The 2018 edition of the Twin Cities Film Fest, which kicks off Wednesday and runs through Oct. 27, features what has become its customary lineup of major studio releases, indie discoveries, Minnesota-made productions, talks and appearances by folks from the world of cinema, politics, arts and more.
As executive director Jatin Setia put it, “If you are looking at being the person in Christmas parties who wants to say, ‘I’ve already seen those cool films,’ this is the festival to come to.”
It certainly promises a wide variety of experiences, including what Setia predicts will be more than a half-dozen of next year’s Academy Award contenders.
One of Wednesday’s opening night films will be the much buzzed-about “Green Book,” a dramatic comedy about a working-class Italian-American bouncer (played with wise guy gusto by Viggo Mortensen) who chauffeurs an African-American classical pianist (Oscar winner Mahershala Ali) across a tour of venues through the inhospitable 1960s American South. After the screening there will be an audience dialogue with Edina native Jim Burke, the film’s Oscar-nominated and Golden Globe-winning producer (“The Descendants,” “Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter”).
Also appearing at a Wednesday screening is Ilhan Omar, the Minnesota state legislator who, after breaking the Minneapolis record for a midterm primary turnout, is likely to become the first Somali-American in Congress. She is the subject of the documentary ”Time for Ilhan.” Director Norah Shapiro and cinematographer Chris Newberry also will be on hand.
Other post-screening discussions include “Napoleon Dynamite” star Jon Heder, who will attend Friday with his new film “When Jeff Tried to Save the World,” where he plays a bowling alley manager trying to keep his beloved business from being demolished. Actor Tom Arnold, a longtime pillar of the Twin Cities comedy scene, returns Monday to talk about his new family film, “Saving Flora.” Arnold appears alongside teen Disney Channel starlet Jenna Ortega in a drama about a girl rescuing a circus elephant that has outlived its usefulness. Producer Tiffany Fisher-Love will host the screening of her closing-night film, the roller-skate punk documentary “United Skates,” part of which was filmed in Minnesota.
Overall, Setia said, “about 90 percent” of the films will include a post-screening get-together with someone who has expertise in its subject. Celebrity chef and reality TV star Andrew Zimmern will be on hand Oct. 25 to talk about “Chef Flynn,” a documentary about a 10-year-old who transformed his living room into a supper club, achieved sudden fame on the internet and now runs pop-up restaurants across the country.
Even films without personal appearances are impressively appealing. Melissa McCarthy plays it straight with a career-changing dramatic role in “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” She stars as Lee Israel, a real-life New York author/journalist near bankruptcy who turned to selling letters that she forged in the styles of deceased celebrities. “Widows,” a contemporary crime thriller starring Viola Davis and Liam Neeson, is from Steve McQueen, director of 2013’s best picture Oscar winner “12 Years a Slave.”
Gay conversion therapy is the subject of the drama “Boy Erased,” starring Russell Crowe, Nicole Kidman and Joel Edgerton, who also directs. And if modern times are exhausting you, there’s 18th-century palace hijinks in “The Favourite” starring Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz.
This year’s program, screening at the Showplace Icon theaters and Sabes Jewish Community Center in St. Louis Park, features sidebar collections of horror films, documentaries, shorts and films about science and technology. It has expanded to the point where Setia said, “We’re not South by Southwest, yet,” but it’s reached the point where he owns up to having “so much content we couldn’t give every film a good time slot.”
For attendees exhausted by so many options, the festival is offering free admission to its lounge for a bit of between-screening relaxation. It will be open from 5 p.m. until midnight, with cash bar service beginning at 7. The room will also feature 30 arcade-style video game machines. After too much binge watching, some people need a change of pace to recover. Check out the full schedule and more info at twincitiesfilmfest.org.