Spotlight on five great documentaries – and they’re all playing at TCFF!

Woo hoo!!! Today is the day. 9 Days. 60 Films. 25 Events. From today all the way to next Saturday the 20th, this is the place to be for film lovers in the Upper Midwest!

Have you gotten your tickets yet? They are selling fast, in fact when I went to the SHOWPLACE ICON THEATRE in St. Louis Park, the seats are really picked over so don’t delay. You can buy them online but you still have to reserve your seats at the ticket booth.

I’ve blogged about some of the films I’m super excited about, but I wanted to talk about the documentaries specifically, as two years in a row TCFF has kicked off the film fest with a documentary, last year with the education-themed Waiting For Superman. Before I get to the list, check out the TCFF documentary promo, hosted by Minnesota-based filmmaker Joanna Kohler:

A Place At the Table – Friday, Oct 12 6pm

A Place At The Table is an important documentary every Americans should see. As the woman in the trailer says, hunger doesn’t just happen in Africa, but right in our neighborhood. It’s heartbreaking to hear that one in four children here in the US don’t know where their next meal is coming from, and this happens despite our country having the means to provide nutritious, affordable food for all its people.

The documentary features Jeff Bridges, who apparently is closely-connected to this subject matter as he’s the founder of the End Hunger Network. It also features celebrity chef Tom Colicchio, one of the judges on Bravo’s Top Chef who also happens to be co-director Lori Silverbush’s husband. Silverbush herself will be at the educational panel before the event.

Proceeds from this event will also benefit the Second Harvest Heartland, Food Emergency Shelf, and STEP (St. Louis Park Emergency Program).

American Autumn: An Occudoc – Thursday, Oct 18 2:45pm

It’s been over a year since the Occupy Wall Street movement began, and this provocative documentary chronicles the early days of this Occupy movement and how it’s gaining momentum.

The review from the NY Times says that “… [director] Dennis Trainor Jr. offers a concise review of the protests that first encamped in Zuccotti Park then swept across the nation and around the world.” Everyone sure has an opinion about the economic inequality problem in America, and this film offers an array of facts and figures on such subjects.

Narrated by Trainor, the documentary features speeches and interviews from filmmaker Michael Moore, Dr. Cornel West (Princeton University), comic/author/activist Lee Camp, journalists Nathan Schneider (Harper’s, The Nation) and Naomi Klein (The Nation) and more.

After I Pick the Fruit – Saturday, October 20 12:45pm

Another hot topic you’ve likely been hearing all over the news is immigration. Even though I’m an immigrant myself, this film is likely to resonate with me. Nancy Ghertner directs a film that follows the lives of five immigrant farm worker women over a ten-year period as they labor in the apple orchards and fields of rural western New York, migrate seasonally to Florida, raise their families, and try to hide from the Bush-era immigration raids that were conducted in response to September 11, 2001.

Filmed across the United States and Mexico, this intimate, bittersweet, feature-length film illuminates a community that is nearly invisible to most Americans, and will change the way you look at our national immigration problem.

Bay of All Saints – Saturday, Oct 20 10:45 am

The winner of Audience Award for Documentary at SXSW 2012, director Annie Eastman explored the lives of impoverished families living in palafitas, shacks built on stilts over the ocean bay in Bahia, Brazil. In an SXSW interview posted by Indiewire, Eastman shared that in college, she discovered Capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian martial art from the slave culture of Brazil, which somehow led her to make this film. She revealed that the story spans 7 years, 12 trips to Brazil and 20 weeks of editing.

Bay of All Saints is a lyrical portrait of three single-mothers living in the water slums during this crisis. Their individual stories of poverty unfold through visits from Norato, their big-hearted refrigerator repairman, born and raised in the palafitas. As these women rise to fight for their future, they begin to see the bay in a whole new light.

Call Me Kuchu –  Saturday, October 13 10:25 pm

Kato with the ‘Call Me Kuchu’ filmmakers

The term “Kuchu” is the word LGBT Ugandans use to refer to themselves, though some regards it as derogatory. US-based filmmakers Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worral explores the struggles of the LGBT community in Uganda, as the government is working on a bill that would make homosexuality a crime punishable by life imprisonment, even death. It would even go as far as persecute those who fail to report known homosexuals to authorities.

The film features David Kato, a Ugandan teacher known as the country’s first openly gay man who fought against the homophobic laws, as well interviews with as other members of the LGBT community. It’s heartbreaking what happened to Kato, whose life came to a tragic end in January 2011 before the film even premiered. This is religious extremes at its worst… no matter what one’s view is about homosexuality, there is absolutely no justification for what the government is doing to their own people.

Call Me Kuchu has won several awards at various Film Festivals, including the Best International Feature Award at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival.

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

Guest Post: Waiting for Superman Mini Review

As promised, here’s the Waiting for Superman mini review. For mini-coverage of the event itself, check out this post.

Special thanks to my guest blogger Ted S. for taking the time to write this concise and straightforward review!

I think most people who are interest in seeing this documentary know what it’s all about so I won’t go into explaining the story. I thought the film was good, it was well directed and I learned a few new things when it comes to the educational system in the US. You’ll get to know some of the families who want their kid to get a better education and by the end of the movie, you really feel for some of the families whose kids didn’t get drafted to go to these boarding schools.

The film jumps from telling the story of these families to the politics of the education system in our country. To me the film seemed to put all the blames on the system. That is my problem with the film, it was so one-sided and it tends to get a bit preachy towards the end. To me, a good documentary needs to tell the story from both sides, in this one we only hear from the poor families and how bad the system is. I’m no expert in educational system nor do I know how it works, that’s why I wish the filmmaker would go deeper into it. The film seems to have more questions than answers; but maybe that’s the point of the movie.

I do recommend the film, you might get angry at how bad the educational system is in this country or you might think it’s just another propaganda film from the leftists. I’d leave that up to you to decide.

Director: Davis Guggenheim
Runtime: 111 Minutes


Has anyone else seen this documentary? Would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

TCFF spotlight: Five buzz-worthy documentaries

I hope you find time to check out these five great documentaries the festival is offering, the trailer is available on each of the documentary page. If you don’t live in the area, these are definitely worth checking out wherever you are or when it’s available on dvd:

  • Waiting for “Superman
    9/28, 7:00pm | VIP Theatre – Theatres at Mall of America
    This documentary has  been catching a lot of buzz around film festivals around the country, it even won Audience Award for Best US Documentary at Sundance (read Huffington Post’s review). It’s a provocative look at the crisis of public education system in the US. Whether you agree or not with the perspective of the filmmaker, it’s certainly worth looking into and should at least propel an interesting discussion. Did you know that Oscar winning director Davis Guggenheim (for An Inconvenient Truth) will introduce the documentary and then will do a Q&A at the conclusion of the screening? also created this cool animated infographic for the movie:

  • 180˚ South (FREE Screening!)
    9/29, 4:00pm | AMC Block E 15
    180° SOUTH is the story of one of the most unique and prolific environmentalists of our time -Yvon Chouinard. Rather than re-living Yvon’s story through old photos and his life’s work with pie charts, 180° SOUTH weaves Chouinard’s tale through a modern day expedition.The reviews for this adventure documentary have been great, 80% at Rottentomatoes and 7.1 out of 10 at IMDb.
  • The Cove (FREE Screening!)
    10/1, 2:30pm| AMC Block E 15
    The winner of the 2010 Academy Award® for Best Documentary, The Cove is a fascinating yet harrowing chronicle of the dolphin slaughter in Japan, led by former Flipper trainer Ric O’Barry. Read my review on it here, I highly recommend this one, it delivers suspense, thrill, and adrenaline rush, but most of all, emotional punch! And as Rottentomatoes‘ 96% rating tells you, it’s definitely a must see.
  • The End of the Line (FREE Screening!)
    10/1, 2:00pm| AMC Block E 15
    A thought-provoking and insightful documentary about the dangers of commercial fishing. It examines the imminent extinction of bluefin tuna, brought on by increasing western demand for sushi; the impact on marine life resulting in huge overpopulation of jellyfish; and the profound implications of a future world with no fish that would bring certain mass starvation.

    It was well-received by critics (80% at Rottentomatoes), Roger Ebert gave it 3 stars, saying that it’s a wake up call for fish lovers everywhere: “We once thought of the sea as limitless bounty. I think I may even have heard that in school. But those fantasies are over.” I’m not a fish eater myself, but even I are compelled to see this to at least familiarize myself with the issues.
  • What’s onYour Plate? (FREE Screening!)
    10/1, 2:00pm| Theatres at Mall of America
    Sponsored by Chipotle.
    A witty and provocative documentary produced and directed by award-winning Catherine Gund about kids and food politics. Filmed over the course of one year, the film follows two eleven-year-old African-American city kids as they explore their place in the food chain.

    This food writer at Lettuce Eat Kale blog gave a glowing review of it, so is this reviewer who saw it at Seattle Film Festival (SIFF).

Less than two weeks away until Twin Cities Film Fest is here.. have you got your All Access Pass yet?

For only $175 (Excluding Opening Night Celebrations), you get:

  • All Films (Excluding Opening Film)
  • All Parties (Excluding Opening Night Event)
  • All Seminars
  • 1 Festival Shirt
  • 1 VIP Gift Bag
  • Priority Seating


If you’ve seen any of these documentaries, and want to share what you think, please do so in the comment section.