Movie Night: Films from Around the World and Minnesota

The Rochester International Film Festival (RIFF) is a one-week event, screening approximately 20 films not otherwise available to people in southeastern Minnesota. The festival runs from April 21-27, 2017 and is hosted by the Rochester International Film Group (RIFG).

Jan Behrens, RIFG board member, explains, “Our basic goal is to provide a local opportunity to see world cinema. And, movies are always better in a theater.” In addition to international films, one or more Minnesota filmmakers attend the showings to answer audience questions. “Two years ago,” Behrens recalls, “we showed a Minnesota-made film called ‘Miss Tibet: Beauty in Exile.’ The filmmaker talked afterward about how she happened to make a movie about a young gal living in the Twin Cities who traveled all the way to India to be in the Miss Tibet contest. Fascinating!”


The 2017 schedule is not yet available because so much is yet to be discovered. Behrens explains, “The experienced and talented film programmers of the Film Society of Minneapolis-St. Paul help us book our program of movies, many of which are also included in their film festival. The rest of the RIFF offerings are selected by members of the board, based upon award-winners from other international festivals and international movies in the press.” The film schedule will be finalized around April 1 and will be available on

Though the exact films have not yet been selected, the recipe is clear. Each year the program includes documentaries with a world viewpoint, the winner of the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar and other films nominated in that category and one or two family-friendly movies, shown midday on Saturday or Sunday of the festival week. Behrens ensures that at least some of the festival will be appropriate for all ages. “I think it is important that younger audiences, including young adults, have a chance to enjoy movies from all cultures of the world,” Behrens says. In most cases, younger viewers should be able to read subtitles for the best experience. Dr. Alan Hoffman, director of RIFG, adds, “These are a unique group of films that have not and generally will never be shown in Rochester and southeast Minnesota again. Many of the films will not be available on DVD or even through Netflix.”


In 1996, Hoffman helped found the festival. The group defines themselves as film enthusiasts interested in world arts and culture, as well as promoting Minnesota-made films. Because these are current films—many of which are shown consecutively at film festivals throughout the country—the opportunity for RIFF to have these high-quality films is limited to when the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival is held, which is also in April. Hoffman opines, “We really want people in southeastern Minnesota to have the opportunity to see these excellent films without having to travel out of the region.”


The group aims to keep the cost lower than the theater charges for its other screening to encourage young people to try out the festival. Opening night is Friday, April 21. Before the first film begins, attendees can join the opening night reception featuring food, beverages and music. Behrens says, “We typically sell out the theater on opening night. Everybody has a good time. And if it’s a comedy, you always laugh harder when it’s a packed house!” 


Marcus Wehrenberg Theatres Rochester (Galaxy 14 Cine)
Friday, April 21-Thursday, April 27


Children $5.50 all times
Seniors (60+) & Students (with ID) $6.50 all times
Adults $7 before 6 p.m., $8.75 after 6 p.m.

This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council thanks to a legislative appropriation from the Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.  

Gina Dewink is a Rochester writer with a passion for storytelling and cinema.