Category Archives: FFF News

Submissions Open for FFF18

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Moviemakers are encouraged to submit projects for the 2018 Fargo Film Festival.

The Fargo Film Festival’s earlybird deadline of August 1, 2017 is followed by the regular deadline on September 1, 2017. Late and extended deadlines are October 1, 2017 and November 1, 2017.

After that, juries will complete viewing assignments and make decisions about our March 2018 lineup.

All submissions must be completed online using Film Freeway or Withoutabox.

The Fargo Film Festival Would Like to Say Thank You

The Fargo Film Festival would like to shout a loud and sustained THANK YOU to all the people who helped make 2017 a memorable and special event.

We express our sincere gratitude to festival sponsors, audience members, visiting filmmakers, Fargo Theatre staff, festival volunteers, and everyone else who contributed to this year’s edition.

In just a few weeks, we will begin accepting submissions for 2018, and we can’t wait to see what’s in store for us.

FFF17 Congratulates 2-Minute Movie Contest Winners

The Fargo Film Festival congratulates Simone LeClaire as the 2017 first place winner of the 2-Minute Movie Contest.

LeClaire’s narrative short “Elemental: Water” was chosen by judges as the winning work from nearly fifty submitted movies. LeClaire is a graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead.

The second place movie, “Hugo in the Garden,” is Six N. Five and Twistedpoly’s textural animation.

Third place went to Abigail Karl’s “Voicemail.”

Thanks to all the moviemakers who shared their excellent work for the showcase. The 2-Minute Movie Contest will return in 2018.

FFF17 Lunch Panels

The 2017 Fargo Film Festival will feature three lunch panels at Dempsey’s Public House. The panels begin at noon each day.

Space is strictly limited, so do not hesitate to contact the Fargo Theatre box office for ticket availability.

Thursday, March 23

Real Life Meets Cinema, moderated by Matt Olien, will feature directors Chris Brown (“The Other Kids”), Greg Carlson (“On the Wall, Off the Chain”), and Melina Tupa (“The Search”).

Friday, March 24
Intimate Portraits: Personal Stories on Film, moderated by Margie Bailly, will feature director Serena Dykman (“Nana”), director Katy Grannan (“The Nine”), screenwriter and actor Isaak Love (“Gratus”), and director Samuel Sprynczynatyk (“Uncle Albert”).

Saturday, March 25
Short and Sweet: Exploring the Short Form Documentary and Narrative, moderated by Janet Brandau, will feature actor Jay Abdo (“Bon Voyage”), actor Paul Bailey (“The Last One”), director John Fortson (“Rated”), and director David Larson (“Throw”).

FFF17 Announces 2-Minute Movie Contest Selections

The Fargo Film Festival is excited to announce the selections to be screened in the annual 2-Minute Movie Contest.

The event will take place at 9:30 p.m., following the regional premiere of “The Hero” on Friday, March 24 at the Fargo Theatre.

Ticket and pass holders attending “The Hero” may stay for the 2-Minute Movie Contest. Others pay two dollars at the door.

Congratulations to all the talented moviemakers. We will see you at the show!

Art Is Theft (Daniel Cordero)
Bach Interpreted: Chad Lawson (Caravan)
Bleed (Ryan Moorman)
Bone Structure (Danski Trang)
The Clock in My Room Stops (Caibei Cai)
Cookie Monster Trap (Eclectic Method)
Cookies (Kieran Varian)
The Council (Daniela Delgado)
Daddycool (Camille Jalabert, et al.)
Darkling (Oscar De Leon)
Desert Madness (McKade Riedman)
Digging It (Kaitlyn Holtz)
Dynamic Man (Carlos Cruz)
Elemental: Water (Simone LeClaire)
House of Dan (Scott Barber)
How to Make Dark Things Funny (Aaron Crume)
Hugo in the Garden (Six N. Five and Twistedpoly)
Inside Thoughts (Anna Vernick)
Keeping Slot Car Racing Alive (Great Big Story)
The Light We See in the Dark (Carly Drabeck)
Love Essay (Ben Fitzgerald)
Marshall McLuhan (Daniel Savage)
My Brother (Audrey Yeo)
NSFWhale (Alec Cummings)
One Too Many (Reese Prokosch)
Paperboy (Jack Mannion)
Patient 605 (Kierin Rogers)
The Reaper (Thomas Buch)
Reflections (Morgan Gruer)
Riding with the Boogeyman (Charles Hinton)
Santiago (Emma Allen)
Sneeze (Riley Lass)
The Split (Aaron Beck)
Straight West to Paradise (Jake Hunter)
Strange Winter in New York City (Joshua Charow)
Voicemail (Abigail Karl)
Watermelon (Rebecca Madeira)
You’re Fired (Ghillian Ferraiola)

Greg Carlson to Receive 2017 Ted M. Larson Award

Greg Carlson will receive the 2017 Ted M. Larson Award from the Fargo Film Festival.

Carlson is an associate professor in the Communication Studies and Theatre Art department at Concordia College, where he has taught since 2001. Leading courses in film appreciation and theory, global cinema, new media, and video and audio production, Greg helped establish the college’s interdisciplinary film studies minor. He currently serves as the director of that program.

As an undergraduate, Carlson was mentored by Ted Larson at Minnesota State University Moorhead. Greg is currently the film editor of the High Plains Reader and produces the Fargo Film Festival’s annual 2-Minute Movie Contest.

He also makes movies, and is a four-time finalist in the Fusion/International Documentary Challenge. His work has screened at Slamdance, Hot Docs, the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, the South Dakota Film Festival, the Free Range Film Festival, the Orlando Film Festival, the Honolulu International Film Festival, and many others.

Carlson, who was selected for his lifelong dedication to the cinematic arts as an educator, filmmaker, critic, and scholar, will accept the award on Thursday, March 23 following a screening of his invited short, “On the Wall, Off the Chain.”

 

FFF17 Opens Tuesday, March 21

2017 Fargo Film Festival Preview

by Kaley Sievert

Movies have this magic. An emotional pull that lures audiences into its universe. Filmgoers can get lost in stories painted in dazzling lights, electric colors and robust sounds. They mourn over the hardships of the characters on screen, experience nostalgia when a relatable childhood memory flashes in front of them, and hold their breath in anticipation for the monster lurking around the corner.

Crowds are starting to feel that pull again as the annual Fargo Film Festival approaches.

Opening March 21, the Festival continues for its 17th year. Filled to the brim with a variety of films and opportunities to meet with talented artists, the festival will be as engaging and entertaining as always.

Longtime volunteer Matt Olien thinks it is always great to meet filmmakers and actors at the film festival. One thing he thinks a lot of people may not realize, however, is that this festival, among many others, gives a glimpse into the film business that most people don’t recognize. “With the filmmaking business, what you see every year at the Oscars is a small snapshot,” Olien said. “Most filmmakers are not famous and they have to work hard, often from job to job.”

Tony Tilton says filmgoers will notice new venues for pre-parties along with new luncheons with filmmakers. The film Tilton looks forward to most is “The Hero,” starring Sam Elliott, which premiered at Sundance just a few weeks ago. “The Hero” is a comedic drama from Northern Lights Films that will be released this summer. Directed by Brett Haley, the movie is about a western film icon whose best performances may be long behind him.

Just like “The Hero,” a number of other films feature the high quality championed by the Fargo Film Festival. “Some of our selected narrative features ended up on top ten lists this year for some national critics,” Olien said.

Olien said that many of the selections come with distribution attached, making it harder and more expensive to screen at the Fargo Film Festival, but also extremely rewarding for festival staff.

Executive director Emily Beck emphasized a few choice films. On opening night, Academy Award nominee “My Life as a Zucchini” will play in an animation showcase. Directed by Claude Barras and featuring voice work from Will Forte, Nick Offerman and Ellen Page, the film is about the orphan Zucchini learning how to trust and love others with the help of new friends.

“Nana,” directed by Serena Dykman, is another must-see. Winner of the festival’s best documentary award, the film follows Dykman as she traces her grandmother’s Auschwitz survival story through Europe. Dykman will attend the festival.

In addition to the films, there will be a number of opportunities to speak with filmmakers in Q & A sessions and at lunch panel events.

On Thursday, March 23, the lunch panel is about journalism meeting real life, and filmgoers will have a chance to talk with Chris Brown, director of “The Other Kids.” This film allows the audience to take a vulnerable and intimate look at the struggles of six small-town teens about to graduate from high school. Real teenagers collaborated with Brown, telling their own personal stories.

Friday, March 24,the lunch panel is about personal stories, and director Dykman talk about her experiences. Filmmakers from “Gratus”, a moving, intimate, and revealing film about 14 individuals who come together to tell their stories about dealing with severe mental illness will also be involved in the discussion.

Experimental
According to experimental category chair Jeff Kasper, experimental films can be anything or any type of film, but “utilize one or more non-traditional filmmaking technique to tell their story.”

When looking for experimental films to show, Kasper desires that a film evoke a certain sensation. “I want an experimental film to show me something I’ve never seen, heard or felt before.”

The 2017 category winner is “Gratus,” an Australian film that brought 14 people with “complex and persistent mental health issues” together to participate in a filmmaking study for 16 weeks. Kasper describes the film as “touching” and “beautiful.” He believes that everyone who experiences the film will be able to relate to it.

Receiving an honorable mention award, “The Trader” is “quirky, picturesque fun,” according to Kasper. It is about a stock trader who decides to veer from the beaten path of his career and takes a journey in search of liberation.

For both film selections, Kasper cites incredible cinematography, saying “‘Gratus’ and ‘The Trader’ are a feast for the eyes.”

Documentary Feature
According to jury chair Kendra Faiman O’Brien, as the festival has grown over the years, the quality of the films screening has improved greatly. The number of documentary features submitted surpassed 30, and O’Brien and her jury team had to narrow to 8 official selections.

When looking for films to select, O’Brien said she likes a film that is irresistible and that provides a new perspective. “I think about having films so good that I would encourage someone to leave work to attend,” O’Brien said. “A coworker of mine took a film lunchbreak a couple of years ago for a documentary feature and still remembers that film. Success!”

In addition to Serena Dykman’s “Nana,” O’Brien notes honorable mention “A Plastic Ocean,” a deep dive into an epidemic that is currently affecting the world. The film talks about plastic production and use worldwide and the reaction of the world’s oceans, food chains, and biology. “Several jurors talked about the impact this film had on their daily life,” O’Brien said.

Animation
This year, 17 films were selected to represent the animation category for the Fargo Film Festival. Jury chair Trina Spaeth said all the films were extremely diverse and came from all over, including Louisiana, Switzerland, Germany, Mexico City, Cyprus, California and South Dakota.

Spaeth looks for a number of techniques that determine the quality and success of the films, as well as the type of animation of the films. Spaeth and the animation jurors focus on craft, technique and storytelling through animation. “The committee understands the amount of time animators devote to their projects and we can tell if they have accomplished their goals and delivered a message to the audience.”

According to Spaeth, she and the jury were lucky to view 2D hand-drawn, 3D computer animation, claymation/stop-motion, and studio quality films.

2017 animation winner “Taking Flight” is a short film is inspired by the life of Antonio Pasin, inventor of the Radio Flyer wagon. Spaeth said “Taking Flight” reminds the audience what it was like to be a child. “It is heartwarming, beautifully animated, and the viewer really connects with these characters.”  

Honorable mention “White Out,” by Cable Hardin, comes from close to home in Brookings, South Dakota. The film brings the audience to a cold, dark planet where a lone pilot faces isolation. According to Spaeth, the film exhibits the independent spirit committee members like to find. “The animation style, original music score and editing really worked together,” Spaeth said.

Cable Hardin will be at the Fargo Film Festival on Tuesday, March 21, for the opening night animation showcase. Festivalgoers can enjoy a Q & A with Hardin after the screening of his short films.

Narrative Short
According to chair Tom Speer, when watching a narrative short film, it’s really about “expecting the unexpected.” Out of 95 submissions, the jury and Speer observed 95 dramatically different films. Only 33 films were selected for the festival. The selections focused on different types of characters and utilized many elements of production. According to Speer, some of the films had little to no dialogue, emphasizing focus on the characters in the film.

Speer highlighted two films that will be featured on closing night of the festival. Winner “Bon Voyage” “stopped me in my tracks,” Speer said. This story takes its audience through waves of fear, surprise, anticipation and desperation as two sailors travel through the Mediterranean Sea and find an overloaded refugee boat in the middle of the night. The film will be followed by a Q & A with actor Jay Abdo.

Honorable mention “Rated” is a film that is highly relevant and can make you shake with laughter. Maggie, a wife and mother of two, wakes up with stars floating above her head. Every adult in the world now has a “Yelp-like rating” for everyone to see. “‘Rated’ also asks the question of how people generally treat each other. These stars now serve as labels, and no good comes from that,” Speer said.

Speer will receive the 2017 Margie Bailly Volunteer Spirit Award from the festival.

Narrative Feature
Of 58 submissions, the narrative feature category is screening 11. According to chair Brittney Goodman, the high number of quality submissions continues to rise each year.

When selecting films for the festival, Goodman and the jury pay attention screenwriting, cinematography, quality of acting, audio recording, score, and soundtrack. Goodman especially looks for a film that touches her on a personal level and that is relatable to the audience. “So many things can make a film rise above the rest. It could be a unique way of filming. It could be compelling acting that makes the audience forget that it’s a movie and not actually happening in real life,” Goodman said.

The narrative feature winner is “Always Shine,” directed by Sophia Takal. The movie follows two struggling actors, but competition and jealousy often comes between the close friends. “It’s a tense psychological thriller in the style of David Lynch,” Goodman said.

The two women are played by Mackenzie Davis and Caitlin FitzGerald. According to Goodman, the chemistry makes it hard to look away from the screen. “I hope many people will show up to view this fresh take on ‘frenemies,’” Goodman said.

Goodman also highlighted “The Other Kids,” calling it a “standout.” “You almost feel like you are really there with these students, peeking into their private lives,” Goodman said. “Forget ‘reality television,’ this is much, much better.”

Student Films
The student section has narrative comedy, narrative drama, animation, experimental, and documentary films under a single category. It also has films directed by students representing the U.S., Israel, Australia, China and Turkey.

Out of 54 submissions, chair Karen Olson and the jury selected only 15 for screening. “Sometimes people will see the word ‘student’ and think unprofessional or lesser quality, but the ones that get in are professionally done” Olson said. Many of the films can compete successfully with more established filmmakers and Olson finds hope and opportunity in seeing such immense talent at the entry level.

“The Search” was a finalist for the Student Academy Awards. In this film, the audience follows a grandmother searching for her grandchild 37 years after her daughter was kidnapped and murdered in the Argentinian “Dirty War.” “It’s one of the most moving films I have seen in the festival in all of the years I have been involved,” Olson said.

“The Search” director Melina Tupa will be at the festival to talk about her film and her experience making it.         

“The Little Dictator” is a comedy set at a family celebration. The lead character, “a Caspar Milquetoast type of guy,” has half of his mustache shaved, making him look like Hitler. Comedic chaos ensues when he arrives to the party.

Documentary Short
Documentary shorts can vary greatly in view point. “This can include fly-on-the-wall works, where the filmmaker is largely invisible; more personal journey-type films, where the filmmaker is more front and center; and films based in reality, but with a more experimental approach,” says category chair, Aaron Baker.

When looking for films, Baker enjoys something that isn’t afraid to highlight the unfamiliar or take on a unique perspective. “I like to see movies that cover lesser-known, perhaps even esoteric subject matter,” Baker said.

The category winner is “Refugee,” directed by Joyce Chen. The film follows a New York woman from Mauritania desperately trying to get her children into America. “It’s safe to say it’s pertinent to the state of the country and the world today,” Baker said.

Baker also mentioned a favorite of his, “These C*cksucking Tears,” directed by Dan Taberski. This film tells the story of an openly gay country band, Lavender Country, who released an album in 1972. “The band’s leader, Patrick Haggerty, is a prickly, utterly fascinating character, and the movie wrings some really strong emotion out of its subject matter,” Baker said. The audience may also recognize director Taberski from his popular podcast “Missing Richard Simmons.”

Five Days of Film
Along with visiting filmmakers, lunch panels, evening showcases, and more than 100 movies, the Fargo Film Festival also invites attendees to go bowling at All-Star on Thursday evening following the screening of a showcase of shorts and the presentation of the Ted M. Larson Award, the festival’s highest honor, to film studies professor and High Plains Reader film editor Greg Carlson.

Carlson also produces the popular 2-Minute Movie Contest, which will screen on Friday night, March 24, at 9:30 p.m. following the special presentation of “The Hero.” Producers Erik Rommesmo and Jeff Schlossman will join Carlson and Matt Olien for a Q & A following “The Hero.”   

In just five days, the Fargo Film Festival will take you around the world from the comfort of your seat in the gorgeous Fargo Theatre. In addition to the many movies mentioned above, there are dozens more to be discovered. A complete screening schedule can be found at fargofilmfestival.com and tickets are now on sale at the Fargo Theatre box office.

FFF17 All-Star Bowl Party

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Come abide with Fargo Film Festival volunteers, friends, and filmmakers at All-Star Bowl on Thursday, March 23 starting at 9:00 p.m.

All you care to bowl and shoe rental is only ten bucks, and the event is open to achievers of all ages. No charge for non-bowlers.

We will look forward to a real heart-to-heart, some sarsaparilla, and maybe even a White Russian or two.

FFF17 Welcomes Filmmaker Serena Dykman

The Fargo Film Festival is proud to honor Serena Dykman’s “Nana” with this year’s Bill Snyder Award for best documentary feature.

“Nana” follows Dykman as she retraces her grandmother’s Auschwitz survival story through Europe.

The film will be shown on Saturday, March 25 at 3:00 p.m. at the Fargo Theatre and Dykman will participate in a conversation with the audience following the film.

Festival tickets are on sale now at the Fargo Theatre box office.