Minneapolist St. Paul International Film Festival Brings Queer Content to the Big Screen

A still from “Disobedience” starring Rachel Weisz & Rachel McAdams

The Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival (MSPIFF) does a wonderful job annually of bringing the best and brightest in independent and foreign film to the Twin Cities, right at St. Anthony Main in the heart of Minneapolis. There are always some “must sees” for the LGBTQ+ crowd, and this year MSPIFF has included seven films in their “LGBT Currents” section. These films run the gamut from fictional love stories to documentaries, and stories come (as you can tell by the name of the Festival) from all over the world.

One film that does take place here in the US is The Blessing, a documentary that documents a Navajo family’s struggle to find their footing after the coal mining industry devastates their town. The film focuses on a coal miner who’s guilt is crushing him as he tries to raise and connect with his daughter. This project is directed by the Emmy winning filmmaking duo Jordan Fein and Hunter Baker, who will be here for this film’s showings.

Press image for Pam Colby’s “Not In My Lifetime”

Another US based documentary is Not In My Lifetime, which is a Pam Colby project highlighting the fight for marriage equality from the baby boomers in our community. I’m really interested in the uplifting approach this film takes, choosing to focus on the love romantic couples share and the bonds activists form. Colby will be attending MSPIFF as well.

I’m really happy to see Mr. Gay Syria included in this year’s lineup. Mr. Gay Syria is a documentary in Arabic with English subtitles. This film is being marketed as a “celebration of expression and identity,” but does hit hard when showing the bigotry and institutionalized homophobia that the LGBTQ+ Syrian refugees living in Istanbul face against the backdrop of preparation for the Mr. Gay World pageant in 2016.  

All of the films being showcased in the LGBT Currents program at MSPIFF are crushingly relevant right now, but that’s especially true of the documentary TransMilitary. Though there are over 16,000 transgender troops in the Armed Forces right now, they face constant discrimination and now, threats to their livelihood. This documentary showcases four transgender troops and highlights their struggles and determination to change the system.

Three fictional films round out this year’s LGBT Currents program, all focusing on connection among queer people, even if that need for connection is wrapped up in love stories. Like most queer women I know, I’ve been chomping at the bit for Disobedience to hit a local theater. This love story between a woman returning to a strict religious community that once shunned her and a childhood friend she reconnects with stars Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams as the two lovers. Honestly this film could go either way, but I’ll probably love it regardless.

Love and loss both feature heavily in The Cakemaker, a story of a closeted love affair told through the eyes of a grieving partner. This one sounds like it has everything I love in foreign and independent film: sweeping shots of foreign-to-me countries (Israel and Germany in this case), deep love between characters, and a sense of loss and grief that somehow makes us feel full. This one is in Hebrew but does have English subtitles.

A still from “A Moment in the Reeds”

Finally we’ve got A Moment in the Reeds, a Finnish film about a Syrian refugee and a Finnish literature student connecting over house renovations and shared experiences. Director Mikko Makela will be on hand to answer questions. This one is in Finnish and English and has English subtitles.

All of these films are being show between April 12th and 28th as part of the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival at St. Anthony Main. Their website is the best place to get information and tickets for these showings (as well as the specific dates and times). Generally speaking, tickets are $14 to the general public, $11 for Film Society members, and $8 if you’re under 25 or have a current student ID.

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Cassandra is a queer writer, activist, and artist working out of Minneapolis, MN. She is a professional tarot card reader, and runs Gadfly Theatre Productions, a queer and feminist theatre company. Her life's work is on creating safe spaces and transformative experiences for marginalized people from all walks of life. To find out more about her as a tarot reader, check out cassandra-snow.com. For more information on Gadfly, visit gadflytheatre.org.