Twin Cities Film Festival Executive Director Jatin Setia talks fast. He has to. He's showing a lot of movies at the Showplace Icon in St Louis Park the next couple of weeks. And he has a request.
"Come see one movie," he said. "Because I know I can guarantee that you're going to come see more after that."
When the festival launches its eighth season Wednesday, it will bring a mixture of Hollywood and Minnesota pride to the screen. The 11-day festival features movies that could well be in the Oscar hunt, while also featuring local talent too.
One of the three opening night films is the much-anticipated "The Florida Project." It's the new movie from writer/director Sean Baker about a mother and daughter living on welfare in a low-rent hotel in Orlando. The girl, Moonee, is a free spirit. She and the other kids in adjoining rooms become an annoyance to the manager, played by Willem Dafoe.
What starts as an anarchic romp gets serious when Moonee's Mom runs out of money and makes some bad decisions. Baker attracted international attention for his last film, "Tangerine," a searing story about transgender sex workers shot entirely on an iPhone. "The Florida Project" is generating Oscar attention.
Another opening night film is "The Year of Spectacular Men," a movie Setia said has strong Minnesota connections.
"We have Lea Thompson, a Minnesota native," he said. "This is her directorial debut, and both her daughters star in it. One of her daughters actually wrote the script. So it's a family affair, and they will all be here for the opening night."
The film is about five spectacularly bad boyfriends a woman has in the year after she graduates college.
The festival will wrap up with another Minnesota star, Rachel Leigh Cook, attending a screening of a new "A Midsummer Night's Dream." She plays Hermia in Shakespeare's comedy set against the backdrop of modern-day Los Angeles.
It follows another film attracting Oscar attention: "Darkest Hour." It features Gary Oldman playing British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in his face-off with Hitler after Europe has fallen at the start of World war II.
There is also the first Minnesota screening of "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" — the new film from Martin McDonagh, known for his darkly comic stage work and for his debut film "In Bruges." It stars Frances McDormand as the take-no-prisoners mother of a murdered girl. She rents three billboards outside her town to ask why the local sheriff has not yet solved the crime.
As in the past, the Twin Cities Film Festival includes a social justice series. This year's theme is addiction. There are movies about the opioid crisis, pornography addiction and how teens can develop screen addiction.
There are also films on migration and refugees, including Ai Wei Wei's documentary "Human Flow" which features the multiple humanitarian crises all over the world, and "8 Borders, 8 Days," which follows a Syrian woman and her two children as they escape their war-torn country.
Another film of local interest is "A Gray State," made by the production team behind "Grizzly Man." It's the story of Minnesota filmmaker David Crowley, who was found shot to death with his wife and daughter in their Apple Valley home. The deaths were ruled a murder-suicide. But Crowley was making a dystopian drama about a coming U.S. civil war, and the case has been the subject of widespread speculation on the internet ever since. Setia said the film makes use of Crowley's own extensive video records.
"Does it answer all the questions? No," he said. "But it definitely goes to clarifying a few things."