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  • Jared Huizenga

TCFF Spotlight: Mendo’s Carousel

Over the course of 10 days, October 19-28, film fans and filmmakers from across the country will descend upon the ShowPlace ICON Theatre at the Shops at West End in St. Louis Park for the 2023 Twin Cities Film Fest.

More than 140 films – including features, shorts, animation, and documentaries – will screen over the course of the festival, both in-person and online. In addition, a large number of directors, producers, and actors will walk the red carpet, present their films, and take part in Q&As and discussions about their work.

Over the course of TCFF 2023, we’ll be chatting with some of those filmmakers and stars to find out more about what they’re bringing to the TCFF screens.


Film: Mendo’s Carousel

Screening: Coming of a Certain Age

(coming of age shorts block)

3:45 p.m., Friday, October 20

Far too often, short films don't get the recognition they deserve when compared to their feature-length

counterparts. The misconception(s), which I was guilty of believing in prior to covering TCFF, include "it's not enough time to tell a full story" and "good, recognizable actors don't make short films." Those things were never actually true, but as filmmaking, storytelling, and technology have evolved, those ideas have become even more glaringly inaccurate.

Case in point: director/writer David Michael Maurer's "Mendo's Carousel," a drama that takes you on an journey that delivers more emotion in 13 minutes than a lot of features do in 90+.

The film stars Edi Gathegi (Darwin, "X-Men: First Class;" Laurent, "The Twilight Saga;" Dev Ayesa, "For All Mankind), Otmara Marrero (Patsy, "Florida Man;" Izzy Morales, "StartUp), and Todd Grinnell (Schneider, "One Day at a Time;" Dr. Miles Murphy, "With Love"). The film serves as a reunion of sorts of Gathegi, Merrero, and Maurer, who all worked on StartUp together.

Note: While this shorts block is available to stream online, "Mendo's Carousel" is one of two films in the block that are in-person only.

In advance of the October 20 screening, Maurer took some time to discuss the film.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your film.

“Mendo’s Carousel” is a story about honesty in the face of grief. It follows a young woman named Liza. She’s struggling. Her dad passed away recently and she isn’t taking it well. She drinks too much, she’s having trouble making ends meet and so when we meet her, she breaks into a dry cleaning business and steals all the money. But before she can escape the scene of the crime, she passes out in the back. The next morning the shop owner, Arthur, discovers her. The money is missing, and the two are forced to come to terms with some deep secrets that they’ve both been hiding.

Q: Now tell us something about it that we might not be able to glean from the trailer or description.

We filmed in Burbank, CA, with a very small crew working after-hours at a real-life dry cleaning business. Immediately following production, the production hard drives and I flew to Puerto Rico where a post-production team at Reaktor Post worked for months on dailies, offline editorial, dialogue editing, sound design, color grading, vfx, and finishing. Reaktor is know for big TV and feature film projects, so it was amazing that they made time for us in their schedule. It was an incredible collaborative process with all of the post-production entirely under one roof and I am so grateful for everyone’s passion for the project.

Q: If someone is only going to see one film at the Twin Cities Film Fest, why should it be this one?

I was lucky to work with an incredible cast on this film, including beloved actors Edi Gathegi, Todd

Grinnell, and Otmara Marrero. One of the compliments we’ve received from every audience is how emotional and honest their performances resonate. I wanted to tell a simple story with deeply connected performances. Edi and OT have done 30 episodes of television together and are close friends so there is a natural chemistry on screen between them, and Todd is one of the sweetest people working in Hollywood today. The combination of the three of them is delightful to watch and audiences constantly share that they want to live in this little world with these characters more.

Q: Prior to TCFF, where has the film screened, and what has the response been so far?

We world premiered at the LA Shorts International Film Festival at LA Live in Los Angeles. The film went on to the UK for its International Premiere at the Lytham International Film Festival. We won four awards at the Green Jack Film Festival in Big Bear, CA, including Best Short, Best Director Short, Best Actor Short, and Best Actress Short. Then we screened at the Catalina Film Festival, FirstGlance Philadelphia, and the Utah Film Market. The response has been incredible; people usually come up after to share their own experiences with grief or honesty. It’s interesting how different people read the film in different ways and bring their own experiences to it.

Q: What was it that drew you to submit your film for the Twin Cities Film Fest?

I have some friends who moved to the Twin Cities area and shared their experiences with the local film scene. It’s always cool when a community comes together to support independent films like the Twin Cities Film Fest has done. I consider it a great honor to screen with this insanely good lineup that they’ve selected for this year.

Q: What’s next for your film after this festival?

After the Twin Cities Film Fest, we’ll head to Michigan for the East Lansing Film Festival and we’re waiting to hear back on more festivals in the next six months so hopefully, it’ll end up on a screen near you!

"Mendo's Carousel," writer/director David Michael Maurer.


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