by NATHANIEL NELSON
The cold winter winds bring more than just snow, ice and parkas to Winona –– they also bring dozens of films. The annual Frozen River Film Festival (FRFF) will take place from February 6 through February 10 all across town, featuring award-winning films, intimate talks with creators and, for the first time ever, a full film set devoted to local and regional filmmakers.
Sarah Enzenauer, who is just finishing off her second year as FRFF’s executive director, explained that the festival is adding several new things to the docket this year. First, on Tuesday at 7 p.m., the festival will showcase a set of animated films at Ed’s No-Name Bar to kick off the week’s festivities. It will be followed by two days of screenings at the Winona Middle School, including a new program titled “Winona Wednesday.”
“For the Wednesday of the festival, we’re going to have two film sets and [people will] be able to come and pay for one ticket and see both sets,” Enzenauer said. “We’re trying to find ways to encourage the community to come to the festival as well as manage their budgets a little bit.”
On Friday, there will be numerous educational talks and events across town for the festival’s annual “Frozen Friday” showcase. Some of these will involve filmmakers, local farmers, discounted museum visits and film sets.
On Saturday, one of the biggest additions will take place, with meet and greets across town at bars and coffee shops. Enzenauer explained that festival organizers wanted an option for people to relax and sit down after watching films all day, and get a chance to talk directly with filmmakers of some of the festival’s most hotly-anticipated works.
“One of the other new things that we’re doing this year is a local set, focusing on video work done in the community. It’s not all of the work that is done in the community, since there is so much of it, but we wanted to start to bring forward some of the works being done here,” Enzenauer explained. The local set features nearly a dozen works, ranging from documentaries to narrative works to experimental films.
Ethan Larsen, a recent graduate of Winona Senior High School, will show his films for the first time this year during the local filmmaker set. He submitted three different films to the festival, including a travel film about a trip to Nashville, a non-traditional autobiographical work and a look at a 1976 Datsun 280z.
Larsen, who has been releasing works on his YouTube channel for the past several years, explained that he chose the films to display a wide variety of work instead of just centering in on one piece.
“I wanted my best work, but I also wanted a showcase of all different films,” Larsen said. “I think they’re kind of looks into my mind somehow. The trip videos are more than just me bringing a camera, and each video has its own aesthetic.”
Last year, Larsen created a work for FRFF’s 30-Second Film Festival, which was his technical festival debut. However, this year marks the first time his main work has been shown on a big screen, which he said is both daunting and exciting.
“I’ve always been scared of showing my stuff to other people because of what they might think. I’m looking forward to trying to overcome that fear,” Larsen explained.
FRFF’s former executive director Crystal Hegge is also showing a film, titled “Building Soil.” After serving for years on the back-end of the festival, she said she is excited to see the festival from a different perspective.
“I’m really excited to meet other filmmakers and not have to worry about where they will be staying, or what format their work will be coming on –– to talk about their creative process, their motivation, and kind of being on that level with them instead of the host,” Hegge said.
There will be several other films screened, including longer narrative and documentary works, as well as the dance films of local artists Sharon Mansur and Sydney Swanson. Mansur had previously shown her film “...in the Space Between,” at several sneak-peek screenings, but for those, the film was still split into vignettes. For the festival, she explained that she would be merging some of the segments together to create a new experience for those attending.
“I’m curious and excited to see it on a bigger screen and at a bigger venue. I hope to get more reactions and feedback, because I love involving people in my process,” Mansur said.
According to Enzenauer, she wanted to shift the focus of the festival more toward showcasing the community, both in terms of local creatives as well as the broader town itself.
“I really wanted to find ways that we can highlight our community here,” she said. “To find more ways to bring people down from the Twin Cities or from Wisconsin so they can get a taste of Winona and come back in the summer and spend more time here.”
The Frozen River Film Festival will take place at multiple location across Winona from February 6 through February 10, with a kick-off event on February 5. Tickets range from $12 for a single event to $120 for the Donor Premier Pass. For more information about featured films, screening locations or ticket information, visit www.frff.org or call the box office at 507-858-4147.