Frozen River Film Festival
In 2006, Theatre du Mississippi began a collaboration with Winona State University, the City of Winona, the Winona Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Telluride Mountain-films to produce the first Frozen River Film Festival.
The Festival's goal is to inspire, educate and engage students about issues surrounding the environment, world cultures and adventure sports through a broad range of multi-media experiences. We raise public awareness through key artists, speakers and filmmakers who share their stories through film, music, workshops, educational programs, and outdoor activities. The Festival covers critical issues such as sustainability, organic and local farming, endangered species, climate change and global deforestation, among many others. In addition to the focus on the environment, the Festival provides a window to other cultures around the world, especially indigenous societies, involving Festival participants in a world community, where universal themes are explored and celebrated. The Festival is a dynamic, educational, innovative, five-day event in late January; it takes place on the campus of Winona State University.
Our primary motivation for creating this event is to reach the next generation and bring the message of environmental stewardship to youth in southeast Minnesota, western Wisconsin and northern Iowa in an entertaining and engaging way. The Festival’s focus is to provide opportunities to empower students from kindergarten through college in ways that they take away with them and bring to their schools and families. They interact with filmmakers, speakers, community volunteers, and other students from surrounding towns.
We also chose January to bring people into our beautiful Mississippi River town during the winter, so they can enjoy a few days celebrating winter and the renewal of the spring to come.
We have a committed team of festival volunteers who spend hours viewing films and researching speakers, to create a program of content that is appealing and non-threatening. "Preaching to the choir" accomplishes nothing. Audience members from all points of view and walks of life are welcome; the goal of working to achieve a healthy, sustainable society is common to all. We have a special children's program with films and speakers geared towards grade school aged students. The high school and college students are welcome at the film sets and workshops geared towards the general public; indeed, the interaction between the age groups and the dialogue that interaction encourages is paramount to the Festival's goals.
The Festival has provided the impetus for a local school to develop an organic foods lunch program in which the students grow some of their own food. A group of local community members is partnering with the major health care provider in town, Winona Health, to start a community garden on land donated by Winona Health. Also, since the Festival takes place at Winona State University, many faculty members have incorporated it into their curriculum to raise awareness of sustainability issues. Since the beginnng of the Festival, the City of Winona has signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement and Winona County has developed its own global warming accord pact. Winona State University students have started a campaign to raise money for Greg Mortenson's school construction project in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and have formed the Frozen River Club, dedicated to environmental education and stewardship.
We are extremely pleased that we've garnered widespread financial support from small businesses, community members, the City, state and regional grants, and are looking at a national sponsor for the first time.
This festival has captured the imagination of our community of 25,000 in an amazing way; we are proud that so many community organizations and volunteers of all ages have stepped up to help plan and execute this exciting and educational event.
Photo by Kathy Peterson, Frozen River Film Festival 2008
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