PARK CITY, UTAH -- This year’s Sundance Film Festival has a rich roster of films from all around the world but not that many this season from Minnesota.
Last year it scored twice. The fest showed the Twin Cities-lensed comedy about four black students at predominantly white college “Dear White People,” from Justin Simien, named one of Variety’s 10 Directors to Watch, and “Kimiko the Treasure Hunter,” starring Oscar nominee Rinko Kikuchi as a Japanese salary woman searching the snowswept Minnesota tundra for a briefcase full of ransom money mythologized in the Coen brothers’ “Fargo.” It’s due for theatrical release in mid-March.
For 2015, the most Minnesota-centric films are dramatically different.
“The End of the Tour” by upcoming director James Ponsoldt (“Smashed,” “The Spectacular Now”) casts Jason Segel, a veteran of several bromances, in a story about a pair of writers whose brief relationship builds unexpected emotional repercussions. Segel plays the late David Foster Wallace, a celebrated novelist crossing the country to promote his epic 1996 bestseller “Infinite Jest.” Jesse Eisenberg plays David Lipsky, a Rolling Stone journalist who flies from New York to accompany him for five days en route to appearances in Minneapolis. Each questions the other pointedly, building a relationship of admiration and mistrust while producing the kind of enigmatic conversations only a writer of genius can offer.
The film ends their journey in Minneapolis, where Joan Cusack plays a golly-gee chauffeur for visiting celebrities and Mamie Gummer is a City Pages staffer who became a huge fan and good friend of Wallace. The 20-minute sequence includes a visit to Bloomington’s Mall of America, where the writers marvel at the vast roller coasters and milelong walking paths, and a slice of literary history with a recreation of St. Paul’s legendary Hungry Mind bookstore, which hosted important national writers for decades before closing in 2004.
“City of Gold” is premiering in the U.S. Documentary Competition. It’s a sort of love letter to Los Angeles, with its sprawl, diversity and complexity. The film’s central figure is Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles Times food critic Jonathan Gold, whose writing goes beyond flavor descriptions to essays explaining how diverse cultures explore their city and communicate through food.
The Minnesota angle? It’s directed and produced by current Los Angelino/Twin Cities native Laura Gabbert, whose earlier docs include 2009’s “No Impact Man,” which followed a New York environmentalist trying to live an eco-correct life.