Rosemount doesn't have any art cinemas in town devoted to independent films or restored classics. However, that hasn't stopped some locals from getting their favorite films shown on the big screen.
Kim Flynn, of Lakeville, made it her mission to bring the film "Amira and Sam" to the Twin Cities area after seeing the film at Forever Fest in Austin, Texas. She made an impromptu trip to that festival with friends, hoping to meet Paul Wesley ("Vampire Diaries"), who plays a supporting role in "Amira and Sam" and spoke afterward in a panel discussion.
"That was the reason for going," she said, "but I fell in love with the film."
To set up a local showing, Flynn partnered with the Rosemount Area Arts Council and did countless social media blasts. The film officially releases Jan. 30 in about 20 cities nationwide, but the Rosemount showing — on Jan. 29 at the Rosemount Cinema — is the only one in Minnesota.
Initially, Flynn thought she would try to show the film in Minneapolis' Uptown neighborhood but decided she wanted to make it easier for people in her community to attend, to "give a suburb a chance," she said.
"That's right up [Rosemount Area Arts Council's] alley, that kind of thinking," said Jim Kotz, an arts council volunteer working with Flynn on the effort.
The film is being shown via the distribution service Tugg, which arranges film events if a promoter can sell enough tickets to warrant a showing.
"Now with social media, you can do stuff like that," said the film's writer and director, Sean Mullin. "It's really flattering. It's very cool."
Not only has Flynn sold enough tickets to run the film, she sold out the original space, and the theater moved it to a larger auditorium to add more seats.
"Amira and Sam," Mullin's feature-length debut, is a romantic comedy about a military veteran (Martin Starr) who returns from a long tour overseas and finds it difficult to assimilate back into American society. He tries his hand at stand-up comedy and he encounters greed and shady practices on Wall Street where he gets a job with his cousin (Paul Wesley). He meets Amira (Dina Shihabi), an Iraqi refugee, and their budding relationship comes under pressure when she faces the threat of deportation.
Mullin, a U.S. Military Academy graduate, served in the Army on active duty in Germany and as first responder in New York City during the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He was the officer in charge of soldiers at ground zero by day and spent his nights doing comedy at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre.
The film is "definitely not a true story in any sense, but hopefully it kind of grabs hold of this zeitgeist [of] immigrants and veterans being marginalized and issues associated with that marginalization," he said. "The media tends to drive kind of two narratives that aren't really truthful. On the one hand, you've got this narrative that every veteran that comes home from war is a loose cannon … and you have this other narrative that every immigrant here is a detriment to society, and that's obviously not true either."
Mullin said the majority of soldiers he knows can "compartmentalize everything and move on."
"I thought it would be interesting to tell the story of a soldier who doesn't have PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), but the country has PTSD," he said.
The small-budget film earned has earned six best feature film awards at various festivals, but it's not without controversy. Comments sections and blogs reveal scattered criticism for the depiction of an Iraqi woman in a headscarf with bare arms and legs, who wears low-cut outfits, and drinks and acts in other ways atypical of a devout Muslim.
The script deals with that identity struggle, and Mullin said the costume choices were intentional.
"She is a woman who is caught between two worlds," he said. "She doesn't fit in the Muslim world and she doesn't fit in the Western world, and she's doing her best to grapple with where she is at."
Flynn said she liked the humor and romance in the film, as well as the cross-cultural love affair, and she thought many of the issues were timely. "I think that's really relevant right now with veterans trying to find work," she said.
A handful of tickets were bought by people outside Minnesota who wanted to help promote the film, Flynn said. She and Kotz hope to donate those seats to veterans.
Liz Rolfsmeier is a Twin Cities-based freelance writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.