With all due humility, there’s a bunch of world-class good stuff in Minnesota. You know, not stuff we’re bragging about, but things respected by expert judges from afar.
The A.G. Thomson House Bed and Breakfast located on E. 3rd St. in the heart of Duluth had been ranked in the top 10 B&Bs worldwide in Trip Advisor’s 2016 Travelers’ Choice awards. Manny’s Steakhouse on 9th St. and Marquette in Minneapolis was included in the Men’s Journal “10 Best Steakhouses in the World” list in 2015, beside entries from New York City, London, Paris and Buenos Aires. The University of Minnesota landed in the top 50 of a list of the best educational academies on earth from the suitably titled Center for World University Rankings in 2015.
So being “best” on a global scale is something we’re used to. But “coolest”? That’s a weird, wonderful whammy.
Kudos, then to “Sound Unseen,” the Twin Cities’ films-on-music jamboree running this year Nov. 10-13. The program was just named “One of the 25 Coolest Film Festivals in the World.” In Moviemaker Magazine’s advisory “about having the best time at a festival imaginable,” it placed right alongside the fabled Telluride, Havana and San Francisco film galas.
“It is quite an honor to be included with these excellent festivals,” said Jim Brunzell III, the director and lead programmer. “There’s an audience for these kinds of movies, and with the Twin Cities being such a great music hub, it’s made all the sense in the world to stick with this festival through hard times until a moment like this.”
As Moviemaker’s glowing write-up put it: “[T]his gem of a fest features some of the best music documentaries and sound-centric films around…. Now in its 17th year, the event has transcended its early underground beginnings and established itself as a mainstay of the Twin Cities (where, after all, Prince lived). Prepare to rock hard over five days at four music-friendly venues. Our panelist adds: ‘Every event has live music. I saw the band Tickle Torture at one of the after-parties—they put on one amazing show.’”
What sets Sound Unseen in that impressive grouping is its ambitious umbrella approach. The staff creates an arts and culture party that mixes cinema and soundtracks, film fans and music people, concert footage, biography and fantasy. Tickets are typically $10 to $25 per screening, which often includes a live performance.
It’s a metro-wide spectacle screening at several venues, including the Bryant Lake Bowl Theater (810 W. Lake St., Minneapolis); Trylon Microcinema (3258 Minnehaha Av., Minneapolis); and McNally Smith College of Music (19 E. Exchange St., Saint Paul).
In addition to its annual fall cornucopia, the festival offers monthly screenings most of the year. It typically gives upcoming films their Minnesota or U.S. premiere, like hosting the regional debut of “Miss Sharon Jones!” The program presented the documentary on the R&B singer and her inspiring battle against cancer months before it arrived in an area theater.
That’s the sort of approach that chose the 2016 festival’s opening night film. The Minnesota premiere of "Contemporary Color," a documentary of synchronized dance routines led by the likes of Saint Vincent, Nelly Furtado, Ad-Rock, and Ira Glass, and executive produced by the legendary David Byrne, will screen Thursday, Nov. 10.
The special guest of the festival will be the writer/director of the mind-altering "Donnie Darko" and "Southland Tales," Richard Kelly. He will be on hand to introduce both films and discuss their pop rock soundtracks as they celebrate their 15th and 10th anniversaries.
The full film and music schedules will be announced in early October and available at soundunseen.com, where online ticketing is available. Never fear if you can’t wait that long; the site lists Sound Unseen’s ongoing roster of programming.
On Sunday, Sept. 11, there’s the regional debut of "Aladdin," an absurdist, ironic retelling of the classic tale that makes the young vagabond an out of work indie-rock singer living in a video-game-world ruled by a perverted, technology-obsessed Sultan. With the help of a magical genie, Aladdin explores a story about kink, drugs and spiritual redemption in the internet age. The film’s stars include Macaulay Culkin, Zoe Kravitz, Alia Shawkat, Natasha Lyonne and Har Mar Superstar, who will appear with director Adam Green for an audience Q&A following the screening. (7 p.m., Bryant Lake Bowl. Tickets: $15 in advance, $18 at the door.)