It’s a wrap! ‘Moonlight’ and MN-made ‘Blood Stripe’ won TCFF 2016 top awards

It’s a wrap!!

tcfflogoThe 2016 TCFF has concluded Saturday night with a festive closing night party.

I saw four films Saturday night. Starting with two great documentaries Actors Of Sound and Free Cece, followed by two powerful emotional dramas, Lion and Moonlight.

I had been crying so much watching Lion, a wonderful depiction of an incredible true story, and Moonlight was an even more emotional experience. It was a well-written, well-acted and simply powerful film about Black sexuality, featuring the kind of deep emotional intimacy I haven’t seen in many films, regardless of race and gender.

I also enjoyed the short film that preceded Actors of Sound called Boom Up!, it was hilarious! I won’t have the reviews of the films I saw in last two days of TCFF until later in November, but let’s just say I recommend all the four films I saw on closing night!

Concluding a star-studded showcase that featured more than 100 films spanned over 11 days, this is perhaps the largest-ever Twin Cities Film Fest ever with over 130 films, including shorts and documentaries! Top awards went to the critically-acclaimed coming of age drama Moonlight, which had been hailed by critics as the best film of the year and will hopefully gain more traction until the Oscars next year. Just like Room and Brooklyn last year, TCFF continues tradition in screening critical darlings that went on to win accolades at the Oscars.

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Here are the winners from Twin Cities Film Fest 2016:

Best Short Film: Lend a Hand For Love, directed by John and Amy Thompson

Audience Award – Short: Waabooz, directed by Molly Katagiri

Best Documentary: I Do? directed by Joe Brandmeier

Audience Award – Documentary: Iron Will, directed by Sergio Valenzuela

Indie Vision — Breakthrough Non-Fiction Film: They Call Us Monsters, directed by Ben Lear

Indie Vision — Breakthrough Feature Film: No Light and No Land Anywhere, directed by Amber Sealey

Indie Vision — Breakthrough Performance: Kate Nowlin (Blood Stripe)

Best Feature Film: Moonlight, directed by Barry Jenkins

Audience Award – Feature Film: Blood Stripe

I’m so thrilled for Remy Auberjonois and Kate Nowlin who won the Audience Award in the Feature Film category. As you know from my review of Blood Stripe, I was so impressed with this film. It’s so well-written, well-directed AND phenomenally-acted by Kate Nowlin, who deservedly also won Best Breakthrough Performance this weekend. I certainly think Kate’s performance is Oscar worthy!

Kate & Remy receiving the award from TCFF exec director Jatin Setia
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Kate with TCFF artistic director Steve Snyder

Another well-deserved award, that is the TCFF North Star Award goes to the massively talented indie actor Dominic Rains. You may not know who he is yet folks, but mark my words, you will! He’s already won Best Actor in a U.S. Narrative Feature Film at Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year for his performance in Burn Country (originally named The Fixer), which also screened at TCFF, along with two others, Funeral Day and The Loner.

Dominic Rains with Steve + Jatin

I have seen two of the three films he’s in and was really impressed by his strong screen presence and versatility as his role in the thriller/drama Burn Country (as a former Afghan journalist) and the comedy Funeral Day (as a rather obnoxious American realtor) couldn’t be more different from each other, but yet he pulls off both roles effortlessly. Stay tuned for my in-depth interview with Dominic on his career, as well as with Funeral Day‘s director Jon Weinberg!

As I’ve mentioned in this post, I’m glad to see quite a few female filmmakers as well as female-driven films represented at TCFF! One of the finalists for Breakthrough Feature Film that I was really impressed with was Claire In Motion, which was directed by a pair of female filmmakers, featuring a terrific performance by Betsy Brandt.

It was already close to 11pm by the time I came out of the Moonlight screening, TCFF’s final film, but I couldn’t miss the award ceremony at TCFF lounge. I was only there for an hour or so and I had a blast hanging out with my friends, Kirsten Gregerson and Emmylou Barden.

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me with Emmylou & Kirsten

I don’t know how long the party went on but clearly everyone had a great time! I’m glad I got a chance to congratulate Kate Nowlin for her award, my interview with her and her husband/collaborator Remy Auberjonois are certainly one of the highlights of covering TCFF, not just this year but of all seven years I’ve been with the film fest! Just before I left for the night, I even got a chance to chat with Remy about the enigmatic ending of Blood Stripe. Once you see it, I think you’ll know what I mean!

Thanks to my darling hubby for taking pictures of the closing party festivities! Check out his Instagram for his awesome travel photography (and I’m not just saying that ’cause I’m his wife) 🙂


Congrat Jatin, Bill, Dani, Steve and Naomi for another great year!
It was so gratifying to be a part of TCFF once again… watching, discussing & celebrating indie films and the art of filmmaking.


Highlights from TCFF 2016 Opening Night + Review of ‘Blood Stripe’

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For the seventh year in a row, Twin Cities Film Fest is keeping up with tradition of opening the film festivities with a strong film. Last year it opened with an inspiring documentary A New High which goes with 2015’s Changemaker series that supported Homeless Youth, along with the heart-wrenching drama Room featuring Brie Larson who went on to win an Oscar. This year’s social cause is veteran support and once again TCFF picked a stellar Minnesota-made film that features an Oscar-worthy performance by Kate Nowlin. Check out my review below…

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Highlights from Opening Night

I’m thrilled that I was able to see Blood Stripe on opening night! In fact, I was at the first screening of the night as initially there was only one screening of the film at 8:30, but it was sold out even two weeks before its screening. The film’s writer/director Remy Auberjonois and writer/lead actress Kate Nowlin, along with supporting cast members René Auberjonois (yes, Remy’s own father) and Rusty Schwimmer were on hand for a Q&A following the screening.

It was awesome meeting some people who worked on the film at the red carpet at the bustling Showplace ICON lobby. I had a nice chat with Blood Stripe‘s script supervisor Aleshia Mueller, whom I had met at TCFF gala last month. My pal Kirsten Gregerson, who played a supporting role in the film, was there also with her sister Kim. I also ran into fellow blogger/actress Emmylou Barden before the film started.

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‘Blood Stripe’ Review

When I interviewed filmmakers Remy Auberjonois and Kate Nowlin a couple of weeks ago, I hadn’t seen the film yet. I knew it was a terrific film based on the reviews I’ve read out of L.A. Film Festival, well, to say I was floored by it is putting it mildly.

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Right from its opening scene when the film’s protagonist first touched down on the airport, I was immediately intrigued by her. Known only as Our Sergeant, she just returned home to Minnesota from her military duty. The film didn’t specify which country she was placed in, though later she did talk about her time in Iraq and Afghanistan. The film isn’t political, nor does it point finger about the cause of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) many soldiers suffer. It’s a story about a combat vet who happens to be a female Marine, and the trials and tribulations she goes through in the film.
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Despite the dark subject matter, the film is far from somber. It’s effortlessly engaging, thanks to Kate Nowlin‘s immense screen presence. She is tough, powerful yet vulnerable, and Nowlin embodied her character so beautifully. I have to admit I’m not really into war-themed films in general, but I’ve always been drawn to those that focus on the psychological aspect of the soldiers, i.e. The Thin Red Line. But Blood Stripe captures the brutality of war without actually showing it. It’s a mental torture that the ‘Sarge’ endured, at times she’s on the brink of losing it, and it’s a truly haunting performance. Remy Auberjonois contrasted that mental torment with the striking serenity of Lake Vermilion in Northern Minnesota. This film could practically double as a tourism video of Minnesota’s Arrowhead Region, the scenery is absolutely stunning that it made me want to book a trip there pronto.

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I was truly in awe by Nowlin’s extraordinary performance. She also co-wrote the script so she must’ve spent a lot of time with her character, but it’s still quite a feat given that she had no military training prior to taking on this project. I also appreciate the fact that the film utilized all of the supporting cast well, as each had their moment to shine. Chris Sullivan (who I just saw recently in Stranger Things) was terrific as Sarge’s husband, as was Rusty Schwimmer who played the camp’s caretaker where Sarge worked. Tom Lipinski also did a memorable turn as The Fisherman who befriended Sarge. Last but not least, we’ve got the venerable character actor René Auberjonois as the church elder Art who’s the comic relief in the film.

It’s so rare to see female soldiers being depicted on the big screen and I think Nowlin’s portrayal does them justice. The enigmatic ending lingers long after the opening credits, this film certainly adds the conversation to the topic of PTSD in a compelling way. I can’t recommend this one enough to anyone who loves war-themed films, as well as those in the lookout of a captivating, character-driven drama. I sure hope this will get a decent theatrical release around the country as Blood Stripe absolutely deserves to be seen.

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What’s in store for Day 2!

Check out all the films playing on Day 2 of TCFF here, tons of great indie films such as June Falling Down, Funeral Day, Road To The Well, as well as great documentaries such as In Pursuit of Silence, I Do? and Have a Baby.

Stay tuned to my interview with June Falling Down‘s writer/director and star Rebecca Weaver!