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The Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival is back, and it's looking like a good one.

The fest, which kicks off Thursday and runs through April 25, features giants of world cinema, including Korea's Hong Sang-soo ("In Our Day") and Turkey's Nuri Bilge Ceylan ("About Dry Grasses"). There are big stars, including Anne Hathaway ("The Idea of You") and Léa Seydoux ("The Beast"). And there's an April 23-24 visit by the what-would-modern-movies-even-look-like-without-them duo of cinematographer Roger Deakins and wife/collaborator, James Deakins.

Besides shooting many of Joel and Ethan Coen's movies, including "Fargo" and "No Country for Old Men," Deakins is a 16-time Oscar nominee with two wins, for "1917″ and "Blade Runner 2049." The couple will attend three events — a conversation with photographer Wilson Webb April 23 (sold out) as well as a book signing and a presentation followed by the screening of "Fargo" April 24 (sold out). Tickets are still available for the book signing.

Many other filmmakers plan to attend. Find out who, as well as a list of dozens of films, at Here are some that I've seen, to get you started.


"Bonjour Switzerland": If cinema is a universal language, then "Bonjour" is an ideal festival title; it features all the languages. Or, at least, many of them. The broad, absurdist comedy posits that Switzerland has voted that, instead of the multiple languages actually spoken there, everyone has six months to adopt one official tongue: French. Main character Walter is a German-speaking police officer with the ridiculous job of forcing shop owners and people on the street to speak French, which he doesn't know. The nationalism-is-full-of-pitfalls theme sometimes gets lost but the images of sunny, summery Switzerland are gorgeous. 5:20 p.m. Sun., 2:40 p.m. Mon., 4:45 p.m. April 17.

"The Idea of You": Why hasn't Anne Hathaway made more rom coms? Her charm is a huge asset in this unlikely love story between the mother (Hathaway) of a teenager and a member of a hugely popular boy band (Nicholas Galitzine). "Idea" seems about a decade too late to capitalize on boy bands, but smart writing and direction make us believe in their love and the complications that keep them apart (your daughter's classmates bugging her for the pop star's nudes is not ideal relationship territory). There's a bit too much wan music for my taste but, otherwise, "Idea" is a really good one. 7 p.m. Sat.


"Afterbirth": Twin Cities writer/director Nicole Brending describes her work as "hit-you-like-a-Mack-truck" storytelling, which rings true with this confrontational documentary hybrid. It's about post-partum depression, inspired by Brending's own experiences (the movie opens with time-lapse images of her body throughout her pregnancy). Brending contrasts the difficulties of new motherhood with social media posts that make it look like a breeze. She also nods to "Rosemary's Baby," plays several versions of herself (one is a doll) and her mom, while googling mothers who kill their infants and visiting the St. Paul bridge where Naomi Gaines-Young threw herself and two children over the railing. It's a bold, take-no-prisoners work that demands we attend to a subject that's often ignored. 7:15 p.m. Mon., 4:45 p.m. April 18.

"The Fishing Hat Bandit": This efficient doc recounts the story of the middle-aged man who robbed more than 20 Minnesota banks in the early 2000s. I don't love the amount of re-enactments but the movie scores with gripping security camera footage that captures the seemingly relaxed bandit, John Whitrock, in the act. What distinguishes "Fishing Hat" from previous accounts is director Mark R. Brown's focus on the tellers who had to deal with the bandit's threats. We've never heard their stories and the movie unpacks how traumatic the robberies were for them. Also noteworthy is Whitrock's compassionate public defender, Andrea George, who says, "There was the most prolific bank robber in Minnesota and he was someone's grandfather." 7:10 p.m. April 19, 1:50 p.m. April 20.

"The Home Game": Imagine an Icelandic version of "ESPN 30 for 30″ and you have an idea of this sweet, real-life take on "Field of Dreams'" "if you build it, they will come" ethos. Two decades ago, an Icelandic man built a soccer pitch on the edge of a lava field, hoping to attract a pro team to play. It never happened. Now, his adult son is determined to fulfill his dad's dream but complications abound: His team is an even rag-taggier bunch than the one in "Dodgeball." It includes a woman, which isn't allowed. The field is a mess. And legit teams see no upside in playing his scrappy gang. It's not giving away too much to reveal that everything works out in a way that's happy and inspiring. 5:10 p.m. Sat., 12:15 p.m. April 18.

"No One Asked You": Minneapolis native Lizz Winstead is at the center of a documentary about her campaign for abortion rights. The film mixes strategy sessions, benefit comedy shows and moving visits with health care providers as Winstead and colleagues make their case. She can be infuriating (her generalization that "the media" doesn't care is no less true than her generalization that "comedians are great people") but the tactics of Winstead and her colleagues (including Sarah Silverman and Mark Hamill) come off as sharp, fluid and inventive. 6 p.m. April 20, 2 p.m. April 21.

"Story & Pictures By": A brief dive into the history of picture books (including Minnesota writer/illustrator Wanda Gag) and a more thorough look at three current practitioners, "Story" is terrific. "Children don't have a voice because we don't give them one. But stories can," says writer Yuyi Morales, while ebullient Mac Barnett calls kids "the smartest, the bravest, the most interesting readers." We see how they work, along with sweet-natured Christian Robinson, who demonstrates his distinctive collage style. There's also discussion of the strides made in diversifying the canon. Best of all, we get to see them interacting with kids, including a remarkable scene of Barnett reading to his son while, in voice-over, he talks about his mom reading to him: "My mom was laughing so hard. I was laughing so hard." 11:30 a.m. Fri., 11 a.m. Sat.

"Stripped for Parts": The title refers to the practice in which investment firm Alden Capital purchases newspapers and sells their assets, including the buildings that house them — Alden did that with the Pioneer Press in St. Paul, although the movie shows the wrong Pioneer Press building. And it was announced just last that week that eight Minnesota papers owned by Alden were shutting down. Mostly, "Stripped" is about the Denver Post, including candid interviews with writers and editors at that newspaper, which doubters refer to as a "dead tree publication." Alden's form of "distressed asset investing" means some papers mentioned in "Stripped" no longer exist but the ending offers hope by showing how newspapers are exploring new avenues of funding, including philanthropy. Throughout, the doc, subtitled "American Journalism on the Brink," makes the case that newspapers are not just dying in the hands of uncaring owners. As one former employee says, "They're being murdered." 7 p.m. Tue., 12:10 p.m. April 18.


"Claire Facing North": Local theater veteran Barbra Berlovitz plays Claire, a flinty woman who heads to Iceland on a kind of pilgrimage. There, she meets hitchhiker Iris (vibrant Annick Dall) and it's only a matter of time before the two bust through each other's defenses. The real star of Minnesota filmmaker (and University of Minnesota professor) Lynn Lukkas' contemplative drama is stunning Iceland, which she and cinematographer Eric Schleicher capture in reverent, unhurried shots. 7:15 p.m. April 21, 1:45 p.m. April 24.

"In Flames": Something tells me "Get Out" made its way to Pakistan. That's where this slow-burner hails from. It's about Mariam, a medical student, and her mother, who find themselves at the mercy of men after Mariam's grandfather dies and her uncle swoops in to claim all of their belongings. Toxic masculinity pops up in a variety of ways — Mariam's brother lazing around, expecting to be waited on. Strangers catcalling at Mariam. Courts siding with the villainous uncle. A faith healer coming on to Mariam when she seeks guidance. There are ghost story elements in the absorbing "In Flames," which turns on a tragic accident, but the scariest thing in the movie may be something Mariam tells her brother as it opens: "You're the man of the house now." 9:30 p.m. April 20, 4:40 p.m. April 24.

"MMXX": It boasts one of the highest-profile filmmakers at this year's fest: Cristi Puiu, whose "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu" helped put Romanian film on the map. But it's challenging to watch, by design. The title refers to the year the COVID-19 pandemic hit and the film, divided into four sections, begins with three slices of life that primarily feature two or three people talking: Oana is a therapist, administering a personality quiz to an amusingly narcissistic woman. Then, Oana and her brother are hanging out in a kitchen when they get a call for distress. Then Oana's husband and a friend are doctors, taking a breath between COVID cases. Things shift dramatically for the fourth segment, in which a cop interrogates a woman (Adelaida Perjoiu) who tells a shocking story. The pace is slow for the first 100 minutes, but if you're patient, the last hour pays off. 9 p.m. April 23, 1:30 p.m. April 24.

"The Mother of All Lies": Morocco's semifinalist for this year's international feature Oscar is a wild experiment that works. Asmae El Moudir wrote, directed, produced, edited and stars in the drama that begins with her and her father building an enormous, room-filling replica of the Casablanca neighborhood where she grew up. Beginning with El Moudir asking her domineering grandmother why their family has no photographs, "Mother" gets richer and weirder as the filmmaker convinces her family and neighbors to interact with the model and the figures in it, including figures that represent themselves. The exercise brings up memories, recriminations and, ultimately, truths in a conclusion that feels absolutely perfect. (In one of those happy accidents that happens when a festival brings together dozens of movies, a soccer field plays a pivotal role, as in "Home Game.") 4:45 p.m. Mon., 2:20 p.m. April 23.

Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival

When: Thursday-April 25.

Where: The Main Cinema, 115 SE. Main St., Mpls.

Tickets: $15 (multifilm passes available),