Downtown's Cannes

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October 11, 2004 // UPDATED 4:19 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Bao Ong
Bao Ong

Central Standard Film Festival -- indie flare, sans pretentious

The 2004 Central Standard Film Festival isn't exactly Cannes or Sundance. Don't expect A-list celebrities decked out in Armani suits and Vera Wang dresses to walk down a red carpet surrounded by a horde of photographers.

That's a good thing.

This film festival is truly for the public -- sure, there'll be a few all-black-clad artsy types, but you can also expect plenty of representation from the t-shirts-and-jeans or just-from-work suit-wearing sets.

Organizers expect people to come from throughout the Midwest for this festival, their third annual.

Between Thursday, Oct. 14 and Sunday, Oct. 17, the festival will showcase 37 short and 23 feature films not made in Hollywood or New York City. The directors of the films hail from 14 different states.

Most will be shown at St. Anthony Main Cinema, 115 SE Main St., plus a few at The Heights Theatre in Columbia Heights.

The festival is put on by the Downtown-based nonprofit IFP (Independent Feature Project) Minneapolis, 401 3rd St.

Festival Director Todd Hansen said about 5,000 people attended the festival last year and that this year's goal is to hit the 8,000 mark. Hansen said IFP wants to attract Downtown residents and "people from all backgrounds" to view the regional films. He believes there is an emerging audience for these independent films with unique, regional flare.

"People in the Twin Cities are so creative and full of unfiltered ideas," said Hansen, who grew up in Minneapolis and was an associate programming director of the Los Angeles Independent Film Festival for six years. "The audience [in the Twin Cities] is very sophisticated but also open-minded."

Cream of the regional crop

The featured films are far from the low-budget, amateur-made films only shown at your typical family reunion. IFP screened about 300 short and 150 feature films before the picking their final selections, meaning they rejected approximately 85 percent of submissions.

"Detective Fiction," a film written by, directed by and starring Minneapolis resident Patrick Coyle, premiered at Sundance in 2003 and was also shown at last year's Central Standard Film Festival. The film, about a man who starts writing detective stories as an escape from his court-ordered sobriety, was shot entirely in Minneapolis.

In addition to a few romances, dramas, and plenty of humorous and mind-bending shorts (Douglas Pensak's 13-minute film "Reflex" imagines what would happen if reality only existed when a film crew was there to make it exist, for example), the majority of the selected films seem to be documentaries.

But these aren't your 4th-grade educational reel-to-reels or History Channel fare. These next-wave documentaries tell stories from areas that don't often appear on the silver screen -- tales from trailer courts, small towns, Wisconsin and the Mexico-United States border among other places. And while some are set in well-known cities, they feature people not often included in these urban area's on-screen portrayals -- an autistic street-music genius in Seattle, a graffiti artist from Portland, a Russian street/puppet-theater artist in Cambridge, Mass.

Many have an edgy humor to them, and walk the line between truth and fiction (local filmmaker's Jeff Hopkins' seven-minute "Draw the Pirate" reveals the dark side of one-too-many attempts to submit a drawing of a pirate to an art school academy advertised on a matchbook). Some are controversial, such as "Dear Pillow," a film from Austin, Texas about a 17-year-old who wants to write for a porn magazine but has yet to have had sex.

And many are outright political, such as the highly anticipated documentary about deceased Minnesota U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone's life (note: you have to buy an All Access pass to get into this one, see sidebar for more information and a selection of listings).

Consciousness tapping

Although the festival is still in its infancy, Hansen has his sights on bringing together local artists to form a stronger cinema community. He wants to send the message that it's possible to make quality films without having to live in cities like Los Angeles or New York.

Matt Ehling, a St. Paul resident and director of the documentary "Security and the Constitution," agrees.

Ehling, 33, believes there are real advantages for filmmakers who call the Twin Cities home. For example, he can make a living by working on corporate and industrial projects, and still have time to pursue his own endeavors through his own company, ETS Productions, which produces documentaries on a wide variety of social issues.

"I enjoy having a home base here. It works out perfectly, " said Ehling, whose film festival documentary addresses issues such as the Patriot Act debated since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. "I'm able to make money and put it into independent films that I feel touch on important topics."

Although local filmmaker Teresa Konechne noted that modern technology makes it easy for filmmakers to live wherever they want to, the Uptown resident agrees that Minneapolis is a good place for artists to live.

"There's just a real social consciousness," she said.

That consciousness is what draws an audience to films like Konechne's. Her documentary, "This Black Soil: A Story of Resistance and Rebirth," to be shown at this year's festival, started more than five years ago when she taught video arts at Virginia Commonwealth University. The film tells the story of a rural Virginia community that organized to prevent a state prison from being built in their town.

A Downtown event

Konechne and other filmmakers hope to expose their work to people who may not think of themselves as independent film fans, per se.

Festival Co-director William Kruse is working with The Downtown Council to spread the word among local businesses. He is also in the process of coordinating independent film nights at a few local bars and restaurants, and plans to work with condo and housing developments near the river to keep residents informed of their weekend entertainment options.

"We want to have more of a Downtown presence," Kruse said. "The [film festival] is more centralized this year."

While this may seem to be an odd aim for a film festival, most reach for a national or event international draw, Kruse and Hansen promoting the festival as a local event is all part of their dedication to supporting and encouraging regional American visions.

Film fest parties, lectures and exhibits

In addition to all the refreshingly non-Hollywood shows playing at St. Anthony Main, local businesses will also host Central Standard Film Festival events this week.

Opening party

Enjoy the gypsy jazz of Reynold Philipsek and Robert Bell and psychedelic acoustic folk of Nikki Matteson and Rich Rue, not to mention free hors d'oeuvres.

Thursday, Oct. 14, 9 p.m., Depot Hotel, 225 3rd Ave. S., Free (with a cash bar).

Closing night party

After the screening of "Last Goodbye," come celebrate the festival's completion.

Sunday, Oct. 17, 9 p.m., Pracna on Main, 117 SE Main St., Free.

Found Footage Festival

Cine-Magic & Milkhouse productions host this one-of-a-kind film event that features footage from videos found at garage sales, estate sales, in warehouses and dumpsters throughout the country.

Friday, Oct. 15, 7:30 p.m. , Filmmakers Lounge, (adjacent to Pracna on Main, 117 SE Main St.) Free.

'Seminars Friday'

Attention aspiring filmmakers, film-musicians and insider-film fans in general. The Central Standard Film Festival will host a number of informational seminars with visiting and local filmmakers and composers who will discuss everything from distribution and licensing basics to the art of film-scoring and making a documentary in a post 9/11 world.

Friday, Oct. 15, approx. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; each seminar is one to two hours. The Depot Hotel, 225 3rd Ave. S. $8 per seminar; free with a full access festival pass

Photo exhibits

See stills, frozen moments in film, from several of the films presented at the Festival in the lobby of St. Anthony Main Cinemas, 115 SE Main St., throughout the festival.

There will also be a collection of fine arts photographs by members of festival organizers, Independent Feature Project-Minneapolis/St. Paul. This digital program may be viewed at the Aster Cafe that is near St. Anthony Main Cinemas, 115 SE Main St.

For complete schedule, go to ifpmsp.org/CS_news_04.htm.

Source: Central Standard Film Festival

What's playing

Most festival films will run at the St. Anthony Main theaters, 115 SE Main St. Several films will also be shown at The Heights Theater in Columbia Heights (3951 Central Ave. NE), including the locally produced political documentaries "Wellstone" and "Security and the Constitution."

Single tickets are available at the theater for $8 (cash, Visa or MasterCard). Four-packs and full-access passes are available for $25 and $35, respectively, at the Dunn Bros at 201 3rd Ave. S. (Entry to "Wellstone" requires a full-access pass and reservations.)

For a complete schedule and more detailed listings, go to ifpmsp.org and then click on the film festival icon at the bottom of the page.

Here are just a few of the film festival's offerings. The filmmakers will be present at the shows.

'416'

Omaha documentary filmmaker Jim Fields talks firsthand with Nebraskans on both sides of the issue surrounding Ballot Initiative 416 -- which successfully passed four years ago and made Nebraska the first state to forbid gay couples the rights given to straight couples.

(Preceded by the short film "Flowers from the Heartland.")

Saturday, Oct. 16, 10:30 a.m. and 9:45 p.m. (81 min.)

'American Beer'

Brooklyn filmmaker Paul Kermizian and four friends hit the road to visit a button-busting 38 breweries in 40 days.

Saturday, Oct. 16, 1:45 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 17, 10 a.m. (100 min.)

'Big City Dick -- Richard Peterson's First Movie'

This Seattle film features Richard Peterson, an autistic savant street musician who has four albums to his name and has inspired Northwest grunge bands.

(Won the 2004 Sundance Audience Award.)

Saturday, Oct. 16, 2:15 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 17, 10:30 a.m. (120 min.)

'Dear Pillow'

Virgin Wes Slack is surrounded by his sex-obsessed father and friends. After observing stark differences between sexual fantasy and intimacy, Wes hatches a plan to write for "Dear Pillow," a publication filled with fantasies from women.

Friday, Oct. 15, 9:30 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 16, 10:15 p.m. (85 min.)

'Dirty Work'

This film follows three men who felt a profound calling to unpleasant business: a septic tank pumper, a bull semen collector and an embalmer.

Saturday, Oct. 16, 4:45 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 17, 12:15 p.m. (60 min.)

'The Naked Proof'

Screwball comedy meets Cartesian philosophy in this quirky look at a frustrated 34-year-old student trying to write a dissertation on the meaning of life.

Friday, Oct. 15, 7:15 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 16, 3:45 p.m. (96 min.)

'Up for Grabs'

A look at the nature of selling valuable sports memorabilia, focusing on the controversy over Barry Bond's record-setting home run, wherein two men claimed to own the same ball and duked it out in court.

Saturday, Oct. 16, 7:45 p.m.; Sunday, Oct. 17, 1:45 p.m. (108 min.)

Shorts programs

A collection of nine critically acclaimed short films from both local and national filmmakers.

Saturday, Oct. 16, 10 a.m.; Saturday, Oct. 16, noon,; Saturday, Oct. 16, 6 p.m. (90 min.)