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Variety marks films included in Duluth-Superior festival

“Adam Swanson’s Spirit Mountain Mural” will be shown today at 6:30 p.m. at Zinema 2 as part of the Duluth-Superior Film Festival.1 / 7
“Tired Moonlight” will be shown at 9:30 p.m. today at Zinema 2.2 / 7
“North Country” will be shown at 8 p.m. Sunday at Eveleth Auditorium.3 / 7
“Meat” and will be part of the Regional Shorts Program at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Zinema 2.4 / 7
“Superior Elegy” will be shown at 8 p.m. today at Red Star Lounge.5 / 7
“Wicker Kittens” will be shown today at 8 p.m. at Zinema 2. Pictured: Teammates Valerie Coit and Annie Dugan.6 / 7
“Fantastic” will be part of the Regional Shorts Program at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Zinema 2.7 / 7

Nearly-lost footage of Duluth’s music scene, circa 2001, a stark portrait of life in a small Montana town and a fist-raising crusader flick set on the Iron Range are among the films that will be featured at this year’s Duluth-Superior Film Festival.

The five-day fest started Wednesday with comedic vampires just trying to make it in a modern world (“What We Do in the Shadows”) and continues through Sunday with a special 10th anniversary showing of “North Country” in Eveleth.

Screenings are free and open to the public.

Here are a handful of films of note from the festival.


6:30 p.m. today at Zinema 2

No need for a fancy name on this one. This fly-on-the-wall film shows artist Adam Swanson’s process as he completed one of the biggest jobs of his career so far: A mural to accompany the new Grand Chalet at Spirit Mountain as part of the city of Duluth’s One Percent for the Arts program. (Quick catchup: A percentage of money spent on major construction projects is put toward an on-site art installation.) Swanson saws boards, glues panels and primes with a roller brush before painting, packing it up, delivering it to the recreation area and installing it. Filmmaker Nicholas Sunsdahl gives Swanson all the space in the world to do his thing without the intrusion of Q&A. (Though sometimes Swanson provides insight, unprompted.)

Bonus feature: The very Sunsdahl-ian French subtitles.

Swanson, a popular local artist, is known for his bicycles, penguins and unique juxtapositions.

  • Why you should see it: It’s uncommon to get this kind of up-close-and-personal with an artist at work. You get to see Swanson’s mind whirl as he considers the color orange and as he climbs around on his panels, brush in hand, you understand better the scale of the project.


This screening is part of the Regional Shorts program.

2:30 p.m. Saturday, Zinema 2

A few years ago, a West Coast based filmmaker dreamt up the title “Duluth is Horrible,” then, after a bit of research, launched a Kickstarter to move here for a month and turn that title into an actual film.

Then that dream-driven creative Vincent Gargiulo just kept popping up.

His shorty “Fantastic” is a play on Disney’s “Fantasia.” A maestro introduces vignettes about a balloon man, a poet who becomes trapped in an experimental film and an orchestra that crams itself into the men’s bathroom and eats burgers, makes urinal comparisons, uses sheet music as toilet paper and commits murder.

There is a cameo from Mozart, who performs “Take Your Head and Shove it to the Ground,” his first new song in 222 years.

  • Why you should see it: Gargiulo might have alienated a few people with the title of his first Minnesota-based project — at first — but his work tends to be funny, absurd, well done. Plus he’s Internet famous: His mockumercial for “Dave’s Pizza” now has more than 1 million views on YouTube.


This screening is part of the Regional Shorts program.

2:30 p.m. Saturday, Zinema 2

One of those idealistic anthropology majors secures a job as a door-to-door meat salesman, a situation that is completely outside of his experience in Michael Forstein’s short film “Meat.” Darren has no choice. Rent is due; this is no time for his “but I’m a vegetarian” speech.

“This job is not about eating meat,” his vegetarian boss tells him. “It’s about selling meat.” Darren slogs through the day accompanied by a coworker who is out on bail and full of all sorts of colorful hate words.

“Meat” is set in Duluth and Superior and includes West End snowscapes, mini golf at Adventure Zone and a poignant look in the mirror at the Anchor Bar.

  • Why you should see it: Local leather artist Richard Rosvall doesn’t say a word in this movie, but his eyes have enough for a feature-length sequel.


8 p.m. Sunday, Eveleth Auditorium, 421 Jackson St.

Note: Attendees are asked to BYOLC (bring your own lawn chair)

It’s been more than 10 years since Hollywood hit the Iron Range for the making of a movie about Josey Aimes (played by Charlize Theron) who shakes free of an abusive situation by returning to her parents’ home in northern Minnesota. Josey lands a job in the iron mines, and subsequent sexual harassment comes with it. Josey sues the mine, but the action doesn’t sit well with her coworkers, friends and family. Also: Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson.

Reviewer Roger Moore said of the 2005 film: “Niki Caro … has made a classic underdog-vs.-the-system story, rendered in the harsh blue-grays of a Minnesota winter.”

This screening, which closes the film festival, is scheduled to have actor Chris Mulkey in the audience.

  • Why you should see it: This is among the most significant movies that have been made in this region. Plus, The Wheeler Dealers are performing beforehand, and there will be barbecue served by Smokey’s BBQ and Cafe.


9:30 p.m. today, Zinema 2

Britni West’s feature film is a collection of simultaneous stories about characters living in Kalispell, Mont. One is a resourceful middle-aged woman who turns a discarded copy machine — abandoned curbside while she whizzes in the woods — into a way to create crossword puzzle collections that she can sell on eBay. Another is a single mother who is too young to be told by her boyfriend that she’s no fun anymore. Another is a video store owner with a newly installed drop slot (played by Alex Karpovsky of HBO’s “Girls.” Note: He tends to always be tied to movies that appear at this particular film festival — or maybe all film festivals.) Another is an every-man poet with male-pattern baldness who sorts through his newly deceased mother’s storage unit and, along the way, stops to smell the records.

“Tired Moonlight” opens with road kill and a 1970s sci-fi synth-track and closes with fireworks. In between is the regular stuff that makes up a life: Solitaire, toenail trimming, belly button monsters and knee sandwiches.

West is a Minneapolis and New York-based filmmaker.

  • Why you should see it: West’s is a unique approach to storytelling, and “Tired Moonlight” considers what happens between the bullet points in a life.


8 p.m. today, Red Star Lounge

Almost 15 years ago, a group of local musicians came together to create 25 hours of drone music in honor of Michael Lenz, a University of Minnesota Duluth grad who had been murdered in Boston earlier that year. The improvisational performance was organized by arts writer Tim Anderson, Scott Lunt of Father Hennepin and Alan Sparhawk of Low — and was scheduled to be broadcast online.

In light of then-current events, the drone-athon also served as a remembrance for victims of 9/11. “Superior Elegy” is found footage shot with a Super 8, and includes abstract images, portions of instruments, blasts of light and blurred faces set to music.  

  • Why you should see it: It almost sounds like an urban legend, except it’s actually true. It also includes cameos of younger versions of music scene mainstays.


8 p.m. today, Zinema 2

This is a documentary about competitive jigsaw puzzling by local filmmaker Mike Scholtz (“Wild Bill’s Run”) and nonlocal filmmaker Amy C. Elliott (“World’s Largest”) that features the kind of characters you might find aggressively sifting through gently used puzzles at secondhand bookstores. “Wicker Kittens” follows teams as they prepare for the 2011 St. Paul Winter Carnival, host of the largest jigsaw puzzle competition in the country. It tends to draw upward of 70 teams that ace to assemble a 500-piece puzzle. The climax of the 52-minute film is game day at the Landmark Center — and the competition starts with players vying for the best puzzling table.

“Wicker Kittens” premiered at SXSW in 2014.

  • Why you should see it: Competitive jigsaw puzzling, obviously, and a chance to check off another film from the growing Mike Scholtz collection. This one is not just for the eyes: The soundtrack is by Portrait of a Drowned Man.