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Published April 04 2013

MSUM professor's film follows group of outspoken teens

FARGO – Issues like sexuality, LGBT identity, abuse and teen pregnancy can be difficult for teenagers to discuss. But for several Bismarck youth, that’s exactly what they want to talk about.

The troupe, called “The Group That Opened the Box,” is the focus of a documentary being screened at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fargo-Moorhead on Monday night. The screening is open to the public, but parental guidance is advised.

Called “Teen Writes: The Group That Opened the Box,” the 56-minute-long film was co-produced by Kyja Kristjansson-Nelson, an associate professor at Minnesota State University Moorhead’s cinema arts and digital technologies department.

The documentary includes interviews of all the teens in the group, as well as of the adults who work with them. It also includes footage of the group’s past creative writing and spoken word stage performances.

“It’s a documentary about the group itself,” Kristjansson-Nelson says. “It follows the stories about these teenagers on their journey.”

Ray Heiden, a 19-year-old first-year student at Bismarck State University and group member included in the film, says he got involved because he thinks open discussions between teens and adults need to happen more often.

“Just in our community here, you don’t actually have groups that talk about some of these things that go on in people’s lives,” he says.

For that reason, Heiden hopes the group, through its presentations and performances, affects how local communities approach these issues.

“People should be more open-minded,” he says. “The group really helps with that.”

Though the documentary was completed last year, Kristjansson-Nelson thinks the topics covered in the film and by the group are even timelier now because of the state’s current political and social climate.

“The relevance of what they’re doing cannot be underestimated,” she says.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Sam Benshoof at (701) 241-5535

If you go

What: Screening of “Teen Writes: The Group That Opened the Box”

When: 7 p.m. Monday

Where: Unitarian Universalist Church of Fargo-Moorhead, 121 9th St. S., Fargo

Info: Admission is free; documentary is unrated, parental guidance is advised