2012 Twin Cities Film Fest: Recap

My brain is going completely bonkers right now. Last week was a blast. I had some of the most fun I’ve had in years and that’s all thanks to the 2012 Twin Cities Film Fest, hosted at the Showplace ICON Theatre in St. Louis Park. The festival included tons of unusual documentaries, plus Minnesota-shot shorts and soon-to-be Oscar nominated dramas like David O. Russell‘s Silver Linings Playbook and The Sessions, starring John Hawkes.

The highlight of the entire fest for me was catching several under-the-radar indie dramas that I mostly had no idea what they were about. Films like Bro’ and Dead Dad ended up being a lot better than expected. Even something like the Hangover-ish rip-off Stag ended up being a funnier experience than it rightfully should have been and that’s great, because nothing sucks more than watching indie filmmakers trying their hardest to spoof an already tired studio production.

One film that specifically blew me away was David Spaltro‘s Things I Don’t Understand. The hype was already high going in, thanks to Sean’s review and interview with the director, but yet somehow the film still managed to exceed my expectations. Molly Ryman really does give an Oscar-worthy performance and Spaltro’s direction packs a punch and rarely skips a beat. My full review will be coming shortly, so keep an eye out for it.

As a matter of fact I’ll have full reviews for everything I saw at the Fest, which includes The Sapphires, Stag, Nobody Walks, Dead Dad, Things I Don’t Understand and Take Care. I already covered Bro’ and my screening for A Place at the Table was cut short, so I’d like to rewatch that one before officially weighing in.

Expect the studio-financed reviews to run closer to their theatrical release dates, while the rest of the stuff should make its way onto the site by the end of this week. I’m still trying to collect my thoughts and recover from all of the film-watching that has happened over the last couple of weeks.

Attending so many films at this year’s Fest only makes me ready for more next year. I know for sure that I’ll have to plan things a bit better and possibly bring the Chromebook along for quicker updates and live-reactions. The mixers and after-parties looked tempting, but unfortunately for me I never had the time to stay for much longer after a film ended. That’s going to change next year, for sure.

I’m really looking forward to seeing what’s on tap for next year’s event. The 2012 Twin Cities Film Fest is definitely something all film-lovers will want to plan around, because it truly is that much fun.

To steer things back towards movie discussion I’d like to close out my post with my favorites and least-favorites of the Fest. I’d have to say my favorite is a tie between The Sapphires and Things I Don’t Understand, with both pulling me in for very different reasons. The Sapphires features several strong lead performances as well as some great music and an overall story about racism and the power of family that never feels too artificial or pushy.

Things I Don’t Understand is a much more personal journey that deals with some of life’s biggest questions and Spaltro and Ryman do a fine job answering some and leaving the rest open to interpretation. It’s rare that you’ll find an indie film like this that’s so strong, focused and ballsy when it comes to displaying a character that’s as far away as possible from the usual cookie-cutter formula that sticks with so many female actresses trying to establish a career on the indie scene.

Spaltro has a way with the camera that is free-flowing and mesmerizing. I’ve never felt so engaged with the simple motions and placement of a camera like I had while watching Things I Don’t Understand. It has the look and feel of something much more expensive and yet Spaltro and his crew accomplished so much with so little. It’s just more proof that real artists can make something just as good, if not better than the “top dogs” with a fraction of the budget and resources.

The only film that really pissed me off at the fest was Nobody Walks, which I found to be nothing more than a tease. The film’s overdone story did nothing unique with its stars and instead focuses on countless subplots and secondary characters that add up to nothing, while giving the leading roles no direction or eventual purpose, aside from them frequently having tantrums about their so-troubled lives and the need to cheat. It was a tough one to sit through and I’d suggest not seeing it if you had the option.

The 2012 Twin Cities Film Fest was a massive success in my book. I digested a handful of great films (while missing some really good ones I’ve been told) while also being able to meet and talk with the filmmakers first-hand. It’s a great experience being able to give direct feedback and learn how small productions managed to come about. I can’t wait to slot myself into next year’s Fest, because now I’ll have a better understanding of how it all works and I should be able to tackle a greater amount of content without completely losing my mind.

Did you attend the fest? See anything good? Will you be joining me next year?

Make sure to follow the fest on Twitter @TCFilmFest and Facebook.

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