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MSPIFF announces 40+ films in virtual festival; 30 years of Walker Dialogues available

A scene from “Barefoot Emperor.”
Be For Films
A scene from “Barefoot Emperor.”

We won’t be hanging out together in the lobby of the St. Anthony Main Theater. If we want popcorn, we’ll have to make our own. The parties will be virtual, and the Q&As. But there will be a Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival this year. Think of it as a smaller-than-usual version, created under duress by a staff absolutely determined to make it happen.

While the 39th annual MSPIFF – now dubbed MSPIFF39 Redefined: A Virtual Film Festival – won’t offer hundreds of films, it will have at least 40, all from the original MSPIFF 2020 line-up. And all in the film festival spirit we’ve come to expect: drawn from countries around the world, representing different points of view, made by veteran and emerging men and women filmmakers.

Another thing that’s different this year is there won’t be an official opening night film. In fact, most of the films will become available on opening day, Friday, May 15, and remain available throughout the festival, which will close on Saturday, May 23. Only a few films will be shown on a particular day at a particular time.

One is the official closing night film, a sneak preview of “Women in Blue,” Deirdre Fishel’s documentary about three female police officers in Minneapolis and the forced resignation of Chief Janée Harteau after the killing of Justine Damond.

In between: “The Barefoot Emperor,” sequel to “King of the Belgians,” MSPIFF’s closing night film in 2017. And “H is for Happiness,” a quirky coming-of-age Australian film with what’s been called “a Wes Anderson-esque flavor.” Films from Finland, Iceland, Bulgaria, Japan, France, Rwanda, Mongolia and Peru. And films made here in Minnesota, or about Minnesota, including “The Bridge,” about the collapse of the I-35W Mississippi River bridge in 2007.

If there were an official opening night film, it might be “The Spy,” a Norwegian film directed by Jens Jonsson, set in the 1930s and based on the true story about a famous actress who becomes a double agent with the Nazis closing in.

A scene from “H Is for Happiness.”
Level K
A scene from “H Is for Happiness.”
The lineup will go live at the MSP Film website on May 11, along with a FAQ on how to view the films at home.

To briefly reprise: The original lineup for 2020 was announced at a press event on Wednesday, March 11. On Friday, March 13, four weeks before the scheduled opening date of April 9, the festival was postponed. On Monday, March 17, the MSPIFF staff began working on the virtual festival. The theme from the start has been “Adjust Your View,” which could not have been more prophetic.

Catching up with Sheila Smith

Minnesota Citizens for the Arts’ Sheila Smith is concerned about reports being issued by Americans for the Arts, which has been surveying arts and cultural organizations, artists and creative workers since March, and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in Washington, D.C.

“The level of unemployment in the arts sector is mind-boggling,” she said Monday morning. “Couple that with the impact of shutdowns on various industries, and it’s hard to get your mind around how bad it is. The statistics are shocking.”

According to Americans for the Arts, two-thirds of the nation’s artists are now unemployed and 95 percent of artists and creative workers report income loss. In addition, 95 percent of arts and culture events have been canceled, 208 million admissions have been lost and 10 percent of organizations are “not confident” they will survive the pandemic, a potential loss of 12,000 organizations.

Sheila Smith
Photo by Adam Kissick
Sheila Smith
Using data from Goldman Sachs, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities include “sports and entertainment” – “entertainment” meaning the arts – among the top four service industries hardest hit by the COVID-19 outbreak. Along with casino gambling, package tours, and school dorms and lunches, the projected change in spending for each is down 90 percent, compared to pre-COVID-19 estimates.

Last Thursday, Gov. Tim Walz extended Minnesota’s stay-at-home order  to May 18. Meanwhile, Smith said, “All over the world, there are conversations about reopening protocols. How do you keep the public safe and also start to offer services and events? These are the early days. Other places in the world are going to open before we are, and we will learn from them.

“A lot of people are thinking about this topic right now. All the service organizations. Theatre Communications Group, the orchestra association, the museums association. Each of the art forms will have different protocols, because what they do is so different from each other.

“Maybe museums can open earlier because they can set a one-way track through the museum and keep people social distanced. Theater, opera, and other events that draw large groups of people into a facility will have different protocols for opening. It’s too soon to reopen now, but everybody wants to be prepared for when the time comes. … There’s a lot of innovative thinking about what it’s going to take to reopen and how to keep people safe. I’m really curious to see where the conversation goes.”

Smith continues to urge individual artists to consult the resources at Springboard for the Arts. On April 23, Springboard announced that it will continue to run its Coronavirus Artists Emergency Relief Fund through July 1, with the goal of raising and distributing $1 million to 2,000 creative workers in Minnesota.

The picks

Film Society
Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller in National Theatre Live’s “Frankenstein.”
Today (Tuesday, May 5) through Thursday morning on YouTube: National Theatre at Home: Danny Boyle’s “Frankenstein” starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller. One of the most popular National Theatre Live broadcasts ever. Cumberbatch and Miller alternate as Victor Frankenstein and the creature. This week’s broadcasts feature Cumberbatch as the doctor. On Thursday evening (May 7), Shakespeare’s “Antony and Cleopatra” will take over, with Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo in the title roles. Free.

You probably know about Give to the Max Day, which happens in November. But have you heard of Give at Home MN? Give MN teamed up with the Minnesota governor’s office for a week-long fundraiser that started last Friday (May 1) and continues through this Friday (May 8). The goal is to raise money for nonprofits and schools. Search for your favorites and give what you can, if you can. Everything helps.

Ongoing at the Twin Cities Early Music Festival website: HIP at Home. “HIP” stands for Historically Informed Performances, TCEMF’s specialty, performed on period instruments in period style. Available concerts include “Fifty Shades of Baroque.” Listen at your pleasure.

Now through May 14 at the History Theatre’s website: “Rez Road 2000.” Award-winning author and storyteller Jim Northrup’s one-man show tells intimate stories of the Fond du Lac Reservation and Northrup’s time in the Vietnam War. Northrup, who died in 2016, was an Anishinaabe newspaper columnist, poet, performer, political commentator and basket maker; his books include “Walking the Rez Road,” “Rez Road Follies” and “Anishinaabe Syndicated.” He performed this story at the History Theatre in 2000. FMI and tickets ($15-50 sliding scale). Buy a ticket, get a link and a password by email.

Now at the Walker’s website: Thirty Years of Walker Dialogues. Walker Dialogues are the usually sold-out-way-in-advance in-person discussions with important fimmakers, held at the Walker in conjunction with in-depth retrospectives. Raise your hand if you couldn’t get into Bong Joon Ho’s Walker Dialogue with Scott Foundas, right after he won the Oscar for “Parasite.” You can watch it now, along with conversations with Robert Redford, Spike Lee, Lili Taylor, Milos Forman, Christopher Nolan, Harry Belafonte, Werner Herzog, John Waters, Jodie Foster, Gordon Parks, Jane Campion, Tom Hanks and many more.

Astronaut Christina Koch reading “Hey-Ho, to Mars We’ll Go!”
Astronaut Christina Koch reading “Hey-Ho, to Mars We’ll Go!”
From the International Space Station: Storytime From Space. Stories read aloud by astronauts on board the Space Station. There are no words to describe how cool this is. The series was happening pre-COVID-19, but it seems even more special now.

Friday (May 8) at 2 p.m. at the Playwrights’ Center website: A free reading of “A Play by Barb and Carl.” In 2017, playwright Carlyle Brown’s wife, dramaturge Barbara Rose-Brown, suffered a stroke. He has been caring for her ever since. (If you’re a Star Tribune subscriber, you can learn more here.) This will be a staged reading of a play written and directed by Carlyle Brown, presented in partnership with the Illusion Theater. Brown and the Illusion recently won a three-year, $300,600 National Playwright Residency Program grant from the Mellon Foundation. The reading is free, but registration is required. It’s also sold out, but you can join the waitlist.

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