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John Lamb, Published March 13 2012

Lamb: Fargo Film Festival strikes Hollywood

Another Fargo Film Festival closed this past Saturday night and all of the iconic FFF scarves have been rolled up and put away for another year. But soon enough planning will begin on next year’s fest.

So what did organizers learn this year and how do they plan on improving for next year’s event?

I’m pretty sure they’re all sleeping after a busy week (plus all the weeks leading up to it), but I have a suggestion: More celebrities please.

To my recollection, this is the first time the fest brought in someone who didn’t have a movie showing. Concordia alum Rich Sommer of “Mad Men” was the featured guest, though he scoffed at the idea of being a celebrity.

Sure, the movies are the focus of the festival, but the stars are the real gravitational pull.

Granted, the Fargo Film Festival won’t create the red carpet photo ops we see in magazines – like Charlize Theron, Will Smith and Martin Scorsese in the sun at the Cannes Film Festival or Samuel L. Jackson, Bjork and Ron Jeremy hitting the slopes at Sundance.

Fargo won’t get the A-list celebrities, because our festival doesn’t get the A-list festival movies. Yet.

We’re going to get scrappy indie movies and scrappy indie stars and directors.

Or maybe scrapping is the right word.

What was the most memorable image from the fest? Was it the twisted ending to “Silver Tongues”? Or actual Iraq War footage from the Best in Show documentary short, “Incident in New Baghdad”?

Nope. It was when Fargo’s own Dayna Del Val clocked “Mad Men” actor Rich Sommer in the face with a toy car onstage Saturday night.

They were playing the party game Celebrity, a kind of charades where the answer is always a famous person. Sommer was the host and Del Val was paired with actor Joe Lo Truglio, here for his movie, the locally-produced, “High Road.”

In a segment called Auto Biography, Sommer was reading passages from an unnamed stars’ autobiography and when a player recognized the “writer” they were instructed to throw a toy car at the host.

Despite being warned not to hit the face, that is exactly where Del Val chucked her car, nearly knocking Sommer over and completely flooring the crowd.

And that’s just what happened in front of a crowd. The actors took in the Fargo-Moorhead for days and incorporated a number of spots into their talks. (They loved the HoDo, liked the grittiness of Dempsey’s but refused to step foot in The Hub.)

They mingled at a post-fest party at ecce, and then later christened the newly-opened Mezzaluna (formerly Silver Moon) at a private post-post-fest shindig.

The parties didn’t stop when the bars closed. Sommer talked about reliving his college days and bringing other actors to Mick’s Office and then the Fryin’ Pan for some post-party grub. By Sunday night there were shots of stars schmoozing (and often boozing) with locals all over Facebook.

So what do all of the things that don’t happen on the screen have to do with making the film festival even better? It is good advertising, creates a buzz that attracts more talent and sells more tickets.

So where can organizers find someone for next year to create such a stir, someone who can attract thousands? Well, people seem to love Marilyn Hagerty’s cultural critiques. And I’m sure they can pay her in Olive Garden gift certificates.

Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533

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