When the Twin Cities Film Fest, now in its fifth year, organizers pinpointed October as their chosen berth for the buffet of new films, it wasn’t arbitrary. TCFF executive director Jatin Setia said it was a very conscious decision to have the fest appear exactly six months after the more well-established Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival. And, of course, there was one other major reason.

On the eve of the fest’s open, check out our Q&A with Setia from last week about what to expect from this year’s slate, and the films that he’s most excited about sharing with Minnesotans this fall.

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You can also click here to see more details about this year’s lineup.

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WCCO: So are you all set? Is everything locked down or is it still a mad scramble?

Setia: No, no, everything’s locked down. There are still some logistics that need to happen, but we have all the physical movies.

WCCO: What inspired you to start this festival up?

Setia: I’ve always had a passion for film, ever since I was a little kid. I grew up in India, and Bollywood was a huge part of our family life and culture. So it evolved through Bollywood movies. Thousands of people packed the house every Friday night. Everyone knew the soundtrack, everyone was dancing, everyone was laughing at the same thing. I definitely enjoyed that community aspect and wanted to make sure I was part of it at a certain capacity. And then I got into corporate life in America after I graduated from college. When I got laid off, I said to myself, what do I really want to do? What is really my passion? The image of India came to mind, of film again. I started doing research locally about the industry, and looked at festivals around the country. … I always thought there was a gap in the industry here, where there wasn’t a festival that catered to mainstream audiences. There wasn’t one that was like a Sundance/Tribeca, that grabbed mainstream audiences, brought them in with the bigger titles and then told them about the amazing independent films that our country has to offer.

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WCCO: So the timing of the fest seems crucial. With the MSPIFF is in the spring, but now having this in the fall sort of feels like, to me, it’s kicking off the Oscar buzz season. A number of films here feel like they really showed up on the map at Toronto. Is that at the back of your mind when you’re programming?

Setia: Absolutely. We definitely made a conscious effort to make sure we’re six months apart from MSPIFF, to identify ourselves as the more mainstream festival. And our target of October absolutely yields to the fact that we wanted to go right after Toronto. We knew this was when Oscar buzz starts. We planted ourselves in that festival circuit where we could take advantage of that and showcase some Oscar-contending films. In the past, we’ve done Silver Linings Playbook, we’ve had an Oscar-winning documentary called Undefeated a couple years ago. We’ve had Like Crazy, which was a great independent film. August: Osage County was last year. Nebraska was last year. We always end up at least three or four that are going to get some of that awards season buzz. We have those this year as well.

WCCO: I could probably speculate, looking at the list right now.

Setia: Our opening film is Men, Women & Children, directed by Jason Reitman. He did Young Adult and Juno. The movie stars Jennifer Gardner, Adam Sandler, is narrated by Emma Thompson — amazing cast, very very different movie. Any time Jason’s involved, you know it’s gonna get Oscar buzz. The Imitation Game, with Benedict Cumberbatch playing Alan Turning, the mathematician who broke the Enigma code during WWII. He’s getting amazing buzz. That was actually the winner for the best film at Toronto. So we actually sold out of the first screening already. We just added a second screening. The third one is Wild, with Reese Witherspoon getting amazing Oscar buzz for her portrayal of Cheryl Strayed, who did the thousand-mile walk up the Pacific coast. Cheryl calls Minnesota home. And we also just locked in an amazing film called Laggies. It stars Keira Knightley, and was a Sundance hits. I’ve been wanting this particular film for months now. It’s a very, very different role. She is such a sweetheart in this movie. Sam Rockwell’s also in the movie, and any time he’s on screen, I’m always in.

WCCO: You mentioned that the writer for Wild has Minnesota connections. Are there other films that are playing at the fest that have Minnesota ties?

Setia: Overall we have 77 films, including features and shorts over 10 days. Of those, 38 have some sort of Minnesota connection. One film — Just Before I Go — stars Seann William Scott, a hometown boy from Cottage Grove. It’s more of a serious role for him. It’s actually the directorial debut for Courteney Cox. And she got her start in Minnesota when she was pulled out of the audience in the Bruce Springsteen in that music video (“Dancing in the Dark”). A lot of people don’t know that video was shot here in Minnesota.

WCCO: Directed by Brian De Palma, too.

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Setia: Exactly, exactly. So that movie has a double Minnesota connection. Our centerpiece film called Hunger in America is a documentary about the epidemic of hunger in the wealthiest country in the world, and in our neighborhoods. It’s produced by Tim VandeSteeg, who is an alumni of our festival — we’re showing his second film at the festival. And James Denton, the actor from Desperate Housewives, calls Minnesota his home now because his wife is from Minnesota. He narrated the film and is actually going to be in attendance as well. Molly Ryman, an independent actress who won an award at our festival a couple years ago, is back with her film Ink & Steel. We also have a full slate of short programs with about 36 to 38 shorts, and many of those are Minnesota filmmakers as well. One other thing I’d like to add is tickets for a lot of the films have been on sale for a while now, and films are selling out. We’ve already had three sell-outs, so I would urge viewers to not be discouraged with the “sold out” signs. We’re going to try to add second screenings, but the rush line will be available for every single sold-out screening. So don’t be disheartened.

Eric Henderson