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!
Not 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