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Minnesota filmmakers screen their work to hometown audience

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'The Interpreters'
"The Interpreters" will be screened at the 2019 Minneapolis St Paul International Film Festival.
Courtesy of MSPIFF

What's striking about Minnesota-made films is how often they reach around the world.

Take the documentary "The Interpreters."

"The American forces, they call us interpreters, not translators," says one subject in the film. "A translator, he will just translate the words exactly. We are interpreters."

According to one of the film's producers, Mark Steele, "The Interpreters" grew out of a radio segment produced by StoryCorps, heard on Morning Edition.

"The core story in our film is about Phillip, an Iraqi translator, and the (sergeant) in his platoon, Paul, who is a Minnesota National Guard member," said Steele.

The film shows how interpreters working with U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan put themselves, and their families, in danger. Part of the deal was a promise of a visa to the United States. Steele said for many interpreters, that promise remains unfulfilled.

"A lot of men have been left behind, a lot of men have died," said Steele. "Their family members have died and people have had to use a lot of strategies to get out of their countries."

The film's directors, Sofian Khan and Andres Caballero, visited Minnesota twice to work on the film. 

Another war film, "Over There," gestated for even longer. Director Steven Luke admits selfish reasons for getting it finished.

"I wanted to get it out of my head," he said. "It's been in my head for almost 10 years now, so it was time for it to leave and get out."

Over There
"Over There" is a World War I drama set in the trenches in the hours before the leaders signed the Armistice in 1918. The film was shot near Big Lake in central Minnesota.
Courtesy of MSPIFF

"Over There" is a drama set in the trenches on the final day of World War I. The troops know the armistice is about to be signed, but their officers keep them pressing ahead.

"End of the war, you'd think everybody'd be ready to stop the fighting," says one officer in the film. "Nobody wants to give up their territory. The French press us to attack. The Germans defend."

"There's a lot of that happening," his colleague agrees.

When an all-white American unit is sent to rescue a group of African American soldiers caught behind enemy lines in France, racial tensions erupt. Luke said he shot the film near Big Lake in central Minnesota. It will get its first festival screening Friday evening at the Capri Theater in north Minneapolis, and then at St Anthony Main on Sunday. Luke said having the film premiere locally gives "Over There" a real boost. 

"It's such an awesome experience to be able to do that and have it be the first time that anyone's really been able to see it," he said.

A long way from war, a third Minnesota film is about passionate fans of the Minnesota United pro soccer team. One of the people featured in "Behind the Loon: Wonderwall" is Nicholas Bisbee of the True North Elite supporters club.

"I think we have something really special with the Wonderwall, I do," Bisbee says in the film. "Like all of the different supporting ideologies, characters, ideologies, you've got just this diverse group of people and it's only going to get more so. It all has a place. It all has a home. And it's kind of poetic isn't it?"

The team's nickname is the Loons and the Wonderwall is the section where hardcore fans gather, and sing the classic Oasis song as their anthem at the end of each game.

'Behind the Loon:Wonderwall'
"Behind the Loon: Wonderwall" is a film short about passionate supporters groups following Minnesota United, which will soon play its first home opener in its new St Paul Stadium.
Courtesy of MSPIFF

The film was produced by the team. United's Daniel Claxton is listed as the director, but he prefers being described as a coordinator plugging into a supporters network.

"We basically tried to stay out of the way," he said. "It's something that they live every single day. And basically (we just) had to turn on the camera and let them just talk about how passionate they are about soccer and their involvement in the community with these groups."

Claxton is especially pleased the film will screen just before the team's home opener in its new St. Paul stadium.

Correction (April 4, 2019): An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the directors of "The Interpreters" moved to Minnesota to make the film.