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The Wonderful Strangeness of the Movie Biz: Chapter 978 - "Sweet Land"

Posted at 10:10 AM on October 25, 2005 by Euan Kerr

St Paul based director Ali Selim had his picture in the New York Times Sunday. It was a great picture of him standing between Alan Cumming and Alex Kingston on the set of is new film "Sweet Land." Ah! The glamor of the movies.

Cut to Minneapolis last night, with Ali standing in the dark at the Riverview Theater, speaking into a microphone, asking an invited audience to enjoy the movie--- and then get out. There were about 300 of us there for the 5 pm showing, but many more were expected for the 7pm show and we needed to move to let them in. We would have 10 minutes to clear out if everything was to remain on schedule. Ah! The ugly truth of the movies.

Thus instructed, we settled down to watch. "Sweet Land," based on a Will Weaver story, tells the story of a mail-order bride arriving in Southern Minnesota during World War I. She finds her fantasies of a new life are wretchedly complicated in reality. This may be the land of opportunity, but there are strict codes of what is acceptable, and a pastor's displeasure is as effective as any judge's sentence.

Elizabeth Reaser puts in a superb performance as Inge, as does Tim Guinee as her awkward husband-in-waiting Olaf. They are backed by some big names in the cast, including Cumming, Kingston, Ned Beatty and John Heard.

It's a beautiful film, capturing the majesty of the land and the Southern Minnesota sky. We've heard the story before, but it bears repeating. Life was much tougher just decades ago, and a small piece of bad luck, or a social misstep could spell ruin. The eternal optimism of the farmer smacks against the hard nose of the mortgage-holding banker.

"Sweet Land" recieved its world premier at the Hamptons International Film Festival over the weekend. Not only did Elizabeth Reaser take the prize for best newcomer, the movie took the much prize audience acclaim award.

As we stumbled out into the cool air outside the cinema, a huge line of people for the second show blocked our way. Shows for later in the week in Montevideo, where Selim and the crew shot the movie, are already sold out.

A gala event in the Twin Cities is planned for December, but job one now is getting a distribution deal. Again, its the wonderful strangeness of the movie business. A completed film that people seem to love. But will Hollywood bite? Stay tuned.

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