The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival expands to three weeks this year (April 14-May 5), with 170 films from more than 50 countries, all screening at St. Anthony Main. That's a lot of movies. Here's a guide to tackling the festival.

  • Read a lot of reviews. That may seem like a no-brainer, but in this age of social networking, it seems most people ignore the critics. At a festival, the seasoned movie writers are best equipped to guide you to films worth your attention. Read as many as possible, gather a consensus and you may just become a film nerd in no time.
  • Check the website. Things change a lot during MSPIFF. Movie times are switched, directors may show up for a Q&A, parties happen, etc. Be prepared by checking www.mspfilmfest.org for updates daily.
  • Talk to folks at the theater. While you're waiting in line, or in your seat before the film starts, strike up a conversation. Even in Minnesota, most people want to talk about what they've seen and enjoyed or hated. Give it a try.
  • Make a plan. Don't just show up at St. Anthony Main on a whim and hope to get into something. Pull up this guide and/or grab the official festival booklet, and begin highlighting films you'd like to see. Also, we highly recommend buying tickets in advance. Many shows sell out and you'll avoid waiting in multiple lines.
  • Take chances. Don't be afraid to see some obscure film you might not normally see. Film festivals are all about experiencing something new from cinema. How rare is it these days to see a film you know almost nothing about?
  • Stay up late. For those who aren't into foreign or independent dramas, we recommend MSPIFF's Late Night series. You're sure to have a blast with the gore- and laugh-filled selection of films, such as the cannibals-in-Mexico tale "We Are What We Are" (Fri. & Mon.) and "13 Assassins" (April 21 & 22), a samurai film from crazy Japanese provocateur Takashi Miike.
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Special events during MSPIFF '11

FRI-SUN 4/15-17: THE FESTIVAL CENTRAL PAVILION

A brand new hangout spot across from St. Anthony Main, where you can mingle with visiting filmmakers and fellow film lovers.

  • Noon Thu. to 6 p.m. Sun.; a cash bar at 5 p.m. daily and parties at 9

OPENING NIGHT

The titles of Thursday's kickoff films tell you pretty much everything you need to know: "Trollhunter" (a Norwegian horror/comedy ), "Score: A Hockey Musical" and "Page One: A Year Inside the New York Times," with Times media columnist David Carr in attendance. After the films, head to the Pavilion for the Opening Night Gala ($25) with jazz singer Charmin Michelle.

Opening Weekend

Saturday, local bands Bethany Larson & the Bee's Knees, the Red Pens and Total Babe play from 2 to 5 p.m., followed by drink specials at 5 p.m., food at 9 p.m. and a "surprise guest" musical artist.

  • $10 cover after 9 p.m. Festival Central Pavilion

MINNESOTA SHORTS

Check out three "MN Shorts" programs: narrative shorts at 7 p.m. Tue., "emerging filmmakers" at 7 p.m. Wed., and a music-video program (with Dessa, Cloud Cult, Jeremy Messersmith, Tapes 'n Tapes, etc.) at 7 p.m. April 21.

MID-FEST PARTY: MINNESOTA MADE

Celebrate Minnesota films such as "Broken Dreams," "Absence/Presence" and "All Over the Walls," to name a few.

MID-FEST PARTY: BIENVENU!

A party for this year's French MSPIFF films, including "The Sleeping Beauty," "The Hedgehog" and "Queen to Play," featuring a first-ever French speaking role from Kevin Kline.

MID-FEST PARTY: HOW TO DRESS WELL

DJ set by Brooklyn's How to Dress Well, free with ticket stub from "Free Radicals: A History of Experimental Film" (April 28) or the Experimental Film Program (April 29).

Closing-Night Party

This fest-ending celebration of the local music and film scenes follows the premiere of the Minneapolis-filmed "Stuck Between Stations," starring Sam Rosen with Josh Hartnett and touted as in the vein of "Before Sunrise."

  • 9 p.m. May 5. $15. Venue/details to be announced

MINNEAPOLIS-ST. PAUL INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL

  • What: More than 170 films from more than 50 countries
  • When: Thu.-May 5
  • Where: St. Anthony Main Theatre
  • Tickets: Single tickets $9-$11 unless noted; ages 12 and under $6; six films for $45-$55; festival pass $225-$300
  • Web: Complete festival coverage, trailers and more reviews at www.vita.mn/mspiff
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