Not far from Duluth out on a farm, a large barn is home to the annual Free Range Film Fest. The weekend fest features “any film, video or kinescope nurtured without the use of pesticides, growth hormones or a distribution deal from a fancy-pants Hollywood studio.”
This is the thirteenth year for the festival run by local artsy types with good hearts. The films are simulcast on three screens – two in the lower level of the barn, and in the hayloft on a 24-foot-wide screen. The barn is a hundred years old this year.
This was my first time attending the Free Range Film Fest. I went with some friends and our car trip to and from the barn provided a classic slice of small-town Minnesota. We got delayed on the way there by a running race in the town of Carlton, which was celebrating “Carlton Daze.” On the way back, we got delayed in Carlton again, but this time for a train that seemed to blow its horn more often than necessary.
Once we arrived and paid the $10 free-will entrance fee, we quickly made our way up into the hayloft for the prime viewing experience. We only had time to view eight of the films, but even so, we left with sated senses. Our favorites were “Bacon & God’s Wrath,” which documented the first time a ninety-year-old Jewish woman tried bacon. Directed by Sol Friedman, a Toronto-based filmmaker and animator, the film delves into the woman’s thinking surrounding her faith more than it does on her gustatory reaction to the bacon. She blamed her newfound mind- and soul-expansion on the internet. Needless to say, God did not strike her down for eating bacon. “It was a good breakfast,” she said.
Another fave was “Pickle,” which featured a well-meaning couple who rescue animals, which all seem to die from weird conditions. From all the energy they put into their animals, I can only assume they don’t have children.
Then there was “They Crawl Amongst Us,” a stop-motion documentary about life in New York City as told by flies, cockroaches, pigeons and other creepy crawlies. Although the stories are from the perspective of bugs, the viewpoints are suspiciously human.
Although the temperature in the hayloft was comfortable, apparently it was just stuffy enough to cause one of the patrons to faint in the middle of a film director Q & A after one of the movies. We were too far away to see what was happening, but the shuffling of chairs and a shout to “Call 9-1-1!” alerted us.
A man a few rows away from us made the call. As he was talking to the dispatcher, another voice from the crowd said, “He’s declining.”
We thought that meant the person’s situation (whatever it was) was getting worse, and so did the caller, so he kept on giving the dispatcher information. But shortly afterward came the clarification that the person didn’t want medical assistance. He was able to stand and leave the barn, sweaty, but under his own power.
We were glad to see that his free-range experience caused no lasting damage.