My Experience at Twin Cities Film Fest 2018

The Twin Cities Film Fest is a wonderful cinematic palooza that every Minnesotan should experience. The Fest has been held yearly for the past 9 years at the beautifully extravagant Showplace Icon Theater in the West End. Despite the Fest being a Minnesota tradition for the past 9 years, this year was my first time attending.

The date was September 10th, 2018 and the film festival season was in full swing with Telluride Film Festival ending on the 3rd and Toronto International Film Fest beginning on the 6th; I was envious of everyone at these festivals. My twitter feed was full of early reactions on some of my most anticipated movies of the year. This envy led me to scour the internet for a film festival in my local area, and after only a few minutes of looking, I found myself on the Twin Cities Film Fest website.

The festival’s mission statement is as follows,

“Our mission is to build, support and enhance our visual arts community through providing local film artists with education, training, networking, and distribution opportunities; provide art enthusiasts and advocates with access to regional and national film talent forging a rich social dialogue through film; and provide the state with a vehicle through which film production and exhibition can sustain the local film industry”

I saw everything in this mission statement is on display during the 10-day long festival. The festival screens many big studio films before their theatrical release, as well as indies that aren’t as recognizable. The festival also accepts many films from young, promising Minnesotan filmmakers and gives them the ability to display their talent on the big screen in front of a large group of people. Free educational programs allow filmmakers to hone in their skills; A college and career fair gives young filmmakers the chance to think about their educational and professional future. Most importantly it’s fun. Every worker, volunteer, intern, and patron will greet you with a smiling face; the fest is relatively small scale, it feels extremely personal. You begin to see familiar faces and hear familiar voices. Jatin Setia, the Founder and Executive Director of the fest introduced every film and personally thanked every attendee and member for supporting the fest. This little detail goes a long way in giving the festival personality.

During the cinematic shindig, I got to see a lot of movies I was patiently waiting to see.

Movies I saw Ranked

5. Boy Erased

Joel Edgerton’s second directorial effort is based on Garrad Conley’s memoir of the same name that explores the harrowing effects of conversion therapy. After Jared (Lucas Hedges) is unwillingly outed to his devout Baptist father and mother (Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman respectively) he is sent to a grueling gay conversion therapy run by the cold Victor Sykes (Joel Edgerton). Edgerton had a large say in the creative process, as he adapted the screenplay, produced, directed, and starred in the film. He does a great job acting and directing, but his heavy-handed writing combined with the overbearing music created emotional moments that mostly fell flat. Lucas Hedges has some strong moments, but for every good moment, there is an equally bad moment.

Boy Erased expands into more theaters Nov. 2


4. Green Book 

Green Book was the first movie I saw at the fest. It was opening night, Wednesday, September 17th. It was a Gala screening; there were red carpets, cameras, and tuxedos galore. I entered and found my seat in the sold-out theater

Green Book is a riotous road trip movie through the deep south. The film focuses on Tony Vallelonga or as his friends call him Tony Lip. Viggo Mortensen plays the big-hearted buffoon believably; His dialogue was so amusing and the crowd laughed so much that you couldn’t hear the dialogue after the punchline. The film begins when Tony agrees to be the personal driver of Don Shirley, an African American classical pianist who is touring through the segregated south. Shirley’s straight-laced attitude is brought to life by the always fantastic Mahersala Ali. As perusal with buddy road trip films, at first the two do not agree, but then the two begin to form a friendship that would end up lasting a lifetime. Their journey allows them to learn more about each other and about themselves in the process. This always amusing adventure hits a lot of common notes, but it’s an entertaining ride none the less.

Minnesotan native and producer on the film, Jim Burke was at the fest and had a Q&A after the screening. Burke provided a lot of interesting tidbits on the making of the movie and explained how important the film was to him. This was one of the best theater experience I’ve ever had

Green Book opens on November 21

⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2 /5

3. Widows

Steve McQueen’s follow up to his Best Picture winner 12 Years a Slave is a terrific ensemble led heist film. After a group of bank robber dies during a job, the newly widowed wives team up to settle a score. The cast is spectacular; Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Liam Neeson, Daniel Kaluuya, Colin Farrell, Robert Duvall, and Brian Tyree Henry are all sensational. McQueen wrote the film with Gone Girl write Gillian Flynn, and the two craft a razor-smart screenplay. The film barrages the audience with twists that land like haymakers. The film combines terrific, well executed blockbuster antics with serious social issues organically. Widows is one that cannot be missed.

Widows opens November 16th


2. The Favourite 

The crazy talented Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos has a great track record. His previous two films, The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer are smart, devious, and full of his signature deadpan dialogue. The Favourite ditches the deadpan dialogue, but this is another creative and highly entertaining movie for his filmography. The film has 3 lead women. Yes, three leads. The film takes place in an 18th century England run by Queen Anne (Oliva Coleman). A seemly simple woman who was no interest in her hierarchal responsibly, but Oliva Coleman’s Lady Sarah does. Sarah handles most of Anne’s responsibility herself and likes every minute of it; at least until Emma Stone’s Abigal enters the picture. What follows is a dark comedic period piece with masterful technical components. All the women give incredible performances. Each is funny, dark, and a perfect fit for their respective character. The entire film takes place in a grandiose royal estate that is beautifully lit by the natural light that wafts through the large windows. Every wall is covered with classical artwork and the gorgeous orchestral score perfectly accompanies each scene. The Favourite is an avant-garde period piece worth seeing.

The Favourite opens November 23

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2 /5

1. If Beale Street Could Talk 

James Baldwin is one of the most important writers in American history and Barry Jenkins is one of the best directors working in Hollywood today; Jenkin’s new adaptation of Baldwin’s 1974 novel If Beale Street Could Talk is one of 2018’s best movies. The film follows the relationship between Tish and Fonny, childhood friends turned lovers. After Fonny is falsely imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit, Tish and her family have to prove his innocence before she has their first child. If Beale Street Could Talk is a tender and passionate love story in a hateful world. KiKi Layne and Stephan James have unbelievable chemistry; the two are the most authentic couple put to screen in a long time. The film is mundane, powerful, and emotionally devastating. Jenkins crafts a beautiful and realistic as well as a technical marvel. The cinematography is a sight to behold, and Jenkin’s use of close up shots are enchanting to look at. The supporting cast is marvelous, especially  Regina King as Tish’s mother. Despite some clunky dialogue, If Beale Street Could Talk is a stunning film. It’s difficult for me to put into words how much I adored this movie. See it

If Beale Street Could Talk opens November 30th


Twin Cities Film Fest is a delightful Minnesotan tradition that everyone should experience. I would like to thank everyone that makes this wonderful fest possible. I cannot wait for the next one.