Seeing in the dark

Tom Horgen

Around the world in 80 days?

Forget about it. The Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival explores the cinematic universe in just two weeks.

“It’s the largest film event, if not one of the largest cultural events, in the community every year,” festival coordinator Adam Sekuler said.

Indeed, with 150 films, the 22-year-old festival has never been bigger. This year, more than 60 countries will be represented in an impressive lineup of features, documentaries and shorts.

The beautiful onslaught of films begins Friday night with actor and novelist Stephen Fry’s directorial debut, “Bright Young things,” at the Historic State Theatre. Following the movie, filmgoers can pontificate on its significance at the opening-night party at Tonic of Uptown.

As for the rest of the festival, highlights include chances to see films that will eventually get theatrical runs later this year. Most notable is Lars von Trier’s new fi lm, “Dogville,” starring Nicole Kidman. Takeshi Kitano, master of the Japanese mob film genre, explores new territory with his samurai tribute, “Zatoichi.”

Then there’s the acclaimed documentary, “Metallica: Some Kind of Monster,” which isn’t a concert film, but a fascinating look at the metal band’s recent two-year stint in group therapy.

More than a dozen filmmakers will be in attendance to talk about their films. Some notable guests include director Allan King, who will discuss his gutwrenching documentary, “Dying at Grace.” Celebrated Swedish filmmaker Jan Troell will be on hand for the screening of his new film, “Presence.” And master playwright August Wilson will be present for “The Naked Proof,” in which he makes his screen debut.

As it has in the past, the festival will include a number of timely films. “The Agronomist,” directed by Jonathan Demme (“Silence of the Lambs”) documents unrest in Haiti. “The Corporation” and “Surplus: Terrorized into Being Consumers” are strong documentaries about the politics of global capitalism. “The Letter” documents Somalis’ battle against xenophobes in Maine. “It turns out that some of the festival’s strongest films have strong political context,” said Al Milgrom, the festival’s curator.

And as always, at the heart of the festival is its celebration of the world cinema. You’ll hear from voices rarely acknowledged in mainstream movies. Films will come from the Balkans, the Middle East, Latin America, Africa and from Indian Americans right here in the United States.

“Here’s a chance for an audience to discover something about these countries,” Milgrom said.