We asked Craig Rice and the other programmers of the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival to list a few of the movies they're most excited about seeing. Here are their picks.
"The Rider," the festival's closing-night show, is one Rice recommends without hesitation. Director Chloé Zhao recruited Brady Jandreau, a rising star of the rodeo circuit unable to compete after a riding accident, to star in this remarkable reality-infused drama. As macho heartland archetypes battle modern masculine values, Brady observes, "It's all the same to a cowboy — you ride through the pain." "I can't say enough about that," Rice said. "It's a really brilliant film." (Jandreau will attend the screening.)
"Dead Pigs" is an absurdist Chinese multipart comedy drama. A colorful group — a hog farmer, busboy, beautician, expat architect and jaded rich girl — intersect as a biblical plague of dead pigs float down the Yangtze River toward Shanghai. Because the pig stands for good fortune and wealth in the Chinese zodiac, Cathy Yan's dark laughter suggests things are not looking so promising. "It has a really strong message and it's entertaining at the same time. What I love about filmmakers is when they break the traditional narrative structure, and this film does that," Rice said.
"Mole Man" is director Guy Fiorita's warm and touching portrait of Ron Heist, a 66-year-old artist of sorts. Near his rural Pennsylvania family home, he has built an elaborate multiroom structure out of found objects held in place by gravity rather than nails and mortar. He's challenged by an undiagnosed mental condition that leaves his family worried about how to care for him after they pass, and whether to move him from his crayon-colorful fantasy structure to a group home. "It's absolutely amazing," said programmer Jesse Bishop. (Fiorita will attend.)
"Virginia Minnesota," director Daniel Stine's satirical road trip yarn shot around Lake Superior, is among this year's crop of what Rice calls "really strong films from Minnesota." Aurora Perrineau and Rachel Hendrix co-star as former residents of a school for girls from troubled families who reunite for the reading of the late owner's will. Full of bickering comic dialogue, the film touches on serious issues along the way. "Those actresses!" Rice gushed. "It's a really great story about young women revealing themselves." (Stine will attend.)
"The Price of Everything" is a documentary exploring the juncture of art and money, specifically the overheated market driving the contemporary art world. Nathaniel Kahn's film asks: Is selling art a dirty business? How do artists deal with the rise and fall of a lucrative career? And, is the price of something really the value of it? "Talking about the manipulation of the market and the people behind it, it's a really fine piece of work," Rice said.