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Ely’s Historic State Theater plans first annual film festival

Aug 04, 2022 10:40AM ● By Laura Durenberger
Photo: Ely’s Historic State Theater

By Keith Vandervort - The Timberjay News - August 3, 2022


Ely’s Historic State Theater (EHST), was recently awarded a Minnesota State Arts Board grant to host Ely’s first annual film festival.

The event is set to be held during the second weekend of Ely Winter Festival 2023, Feb. 8-12. Organizers said they look to build on the successes of past Ely Winter Festival and BeardFest events while aiming to attract a new audience demographic to Ely for the arts.

For those new to this type of event, festival director Jacob White, explained “A film festival is an organized, extended presentation of films in one or more venues, usually in a single city or region. Film festivals showcase films from outside Hollywood, providing audiences with stories they might not otherwise have access to. Film festivals also enable independent filmmakers to showcase their work, connect with audiences, network with other filmmakers, and compete for awards, prestige, and sometimes cash prizes.”

The End of the Road Film Festival seeks to feature stories of adventure, advocacy, Indigenous traditions, rural economies, crafting in nature, mental health awareness, comedy, horror, and more, according to White.

Festival organizer Ryan Bajan, Ojibwe studies teacher at Nett Lake Elementary, added “We are especially excited to uplift Indigenous stories and perspectives in the festival. We’ll be coordinating opportunities for Bois Forte youth and families to participate in the festival.”

EHST’s board of directors endorsed White’s initiative and innovation in bringing this new event to Ely, anticipating that the End of the Road Film Festival will provide unique arts programming for our small, rural town and the surrounding area. EHST board chair David Wigdahl said “Watching films together as a community can entertain us, challenge us, and inspire us to imagine the world from different perspectives.”

Additionally, White, himself a filmmaker, noted that independent films often lift up stories outside the mainstream media narratives, and “in a small town like Ely, those are the types of stories we can best see ourselves reflected in.”

The EHST board envisions that inviting filmmakers to attend in person will allow the community to learn from professionals in the film industry and to highlight Ely as a thriving arts community by showcasing its own local creative talent.

A burgeoning film industry already exists in the Arrowhead Region of Northeastern Minnesota. In 2021, lawmakers passed the St. Louis County Regional Production Incentive Program, which offers financial incentives to encourage the production of film, television, and digital media content in St. Louis County. It is funded by the county, and the Upper Midwest Film Office administers the program.

The concept of hosting a film festival was first discussed by board members of Ely’s Historic State Theater back in 2015, when work had just begun on renovating the theater. By 2019, EHST was ready to begin screening movies and hosting live events.

“In 2020, COVID-19 posed a challenge for audiences to safely gather in indoor spaces, but the theater persevered,” Wigdahl said. ”This year, EHST has a full slate of new movies and live events such as concerts, art shows, theatrical performances, and more.”

For more information on the End of the Road Film Festival or to submit a film for review, visit elystatetheater.org/ERFF. People interested in volunteer or sponsorship opportunities with the festival may send a résumé and cover letter to [email protected]


To read this original story and more news, follow this link to The Timberjay News website.
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