November 15 is GIVE TO THE MAX day and so I feel that it’s only fitting that I post the highlights from the 2018 coverage of The Twin Cities Film Fest. This year is my ninth year covering this amazing organization and I’m thrilled and inspired to see how much this film fest has grown!

TCFF is SO much more than just a film fest! Yes it is by definition a film festival in the sense that it gives an organized, extended presentation of various films with live screenings in a single city… but festival director Jatin Setia and the outstanding TCFF team has created an organization that not only champion AND support indie filmmakers (MN-based and beyond) but also provide education to youth and emerging filmmakers through its FREE educational programs (Film Fellows, Free Day for Youth, and Filmmaker Academy)!

So click on the banner above and consider donating to this non-profit organization that give local film artists a national voice… by doing so, you’re supporting MN arts and championing indie filmmakers! Yay you!

FlixChatter and team have been busy with reviews and interviews since TCFF 2018 started in October 17. Special THANKS to our phenomenal blog contributors: Laura, Holly, Vitali and Andy, for all your tremendous work watching and reviewing movies! You just have to type TCFF2018 in the FlixChatter search box and voila! you’ll see all of our coverage.

Since the TCFF has wrapped two weeks ago, I think there’s no bad time to post highlights from the 2018 session… on the red carpet, around the fest and on the amazing TCFF Wonderlounge.

This year, FlixChatter also have not one but two great media correspondent interviewing talents on the red carpet!!

THANK YOU Holly Peterson (who’s also one of our talented reviewers!) for interviewing Jon Heder and Kendall Goldberg for When Jeff Tried to Save the World.

Also THANKS also to Nick Raja for interviewing the dynamic duo Tom Arnold and David Arquette for Saving Flora.

Nick also did a red carpet interview with Michael Driscoll, the filmmaker of the stunning b/w noir short TWO BLACK COFFEES. If you’ve missed it, I’ve interviewed Michael earlier this year that you can read here.

There’s some issues to the red carpet video, but you can take a listen to the audio interview below:

Pictures sometimes speak louder than words. So here are some pics from around the fest that give you an idea how much fun we had at the fest!

(click on gallery to see a larger version)

Now, every year TCFF always get some awesome sponsors (thank you!) either for the red carpet or for the lounge where the nightly after-parties happen. This year we had the wonderful people at Can Can Wonderland as our lounge sponsors, hence we named it TCFF WonderLounge this year!

Who doesn’t love Elvis 🙂 Hanging out w/ hubby Ivan & TCFF volunteer + composer Jesse Richardson

One of my all time favorite features at the WonderLounge this year is this fun and addictive SimpleBooth (thanks UptopFilms!) where people can create photo experiences in GIF format with their unique iPad photo booths (can’t you tell I’m having way too much fun w/ it) 😛



TCFF Opening Night featuring Alexander Payne’s NEBRASKA premiere


Twin Cities’ cinephiles rejoice! Twin Cities Film Fest annual film festivities is upon us again, can’t believe it’s our fourth year already.

10 Days, 75 Films, 8 Top Awards Contenders & 22 Red Carpet Events. World premieres, Minnesota breakthroughs, one-of-a-kind treasures and Oscar front-runners.

Yes, TCFF is back!

But on top of all those movies, TCFF also feature educational panels, Q&As with filmmakers, as well as special events and after parties! All taking place at the SHOWPLACE ICON THEATRE at The Shops at West End. Special thanks to Wade Financial Group who’s our Auditorium Sponsor.

I’m thrilled to be the official blogger again and this year I’ve got two blogging volunteers, Sarah Johnson and Adam Wells, so stay tuned for reviews and other coverage from the three of us throughout the film fest!


If you live in the area and you haven’t visited the TCFF Official site by now, well what are you waiting for? The full schedule is online, complete with info and trailers. Getting your tickets have never been easier and more affordable. The more you watch the more you save with TCFF passes, available from Silver to Platinum.

In case you haven’t seen the awesome trailer yet by WonderVision, check it out below:

This year we open the film fest with a film that’s been receiving Oscar buzz! In fact, the 76-year-old lead actor Bruce Dern won Cannes’ Palme d’Or, whilst director Alexander Payne garnered a nomination.


After receiving a sweepstakes letter in the mail, a cantankerous father (Bruce Dern) thinks he’s struck it rich, and wrangles his son (Will Forte) into taking a road trip to claim the fortune. Shot in black and white across four states, Nebraska tells the stories of family life in the heartland of America.

Starring: Bruce Dern, Will Forte, Stacy Keach, June Squibb, Bob Odenkirk

Here’s a clip from the Cannes premiere:

When I saw the trailer (which you can see on the TCFF page), I wondered why it was shot in B&W. Well, this is what Payne had to say when asked the inevitable question at the Cannes’ press conference:

“It just seemed like the right thing to do for this film,” he said. “It’s such a beautiful form, and it’s really left our cinema because of commercial, not artistic, reasons; it never left fine-art photography. This modest, austere story seemed to lend itself to being made in black and white, a visual style perhaps as austere as the lives of its people.”

Source: Vulture

It’s also been 25 years since Dern was the first-billed star of a major motion picture, having worked with auteurs such as Elia Kazan, Alfred Hitchcock, Douglas Trumbull, Francis Ford Coppola, and Quentin Tarantino in his long, illustrious career. I was quite impressed with Payne’s last film The Descendants, so I’m looking forward to seeing this one tonight!


Ticket Prices are as follows:
General Admission $10; Opening/Closing Gala $20; Centerpiece Gala $20; Sneak Preview Galas $20. Festival Passes can also be purchased: Silver $50 for 6 films; Gold $70 for 10 films; or Platinum $120 for 12 films + 2 tickets to Opening, Closing or Gala. (Silver and Gold Packages do not include Opening, Closing or Gala Tickets).

For more information and to purchase tickets visit

Stay tuned for more TCFF coverage folks! So which of the TCFF films are you looking forward to most?

TCFF 2011 Day 1: The Bully Project Review

The TCFF has landed! I’m very excited to be a part of the film fest in my city [the best one IMO] in its second year. Great to see the ICON cinema at the West End all abuzz last night, I really LOVE this place and I’m so glad they’re sponsoring TCFF this year. The theater was packed which is always nice to see.

Just as last year TCFF opened with a well-made education-themed documentary with an important message, Waiting for Superman, this year we’ve got an equally compelling one with The Bully Project.

Any way you look at it, bullying is just plain wrong. There are no ifs or buts, the bully behavior of people putting down others, harassing them both physically or mentally to the point of affecting that person’s well-being has no excuse in this world. I say people because bullying could happen at any age, basically it’s a form of intimidation. The Bully Project focuses the behavior mainly in schools, from grade schools to high school.

Director Lee Hirsch was part of an hour-long panel held about an hour before the film was shown. He was joined by panelists that include Tom Weber (MPR Reporter), Rep. Jim Davnie (MN State Legislator who co-sponsored anti-bullying legislation), Julie Hertzog (Director of PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center) and Leigh Combs (Representing  MN School OUTreach Coalition).

It really was an eye opening discussion about a topic I’m not too familiar about. Not having grown up in the US, I’ve never experienced what it was like to be a student in America before college. Of course I’ve experienced a bit of racial intimidation (more out of ignorance, not malice IMO) as I went to a small town in MN where most of the population is Caucasian, but there were quite a few International students in my school so I was never bullied.

Lee Hirsch @ TCFF panel

A kid who’s been bullied will likely come out with some kind of disability.

It’s quite a strong statement from Mr. Hirsch, but I’d imagine it’s true. I mean, it may not be visible, but even a little bit of mental intimidation on a kid who’s already struggling with their identity can leave a scar for years. The biggest thing that came out of the panel for me is learning how Minnesota is still lacking on bullying law, reporter Tom Weber shared from his reporting that MN’s grade is C- amongst states that have such law, which is the lowest of all!

If you’re interested, you can view the panel discussion on this video posted on YouTube.

Now below is my review of the film. Just a note, I actually had a massive headache the entire time I was watching the film, I don’t know if it’s because of the way the camera movements or the fact that I sat a bit closer than I normally do in the theater. I don’t fault the filmmaker for this, but it certainly affect my enjoyment of watching this film.

My mini review of The Bully Project

Documentaries can be a powerful thing. Most documentarians usually set out to achieve a goal that is much bigger than simply trying to win an award or to make tons of money. Their goal is to assist or make change. With this film, Hirsch is shedding a light on a topic that is often brushed aside or simply not taken seriously enough. It’s mind-boggling to me after seeing that there are quite a number of kids actually commit suicide as a result of being bullied, and to me, even ONE kid, just one dying because of this should be a major cause of alarm for the school/legislation, what have you, to do something about it.

From a cinematic standpoint, this is not the most beautifully-filmed documentary I’ve ever seen [that honor belongs to The Cove]. There are some cinematic camera angles and such, but mostly it’s done in a matter-of-fact manner that make you focus on the subject matter and the people affected by it. In that sense it is very effective. It’s really heartbreaking to watch the kids filmed here, as well as the parents who lost their child, one as young as 11 years old!

One of the kids featured is Alex, who happens to be present at the screening with his whole family. This awkward teen was often punched, strangled, stabbed w/ pencils, etc. on the school bus. One kid whose face was blurred even threatened to kill him and inflict as much pain to him as possible. The mild-mannered boy had to endure this until finally, after his parents pressed him to confess, they realized what’s been happening to him. Here comes the infuriating part. The film shows how the schools, police and legislators just are not doing enough to fix this. There was a scene with a school official who put on a sympathetic front when the parents confront them but it’s obvious they didn’t and not going to do anything about it.

This film also offers a balance view that bullying happens to kids of all ages, color and sexual orientation. It seems that the topic is identified with the GLBT community as they’re perhaps the most outspoken and proactive about it, but the film shows that non-gay kids also suffer from bullying.

Alex & his family with Lee Hirsch – TCFF photo to come

During the Q&A, Hirsch revealed that this is a very tiny film-making project, mostly a crew of one or two (him and the producer) with a discreet looking Cannon camera that doesn’t look intimidating to people he’s filming. It is obvious this subject matter is close to his heart. Just from hearing his thoughtful answers during the panel and the way he interacted with Alex and his family on stage, he seemed genuinely care about these kids and that’s so gratifying to see. One question asked why there is no focus on the other side, the bullies themselves. Hirsch answered that it is his choice to tell the story of the side of the victims, and that bullies that he encountered seem like (in his own words) ‘little angels.’ Once you see this film, you’ll know what he meant.

I really hope this film will get recognition at the Oscars. Fortunately they have The Weinsteins Co. as a distributor and Hirsch said this film will be submitted to the Academy Awards. You know how it is about the Weinsteins with their Oscar campaign 🙂 Normally I’d be utterly cynical about it but y’know, if it means bringing The Bully Project movement to light, so be it!

This film opens nationwide in March 9, 2012. I highly recommend you to check this out. This is a must-see for students/educators/parents, it’s impossible not to be moved by this film.

What are your thoughts about this film and/or the subject matter? Any interest in seeing this one?

UP NEXT: Interview with TCFF Lead Programmer & TIME magazine editor Steve Synder and 50/50 Review

TCFF Day 4: Secretariat, Flourtown, Nature of Existence

TCFF day 4 has come and went, and we’re about to close the 5-day film festival with FAIR GAME later tonight. Executive Producer Bill Pohlad will be on-hand at this red carpet event to introduce the movie at 7pm. Do you have your tickets yet? The online ticket sales is closed right now, but you may still purchase tickets at the box office before the show using cash or check.

I volunteered again all afternoon yesterday, doing various tasks such as passing out schedules at the ticket booth, tearing out tickets of people going into the screening, and handing out rush tickets (or stand-by tickets) of Secretariat to people who might be interested. It’s kind of expected that people are cautious about strangers handing out stuff in a public area, you practically see ’em as they walk toward you. The best you can do is put on the best smile you can muster and try to use the word ‘free’ or ‘complimentary’ in there somewhere 😀 A mother & daughter were actually looking to see a movie and had been interested to see Secretariat, so their eyes lit up when we gave each of them a rush ticket. That really made the whole thing worthwhile.

One of the two main features of Day 4 is The Nature of Existence, directed by Minnesota’s own filmmaker Roger Nygard, who did TREKKIES back in 1997. This time he took on a more spiritual/metaphysical quest by traveling the globe to interview various people and start by asking the biggest question: “why do we exist?” After a four-year world-wide odyssey beginning in 2005, he had over 450 hours of footage to boil down to an hour and a half worth of feature-length documentary. You can check out the reviews of this at RottenTomatoes. I ran into Mr. Nygard during my shift but as I was wearing my volunteering hat, I didn’t get a chance to ask him any question of my own. I personally would like to know if he had learned anything from this journey, and what his real motivation was in making this. At first glance it seems that despite its thought-provoking appeal, it’d probably raise far more questions than answer… which makes me think that the tag line in the poster (every mystery of human existence… explained in one movie) is nothing more than wishful thinking.

After my shift, I checked out Secretariat, the ‘horse movie’ as everyone calls it, which was a rousing good fun. I don’t know much about the subject matter, but I really enjoyed it. The movie was preceded by a short movie Flourtown, about a couple who search for a reason to live after their boys die, and make a surprising discovery in their own lives as artists. It’s a really beautifully-filmed short, created by William Slichter who uses his background in Fine Arts in his storytelling. Check out the trailer:

Another volunteer shift beckons, so watch for my review of Secretariat and Fair Game hopefully tomorrow. Stay tuned!

TCFF Day 1: Waiting for Superman Premiere

Hello everyone, happy Wednesday! I wrote this post last night right after I got back from my volunteer shift at the Theaters at Mall of America. First let me say it was a blast! The place was buzzin’ and burstin’ with people which is awesome to see. Nice to see such a great turnout and the energy of the place was really lively.

Ok, so here’s my account of being a first time film festival volunteer (photos from the event to follow):

My pal Becky and I arrived late afternoon and shortly after checking-in at the festival’s table, we got our volunteer shirts. I was really in a cheerful mood last night, which always helps. I was so looking forward to this event that volunteering wasn’t a chore at all. In fact, I had a lot of fun meeting new people who share my passion for movies. Plus, the festival staff are such affable bunch. Even Jatin Setia, the brain behind this whole thing, whom you’d think would be in frantic mode, was still his genial self as he was practically pulled every which way by everyone.

After waiting around for a bit, we’re finally given our assignment to greet people as they step off the escalator into the theater and hand them the festival’s schedule. About half of the people had no idea there was a film festival going on, as when I greeted them with ‘welcome to the Twin Cities Film Festival,’ they kind of had this weird look on their face. Most of them were very receptive though, and they seemed genuinely interested as they glance through the pamphlet we gave them.

We did encounter a few somewhat disgruntled moviegoers who thought they could just show up at the theater without having any form of ticket whatsoever. They said the media (I think they mentioned the paper specifically, they didn’t say which one) told them to do so. Not sure how they got that info as the TCFF website already had a big SOLD OUT graphical notice on the documentary page. Hmmm…

About a half hour later, I spotted the man of the hour, Waiting for Superman director Davis Guggenheim riding up the escalator. I recognized him right away so when he stepped off I greeted him and he shook my hand. He looked much younger than I thought, but had the same his hairstyle and dark-rimmed glasses as he’s often photographed. I managed to tell him how much everyone were so eager to see his movies and on top of having a sold-out premiere, there were more people who couldn’t get in. “They’d have to see it on Friday then,” he replied as he walked away to head to the red carpet area. The documentary is released on limited engagement at the Uptown Theater October 1st. So that was that, I didn’t get a chance to ask him any question 😦 By the way, I had absolutely no idea the St. Louis native was married to actress Elisabeth Shue until I read his bio on IMDb for this post!

I had wished to ask Mr. Guggenheim a question which is actually from my boss Mary: When you’re doing a documentary like this, what would you like the audience to do after watching it? Well, as I didn’t get to attend the Q&A (even though I was right outside the door with a few other staff members), I poked around the documentary’s official site and this ‘Take Action’ page pretty much answered that question. The tag line emblazoned on the page says: IT”S POSSIBLE. TOGETHER WE CAN FIX EDUCATION. There is a What You Can Do section divided by Parents | Teachers | You which tells each member of the group what they can do to improve the education system where they live.

Well, I’m just going to wrap up by saying the event was quite a smashing success. Of course I don’t have any other film festival to compare it to, but considering this is the first year, to have a sold-out show on opening night is pretty darn good! Moviegoers and staff alike were invited to celebrate Opening Night after the film at the CRAVE Restaurant. I’d think the movie would spark stimulating conversations, so what better way than to do that than over delicious drinks and tasty snacks. I’d have stayed and enjoy it too if I don’t have to work in the morning… besides, if I partied all night, I wouldn’t have any time to write this post right? 😀

In any case, check out the mini review courtesy of my friend Ted who saw it last night.

Counting down to TCFF: Interview with executive director Jatin Setia

On Sunday afternoon, I had the privilege to volunteer at the TCFF promo booth at the downtown AMC theater. I was actually looking forward to it, and it helps that I had all this energy after my Zumba class. It was fun chatting with fellow volunteers as we hand out the festival’s schedules and tell moviegoers about this upcoming event. Speaking of which, all of you TwinCities readers, have you got your tickets yet? No? Well, what are you waiting for? Click on the TCFF banner on the right sidebar or click here to get your tickets, pronto!

After my shift was done, I ran into the affable executive director Jatin Setia (whom I had met at a video shoot months earlier) and he kindly granted me an impromptu interview right on the spot! Btw, did you see him on the Sunday edition of the StarTribune‘s Entertainment page? I told him I have only five questions, but he was so gracious and easy to talk to that before I know it, I ended up asking him more questions 😀

Take a listen of the entire 10-minute interview by hitting the PLAY button below (sorry I don’t have time to write down the transcript). And pardon my interviewing skills, haven’t done this since my news broadcasting class back in college!

Special thanks to Mr. Setia for taking a time out of his hectic schedule to talk to me!

Upcoming Local Event: Twin Cities Film Fest Coming Sept. 28!

Happy Monday all! Hope your weekend was a good one. It’s been a hectic but fun one for me as I participated in two local events back to back yesterday. My hubby and a bunch of my friends did the annual St. Paul Classics Bike Tour (the new Lilydale loop was absolutely gorgeous!), followed by a hearty brunch buffet, and then off to a volunteer meeting for the first ever Twin Cities Film Fest with my pal Becky (a.k.a Prairiegirl).

I’ve only attended ONE film festival in my life, which was Toronto International Film Festival or TIFF for short about five years ago, but it left a big impression on me. I remember wishing I could be a part of an event like that, you know, as a volunteer or what not, but I don’t know why I never got around to until now. And the opportunity sort of presented itself early this Summer. I was part of a video shoot for a product launch at work, and the actor we happened to hire was none other than the festival’s executive director, Jatin Setia! My co-workers was the one who told me that he’s working on this event, knowing that I’m a movie blogger. So I emailed him that I’d be interested in blogging about and volunteering for the event and so here I am!

I’m so excited to be a part of this grassroots happening that the Minneapolis mayor called “… a [celebration] of cinema on a larger scale than previously seen in the region.” Another board of directors member, seasoned actor/producer/member Bill Cooper, gave us a spiel about the vision of the festival and said how this event has exceeded everyone’s expectations. They had wished for one studio film and they’ve got FIVE (i.e. the Sean Penn/Naomi Watts thriller Fair Game, the John Lennon biopic Nowhere Boy), totaling 30+ features with an eclectic mix of studio and independent feature films and shorts. This is just exciting stuff, and I can’t agree more with what he said to Becky and I afterward: this city needs it! There have been other festivals in town, but these guys have big dreams, and they, as well as we avid MN moviegoers want to see it come true. And that is, in the years to come, we’ll be the festivals movie bloggers and watchers would be buzzing about the way they do Tribeca, Sundance, TIFF, etc. Didn’t I mention they have big dreams? 🙂 But hey, why not, as a wise man once says, “we are limited, not by our abilities, but by our vision,” TIFF wasn’t THIS big 34 years ago when it first premiered. In fact, according to this site, “TIFF had a setback in its first year when Hollywood studios decided to withdraw their contributions, apparently considering the Toronto audience base too parochial.”

So, I will be blogging more about TCFF up until and during the film festival, in the meantime, please peruse the official site for the films featured in the 5-day event. Stay tuned for more!

Btw, has any of you have had experience covering for or being a part of a local film festival?