Cube Critics discuss two MSPIFF documentaries, ‘No One Asked You’ and ‘The Fishing Hat Bandit’

Plus a web- and podcast-only extra roundtable of other MSPIFF films

Two side by sides of movies
'No One Asked You' (left) and 'The Fishing Hat Bandit' (right) are featured at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival.
MSP Film Society

Cube Critics Max Sparber and Alex V. Cipolle discuss documentaries featured at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival, “No One Asked You” and “The Fishing Hat Bandit.” Plus a web- and podcast-only extra roundtable of other MSPIFF films, featuring Alex V. Cipolle, Caitlyn Speier and Jacob Aloi.

The following are capsule reviews edited from the the audio heard using the player above.

‘No One Asked You’

No One Asked You” is a compelling documentary about Minneapolis-born comedian Lizz Winstead — and film captures a quintessentially Minnesotan moment as Winstead visits the State Fair and looks at seed art.

Known for co-founding “The Daily Show” and co-creating Air America Radio where she introduced Rachel Maddow, Winstead has increasingly focused on reproductive rights and abortion access. The narrative follows her touring show across the country, featuring cameos from the likes of Mark Hamill in support of clinic efforts.

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Set against the backdrop of the looming overturn of Roe v. Wade, the film intertwines humor with intrinsic drama, presenting tense confrontations at women’s health care clinics. Despite its comedic elements and lively direction — marked by a dynamic soundtrack and brisk editing — the film’s serious theme elicits both stress and tears, making it a profound, must-watch portrayal of a pivotal issue.

Additionally, an afterparty fundraiser will accompany the film’s screening at MSPIFF on April 20 and 21, featuring a 1970s theme.

— Max Sparber

‘The Fishing Hat Bandit’

The Fishing Hat Bandit,” directed by local filmmaker Mark R. Brown, is set to make its world premiere at MSPIFF. This riveting documentary explores the life of John Whitrock, one of the most notorious bank robbers in recent history, who carried out 23 bank robberies over 18 months in Minnesota.

The film picks up with Whitrock after his release from prison, delving into his motivations for his crimes and his subsequent efforts toward restorative justice. Uniquely, the documentary focuses as much on the victims as it does on Whitrock himself, featuring interviews with affected bank tellers and the bank director whose tip led to Whitrock’s arrest by the FBI.

Not only is the film well-paced, running at about 90 minutes, but it also serves as a profound meditation on restorative justice, especially poignant in scenes where Whitrock meets with his victims.

Adding a layer of engagement, Whitrock and Brown will attend the premiere, participating in a Q&A session. Audiences can catch this compelling narrative on April 19 and 20 at the Main, with an additional appearance by Whitrock in Rochester at the Pop’s Art Theater on April 21.

— Alex V. Cipolle

‘Broken Eyes’

Broken Eyes” is a compelling documentary by local director Dana Conroy, set to make its world premiere at the film festival. The film delves into the lesser-known risks of LASIK eye surgery through Conroy’s personal ordeal.

After undergoing LASIK, Conroy experienced chronic pain, migraines, dizziness and auras that persisted for years despite consultations with numerous specialists across the country.

Her subsequent research reveals that LASIK is not universally safe or effective, uncovering a community of patients similarly afflicted without recourse to effective treatments.

This documentary shines a light on a widely recognized procedure, exposing the hidden complications and the lack of remedies, offering a critical look at an issue familiar to many yet understood by few.

— Alex V. Cipolle


Profe,” directed by Sergio Mata’u Rapu and distributed by Twin Cities Public Television, is set for an exciting world premiere at the festival.

This documentary takes a deep dive into the challenges faced by two Spanish immersion schools in the Twin Cities — Academia Cesar Chavez and El Colegio — as they strive to renew their contracts with the University of St. Paul’s Education Department.

The film offers a nuanced exploration of what it means to be a teacher in a Spanish immersion setting, emphasizing their dedication to cultivating well-rounded students. It highlights the teachers’ efforts to integrate cultural connections, language development and social awareness alongside traditional educational standards.

Featuring insights from the directors and founders of the schools, "Profe" is highly recommended for those interested in the intersections of social movements and educational reform in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

— Caitlyn Speier

‘Bonjour Switzerland’

Bonjour Switzerland” is a must-see film that blends buddy cop dynamics with international spy comedy.

Set against a backdrop of linguistic and cultural tension, the film imagines a Switzerland where a referendum has established French as the sole official language, despite it not being the most widely spoken.

This scenario stirs significant discord among minority linguistic groups, particularly among Italian speakers in the southern part of the country. The story follows a police officer tasked with investigating a potential insurgent group in this region.

The film excels in humorously exploring the notion of national identity and linguistic politics, showcasing the Swiss ability to satirize their complexities. “Bonjour Switzerland” is highly recommended for its clever narrative and insightful comedy, making it a standout in its genre.

— Jacob Aloi

‘Art for Everybody’

Art for Everybody” is a revealing documentary that delves into the life of Thomas Kinkade, widely recognized as the “Painter of Light.” Known for his idyllic and almost saccharine paintings of cottages, gardens and creeks, Kinkade is often regarded as a kitsch artist and a Christian art icon, intertwining evangelical themes with his artwork.

However, the documentary presents a more complex portrait, exposing a darker aspect of his life that contrasts sharply with his public persona. It explores Kinkade’s struggles with depression and addiction, featuring profound interviews with his family members, particularly significant as Kinkade tragically died from an overdose a decade ago.

“Art for Everybody” offers a nuanced look at an artist who was both celebrated and criticized, making it a must-watch for those interested in the interplay between an artist’s demons and their public acclaim.

— Alex V. Cipolle

‘Claire Facing North’

Claire Facing North” is a poignant narrative feature directed by Lynn Lukkas, a professor at the University of Minnesota, and filmed largely in the stunning landscapes of Iceland.

This short film beautifully captures the bittersweet dynamics of an unlikely intergenerational friendship between Claire and Iris. Barbara Berlovitz delivers a delicate and emotionally resonant performance as Claire, who serves as the film’s emotional core.

The film not only explores the depth and complexity of their relationship but also showcases breathtaking shots of Iceland, making it a visual feast. “Claire Facing North” is highly recommended for its artful storytelling and mesmerizing Icelandic scenery, promising an enriching cinematic experience.

— Caitlyn Speier

‘Name Me Lawand’

Name Me Lawand” is a deeply moving film that tells the story of a young Kurdish boy who is deaf and becomes a refugee in England. His family relocates so he can attend the Royal School for the Deaf, where he learns British Sign Language.

This educational opportunity marks the first time he is given the ability to communicate, having been deprived of any language skills back in Iraq.

The film explores multiple poignant themes: the refugee experience in a foreign land, the transformative power of communication and the societal challenges faced by the deaf community.

Highlighting how deaf individuals are often treated as second-class citizens in many parts of the world, “Name Me Lawand” is a powerful narrative that illuminates the struggles and triumphs of gaining a voice. It is highly recommended for its profound insight into the importance of language and the human right to communicate.

— Jacob Aloi

This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.