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Winona's Frozen River Film Festival returns, larger and more diverse

Winona's Frozen River Film Festival returns, larger and more diverse

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Back for the eleventh year, the annual Frozen River Film Festival in Winona, which drew about 4,500 people last year, will be starting its main showings Wednesday and running through Sunday.

The festival was showing films last week but the majority start Wednesday with 9 films and then run Friday through Sunday with over 60 films in different theaters and venues around Winona.

Festival board member Mike Kennedy said that they’ve continued to grow the variety of their documentaries, covering a wide range with different topics, lengths and tone.

“The diversity of films this year is unbelievable,” Kennedy said.

One of the highlights of the festival will be the film “I am Able,” which follows the recovery and experiences of Rwandan artist Frederick Ndabaramiye. Ndabaramiye was ambushed by rebels following the 1994 Rwandan genocide and lost both his hands. He will be speaking at showings of the film on both Friday evening and Sunday on late morning.

Kennedy said that the Nbadaramiye’s story and recovery are a “tremendous inspiration for people,” and festival organizers try to have someone to represent a film who was involved in the process to answer questions and share the experience with the crowd.

“That’s been a lot of the high points,” Kennedy said, “the people we’ve had.”

In addition to longer documentaries, there are dozens of shorter, high-energy films and ones specific for smaller children. Films for Kids includes 11 shorter films showing from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Winona 7 theater.

The festival has seen changes recently in its administration too, forming as an official 501c3 nonprofit after operating with the assistance of other organizations in town in previous years.

The festival continues to work to make use of a number of Minnesota-produced films, which accounted for around 25 percent of their content last year.

This year’s Minnesota films include “The Dinkytown Uprising,” detailing protests in Minneapolis in 1970, “Lost Conquest,” a study of supposed Viking conquest into Minnesota, and the new and final version of Winona adventurer Taff Robert’s film “Attempting the Northwest Passage.”

About half of the films are submitted and the others were selected specifically, Kennedy said, and in the past several years they’ve been seeing more submissions from all over the world. Others were picked by FRFF representatives from several different film festivals, particularly Mountainfilm, the festival’s partner organization in Telluride, Colo.

Kennedy said that their longtime partnership with Mountainfilm, which also focuses on documentaries, has long given them access to bigger names and films, since they’ve also “chosen a little more of a unique position.”

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