Numerous sections that range from those that focus on
particular geographical regions, to one that highlights features crafted by
homegrown talent, another formed by stories about people who have left their
hometowns to find a better life elsewhere, and even one that honors Minnesota’s
Scandinavian heritage, are some of the blocks that build the extensive and
boldly curated program of the 35th Minneapolis St. Paul
International Film Festival (MSPIFF).
Discerning which films to watch from the couple hundred that
will play in the Midwestern city during the next two weeks is a colossal task
and one that is directed by taste and interests; however, there are plenty of
options for adventurous audiences looking to watch a unique cinematic vision
outside of their comfort zone.
The most audacious offers include a French animated featured
focused on a war-torn African country, Joel Potrykus follow-up to “Buzzard,” a
subversive LGBT drama about skaters in Mexico City, the story of a Somali man
in Minneapolis who finds friendship in a lonely dog, a dark Swedish comedy that
resembles the humor of celebrated Nordic masters, or a Brazilian coming-of-ager
centered on a girl obsessed with the recent murders of local women. Just from the premises is easy to predict that these will not be your typical experience at the movies, but that’s not to say they won’t be exponentially more entertaining and eye-opening.
Here is a list with 12 unconventional choices, including those mentioned above, playing at MSPIFF that we can’t wait to see.
Synopses courtesy of the festival.
Dir. Simon Rouby
12 year-old Adama, voiced by French-Malian child actor Azize Abdoulaye Diabaté, lives in an idyllic village sheltered by cliffs. When his brother Samba defies their elders and flees to join the ‘Nassara’ (colonialist French army), Adama follows in an attempt to bring Samba home. Experimental animation combining laser-scanned sculptures of clay and sand with painterly animated scenes bring magical realism to Adama’s journey north from West Africa to Europe’s Western Front in 1914. A heroic odyssey mixes elements of mysticism and allegory with action, adventure, and a little known historical African narrative
Screens April 20 at 2:30 PM and April 16 at 3:45
“The Alchemist Cookbook”
Dir. Joel Potrykus
Sean is a young hermit, living in near total isolation and obsessed with a mysterious alchemic and somewhat manic pursuit that challenges the laws of nature. Off the grid and turning his back on civilization, his days play out inside an old trailer in the swamps, conducting experiments. When a demonic entity appears in the shadows, Sean’s self-induced seclusion is shattered by a true force of evil. Joel Potrykus delivers another meditation on the idiosyncratic side of the male psyche that feels like a dark and demented modern-day folk tale.
Screens April 14 at 9:50 PM and April 21 at 10:00 PM
Dir. Robin Pront
Robin Pront’s feature-film debut opens with a powerful punch and continues with a slow burn downward spiral of brotherly betrayal and brutal retribution. After a robbery goes hopelessly wrong, Dave escapes the scene leaving his brother Kenny behind to take the rap. Flash forward four years and Dave has been able to turn his life around while time has stood still for Kenny, now out on parole, who was left simmering in jail. The palpable tension between Dave and Kenny builds to brutal and thrilling crescendo in the shadows of Belgium’s Ardennes forest.
Screens April 10 at 9:40 PM and April 22 at 9:45 PM
“A Decent Man”
Dir. Micha Lewinsky
This provocative drama chronicles a family vacation that turns into every parent’s nightmare. Thomas, an amiable man in his mid-forties, resolves that his family will take their annual skiing holiday in the Swiss Alps even though neither his wife or daughter are interested. But things soon become more complicated when his manipulative boss pressures him to include his difficult daughter, Sarah. A convincing portrait of an insecure man whose failure to be a beloved father, brilliant journalist and understanding husband is sending him over the edge.
Screens April 8 at 4:45 PM and April 19 at 9:40 PM
Dir. Maribeth Romslo and Cara Greene Epstein
Told with heart, humor, and a little bit of magic, “Dragonfly” is a film about homecoming and healing for a Midwestern family divided by divorce and illness. When Anna’s mom is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s, Anna returns home to help but not without some reluctance tied to her emotional family baggage. As she unpacks her past, Anna rediscovers a mysterious mailbox from her childhood and embarks on a search to solve its mystery. What she learns along the way may be the key to her own reconciliation.
Screens: April 10 at 7:10 PM and April 16 at 4:40 PM
Dir. André Turpin
What’s the connection between trauma, memory and the relativity of space and time? Endorphine sends you down a rabbit hole where time and existence are scrambled into a Lynchian fever dream. After 12-year-old Simone helplessly witnesses the murder of her mother, she is thrust into an endless loop that explores alternate realities and parallel lives, including what may or may not be adult versions of herself. Expertly crafted by André Turpin (cinematographer on Xavier Dolan’s Mommy and Tom at the Farm and Denis Villeneuve’s Incendies), “Endorphine” is a dark and visually arresting head trip.
Screens April 10 at 9:15 PM and April 18 at 9:30 PM
“The Garbage Helicopter”
Dir. Jonas Selberg Augustsén
An old Roma woman is seized by a sudden urge to reclaim her antique clock, sending her three grandchildren on an odyssey across the lonesome, big-sky highways of northern Sweden (captured in beautifully bleak black-and-white). The action takes place in the deadpan absurdist territory pioneered by Jarmusch, Kaurismäki, and Andersson. Here, crosswords are completed (including the mysterious entry, “garbage helicopter”), a speed-trap camera is demolished, a Holocaust museum is visited, the world’s second-biggest chair is solemnly viewed, and a gang of art thieves is encountered.
Screens April 21 at 9:40 PM and April 23 at 7:05 PM
“Kill Me Please”
Dir. Anita Rocha da Silveira
Anita Rocha da Silveira’s stunning debut drops us directly into the psyche of a middle-class teenage girl, piqued by raging hormones and fueled with fearless curiosity. A string of grisly neighborhood murders of women captures the imagination of a clique of girls, but especially Bia who feels more and more connected to the dead women than her high school friends. The incident ignites something in Bia, causing her to embrace fantasy and openly explore her sexuality. Built on a unique atmosphere devoid of adults, Kill Me Please is a dark yet pop-infused coming-of-age story.
Screens April 9 at 3:15 PM and April 14 at 9:45 PM
“I Promise Anarchy”
Dir. Julio Hernández Cordón
Miguel and Johnny are friends from opposite sides of the tracks, but that doesn’t inhibit their romance with one another that revolves around sex, drugs and skateboarding. To support their devil-may-care lifestyle, the boys sell their own blood—and occasionally the blood of their friends and whomever they can find—to an underground network run by the drug cartel. When one such arrangement goes wrong, Miguel and Johnny find themselves way over their head. Director Julio Hernandez Cordon’s stylishly blends a breezy romance of wayward youth with a gritty nior thriller on the streets of Mexico City.
Screens April 8 at 9:15 PM and April 11 at 9:50 PM
“Schneider vs. Bax”
Dir. Alex van Warmerdam
This black comedy makes a point of turning the hitman genre on its head with unconventional setups that spiral into absurdism. Schneider wakes to his adoring wife and two young daughters planning his birthday party only to have it interrupted by a call from his boss with a job that must be done right away: an easy hit on an isolated novelist named Bax that he can finish by noon. Needless to say, things do not go as planned. Schneider vs. Bax is as much about the contrast and comparison of these two men and their families, as it is the nascent yet ineffective real-world cage match.
Screens April 10 at 9:35 PM and April 14 at 9:40 PM
Dir. Musa Syeed
In the microcosm of Minneapolis’ large Somali community, Adan has run out of options. Looking to turn his life around, he finds solace, friendship and a job as a janitor at the mosque. Finding an even better job driving a taxi, Adan unexpectedly finds a new friend in a stray dog. But the mosque sees the dog as impure, and Adan finds himself on the streets again. Director Musa Syeed brings the streets of Riverside and the struggles of young Somalis to the big screen in this vivid and moving drama.
Screens April 15 at 7:20 PM and April 17 at 3: 50 PM
“Wednesday, May 9”
Dir. Vahid Jalilvand
Leila works in a chicken packing factory to support her family, but still has no money left over to save for a much-needed operation for her disabled husband. Setareh secretly married against her family’s wishes, and when her tyrannical cousin finds out, an altercation lands her young husband in jail, requiring 30 million tomans in “blood money” for his release. The two tragic stories of these women are connected to a potential benefactor who could help them in Vahid Jalilvand’s incredible debut feature of carefully drawn characters and bold statements of humanism.
Screens April 8 at 4:50 PM and April 19 at 4:30 PM