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PREVIEW: 2017 Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival

A production still from The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki.

The Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival, which bills itself as the Midwest’s largest international film event, returns April 13-29, 2017. This year’s festival includes 10 feature films and a variety of shorts. Films will be presented at five venues: the St. Anthony Main Theatre, Uptown Theatre, and Capri Theater in Minneapolis; Metropolitan State University’s Film Space in St. Paul; and the Marcus Wehrenberg Galaxy 14 Theater in Rochester. Here’s an advance look at the MSPIFF program:

The Darkness (Las Tinieblas)

The Darkness (Las Tinieblas)
In the aftermath of a catastrophe that has made the earth stop spinning, Argel’s world is in permanent twilight, blanketed by a toxic fog. A strange and ravenous monster stomps around the family home, where young Argel, his older brother, his little sister, and his father cower in fear. When his older brother mysteriously disappears, Argel takes it upon himself to seek out the monster, revealing the darkest of family secrets. Program: Dark Out. Directed by Daniel Castro Zimbrón. Mexico. 2016. 92 min. Spanish w/English subtitles.

Director Daniel Castro Zimbrón will be attending.

From comedian and musician Demetri Martin comes this very strange and funny tale about true love, death, and real estate. Dean (played by Martin), a young illustrator, and his father, Robert (Kevin Kline), are still in mourning over the death of Dean’s mother, who died a year ago. Will both men be able to find love in the wake of death? Program: New American Visions. Directed by Demetri Martin. USA. 2016. 87 min. English.

A promotional poster for First Daughter and the Black Snake.

First Daughter and the Black Snake
Director Keri Pickett attending
Environmentalist Winona LaDuke just wants be with family, tend her garden and put up solar panels. When she learns that Canadian owned oil company Enbridge plans to build a new pipeline through her Minnesota tribe’s land, she must spring into action if she is to save her sacred wild rice watersheds and Lake Superior itself. Program: Documentaries, MN Made. Directed by Keri Pickett. USA. 2017. 104 min. English.

The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki (Hymyilevä Mies)
Naïve, and as eager to box as he is to bake bread in his small hometown of Kokkola, Olli Mäki is a man who simply appreciates what he’s been given in life. When he’s afforded the chance to fight on the big stage—the World Boxing Association featherweight championship—he not only is skeptical that he can beat the great American boxer Davy Moore, but he happens to realize that he’s fallen deeply in love right around the time of the fight. Winner of the Un Certain Regard at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. Program: Midnight Sun. Directed by Juho Kuosmanen. Finland. 2016. 92 min. Finnish, English w/English subtitles.

Juste la Fin du Monde

It’s Only the End of the World (Juste la Fin du Monde)
Louis is a gifted playwright, returning to his family home after a 12-year absence to deliver important news: he has a terminal disease, and not long to live. The family he meets are a collection of strangers—like his youngest sister and his new brother-in-law—or they’re angry, debilitating people whom he wishes were strangers. Over the course of the long weekend, Louis keeps trying to deliver the bleak news, only to be interrupted, berated, ignored, and, at one point, almost physically abused. Program: World Cinema. Directed by Xavier Dolan. Canada. 2016. 97 min. In French w/English subtitles.

The Lost City of Z
Based on author David Grann’s bestselling book, The Lost City of Z is the stirring account of one of one of the most mysterious and compelling archaeological tales in history. At the turn of the 20th Century, British explorer Percy Fawcett journeyed deep into Brazil, down the Amazon River, where he discovered evidence of a previously unknown civilization that built an enormous city in the middle of the dense jungle. But the English scientific community found this ludicrous, as they regarded indigenous populations as “savage”, unable to create such a complex environment. Fawcett, supported by his devoted wife, Nina, son, Jack, and aide-de-camp Henry Costin, returned again and again, hoping to find more evidence, until his mysterious disappearance in 1925. Program: Special Presentations. Directed by James Gray. USA. 2016. 141 min. English.

Passages Short Films
A moving collection of short films from Sweden, Greece, Syria, West Africa and the United States that detail the challenges that refugees face on their journey to new lands. Program: Passages. Various directors. 2016. 86 min. Various languages w/English subtitles.

Starless Dreams (Royahaye Dame Sobh)
For seven years, director Mehrdad Oskouei tentatively worked with Iranian authorities to film the lives of women locked up in a detention facility outside of Tehran. Sentenced for murder, drug dealing, possession, hijacking cars, and many other crimes, the young women, who answer to a number, a name, or just “nobody”, unflinchingly discuss their various crimes, the hell that awaits them in society, and the privacy of their own homes. Program: Passages, Documentaries. Directed by Mehrdad Oskouei. Iran. 2016. 76 min. Persian w/English subtitles.

The Truth Beneath (Bimileun Eopda)

The Truth Beneath (Bimileun Eopda)
Determined to become a politician, former news anchor Jong-chan has fought to secure the Korea Party’s nomination in Daeson, readying to battle lawmaker Noh Jae-soon in the coming election. Things take a turn for the strange when his daughter Min-jin suddenly disappears. Min-jin’s anxious mother Yeon-hong takes matters into her own hands by going to the police and investigating on her own. When her investigation uncovers a darker side to local politics, no one is spared. Program: Asian Frontiers. Directed by Lee Kyoung-mi. South Korea. 2016. 102 min. Korean w/English subtitles.

Director Lee Kyoung-mi will be attending.

Silent film with live performance by Prima Vista Quartet
Arguably the last great silent film, this epic of World War I air combat has to be seen to be believed, a thrilling and ultimately harrowing experience in an era of stuntmen, real planes and no CGI. The first film to win the Oscar for Best Picture, Wings is a silent movie concert performed by the Prima Vista Quartet with the original score composed by Baudime Jam.
Program: Special Presentations. Directed by William Wellman. USA. 1927. 144 min. Silent w/English intertitles.

The World is My Country

“The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.”
― Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man

The story of “World Citizen #1”: Garry Davis, who spent 65 years of his life as a citizen of no nation, only Earth. For years he traveled around the globe on his “World Passport” while engaging in adventures so unique that his life made a front-page headline in The New York Times and inspired stories in The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times and other worldwide media. Davis was a pioneering thinker, author of 10 books, and founder of the World Service Authority, an organization that issues World Passports to stateless refugees and to people who think global, and above the nation-states that carve up our one globe. Program: Passages, Documentaries. Directed by Arthur Kanegis. USA/France/Germany. 2017. 83 min. English.

Director Arthur Kanegis will be attending.

Twin Cities Arts Reader