The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival: It Ain't a Small World, After All

The sort-of true story of a Minneapolis man who made his mom into a movie, plus two local trailers, and 36 reviews from around the globe

The M Word

Let's start with the little changes.

BY ROB NELSON

MSPIFF COVERAGE:

Home Movie
The director of 'Driver 23' explores 'The Wild Condition' in his own backyard [Page 2]
As American as Apple Valley
'From There to Here' brings MCAD Senior Vu Tran from a southern suburb to the International Film Festival [Page 3]
Close Encounters of the Weird Kind
Oddballs bond in James Vculek's "Anti-Spielberg" film 'Two Harbors' [Page 4]
You Must Remember This
Our picks for the most noteworthy fare in the M-SPIFF's first week. [Page 5]

MSPIFF SCREENING LOCATIONS (first week):
Historic State Theatre,
805 Hennepin Ave., Mpls.
Bell Auditorium,
U of M, University Avenue and 17th Street SE, Mpls.
Oak Street Cinema,
309 Oak St. SE, Mpls.
Riverview Theater,
3800 42nd Ave. S., Mpls.
Crown Theatres' Block E 15,
600 Hennepin Ave., Mpls.
McNally Smith Auditorium College of Music,
19 Exchange St. E., St. Paul

ADMISSION PRICES & FESTIVAL PASSES:
Opening Night Screening and Gala:
$20 ($15 Minnesota Film Arts members)
Closing Night Screening and Gala:
$10 ($7 MFA members)
General admission:
$9 ($7 seniors/students, $6 MFA members)
Platinum Pass (admission to all films and events):
$180 ($150 MFA members)
Gold Pass (admission to all events and films except Childish Film Festival screenings):
$150 ($120 MFA members)
Ten-Film Discount Pass (admission to 10 films):
$75 ($55 MFA members)
Festival passes available in advance at www.brownpapertickets.com.
24-HOUR FESTIVAL HOTLINE: 612.331.3134

FESTIVAL WEB SITE:
www.mnfilmarts.org/m-spiff

Note: The festival schedule is subject to change; call the hotline to confirm screenings.
This year Minnesota Film Arts has added a hyphen--a mere "-"--to its acronym for the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival. What a difference a dash makes: Call it the keystroke felt around the world. In the past, this marathon showcase of new cinema from all over the globe was known colloquially as the MSPIFF and pronounced MISS-piff, causing some of us to picture a klutzy cineaste slipping on a banana peel en route from Oak Street Cinema to the Bell for a Three Stooges homage from Kazakhstan. Now it's the M-SPIFF, pronounced EM-spiff, and the nickname signifies something else entirely.

That the lowbrow piff has been changed to an elegant spiff, as in spiffy, is ideal for the MFA to connote its tasteful refurbishing of a classic--as if screening an old Ernst Lubitsch comedy of remarriage in a fully restored print. But I'm actually more concerned with the first part of the appellation.

Technically, the M still stands for Minneapolis, where the vast majority of the 300 screenings (!) will take place at a half-dozen venues over two weeks. (See p. 19 for ticket and venue information.) But when this admittedly klutzy cineaste hears that slinky, sexy M, newly liberated from its S and...mmmmm, ready to roam, he suddenly feels not so klutzy anymore. Indeed, the new M sounds mod. It feels metropolitan. And, befitting a fest whose subtitled fare derives from some 60-odd countries, it translates magnificently. (It also recalls a certain Fritz Lang masterpiece that, coincidentally or not, Oak Street will be screening post-fest along with 18 other repertory gems to celebrate its 10th anniversary of reeling in the years.)

You see how this event brings out one's inner obsessive? Let's let the letters lie for the moment and take a closer look at the numbers. Of the 160 films from around the globe, as many as 20 are enjoying their U.S. premieres here--a first for a fest that has been around more than two decades. One man--the inimitable Albert Milgrom--is still credited as festival director, and is uniquely engaged in presenting new work from countries both in and out of the European Union. But four other programmers this year have each been charged with the task of choosing films from within one or more categories: Oak Street curator Emily Condon has taken her picks from Asia and the Middle East (including Iraq and Iran); the Bell's Adam Sekuler looked south to Central and South America; the MFA's recently installed executive director Jamie Hook has focused chiefly on new indies, most from the U.S.; and Deborah Girdwood, Hook's co-director in the domestic sphere, is screening a dozen distinctly playful titles for a Childish Film Festival sidebar geared toward kids of all ages (or three and up, anyway).

A more adult-sounding M-SPIFF number this year is "18+"--the fest's best guess thus far of how many filmmakers will accept its invites to appear in person with their work. Four of the confirmed attendees are particularly worth mentioning: Toronto-based actor-director-writer Don McKellar will be at the State Theatre on Friday, opening night, to introduce his precocious sophomore feature Childstar (reviewed on p. 19 along with 35 other notables screening in the fest's first week); two master auteurs, Olivier Assayas (Clean) and Benôit Jacquot (A tout de suite), will be here from France, the latter toting not just his new film, but the bulk of his oeuvre; and, this just in, the great Wim Wenders--legendary above all for having shared an intimate Minneapolitan meal with Mr. Milgrom back in '78 while his driver, guru-to-be John Pierson, was left to twiddle his thumbs--will be at the Riverview with a new feature, Land of Plenty, that couldn't be better named for a slot in this homegrown embarrassment of riches.

Speaking of which: In recognition that we have a lot more here than 10,000 lakes and the MFA, despite the fest's perennially global reach, we at City Pages have decided this year to focus some special attention on the talent that has been growing in our own backyard, including directors Rolf Belgum (The Wild Condition), Vu Tran (From There to Here), and James Vculek (Two Harbors), all of whom are profiled at length herein.

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