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: Watch the films, meet the filmmakers

The Autumn Equinox has arrived for us in the USA and the rest of the northern hemisphere! Fall is my favorite season and this year there’s something else to be excited about Autumn here in Minnesota! In four days, Tuesday, September 28 will mark the debut of the annual TWIN CITIES FILM FEST, premiering with documentary Waiting for Superman, followed by Q&A with its director, Davis Guggenheim. Have you secured your ticket yet?

When I was at TIFF back in 2005, I got a chance to watch a couple of movies with the director in attendance: a Norse warrior adventure tale Beowulf & Grendel (Sturla Gunnarsson) and a quirky musical comedy Romance & Cigarettes (John Turturro). In fact, at the world premiere of Beowulf & Grendel, the entire cast were also in attendance (just a few rows behind me!), including my personal fave Gerard Butler. Good thing I didn’t realize it until after as I’d have a real trouble concentrating on the movie! 😀 It’s a really cool feeling to be able to watch a film knowing the people involved in making the film are watching it with you. Even better if you can actually ask questions about it afterward!

Well, Guggenheim isn’t the only filmmaker who will be attending the five-day festival. Check out the list below of who else will be in attendance for the premiere of their films:

  • Night Catches US
    Tanya Hamilton (Director) Confirmed with Q & A
  • Sin Retorno
    Guillermo Ivan (Director and Actor) Confirmed
  • Worlds Largest
    Amy Elliot (Director) Confirmed with Q & A
  • A Good Day to Die
    David Mueller and Lynn Salt (Directors) Confirmed with Q & A
  • Phasma Ex Machina
    Matt Osterman (Director) Confirmed with Q & A
  • Nature of Existence
    Roger Nygard (Director) Confirmed with Q & A
  • Man Made
    Vaughn Juarez (Director) Confirmed with Q & A
  • Channel News
    Jacob Kindberg (Director) Confirmed with Q & A
    Sarah Kindberg (Actor) Confirmed with Q & A
  • Fanny, Annie and Danny
    Chris Brown (Director) Intended with Q & A

Minnesota Shorts Directors Attending:

  • AS BREATH ON GLASS – Maria Bias (Screening with Channel News)
  • DINNER DATE – Paul Von Stoetzel (Screening with Fanny, Annie & Danny)
  • ESSENSE – Katie Mac (Screening with Night Catches Us)
  • FLOURTOWN – William Slichter  (Screening with Secretariat)
  • PER BIANCA – James Snapko (Screening with Nowhere Boy)
  • PHOTOS AND DRAWINGS – Jon Maichel Thomas (Screening with Conviction)
  • SOMEONE, SOMETHING – Matt Joyer  (Screening with World’s Largest)
  • THE ACTIVIST – Phillip Montgomery (Screening with Toxic Soup)

Check out the official website for descriptions of each of the film and get your tickets!

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.