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3 Wisconsin Filmmakers Spent 2.5 Months Capturing the ‘Real’ Minneapolis

And now you can watch their beautifully shot video.

Stephenson/Li/Tunney

If you’re a news consumer—and by reading this sentence, congrats, you officially are—you’ve noticed less-than-flattering headlines about Minneapolis over the past two years: the murderous cops; the subsequent rioting; the prolonged spikes in gun violence and carjackings; the (debunked) theory that residents are fleeing.

“After the killing of George Floyd, outside views of the city started to get increasingly negative,” cinematographer Sam Li tells us. “People painted the city as dangerous, ugly, etc. I have a lot of friends from the area, so I wanted to create a video that showed the true Minneapolis.”

Li, director/editor Nations Stephenson, and first-person view (FPV) drone pilot Ian Tunney began plotting that counter-narrative from their homes in Madison and Milwaukee in late August. They arranged shoots with people and businesses, scouted locations, and, in October, shot around the city for six days.

Set to the song “Southside” by hometown rapper Lucien Parker, the resulting two-minute clip paints a gorgeous, humanized portrait of Minneapolis—paddle boarders, bikers, pick-up basketballers, brewers at Pryes Brewing Co., and cooks at Midtown Global Market. The aerial photography, especially a free-fall shot outside the Foshay Tower, is mesmerizing. (Racket tips its cap to Parker for the CP shoutout.)

Posted below, the video has received 100,000-plus views since going live Sunday.

“It’s a huge city, so we obviously had to leave some things out, which really sucks to do, but that’s what happens when you have a limited amount of time and no budget,” Li says. “As for Nations, who grew up in Minneapolis, he was just happy to be shining a positive light on a city that’s been through a lot in the past two years.”

That sentiment rang true for the folks in the video, Li reports.

“They know Minneapolis—like any other city—isn’t perfect,” he says. “But at the same time it’s a city with immense beauty and a wonderful community that deserves recognition.”

Li says the video was a pure, self-funded passion project. He’d not spent much time in Minneapolis, but gained a newfound appreciation for the city while documenting it. He already has plans to return with his camera.

“We wanted to show everyone what three filmmakers were capable of,” Li says. “Hopefully, the people of Minneapolis are proud of what we did and, in the near future, we hope we can work with the Twin Cities and organizations in the area to create an even larger video.”