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MSPIFF43 Preview

April 11, 2024
Hunter Friesen
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When you think of the oldest film festivals in the world, you tend to gravitate toward the European monoliths such as Venice, Berlin, and Cannes. And even when you shift your gaze over to North America, we stay eastward with New York (NYFF) and Toronto (TIFF). But there’s a little festival tucked in the midwest that has been going on for almost as long as the giants: The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival. Abbreviated as MSPIFF (pronounced EM-spiff by the locals), the festival will be in its 43rd year this April, once again a hotspot for international cinema. Over 200 films from around the world will be screened at The Main cinema during the two-week-long event, with cinephiles such as myself cautioned to have their mail forwarded to the theater on account of the multitude of hours spent watching great films.

Many of the highlights within the lineup boast laurels from many of the other festivals listed above. Case in point, the opening night film of Sing Sing, starring recent Oscar-nominee Colman Domingo as an incarcerated man finding solace in the prison’s theatre group. It premiered in Toronto last fall as part of the Special Presentations category and quickly became one of the buzziest under-the-radar titles. A24 picked up distribution rights and introduced it to American audiences a few weeks ago at SXSW. Minnesota audiences will be able to catch the film a few months early before the summer general release. That’ll be just one of several titles that A24 will be bringing over. The pair of Janet Planet and Tuesday premiered at Telluride last fall, finally reemerging ahead of their spring/summer releases.

Also from SXSW is the Anne Hathaway-led The Idea of You by director Michael Showalter. And then there’s a smattering of TIFF titles such as The Convert, Days of Happiness, Shoshana, and In Our Day. Green Border and Evil Does Not Exist were both prize winners at last year’s Venice Film Festival. They’ll be screening here along with fellow Venice title The Beast. Both Evil Does Not Exist and The Beast were two of my favorite films I saw at TIFF, and I’ve been dying to revisit them in the six months since.

A new Cannes may be on the horizon (and you can join in my anticipation by checking out my predictions article), but there are still plenty of titles from last year’s edition to celebrate. Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s About Dry Grasses has been pleasantly lingering in my mind since I saw it on the Croisette almost nine months ago. I won’t be rewatching it because of its daunting 197-minute runtime, but I might revisit the much shorter (87 minutes) Banel & Adama. I’ll hopefully be able to see Kidnapped and Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell for the first time after missing them at both Cannes and TIFF, with the latter winning the Camera d’Or and receiving rave reviews.

But the fun doesn’t stop with just the films! The festival has graciously awarded Roger Deakins, the legendary cinematographer of several films from Minnesota’s Coen brothers as well as a two-time Oscar winner for Blade Runner 2049 and 1917, with the Milgrom Award. He and his wife/collaborator James will be in attendance for the final two days of the festivals give an in-person conversation, book signing, and introduce a screening of Fargo. Also screening on the final day will be The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, which netted Deakins an Oscar nomination.

I’ll be publishing full reviews for select titles, with others being condensed into dispatches. You can take a look at the full slate of festival titles at the MSP Film Society website.

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