It’s now officially week two at the Twin Cities Film Fest — and the best is yet to come.
Perhaps you’re feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of films that are screenings at the fest this year; maybe you need some help finding a title that truly piques your interest? Well don’t fret, I’m here to help you select some great under-the-radar films that deserve your time and attention.
Here are seven safe picks — seven films that are all making either their Minnesota of Midwest premieres at TCFF. Whether you’re in the mood for a suspenseful mystery, quirky comedy or compelling documentary, TCFF’s schedule has something for everyone. Plus, all these films still have seating available (as of the publish date of this blog,) so if you feel compelled to watch any of these films, buy your ticket now before it’s too late. Let’s break it down by genre:
1. Crime Mystery – Burn Country (screening 8:20pm Saturday)
Previously titled The Fixer, Burn Country has been called a “backwoods noir tale given a topical twist.” Director Ian Olds takes inspiration from his own 2009 documentary, Fixer: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi, which chronicles the life of a “fixer” hired in Afghanistan to gain and access information for foreign journalists, and imagines what life would be like for one of these fixers if they moved to the United States. Dominic Rains plays Osman, one such Afghani fixer who seeks asylum in the United States and embarks on a journalism career of his own in northern California. Dissatisfied with his underpaying gig writing the local police blotter, Osman decides to delve deeper into the mysteries of his adopted community where things are not quite as they seem. James Franco and Melissa Leo lend their talent in prominent supporting roles, but it’s Rains’ star performance that has caught critics’ attention. Rains won Best Actor at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival for his work in the film. (Dominic Rains will be in attendance at the screening to receive the TCFF’s North Star Award For Excellence)
2. Thriller – Trespass Against Us(screening 8pm Thursday)
Michael Fassbender is one of independent film’s biggest stars and he’s in top form in Trespass Against Us a British crime drama with a biting sense of humor. Called ““amusingly daffy and scatterbrained” and “the rare film that’s tense and charming in equal measure,” Trespass Against Us stars Fassbender as a thief trying to separate himself from his criminal father, played by Brenden Gleesen. Compared as a cross between Animal Kingdom and Little Miss Sunshinewith a dash of Snatch,this film promises to please fans of quirky British films.
3. Comedy – Search Engines (screening 5:35pm Thursday)
Film festivals have a reputation of being solely focused on SERIOUS FILMS, places where future award contenders get their start in the world. But let’s not neglect comedy’s place at the table. TCFF, in addition to presenting film about social change, offers plenty of opportunities to laugh. One of the hottest films at this year’s TCFF is Search Engines, a comedy that satirizes our culture’s obsession with our smartphones. When a group of friends gather for the day for Thanksgiving Dinner, and their phone reception in the house disappears, they must look away from their devices and face their lives without the crutch of a screen. Oh, the horror! Although losing smartphone access is a nightmare scenario for many of us, Search Engines plays it for laughs, but not without some deeper delves into how technology shapes our modern relationships.
4. Drama – June Falling Down (screening 7:25pm Friday)
An independent film in the truest sense of the word, June Falling Downstars its director, writer and editor (and Wisconsin native) Rebecca Weaver as a young woman returning to her small Midwestern town after a year in Europe wasn’t as life-changing as she hoped it would be. In town for a wedding, June feels disillusioned by her lack of connection with friends and family and is haunted by the memory of her recently deceased father. An amazing, soft-spoken drama made with a two-person crew, Weaver crafts a strong creative vision of a woman questioning the state of her life.
5. Documentary – The Trans List(Screening 12:30pm Saturday)
TCFF is proud to screen the HBO documentary The Trans List, an illuminating look at the lives of eleven members of the transgender community. Portrait photographer and documentary filmmaker Timothy Greenfield-Sanders continues his “list” series of films (The Black List, The Latino List, The Out List, The Boomer List, The Women’s List and About Face) with The Trans List, filming interviews that give his subjects the opportunity to intimately tell their stories in their own words. These interviews were conducted by transgender journalist Janet Mock, and interviewees open up about their lives both pre and post-transition. Caitlyn Jenner and actress Laverne Cox are some of the more notable names interviewed by Mock, but The Trans List takes care to feature diverse voices and experiences, surveying a wide scope of the trans community in both their struggles and their triumph self-acceptance. Laverne Cox will be appearing person on the TCFF red carpet after The Trans List.
6. Dark Comedy – Funeral Day (screening 10:30am Saturday)
Comedy comes in many shades and flavors, and Funeral Day serves up its laughs black and unfiltered. Funeral Dayfollows Scott, a man with hypochondriac tendencies who skips the funeral of his friend after finding a lump on his testicle. This discovery jump-starts Scott’s determined day-long journey to stop hiding behind his neurosis and begin living life to the fullest. Forced to face his own mortality, Scott radically changes his life: he quits his job and seeks love and redemption. Life is short and sometimes you find yourself in some ridiculous situations, and Funeral Day shows the extreme, and hilarious, lengths one man will go to chance his life. Director and star Jon Weinberg will appear in person, as will co-star Dominic Rains — who also stars in the TCFF films The Loner and Burn Country.
7. TCFF Changemaker Series – 11:55(screening 5pm Thursday)
This year’s TCFF Changemaker Series focuses on supporting Minnesota’s military veterans, assisting them with the emotional, mental and physical challenges that service members face when returning home from combat. 11:55 is a pillar of this year’s social cause. This fictional film follows the homecoming of a US Marine Nelson Sanchez, who must face the life he once escaped by joining the military. Sanchez, played brilliantly by Victor Almanzar, learns that an old neighborhood enemy, whose brother he accidentally killed years ago, is coming back to town the same day as Sanchez’s homecoming from military service in Afghanistan. Despite his family’s objections, Sanchez, who is told by his old friends that he will never be able to escape trouble, decides to stay in town to stand his ground against his old foe. Almanzar is joined by co-stars John Leguizamo and Julia Stiles; the Hollywood Reporter praises 11:55, saying the film offers “a satisfying recipe of novelty, action, and compassion in dealing with this mortal grudge.”