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Fargo film festival at the theater and Concordia

For years, movies have successfully transported their audiences to various different dimensions and universes. There are stories to explore, characters to meet and root for, and people to connect with that share a similar passion for cinematic storytelling. 

From the dark tones of “A Dire Strait” (directed by Liang-Chun Lin) and its look at motherhood to the isolating world of “Light Leak” (directed by Nate Dorr), films are able to grasp a viewer and allow them to suspend their disbelief. The impossible becomes possible, and before you know it, a film has changed someone’s thoughts on a subject or their view of the world.

2023’s Fargo Film Festival movie list has plenty of thought evoking and well-thought-out films that will be screened during the third week of March. This year’s festival will be a place to go to to talk about films, discuss their meanings, and more. There is a spot for every actor, filmmaker and avid movie watcher to join in on the conversation. 

“We also have a lot of filmmakers coming which adds such depth to the screenings,” said Fargo Film Festival volunteer and filmmaker, Janet Brandau. Director Emily Sheskin and producer Ben Kainz of film “JessZilla” will be in attendance this year, along with a questioning and answering chat with them immediately following the film’s showcase. 

Many of the various members volunteering for different positions at the Fargo Film Festival and different jury members have certain movie picks they are most excited for. Along with the films are different events they are ready to attend and filmmakers they are most ready to see. 

Sean Volk, a development and engagement manager at the Fargo Theatre, will be serving as the Programming Coordinator for the Fargo Film Festival. Volk is ready to see “JessZilla,, as it follows a young girl who is training to become a boxer.  

“I love this film: I laughed, I cheered, and I cried the first time I watched it,” Volk states. As the movie follows the girl and her family, it allows the viewers to become invested in them and their journey. Volk is also excited for the Q&A that will follow the movie, as it will be a chance to ask questions, inquire about the movie and get to know the makers of the film. 

Along with the film, Volk is ready to welcome Mike Flanagan and Kate Siegel as special guests who will also be attending the festival. Both Flanagan and Siegel have worked on horror movies together.  

One of their biggest and most well-known hits is “Hush,, which stars Siegel. The slasher film follows the life of a writer who is also deaf, where she lives in solitude out in the woods. To her surprise, a masked murderer ends up at her doorstep. 

Flanagan and Siegel will be talking about their careers and the projects they have both worked on in an on-stage conversation that will make up the Festival’s Closing Night showcase at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 25. 

On the topic of horror films, Michael Stromenger,  a video producer at Border States in Fargo and the Chair of the Narrative Short jury for the Fargo Film Festival, has an interest in some of the darker-toned narrative shorts that will be screened this year.  

“A Dire Strait” and “Kassandra” are two of the narrative short category’s honorable mentions. They both share similar darkish tones, with plots that are interesting and attention-grabbing. In particular, “Kassandra follows a group of girls on a swim to a remote island that turns deadly,” Stromenger explains.  

“The Diamond” is a film that follows a man who finds a diamond in the ground in the woods, another film that Stromenger is readily excited for. Stromenger states that it “is a surreal comedy that is impossible to predict.” 

With a love of film that started out with him wearing out VHS copies of the original Star Wars trilogy when Stromenger was young, he has always been a storyteller. The passion for film grew over the years when he got to be a little older, but now he is happy for what the Fargo Film Festival offers the community.  

“There is truly an embarrassment of riches in this category this year and I can’t wait for audiences to finally see these films,” Stromenger states. 

Fargo Theater. | Maddie Malat.

Tom Speer, one of the festival co-chairs and the current Fargo Theatre Board President, also served on the Narrative Short jury and has a shared interest in “The Diamond” and “Kassandra.. With this being his 15th year volunteering for the festival, he talks about how “The Diamond” will have the audience laughing out loud.  

He also talks about how “Kassandra” is a film that, “is visually stunning and has a style unlike anything I’ve seen at the festival before.” 

Along with Stromenger’s interest in the closing night event, Emily Beck who describes herself as “a massive Flanaverse fan,, is also ready for the conversation with Flanagan and Siegel.  

Beck is the Executive Director and Programmer for the festival. She met Mike Flanagan when he attended the 2011 Fargo Film Festival, and talks about how his and Kate Siegel’s  collaborations through the years have been one of the greatest creative partnerships.  

“Flanagan’s horror leads with its heart,” Beck states. “ It has been so exciting to see his work evolve and to see him achieve such remarkable success.” 

One of the next filmmakers that are ready for the Fargo Film Festival is Kyja K-Nelson. K-Nelson has been teaching Film Production at MSUM for the last 17 years and is currently serving as the Interim Dean for the College of Arts & Humanities. This year she is serving as the Jury Chair for the Experimental Film committee. 

The one film that really stuck out to her was “Light Leak” by Nate Dorr. It is the winner of the Fargo Film Festival’s Best Experimental Film. During the movie, the viewer is forced to stay isolated from the outside world and is only able to learn more about what’s going on through memories and photo slides. K-Nelson compares this to the lives and existences of people during the pandemic when businesses and areas were shut down. The forced isolation and solitude when the pandemic hit its hardest wave on society. 

“I love the Fargo Film Festival because it brings our community together through the power and language of cinema,” K-Nelson states. 


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