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Twin Cities Film Festival opens with reputed Oscar bait, 'Green Book'

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2018 Toronto International Film Festival -
Mahershala Ali (left), Linda Cardellini, and Viggo Mortensen attend the "Green Book" press conference during 2018 Toronto International Film Festival. The 2018 Twin Cities Film Festival opens tonight with a screening of "Green Book," the story of a bouncer from the Bronx hired to drive a very cultured African-American pianist through the segregated South in 1962.
Jemal Countess | Getty Images

The 2018 Twin Cities Film Festival opens tonight with a screening of "Green Book," the story of a bouncer from the Bronx hired to drive a very cultured African-American pianist through the segregated South in 1962.

The film is drawing Oscar buzz, and it's attracting audiences to the festival. Jatin Setia, the festival's director, said "Green Book" is a huge get for the event, as it is going to be on many must-see and awards lists.

Jatin Setia, executive director of the TCFF
Jatin Setia, executive director of the Twin Cities Film Festival at the MPR studios on October 14, 2015.
Euan Kerr | MPR News

"This is probably one of our biggest openings we have ever had, with the caliber of film, and of course the caliber of the talent Jim is bringing to the table," he said. 

Jim is Edina native Jim Burke, who has become a powerhouse Hollywood producer. He's worked with director Alexander Payne on films such as "The Descendants" and "Election." He's also made Midwestern-themed movies such as "Cedar Rapids" and "Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter," based on the urban legend of the Japanese woman who froze to death searching for money she believed was really buried at the end of the Coen Brothers movie "Fargo."  

He made "Green Book" with his old friend Peter Farrelly, a director known for in-your-face comedies such as "Dumb and Dumber" and "There's Something About Mary." Burke said they had long wanted to do a more meaningful movie.

It was Farrelly who landed on the true story of classical pianist Donald Shirley, who hired a Copacabana bouncer nicknamed Tony Lip to drive and protect him on a tour through the deep South in 1962. The performances by Oscar winner Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen are attracting awards attention.

The movie doesn't open until Nov. 21. Burke, who will introduce the two screenings tonight, said that's why tonight's shows are so important.

Jim Burke
Jim Burke grew up in Minnesota and moved to Hollywood after graduating from the University of Minnesota. He says he realized a while ago that his strength lies in making movies that he himself would like.
MPR photo/Euan Kerr

"The principle thing that it does is create what we call in the business WOM — word of mouth," he said. "We allow people to see it early, and then own it. You can say, 'Oh I saw something, and you can't even see it until Thanksgiving. But let me tell you, when you do see it, you'll know what I know: that it's great.'"  

Burke also said as a Minnesotan that the TCFF offers a personal advantage.

"I love the opportunity to bring movies back to my hometown where I grew up and show them to the people I love, yeah," he said.

Burke is proud of the film. Steven Spielberg told him it's the best buddy movie he's ever seen.

TCFF Director Setia said that as the festival begins its ninth year, it's building on the momentum of its first eight.

"We have 127 films, and how this came about is due diligence, right?" he said. "As we are growing, we are deepening relationships not only with the bigger studios, but also with independent filmmakers. And now we are at that point [where] filmmakers recommend our festival to their peers."

Based at the Showplace Icon Theaters in St. Louis Park, the 10-day festival aims to sprinkle a little Hollywood glamor and socializing among the movie screenings. There are red carpets before many of the movies, and question-and-answer sessions with filmmakers after the majority of screenings.