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John Lamb, Published March 07 2014

Fargo's other 'film festival' comes into focus

FARGO – The film and art world intersected Friday when the Plains Art Museum hosted the Fargo Film Festival’s evening party.

The event was planned as a reception not only for festivalgoers, but New York media artist Jason Simon, whose installation, “The One Minute Film Festival,” is on display on the museum’s third-floor gallery.

“The film culture here is so strong with the Fargo Film Festival and programs at Concordia and Minnesota State University Moorhead,” said Colleen Sheehy, director and CEO of the Plains. “I wanted to tap into that film culture.”

Simon said one-minute movies gravitate more toward the world of art than the film world. He was looking forward to the Fargo Film Festival’s evening screenings that night, particularly the two-minute movie contest.

His own festival sprung as a party idea. Simon and his wife, artist Moyra Davey, invited friends to their house in upstate New York the Saturday after July Fourth. Guests were invited to bring a dish to share and a one-minute movie, which would be screened at the end of the night in the couple’s barn.

One minute was short enough to not seem daunting to those who had never made a movie, Simon explained.

The first “festival” was held in 2003 and was an immediate success. It became an annual event before the final screening in 2012.

“It became, surprising to me, something people looked forward to and scheduled,” Simon said.

The festival predated YouTube and today’s digital technology, so guests dropped off VHS tapes, super 8 film or digital video and Simon played VJ at the party.

“You didn’t know what would be showing until it was up on the screen. That’s what really made it an event,” he said.

The festival started drawing the attention of museum curators and directors like the Plains’ Colleen Sheehy. Museums wanted to present the party films as “The One Minute Film Festival.”

Simon was skeptical it would work, so he added another component. He asked artists to design posters for their films, giving the galleries a multiplex feel. More than seventy artists responded and the posters line the gallery at the Plains while more than 600 movies play on the south wall.

“They rose to the challenge of going for a feature film vernacular,” he says.

Simon said the festival was successful because it predated YouTube and attracted people to share an experience watching the films, like in a theater.

So he sees the paradox in now showing these movies in galleries where people attend in small groups or on their own.

“Everything we watch and love now, we watch alone,” he says.

If you go

What: “The One Minute Film Festival”

When: Through May 24

Where: Plains Art Museum, 704 1st Ave., N., Fargo

Info: Open every day, admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and educators, free for students and youth

What: Fargo Film Festival

When: Screenings start at 9:30 a.m. and continue all day with a noon break for lunch and again from 5 to 7 p.m. before the evening screenings

Where: The Fargo Theatre, 314 Broadway

Info: Single session tickets are $6 for mornings and afternoons, $8 for evenings and $5 for students. Passes to parties and films range from $15 to $125. (701) 239-8385.

Today’s highlights

11 a.m.: “Duk County,” honorable mention in Documentary Short, followed by Q & A with Dr. Roger Furlong

1:40 p.m.: “Sleight of Hand,” winner Best Animated Film

2:15 p.m.: “Girl Who Lives in a Tree,” winner Rusty Casselton Award, followed by Q & A with Simone LeClaire

2:40 p.m.: “Framing the Other,” winner Best Documentary Short

7:15 p.m.: 2-Minute Movie Contest Winner

7:30 p.m.: “First Prize,” winner Best Student Film, followed by Q & A with Kevin McMullin

8:05 p.m.: “The Interviewer,” winner Best Narrative Short, followed by Q & A with Eleanor Winkler

8:30 p.m.: “3 Mile Limit,” winner Best Narrative Feature

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