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Film fest bigger than ever -- and more Minnesotan

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Ryan Oestreich works the phones in the MSPIFF offices. On the wall nearby is to the festival schedule.
MPR Photo/Euan Kerr

One of the signs of spring in Minnesota is the arrival of the annual Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival. The event launches Wednesday with more than 200 movies from all over the world. 

This year's MSPIFF also has a particularly large local representation. 

Sitting in the cool and relatively quiet headquarters of the MSPIFF, coordinator Ryan Oestreich ran down some impressive numbers.

"It's 200 featured programs," he said. "Which means that there's somewhere around 190 feature films, and then there's 10 shorts programs. So if you do a physical count of the number of actual film titles and directors, there's around 240 to 250 films."  

The festival is longer than in years past, running three weeks through May 5. Most films will screen twice and, in some cases, three times. Oestreich said there's a huge number of filmmakers coming in — including one on opening night featuring a local lad made good.

"We have particular interest with David Carr, who used to write for the Twin Cities Reader here," Oestreich said. Carr is in a new film called 'Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times."

Opening night also features "Score: A Hockey Musical," which features flying pucks and songs belted out loud enough to drown out an NHL crowd.

There are filmmakers coming from all over the world for the festival, including Morgan Spurlock, best known for his month-long all-McDonald's diet in "Supersize Me." He'll present his latest film, "The Greatest Movie Ever Sold," which he financed entirely through product placement.

MINNESOTA MAKES STRONG SHOWING

One area particularly beefed up this year in the Minnesota-Made category, featuring only films made by a Minnesotan or made in Minnesota.

Programmer Melody Gilbert went looking for local movies and found a ton. However, a lot of them weren't very long. 

Melody Gilbert
Filmmaker Melody Gilbert has made films on weddings at the Mall of America ("Married at the Mall"), ablebodied people who believe they should be amputees ("Whole"), and the trials of a family with a daughter who has no sense of pain ("A Life Without Pain.") Now she is programming the Minnesota Made section of the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival.
Image courtesy Frozen Feet Films

"There's just a booming shorts community here in Minnesota," Gilbert said.  

She found so many that she ended up creating five different programs: narrative shorts, documentaries and animation, music videos, and two selections of shorts by emerging filmmakers.

  And, for people interested in the mechanics of filmmaking, Gilbert has something new.

"For the first time this year we are doing a 'work in progress' screening of a feature film, so that people can come and give feedback to the filmmakers while they are in the process of making it," she said. 

The film, "All Over the Walls," is a documentary profile of a mixed media artist and body painter named Jacob as he tries to build an art gallery.

Gilbert also programmed no fewer than 12 locally made feature films, including "Broken Dreams," which is about Somali youth who have disappeared from Minneapolis in recent years. 

Jed Schlegelmilch
Director Jed Schlegelmilch poses by a poster for his film "Absence/Presence" in the lobby of the Edina Theater where he is manager.
MPR Photo/Euan Kerr

Then there's St. Louis Park resident Jed Schlegelmilch's film, "Absence /Presence." It's a traumatic portrait of his effort to talk to people who witnessed his older brother's apparent suicide 20 years ago. Schlegelmilch, who manages the Edina Cinema, said initially he just wanted to get some closure.

"And I thought, if I am going to do this, I want to document it in some way, so I might as well do it in the form that I love, and that's movies," Schlegelmilch said. 

 He hopes it will help other families who have faced traumas like his.

Another local film is "Triumph67." Producer and actor Mohannad Ghawanmeh said it began with a single image in the mind of director Dan Tanz "involving an Arab character riding a motor bike through the Driftless Area" along the Mississippi River.  

"Triumph67" grew into a family drama, set in Minneapolis and Lake Pepin but involving the tension between two Palestinian brothers. 

The festival will close with a sneak peak of "Stuck Between Stations." Shot entirely in the Twin Cities, it stars Sam Rosen and Zoe Lister-Jones as two people who meet up one night outside First Avenue. They discover they went to elementary school together and have a lot to learn about what's happened since. 

The film, which will premiere at the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival just days before, also features Twin Cities native Josh Hartnett.

MOVIE TRAILERS: 

"Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times"

"Score: A Hockey Musical"

"All Over the Walls"

"Absence/Presence"

"Triumph67"

2011 Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival Trailer