TCFF Spotlight: ‘Denial’

By Jared Huizenga – Contributing Writer


The 7th annual Twin Cities Film Fest runs this year October 19-29 at the ShowPlace ICON Theatre located at The Shops at West End in St. Louis Park.


Over the course of this year’s festival, more than 120 films will be shown and many directors, stars and producers will be on hand to walk the red carpet, present their films, attend the mixers and chat with fans about their work.


Over the course of TCFF 2016, 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: Denial

Showtimes: 8:15 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 23

Tickets and additional details:


Generally speaking, filmmakers (scripted or documentaries) know what they’re getting into when they start filming their work. That, however, isn’t the case for the documentary “Denial.” Director Derek Hallquist set out to film a documentary about climate change and his father’s (an executive at a utilities company) mission to take on the electric grid. While making that film, a family secret is revealed and steered the story in a new direction. Hallquist, who will appear alongside his father at TCFF, recently answered questions about the film.


Q: Tell us a little about “Denial.”


“Denial” is a film that seems like a big documentary about several different stories that would normally be completely separate movies.


It is because of this that maybe for the first time in history, we get a deeper look into what has not only plagued the storylines and the character in this documentary, but every single problem facing the human race right now … psychology.


It is epitomized by this current presidential election. We as humans love denial and we will often do anything to stay in this psychological state. Even environmentalists who understand the facts and point fingers at climate deniers prove time and time again they too live in a form of denial. If you use the internet and believe in climate change, you are in fact helping accelerate it. It is hard for me to listen to people who are not living the way they tell the world to live, or worse, blame the world around them for living the way they do. We all have something we hide and this film dives deep into my family’s struggle with my father’s secret. A secret that may not only destroy our relationship, but could jeopardize his role as a leader trying to change the way the world uses electricity and energy.


Q: What was impetus for the project? (The initial idea and not what the finished product became.)


I’ve seen a lot of documentaries and many of them based on climate change and energy. As a filmmaker and the son of a CEO in the energy sector, I had a unique perspective in two worlds that have remained separate. Without knowing it while filming electric crews and my dad working to upgrade the grid over 15 years ago, I was starting to bridge the gap between documentary filmmaker and the insider’s perspective of an energy company.


Almost 10 years later, I decided to start making a feature-length documentary about my dad as he started to work with leaders around the country to update our electric grid. I could follow my father as he showed me how to fix one of the major contributors to climate change. It seemed like I had unique access to people working towards global solutions while others continued making films about smokestacks and melting sea ice.


Q: Without giving too much away for would-be viewers, when the secret is revealed was there ever thoughts of just setting the camera down and scrapping the project?


After my dad told me his secret, I actually did set the camera down for nearly a year. Colleagues working with me on the film started to demand answers. This was in 2010 and at that point, it seemed like my dad’s secret would destroy his career. My family and I had agreed to keep it all secret. But, I had an obligation to my colleagues to tell them the truth. After a few weeks of private discussions, the early small group of people making the film agreed … we had to cover this personal struggle or not make the film at all. After explaining this to my dad, he agreed to be honest on camera about his secret and let me and the filmmakers tell this part of the story. I continue today to struggle with whether or not it was the right decision for my family to do so.


Q: It appears that this will be the Midwest debut for the film. Where has the film premiered or screened and what has the response been like so far?


The film premiered as part of the Los Angeles Film Festival in June. It sold out and was a huge success.


The night of the premiere, I was terrified and barely watched the movie at all. I kept my eyes glued on the audience, especially the people I didn’t know. Everyone laughed a lot more than I thought they would and they got angry when I wanted them to. They even cried when I thought they might.


But, most importantly, none of them walked out on the film. I’ve been to many documentary premieres. Even the ones that win Sundance have people walk out. I was sure that a lot of people would walk out on this movie. These are tough subjects we are presenting and even intelligent people can’t handle certain things. In the end, I shouldn’t be surprised.


Our filmmaking team did an amazing job making it all get across. It has only screened one other time in Vermont and was also a great success. Every audience that sees this film loves it. I wish I had $100,000 for a grassroots ad campaign. This movie would do very well theatrically. It just needs someone who wants to do something new and different.


Q: If someone is only going to see one or two films at the Twin Cities Film Fest, why should “Denial” be one of them?


I am usually biased against films I work on. It’s hard to boast about yourself and your work. After the two screenings and strangers telling me this was the most daring film they’ve seen, not just as a documentary, but against other scripted films, I’ve changed my mind. We’ve done something very different and innovative with “Denial”. From the interns who helped log the unedited scenes, to the editor who worked herself into a hospital, to the extremely talented publicists who are putting in extra hours … everyone who is touched by this story changes the way they do things and wants to share that with the world. If this was the only film you saw all year, you should see it. It’s more than a documentary, it’s a life changing experience.


Jared Huizenga is a freelance movie critic. Follow his work at