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​The 2024 Fargo Film Festival Preview

Cinema | February 15th, 2024

By Greg Carlson

gregcarlson1@gmail.com

The 2024 Fargo Film Festival will take place March 19 to 23 at the Fargo Theatre. Tickets for individual sessions, as well as ticket packages, will go on sale prior to the festival. Audience members can visit fargofilmfestival.org for more information and to see announcements about programming as the schedule is finalized.

The Fargo Film Festival began in 2001 and has grown from a two-day event, in which a couple dozen movies were screened, to its current incarnation as a five-day event featuring more than 100 films in seven juried categories. Documentary features and shorts, narrative features and shorts, animated movies, experimental films, and student work are all judged by volunteer panels to determine category winners as well as honorable mentions. Additionally, special events and invited movies are programmed alongside the 2-Minute Movie Contest (which screens more than 50 very short movies from all over the world in a single session), lunch panels, and other social events that allow audience members to connect with the many professionals who visit the community to represent their work.

Over the years, the Fargo Film Festival has named a number of special awards for important members of the local film community. These awards are given alongside Best in Show category awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Cinematography, and several more.

The high quality of the movies screening in competition is a testament to the hard work and commitment of the festival staff and volunteers, many of whom work all year to prepare for the festival. Experiences for visiting filmmakers and audience members are a top priority and the Fargo Film Festival is proud of its reputation as a place where film lovers and filmmakers come together to celebrate the power of visual storytelling.

Each of the five evenings of the festival features showcase programming built around special guests and film highlights. While some of the 2024 showcase programming has yet to be announced at time of this publication, the FFF is excited to highlight the visit of actor and producer Jennifer Lafleur, who gives a riveting and powerful performance in “The Day Of,” an official selection in the Narrative Short category. The film will screen in the closing night’s “Best of the Fest” showcase on Saturday, March 23rd at 7 p.m. Lafleur will participate in a Q&A following the film’s screening.

It is not uncommon for the FFF to feature movies in contention for Academy Awards. This year, two movies competing for Oscar gold can be seen at the festival. Sean Wang’s “Nǎi Nai and Wài Pó” has been nominated for Best Documentary Short Film and Tal Kantor’s “Letter to a Pig” is nominated in the Best Animated Short Film category. Several other movies that appeared on the Oscar longlist are also screening in the Fargo Film Festival.

In the Animation category, several movies have previously received top honors at Oscar-qualifying festivals. In addition to “Letter to a Pig,” Flora Ana Buda's “27” and FFF alumna Daria Kashcheeva’s “Electra” have made big impressions throughout triumphant festival runs. The FFF has long championed animation of all kinds, and films come from multiple countries and use all kinds of techniques, including stop-motion, 2D and 3D, collage, claymation, and pixilation. Mitra Shahidi’s category winner, “Starling” (which also received the top animation honor at the Tribeca Film Festival), is a touching crowd-pleaser.

“Iron Opera” co-director Marius Anderson’s “40 Below: The Toughest Race in the World,” which follows the frozen adventures of the contestants in the brutal Arrowhead 135 ultramarathon in Minnesota, received honorable mention in the Documentary Feature category. Winner “Greener Pastures” will appeal to local audiences for its candid examination of the many challenges faced by family farmers.

Festival alum David Larson returns in the Documentary Short category with winner “Hakki Rising,” an inspirational story about one of the world’s most positive and enthusiastic pizza chefs. Along with that movie and “Nǎi Nai and Wài Pó,” 18 more short pieces of nonfiction will be screened throughout the week.

Seven experimental films join the 2024 lineup, including category winner “The Site of Unsure,” directed by Zachary Howatt. The Fargo Film Festival has supported the sometimes non-narrative, sometimes challenging, always stimulating movies submitted to the Experimental section of the competition.

In the Narrative Feature category, eight movies will screen during the 2024 FFF. The category winner is Vivian Kerr’s “Scrap,” a funny and at times uncomfortable story about a single mother struggling to hide her homelessness from her estranged brother and his wife. Kerr has appeared on “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Rizzoli & Isles,” “Superstore,” “Masters of Sex” “Criminal Minds,” New Girl,” “Castle,” and many other shows and brings her experience as a performer to work in front of and behind the camera.

The Narrative Short category is typically the largest section of the Fargo Film Festival’s annual programming. The 2024 edition features more than 30 movies, including category winner “Closing Dynasty,” directed by Lloyd Lee Choi. In the movie, a precocious 7-year-old scours the subways and streets of New York City searching for ways to make money.

The quality of the movies in the Student category is usually so high, the films could be mistaken for the work of veteran creators. One perfect example is category winner “Truth,” directed by Tamara Denić. The Yugoslavian director’s film won a Student Academy Award and also qualified for Oscar consideration during its impressive festival run. The movie follows the challenging occupation of a photojournalist who leaves Serbia for Germany with her daughter, only to experience even more hostility and violence.

Every year, the Fargo Film Festival commissions an original piece of cover art from a local or regional artist. This year, the FFF cover artist is Troy Becker, and his image will be used leading up to and throughout the festival on the glossy program guide, as well as in a variety of social media and online outlets, including the Fargo Film Festival’s Facebook page, which contains helpful information about the movies screening in the festival.

FFF 2024 sessions take place during afternoons and evenings, with blocks of programming designed to feature different combinations of the selected movies. The festival continues to be one of the annual arts highlights of the region, showcasing some work that cannot be seen anywhere outside of an in-person festival experience. 

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