May 5, 2008

Recap: 26th Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival

The 26th Annual Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival wrapped on Saturday night, a full 17 days after opening with Tom McCarthy's The Visitor. All things considered (including the fact that I missed the first five days of the festival), I would say the 2008 fest was a smashing success. We didn't have the films or the stars of Toronto, Cannes, or Sundance, but we had some special moments (where else would Pond Hockey have three screenings, let alone sell all of them out to standing room?). Check out the photos of the festival VIPs - great backdrop from St. Anthony Main, isn't it? Anyway, here's my breakdown:

  • Missing the first five days, which included screenings of The Visitor, Young @ Heart, Son of Rambow, Tuya's Marriage, Momma's Man, and At the Death House Door.
  • Tickets were $10. I can't really complain since I mostly used my volunteer passes, but anyone could have regretted that expense on some of the bad films, especially the short ones.
  • Managing ridiculous people in lines.
  • Some promising movies that didn't live up to my expectations: Black Coffee, Jar City, and the worst movie I saw, Big Dreams, Little Tokyo.
  • Festival Director Al Milgrom's introduction of the closing night event at Block E, which he at one point called a "farewell address." Throughout the festival, I heard nothing to refute the rumors that the Oak St. Cinema will close permanently in September. What will happen to Minnesota Film Arts? Who knows.
  • A handful of terrific films. In the order that I saw them: OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies, Dry Season, The Edge of Heaven, The Grocer's Son, American Teen, Up the Yangtze, and Encounters at the End of the World.
  • Free or $0.50 parking at the St. Anthony Ramp.
  • The secret screening, which ended up being The Wackness. I didn't even see it that night because I was upstairs working, but it was totally sold out and is a great idea for future festivals.
  • The Q & A session with Nanette Burnstein, director of American Teen.
  • The staff at St. Anthony Main, who were pretty friendly and fast during the huge rushes.
  • My lesson in the science of projection from Bill Walker, one of the tireless festival projectionists. While the movies were playing during my volunteer shifts he explained to me the history of 35mm film and showed me how the old school set-up works. I'll probably never see movies in the theater in the same way again. It was like Cinema Paradiso, except I'm not a little boy and the theater isn't nearly as cool as the Paradiso.
  • The Closing Night screening at Block E, followed by a free private party at Seven across the street. Great to see a movie like Encounters at the End of the World on a massive screen, and the food was pretty decent later on as well.
  • "Meet Me at the Matinee" - the infamous film festival trailer that most people loathed. Sure it was absolutely and in every way bizarre, but after a few viewings I ended up liking it, and by the end - loving it. Now we'll never see it again. It was a moment in time that I'm already nostalgic for.
  • The many travels I had, from Iceland to Chad to Turkey to Indiana to France to Morocco to Germany to The Netherlands to China to Costa Rica to Ethiopia to Antarctica. A new global outlook in 2008. Nice.
And maybe the biggest highlight? Being among my own people. Seeing the same freaks day after day who, like me, consider it worthwhile to spend 17 straight days in a movie theater, often for hours on end. Of course I didn't actually do that, but it was encouraging in a really weird way to see people who did.


  1. *JEALOUS*

    Sounds like it was really, really awesome....

    Please tell me you enjoyed "American Teen?"

  2. You know I did, Nick! It was a great trip back in time.

    Believe me, my friend, I'll be the jealous one when you're off to the big ones in a few years...

  3. Daniel, I know what you mean about seeing the same people. Every time I go to the half-dozen or so film geek venues, I see people who feel like old friends now, even though I may never have spoken to them. I HAVE, on occasion, introduced myself and made some real friends with whom I can talk obsessively about film and not feel self-conscious. That's a gift.

    Congrats on a great festival.

  4. Do you know how much of a retard I feel like now? A HUGE one.

    I skimmed over that post so fast I never even realised you were talking about YOUR experience with the film, and not just the film itself. I am a tool, and I can only beg for forgiveness.

    "And maybe the biggest highlight? Being among my own people." Do you know how much I would love to know how that feels? Seriously, I am glad it was an awesome fest.

  5. Hehe, right, Marilyn. It's nice to talk to people who don't blink when you tell them how many movies you see. I'd love to make it to the Chicago fest some day.

    Wow, Nick, no worries! I realize I didn't make it too obvious because I didn't want to say too much about the movie. You are forgiven for doing nothing. If you make it stateside any time soon you can be assured there will be a group of "our people" waiting at the theater for you.

  6. Glad the festival was a hit Daniel.

    Not every festival can be Cannes or Toronto or Sundance (the two main ones in LA certainly aren't), but there's something nice about the regional festivals. They're not as glitzy, but they're more honest.

    I'm looking forward to the LA festival in June. Last summer I was a little half-assed about it, but I plan on giving it my all this year. I learned a few things about intense festival going at AFI in November so I'm better prepared this year.

  7. Daniel - I hope you do make it down here. It's a good event, and I'll give you my contact for a press badge. You'll see just about everything for free that way.

    You might also check out the Wisconsin fest in Madison. I went there in its inaugural year and was totally impressed. It gets some of the CIFF films, but much later.

  8. Yeah, it's as close as we get to the stars around here, Craig. I'll be following your LA fest reports obsessively.

    Thanks, Marilyn! I would be thrilled. I've heard decent things about the Madison festival as well, but I have a special place in my heart for Chicago. We'll see how my schedule shakes out in October.

  9. Well, thanks for the forgiveness - and I cannot wait to see "American Teen." If the high school depicted is an insufferable as mine, or if there is at least ONE character I can relate to - it will be awesome.

  10. I wouldn't peg you as any of those characters, Nick, but you'll absolutely be able to identify them from your school. That's the funny part about the audience for this film - everyone went to a different high school in a different place, but the experiences are, for the most part, exactly the same.


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