have been estranged by divorce for twelve years find themselves on a trip across the country that becomes a more complicated journey than they imagined. It’s a story of pain, hope, healing, and redemption.

I had the pleasure of chatting with the lead actor Dariush Moslemi during the filmmakers interview taping a few weeks ago. I was so inspired by his conversation that it made me look forward to his film even more. I enjoy faith-based stories where the spiritual aspect is organic to the story and that it’s not about spewing a certain agenda. Sounds like a great film to take your whole family to.


No Light and No Land Anywhere

  • October 27, 2016 1:50 pm
  • October 29, 2016 1:10 pm

Director: Amber Sealey
Runtime: 75 min

Grieving her mother’s death and her own failing marriage, Lexi (Gemma Brockis) boards a plane from London to Los Angeles in search of the estranged father who abandoned her when she was three-years-old. Based out of a seedy Hollywood motel, she follows a tenuous trail of breadcrumbs, beginning with his aging former in-laws, collecting numbers and addresses in the hopes that one will lead to her father. Along the way, she establishes other unexpected connections: her father’s ailing former second wife (Deborah Dopp), her bitter half-sister Tanya (Jennifer Lafleur) and her caregiver girlfriend (Jade Sealey), and two local barflies (David Sullivan and Kent Osborne). A stranger in the City of Angels, Lexi’s reckless searching leads to cautious discoveries in this atmospheric and introspective quest.

Another film screened at L.A. Film Festival that won some accolades! This film won The LA Muse Jury Special Mention award. Written and directed by Amber Sealey, it also featured a large female ensemble cast, always a plus in my book!


Oxenfree

  • October 25, 2016 7:30 pm

Director: Dan Glaser
Runtime: 93 min

Three estranged foster brothers rediscover the ruins of their childhood kingdom “Oxenfree”…and face down the monster living within.

There’s something about this comedy fantasy about three brothers that immediately appeals to me. I grew up w/ two brothers and let’s just say we have a rather unusual childhood, so I think I can relate to this story.


Trespass Against Us

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  • October 27, 2016 8:00 pm

Director: Adam Smith
Runtime: 100 min

Trespass Against Us is set across three generations of the Cutler family who live as outlaws in their own anarchic corner of Britain’s richest countryside. Chad Cutler (Michael Fassbender) is heir apparent to his bruising criminal father, Colby (Brendan Gleeson) and has been groomed to spend his life hunting, thieving and tormenting the police. But with his own son, Tyson (Georgie Smith) coming of age, Chad soon finds himself locked in a battle with his father for the future of his young family.

I almost didn’t mention this film when I initially published this article as I didn’t think it was an independent film. Well it certainly falls under the category of British indie, which was recently acquired by A24 for its US rights. It’s definitely one of my most-anticipated films at TCFF. The pairing of two Irish thespians Brendan Gleeson and Michael Fassbender gets my attention straight away, and it looks like a gripping family gangster flick set in a British countryside.


For Horror/Thriller Fans…

Now, most of you know I have too feeble nerves to handle horror, but since is close to Halloween, naturally there are quite a few horror films playing at TCFF! Here’s a sampling that you should check out, click on the link below the posters for more info!

Follow | The Eyes of My Mother | Lake Runs Red


October is going to be the best movie-watching month for me. If you live in the area, I hope you’ll make time to check out TCFF!


What do you think of these movies, which one(s) interest you most?