NDDC Film Festival was a Success

Hey Bardwell–we finally pulled it off, a film festival in downtown Northfield. Nothing on the order of the Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival or the Tribeca Film Festival (both start tonight) or even the Fargo Film Festival (we don’t have a 17 story building in town that we can use as a screen), but three wonderful views of Northfield issues, people and events on film and disc. Last night the Grand Event Center became a movie theater again like the old days. No popcorn or Slow Pokes this time, but good entertainment nonetheless (and actually, Chuck Pryor’s shrimp and meatballs were awfully good substitutes).

New York had Max Yasgur’s farm, Northfield has Gene Schrader’s farm. That was the location of Martin Shieckel’s terrific 8mm film of “The Jesse James Music Festival” from 1978. Folks enjoyed seeing themselves and friends soaking up the sun, listening to music, and camping. Some of us were thinking, those were the days! Martin did a fine job of offering insight and narrative comments for his silent film and had a soundtrack on tape that he got synced just right. We encouraged Martin to transfer his film to DVD and donate a copy to the Northfield Historical Society.

Dennis Wilcox and Paul Krause were next with “Cannon River”, a comprehensive look at the role the river plays not only in the life of Northfield, but the entire 1,400 square mile watershed. The filmmakers posed a number of thought-provoking questions throughout the film, ending with a really provocative one, “What do we do about the Ames Mill dam in Northfield?” That got some conversation going during the break. There were good interviews in the video with former Mayor ( and NDDC Board member) Keith Covey, Minnesota State Archeaologist (and Northfield resident) Scott Anfinson, Mayor Lee Lansing, and Planning Commission member Justin Watkins. Dennis and Paul have performed a valuable civic duty with their Northfield Community Video Project over the past seven years and we thank them for participating in our festival.

Last, we watched “Letters from America”, a marvelous look at the life of Ole Edvart Rolvaag, St. Olaf professor and American literary giant.. The film was introduced by Torild Homstad, Rolvaag’s granddaughter and Professor of Norwegian at St. Olaf. She made powerful connections between immigration issues faced by her grandfather’s generation and those that are being experienced and debated in our own time. Rolvaag helped interpret the immigrant experience for American readers as none had done before him and showed that it was filled with hardship and loss. “Letters from America” was beautifully shot on location in Norway and on the plains of South Dakota and Nebraska. It also includes archival photos and artifacts from personal collections and several historical societies.

If you missed this one, don’t worry. We’ll do more. If you can’t wait, you can borrow the Northfield Community Video Project videos from the Northfield Public Library.