Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Richard Hansen Shares His Passion for the DuSu Film Festival

Over the past 100 years movies have become a significant art form. One outgrowth of this phenomenon is the emergence of film festivals, which offer an extended presentation of films for the purpose of introducing new work and gaining feedback, or just providing a shared experience around a theme.

When Richard Hansen brought his love of film to the Twin Ports in an effort to give birth to a new film festival I was really unaware of how extensive these festivals were. Nearly everyone is familiar with Cannes and Sundance, but since the emergence of our own festival I have learned of hundreds of others and Wikipedia states that there are more than 3,000 active film festivals worldwide.

Next week will be the sixth year of what is now been tagged as the DuSu Film Festival. Opening night of the four day event is June 3 at Clyde Iron Works. Here's an interview with Richard Hansen, the primary force behind this exceptional event.

EN: How many years have you been conducting the DuSu Film Festival and how has it evolved from its initial vision?

Hero Cove
Richard Hansen: This will be year 6 of the festival. We changed the name between year 3 and 4 as we felt it was a better match for the region. It has really evolved into a much more regionally based festival with many of the titles being shot in and around the region. Much of this has to do with the rebate and incentive program that has allowed filmmakers who produce in MN to get a MN rebate of 20-25% and if you shoot up on the range IRRB adds an additional 20%. These incentives have encouraged producers and directors to make their films in MN...which means DSFF gets a chance to screen these high quality productions at our festival. Filmmaking in MN and particularly The Arrowhead has really blossomed in recent years, and while we cannot take credit for much of that, there are many factors that go into having a great filmmaking community, we can say that we have been a significant factor in helping to profile the great work that is happening around in MN.

EN: I noticed that you’ve included Eveleth in this year’s set of venues. How did that happen?

"Fantastic" is a post-modern riff on Disney's "Fantasia."
RH: Two years ago we implemented a 'Reunion Screening' line of programming for the festival. The great Riki McManus of The Upper MN Film Office suggested that we profile a film that was shot in the region in the past and bring the cast and crew together for a bit of a reunion. That year we screened Iron Will and had star Mackenzie Astin come and be a part of it. Last year it was the 1972 Glensheen Mansion location set You'll Like My Mother with Patty Duke in attendance. This year, because it is the 10 Year Anniversary of North Country, we decided to screen that. We thought it would be neat to expand our operation out to the range, and especially because some scenes in the film were shot at The Eveleth Auditorium, we felt it was apropos to show the film there as our Closing Night Event. IRRB and the City of Eveleth were all very supportive and even excited to have it there so we thought it best to include the range into our programming locations. We will have music, food, and Actor Chris Mulkey (Whiplash, Captain Philips, North Country and television's Twin Peaks) is coming in as our special guest for that screening. We think it will be fun, even with the heavy subject matter of the film.

EN: Why is film such an important medium still today?

Heart of Wilderness
RH: 'Still today' is kind of a funny thing, only because I think film is still in it's infancy. The moving image is the most recent of all the art forms, so I think it's generally considered the new bad boy, least respected, but most popular of the art universe. I think it's fascinating to people on many different levels and it functions in people's lives in a number of different capacities. Movies pervade our existence, as our favorites define our personalities, and because of the massive nature of the industry we are inundated with their presence. But the great thing about that is that there is such an incredibly wide range of options available that we can niche our interests and still have access to just about any level of obscurity we like. From the major studios ...which are some of the largest corporations in the world; to Netflix, Amazon, and a dozen other on demand services; to film festivals big and small; to YouTube and Vimeo; to the guy from your hometown who made a very cool documentary about an artist that you personally know...there is a reason this movie shit is so popular. Something for everybody.

EN: How do you go about choosing the films that will be aired each year?

Wicker Kittens
RH: Something that I figured out pretty recently is that I cannot define what the festival will be from year to year... it always chooses to define itself. We literally have to wait to see what is going to become available and then figure it out from there. We... me, film programmers, hospitality coordinators, volunteer coordinators, event planners, and venue managers, all literally wait to see what opportunities present themselves as the year turns from the last to the next. We wait to see what pops up at Sundance and SXSW, we watch for festival hits, we see what has been shot around the region that is making national and international waves, we see if a local guy we like has got something ready by April, we wait to see if a film we really want is gets a distributor or if it will play Duluth before the is purely a juggling act. We have people all around the country looking at films that they think might work for us. But in the end... it mostly comes down to me and the festival programmer (this year Tyler Johnson at Zinema) picking what we think will work. We are a boutique festival... just 18 feature length films and 15 or so shorts, so we have the benefit of just hand picking what we like and what we can get.

EN: Do you have a personal favorite for 2015?

RH: Oh man... don't make me choose. Cop out answer is that everything is good... and that is no BS. We are a boutique fest so there is not a clunker in the mix. These are all films that have performed well at other festivals around the world and some which will be distributed world wide later down the road. Some have particular regional interest and are entertaining regardless of of what happens after we show it.

The festival director in me tells you that the opening night film What We Do In The Shadows has a 96% rating on Rotten Tomatoes...can't go wrong there. We are all obviously looking forward to the North Country screening... I've actually never seen it.

What We Do in the Shadows
My film artsy side can't say enough about Tired Moonlight, Metalhead, and Tales of Hoffmann... all incredible works of art.

Every film in competition is outstanding. Six films that all have a special reason to be at DSFF this year and they are all inspiring and compelling to me.

You won't want to miss the message documentaries, Good Things Await, Beyond The Divide, and The Dinkytown Uprising.

Finally, the hometown heroes get outstanding profile in Adam Swanson's Spirit Mountain Mural (Artist Adam Swanson-World Premiere) and Closer Than That (Low) with Superior Elegy will uncover some unseen Duluth music history. Not to be missed.

EN: Where can people find your full schedule for when and where things will air this year?

Tired Moonlight
RH: Check the interwebs and The Twitter-Books. Festival programs will be at Zinema on May 27 (today). You can also see a poster at The Electric Fetus. Plus on TV... and in radio ads. Also billboards. And a banner. Oh, and the trailer plays before every screening at Zinema. MPR and WPR. Did we mention every film screening is free. Maybe just show up early and watch some good films. June 3-7, 2015.

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You can tell Richard loves what he's doing. And so do we.

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