Brisk. Cloudy. Windy. But the predictably unpredictable weather of April in Minnesota could not dampen the hum-hum of opening night at the Minneapolis St Paul International Film Festival. MSPIFF opened this year with its most ambitious program yet: three weeks with over 200 films. This expansion means an extra week and 40 more films than the Fest has ever had. (Only the unmentionable 2005 MSPIFF came close with 160-some films.) Having this land on my backdoor (literally 2 miles from my humble abode) is at once exciting and overwhelming. While have concluded that I can't see everything, I'm going to do my best to see as much as a working class human can.
As if trying to illuminate that there is something for everyone, MSPIFF chose to open with three diverging films: Page One: Inside the New York Times (for the documentary and newspaper lovers; sold out), Trollhunter (for cult film fans and troll lovers; nearly sold out) and Score: A Hockey Musical (what do you get when you combine "Glee" with hockey? a Minnesota crowd-pleaser! also sold out.) Page One was my choice, with Minneapolis native David Carr and director Andrew Rossi in attendance, but, low and behold, the damn thing was sold out. I had no sooner resigned myself to Trollhunter when friend and fellow blogger Daniel of Getafilm offered up an extra ticket. A stroke of luck, because, from the sound of it, I didn't miss much in Trollhunter (but I'll let you know in a couple days when I see it for myself.)
Opening night is not without a certain amount of pomp and circumstance. Speeches, introductions, accolades and awkward moments are standard. Al Milgrom, face, heart and soul of the Festival, gave surprisingly brief comments before hitting the ceremonious gong signaling the beginning of the Festival. Some people raised there fists in a silent cheer, others simply sighed and everyone clapped. On with the films!
Page One was riveting. The film gives a fascinating snapshot of the inner workings of the most recognizable and well-respected newspaper in the world, as the 'crisis of print media' lurks like an elephant in the background. At the center of Page One is the outspoken former editor of the Twin Cities Reader, David Carr and the Times media desk responsible for reporting the downfall of their own industry and upswing of the ubiquitous 'new media.' The topics of the film are ones close to my heart and mind and can be typified by this very blog you are reading. I am the novice. I am the threat. I do not get paid. Fortunately what you are reading right here is not real news. I'm a newspaper reader and more importantly a reader of the print edition of the NYT. And if it went away, I would have to seriously reassess the world I live in.
This is a documentary that openly celebrates a tradition that I am in line for, so the group cheer elicited for the rigors of print media was one I could accept. And so was the underlying if somewhat unintended sales pitch to renew or start a subscription to the New York Times. David Carr and Andrew Rossi took to the stage for a Q & A moderated by Star Tribune editor Tim Campbell. Carr is the unequivocal writing rock star with a personality to match. His rock bottom story is very well known in the Twin Cities and it was an added bonus to have him appear. He hilariously chided Rossi for choosing a former crack addict who sounds like Kermit the Frog to be the star of his documentary. Rossi mentioned that the doc was originally going to be more about Carr and less about the Times, but the film evolved to create a balance of industry examination and personality power. The end has been re-edited since Sundance and, had I known this before the screening, I would have asked about it.
After the Q & A, I headed out to the pavilion tent that MSPIFF has set up for the weekend to get my free lemonade and vodka (opening night with a ticket only!) The tent has been set up to help kick off the Fest with live music, a cash bar, foodstuffs and a place to chat with friends and filmmakers. The weather isn't really suited, but the tent was toasty and warm. So warm, it kind of made me sleepy. This was no hootenanny. But we're Minnesotans. We're international film fans.
One day down. Twenty to go.
Page One plays again on Wednesday, April 20 at 9:15pm.
All the info you need on MSPIFF website.