Above: The Qhia Dab Neeg film festival in St. Paul. Photo courtesy Qhia Dag Neeb. Cinema in St. Paul has a checkered history of late. While the city can claim a couple of small mainstream movie houses and a smattering of other occasional screening venues, it’s been a long while since locals had an art house theater to call their own. The April launch of Film Space, a Knight-funded cinema venue on the Metropolitan State University campus, marked a strong new effort to fill the void. “Film Space is a 300-seat, state-of-the-art, DCI-compliant, digital cinema theater. It is a dedicated, non-commercial, film art venue for our community,” said James Byrne, project manager for Film Space and coordinator of Metro State’s Screenwriting Program. Byrne and the Film Space team have spent much of the last year upgrading a rarely used campus auditorium into a functional and inviting space to serve the long-neglected cinephiles of St. Paul. Currently the space is focused on special events and screenings, with non-profit rental rates available to community members, individual filmmakers and festivals. Even though the venue is freshly launched, the organizers have wasted no time putting it to use. “April-May was and is a big month for us,” Byrne said. “We had eight days of films and screened 12 feature films and 28 short films and hosted three different festivals.” Film Space opened big, with a well-attended, five-day showcase of movies as an official venue of the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Film Festival (MSPIFF), the Upper Midwest’s largest and longest-running festival of its kind. Byrne even got to host a home-theater screening of his own film, “Mist on the River,” as part of the festival’s short films showcase. The engagement was followed immediately by the Qhia Dab Neeg Film Festival, a Knight-funded project focused on filmmakers of Hmong descent that drew more than 500 attendees over two days. Next up is LunaFest, a nationally touring festival spotlighting women in film that rolls into Film Space on May 20.