April 11, 2010

MSPIFF 2010 - New AND Improved

Conventional wisdom would hold that something cannot be both new and improved, but the 28th edition of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival (MSPIFF) has the potential to actually qualify for both descriptions. The films are new (well, maybe not all of them - several have already screened in the Twin Cities), and the organization of the festival appears to be much improved.

One of the elements of any good film festival is making an actual schedule of films available for people who are planning to attend. This may sound like the most obvious thing since The Hurt Locker's Oscar sweep, but when it comes to MSPIFF a schedule is rarely a given - at least not until a day or three before the two week-long festival starts.

To take nothing away from Minnesota Film Arts' excellent organization of the festival over the last couple of years, this year's edition appears to be a quantum leap ahead of any other in terms of user-friendliness. For one thing, the vast majority of the films - and their screening times! - was listed on the festival website more than two weeks before the festival's opening night, this Thursday, April 15. This fact in its own right was cause for raucous celebration among festival loyalists, but that wasn't all.

Secondly, the website itself was reconfigured (although, tragically, not completely redesigned) to allow for a full assortment of sorting options never before available. You can now look through the 150+ film titles by topic, country, and even language. Incredible!

Moreover, the festival ticketing structure was reconfigured with the addition of discounted punch packs and also discounted matinee tickets - $6 for all shows before 6:00 PM. This way you don't have to pay $100+ for a pass but you can still save money if you see a half-dozen films.

Having acknowledged all of these improvements, there is still one thing that could use improvement: the Drupal-based website is just not up to par when compared to other major festivals of this size (e.g., Chicago, Seattle). If we're going to be encouraged to create user accounts, they ought to at least serve a purpose. Perhaps movie-goers can vote for the films online instead of using the pesky ballots in the hallway. Or, in my dream world, maybe website users could actually save movies to their profile and receive email reminders of when their preferred films are screening. This may be a luxury (though I believe Chicago offers that), but in any case I'm still hoping for a better website platform in the future.

I'll hold most of my complaints about the festival because it's already upon us (however, if you're interested you can read my thoughts in a festival preview in today's Star Tribune). I'm still definitely looking forward to this year's festival and all of the now-standard perks that come along with it being held at St. Anthony Main: free parking, nice sidewalk cafes, mostly organized line management.

The only problem remaining is that I have only a fraction of the free time I normally set aside for movies during this two-week period. I'm a little disappointed I won't be able to take full advantage of these new festival improvements this year, but everyone else who plans on going every day or even every other day ought to be very pleased.


  1. So many movies, so little time. Thankfully, it's stretching out over 2 weeks. I took a look at the website and although it looks decent, it does look like it was made by a wannabee web designer instead of a real one ;) Any recommendations on what to see for those of us who may not see more than a handful of the films presented there?

  2. Its sad that an almost two week lead time for the schedule is seen as a big accomplishment.

  3. Castor, the website is functional...and I'll just leave it at that. Any more complaints about it and I'll be branded a spoiled brat, if I haven't already been. And so glad you asked about recommendations - they are on the way...

    Matt, way to pee on the campfire, pal.

    But you're right.


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