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Minneapolis/St. Paul Film Festival kicks off Thursday

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The Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival kicks off Thursday with more than 200 films playing through April 19.

The opening night film Thursday at the St. Anthony Main Theatre is the period romantic drama "Belle," starring Gugu Mbatha-Raw in the title role. The film is the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle, the illegitimate, biracial daughter of a Royal Navy admiral in 18th-century Britain. "Belle" also stars Tom Wilkinson, Miranda Richardson, Tom Felton and Emily Watson.

The film will be accompanied by an opening night gala celebration, which costs $75 for general admission and $65 for members of the Film Society of Minneapolis/St. Paul. Students can also get in for $65 with an ID.

Since seeing all 200-plus films at the festival is an impossibility, local movie critics are weighing in with their picks. Chris Hewitt from the Pioneer Press lists eight films from the first week of the festival on his list, most prominently the psycho-sexual thriller "Tom at the Farm."

Hewitt calls the film a "stylish semi-thriller about a gay man who goes to the funeral of his former boyfriend, only to learn the boyfriend never told his family he was gay. What follows is a creepy series of mind games between the hero, Tom (Xavier Dolan), and the late man's sadistic brother."

The Star Tribune, on the other hand, reviews in brief 50 films playing at the festival. Of the opening night selection, "Belle," Colin Covert gives the film three stars out of four, saying the "luminous Mbatha-Raw more than holds her own," and the performances from the film's top cast are "predictably flawless." will cover the festival daily, with features from critics Eric Henderson, Jonathon Sharp and Steve Swanson.

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