Ahead of its time

The Central Standard Film Festival seeks out innovative films

Tom Horgen

Movie-lovers love film festivals. They have to. It’s where they discover filmmakers still untouched by Hollywood’s corrupting reach. But let’s face it, most film festivals still have their handful of stinkers – movies made by someone who took his or her childhood dream a little too seriously.

That’s not the case at the Central Standard Film Festival.

“We’re trying to set the bar,” festival programmer Todd Hansen said. “We consider these films ready for a national audience.”

Now in its third year, the fest has a sturdy track record of picking good films. The Oscar-nominated documentary “Spellbound” screened at the festival two years ago. And in 2003, a little known short called “Peluca” debuted a character that would go on to be “Napoleon Dynamite.”

The festival’s mission is to shine light on films made outside of Los Angeles and New York – films that typify the region in which they were shot. The fest hopes to end the perception that quality filmmaking only happens on the coasts.

Central Standard is opening its doors this year with an attention-getter: the world premiere of “Wellstone!” The documentary examines the life of Minnesota Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone through speeches, family movies and interviews.

“It’s funny, but it’s also thought-provoking and inspiring,” said one of the film’s co-directors, Dan Luke. “And of course, tragic.”

“Wellstone!” is just the tip of the iceberg, though. Be sure to check out the following films:

“Miles Ahead”

7:30 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday, St. Anthony Main.

It’s a shame this film hasn’t found a distributor yet, because when it does, it’ll be labeled a masterpiece by national critics. The film blatantly rips off the visual style of 1970s master Terrence Malick (“Badlands”). But that’s a good thing. The film’s coming-of-age story about a small-town kid who wants to be a writer is told with the type of mesmerizing camera work and lyrical dialogue rarely caught on film.

“The Graffiti Artist”

9 p.m. Friday and 11:45 a.m. Saturday, St. Anthony Main

We don’t hear dialogue in this sleek, guerilla-shot indie film until 20 minutes in. But it’s still a striking and often surprising look at those seemingly voiceless graffiti artists who speak through their back-alley art. This film says much about race, class and (homo)sexuality with very few words.

“Seeds”

7 p.m. Friday and 4 p.m. Saturday, St. Anthony Main

This timely documentary looks at the Seeds of Peace International Camp where children from embattled countries, such as Israel and Palestine, try to build new relationships without violence.

“Busting Out”

8 p.m. Saturday and 4:30 p.m. Monday, St. Anthony Main.

Finally, a documentary that answers the question: Why

is our culture obsessed with breasts? The director scours the annals of history as well as her own affliction – her mother died from breast cancer – to conjure up some humorous and dramatic answers.

“Within Our Gates”

12:30 p.m. Sunday, Heights Theatre

This is one of the most important movies you know nothing about. The 1920 silent film, the oldest by a black director, was a direct answer to the racist “Birth of a Nation.” Now preserved by the Library of Congress in the National Film Registry, it can be seen here with a live organ accompaniment.