On the Mark: Freerange Films return to the barn this weekend


June 23, 2023

Again this year, the Dugan family and friends host two nights of films in their Wrenshall barn. I’ve been enjoying this year’s slate of films on my computer. I can’t review them all in this slim column, but I’m sharing my favorites.

The most spectacular is “Finding Her Beat,” a film made by Japanese, Canadian and American women learning and performing Taiko, a Japanese male art form that combines dance movements with banging a large vertical drum. The film opens with a Korean adoptee raised in North Dakota stating: “So few Taiko artists are women. It has been forbidden for centuries in Japan. But now there are amazing women Taiko players, though they are scattered and working in isolation.”

I found myself weeping at the skill, dedication and comradery of these women and the elegance of their performance.

“Cane Boil,” a 10-minute film directed by Abbey Hoekzema, introduces us to southern sugar cane fields and conversion of cane into sugar. “It’s an opportunity for local people to get together,” one participant states. “It brings back memories. We are trying to carry on a tradition. There are few younger people left doing it.”

I chuckled at the short documentary film “The Submergents: Or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace the Cold.” It hit quite close to home for me. I was raised in the Minneapolis neighborhood that contains Lake Harriet, the venue for winter and summer activity. The film captures men and women submerging themselves through a hole in the ice in the dead of winter.

In “What the Wings Bring,” Deb Wallwork profiles Carol of Dent, Minnesota, who makes everything from the land. As a child, Carol caught butterflies in a jar. “When I was 12,” she recalls, “I lay down and watched them. I harvested wild grapes, chokecherries, black raspberries — all planted by birds. I loved butterflies — our apple tree was loaded with them. I caught some and put them in my bedroom. But when my mother opened the door, there were eggs all over my curtains.”

Sergio Rapu’s documentary, “Jonathon Thunder: Good Mythology,” features the work of a Minnesota Ojibwe artist who began to draw as a child, producing happy and sad faces his mom helped him create. His work often features elements of Ojibwe mythology. Thunder loves to animate, digitally. “The paintings themselves feel like they are moving,” he says. His work features animals, such as the great lynx, a protestor of the water.

John Akre’s Sloppy Films documentary, “The Realization of Childhood Dreams,” documents the 1933 trip of schoolteacher Ordella Walker and her niece Amy around the U.S. They traveled by train to the Chicago World’s Fair, visited Abe Lincoln’s home, a Chinese Temple and more, eventually traveling east to Niagara Falls and then to the wonders of New York and Washington D.C.

A powerful documentary, “I Stutter, But I Need You to Listen,” by James Robinson, explores the challenges of people who stutter. It explains the variants of stuttering and features three people who are serious stutterers, helping viewers understand their challenges.

Columnist Ann Markusen is an economist and professor emerita at University of Minnesota. One of the five owners of the Pine Knot News, she lives in Red Clover Township north of Cromwell with her husband, Rod Walli.


If you go

There are many film offerings at the Wrenshall farm at 909 County Road 4 in Wrenshall at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, June 23-24. Visit http://www.freerangefilm.com for further details.

• There will be a food truck on site.

• Films are projected on a 24-foot wide screen inside the hayloft of a barn built in 1916.

• The $10 Free Range Film Festival will be held at the corner of Carlton County Roads 1 & 4 just a mile south of Wrenshall. If you plug 909 County Road 4, Wrenshall, MN 55797 into your GPS device, it should take you right to the barn.


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