Photos courtesy of MSPIFF
MSPIFF 2017 films
Three and a half decades of the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival have passed, and year number 36 is about to kick off. Among the fest’s newest additions is an expanded line-up, which took a 100-film leap over last year (for those keeping count: that’s over 350 films total). Impressive as it may be, chances are this news won’t entice you to plan a 17-day stay-cation at MSPIFF’s participating theaters from April 13 on. In fact, so many choices may be a bit intimidating.
Sure, you can sift through the hundreds of options, but unless you’re a cinephile, odds are you can think of better ways to spend your evening. So instead of doing the movie equivalent of navigating a 33-page restaurant menu, we’ve compiled a list of this year’s choice dishes at MSPIFF. And like a good meal, there’s plenty of genre-busting complexity to what’s being served up this year at the largest film festival in the Upper Midwest.
Preparing for motherhood can be a daunting journey, especially when the child in utero has a thirst for bloody revenge. Think Rosemary’s Baby, only if Rosemary were a zombie bending to the demands of the fairy-voiced Brit in her belly. Alice Lowe (of Hot Fuzz and The World’s End fame) stars as Ruth, a pregnant, modern-day Jack the Ripper of sorts, in this pitch-black picture which she also wrote and directed. Aside from being a triple threat in making the film, Lowe takes method acting to a whole new level in Prevenge — she was seven months pregnant when it was shot. Whether you’re a gore junkie or a mother-to-be, watching Ruth’s psychological battle with human nature is a bloody treat.
88 mins | April 14 @ 9:40 p.m., April 27 @ 9:55 p.m., Tickets $8 - $13 | Uptown Theatre, St. Anthony Main
MSPIFF kicks off its 17-day festival with this high-profile odyssey starring Charlie Hunnam (the Sons of Anarchy and Pacific Rim star) alongside a hardly distinguishable Robert Pattinson (whose grizzly beard and spectacles place him at a distance from the sparkling, clean-shaven vampire he played in the uber-popular Twilight series). Visionary director James Gray adapts the true account of Percy Fawcett, an English explorer who, while mapping the Amazonian jungle for the British Empire, stumbles upon a lost civilization he names “Zed.” Obsession quickly consumes Fawcett as he ventures not once, but twice back to the rainforest in an attempt to find and prove the existence of the advanced, almost Mayan-esque society. Place the story of Apocalypse Now within Apocalypto, and you’ll be left with this haunting picture.
140 mins | April 13 @ 7 p.m. and 7:20 p.m., Tickets $45 - $60 | St. Anthony Main
Hypothetically, if you binged through the entire run of Girls and Broad City on a streaming service, In Between would be first in line on your recommended queue. Yet, what separates this Israeli film from the familiar mold of today’s female-centric comedies about women loving and living large in metropolitan America is its rarely-depicted protagonists. In the heart of a party in Tel Aviv, you first meet Laila, a chic weekend warrior and lawyer, and her flat-mate Salma, a job-hopping, lesbian disc jockey. Both are the type to take a joint with their morning cup of joe over a bagel or fruit. Insert Nour, a conservative Muslim in need of a bed and a roof after her college’s dormitory shut down. As the yin to Laila and Salma’s yang, Nour’s values immediately clash with the liberal lifestyles of her roomies, but not as harshly as Nour does with her arranged (and undeniably deranged) fiancé. Be warned: those looking for a lighthearted romp best steer clear from In Between as, halfway through, tragedy shifts the mood from hilarious to precarious.
96 mins | April 16 @ 12 p.m., April 24 @ 9:40 p.m., April 27 @ 9:45 p.m., Tickets $8 - $13 | St. Anthony Main
Hardcore fans of Edgar Wright (the director behind Shaun of the Dead and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World) may just find a new favorite here; a stylish gem that sits comfortably alongside other funny flicks starring atypical action heroes. In Hungary’s entry for Best Foreign Language Film to the 2017 Academy Awards, Barba (who has cerebral palsy) and Zoli (who suffers from spinal problems) are best friends and roommates at a rehab care facility. While discharging a fire extinguisher in an alley, they catch the attention of Rupaszov, an ex-fireman turned prison convict turned hit man for the Serbian mafia. Following the notion that the handicapped are underestimated, he enlists the two twentysomethings, forming a wheelchair-bound trio of assassins. By casting actors with real-life disabilities, Kills on Wheels instills a sense of authenticity, creating what turns out to be a must-see shoot-em-up.
105 mins | April 14 @ 9:50 p.m., April 25 @ 4:55 p.m., Tickets $6 - $13 | St. Anthony Main
In the Western world, all things animated today are generally done in a 3D, computer-animated style. Which is what gives Ethel & Ernest—an almost entirely hand-drawn spectacle that took well over 61,000 drawings from more than 100 animators to complete—a venerable look, that is as nostalgic as it is steeped in history. Quite literally, in fact. Raymond Briggs, the author and illustrator behind the graphic novel of the same name, starts the story from the moment his mother Ethel met his father Ernest in London, navigating through the Depression, the war against Nazi Germany and later-life cultural shifts (“It says here they want to legalize homosexuality,” Ernest tells Ethel one day while reading the newspaper). Parents of young children may do best sticking with old Disney classics over this, while others looking for a blast from the past will find charm in the sweet yet subtle tale of English life in the 20th century.
94 mins | April 14 @ 7:20 p.m., April 21 @ 4:55 p.m., April 23 @ 9:45 p.m., Tickets $6 - $13 | St. Anthony Main
Finland’s submission to last year’s Oscars is—like the classic boxing films it takes influence from—as much a study of the athlete inside the ring as the man outside of it. Fans of the grimy and glamorous side of boxer life (as depicted in Rocky), as well as the black-and-white visual flair of Raging Bull, will savor this biopic up until the final bell. What gives Olli Mäki an edge over other underdog boxing dramas, however, is its protagonist’s trials. After an off-kilter press conference, Olli admits to his trainer, “I think . . . I think I’m in love.” Knowing that boxing is as much an emotional game as a physical one, he hits back at Olli, telling him, “This is the shittiest moment to fall in love.” These moments, omnipresent throughout, in their jocular and tender manner, make for an absorbing and approachable picture.
92 mins | April 15 @ 7:20 p.m., April 21 @ 7 p.m., Tickets $8 - $13 | St. Anthony Main, Rochester Galaxy 14 Cinema
Photo courtesy of MSPIFF
MSPIFF Signature Move
For anyone out there in a desperate search of “the trifecta”—that, of course, being the ever-elusive film about Pakistani culture, a lesbian romance and luchador action—then the wait is over. Cultures collide in Signature Move when Zaynab, a lawyer from a Pakistani family, falls for the free-spirited Alma, the daughter of arguably Mexico’s greatest lucha libre wrestler. As the two first-generation immigrants quickly become infatuated with one another, issues arise with Zaynab’s mother Parveen, who has yet to discover her daughter’s sexual orientation. Instead, Parveen is preoccupied channeling her inner James Stewart from Rear Window, scouting for Zaynab’s future husband using a pair of binoculars from her living room. Despite sounding on paper like a feature-length Portlandia sketch, Signature Move (which was executive produced by actor Michael Shannon) finds plenty of originality in its premise, and could be a breakout hit for the scene-stealing star and scriptwriter, Fawzia Mirza.
82 mins | April 18 @ 5 p.m., April 21 @ 9:40 p.m., Tickets $6 - $13 | St. Anthony Main