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8 movies, 7 days: Prairie Light Film Festival starts

The second big screen at the Morris Theater may be smaller than the screen in the main theater but to three of the organizers of an upcoming film festival that second screen is already having a big impact.

"The theater is an important part of our community," said Barbara Burke, a communications, media and rhetoric professor at the University of Minnesota Morris. The second screen gives the theater and the community more options for more movies, she said. It also means moviegoers don't need to travel to Willmar, Alexandria or St. Cloud to watch a movie because the movie may be playing in Morris, Burke said.

While a second screen provides moviegoers with more options throughout the year in Morris, Burke said the Sept. 7-13 Prairie Light Film Festival will be a chance for moviegoers to see eight award-winning movies in seven days, plus some locally or regionally produced films by UMM students or UMM graduates. Tickets will be $5 for each of the main shows except "Lu Over The Wall" which is free..

What do the movies "Singin' In The Rain" and "Lu Over the Wall" have in common?

Both movies are part of the Prairie Light Film Festival.

David Erickson of the Morris Theatre Coop Board said the festival is designed to draw movie lovers and "We hope to get some people in (the theater) who haven't been here before."

The festival is a collaboration between the theater, Burke and her students and Morris Public Library director Anne Hennen Barber.

"I was very happy to be involved in selecting the films for the festival," Barber said. Barber's dad owned the theater for many years. She also has a master's degree in film production. The library organized a and help sponsor events throughout the past year such as a speaker on films and film production workshops for community students and UMM students.

"We had a fantastic committee," Burke said of the film selection committee.

The festival film selection committee had some set goals for the lineup such as a documentary and a children's movie.

Erickson said the committee wanted to bring in some critically acclaimed movies of the past year

The festival film selection committee had also some set goals for the lineup such as a documentary and a children's movie.

Most film festivals include time for discussion about the movie. The Prairie Light Film Festival has set aside time to discuss various movies on the schedule including the time between the end and start of movies.

Although there were plenty of ideas for movies for the festival, the festival could not have happened with the addition of the second screen. The small theater opened in August which allows the theater to play at least two, even three, movies during the same week.

The festival has movies set for matinees and evenings which use both screens.

The festival includes movies that may not have wide-spread play on screens in the region or across the country but all have either won an award or some critical acclaim. "Hereditary" for example, is an R-rated horror movie and "The Rider" is an R-rated movie about young, rising rodeo circuit cowboy who is injured in a riding accident.

"Lu Over the Wall" is an animated Japanese film about a boy who befriends a mermaid and is rated PG.. The 2018 Animation Show of Shows is 16 short animated films presented in a feature length package. "Won't You Be My Neighbor?' is rated PG and asks if society has lived up to Fred Rogers' ideal of good neighbors.

"Singin' In The Rain" is just a classic movie and it's a movie about movies," Burke said. What movie could be more appropriate for a film festival, she said.

"Sorry to Bother You" tells the story of a black telemarketer Cassius Green who discovers a magical key to professional success which propels him in to a macabre universe. Rated R.

"Eighth Grade" is the story of a 13-year-old making her way through the final week of middle school and her thus far disastrous eighth-grade year. Rated R.

The festival is the wrap-up to a roughly year-long project funded by a grant from the University of Minnesota's Institute of Advanced Study. Burke and her students worked with the Stevens County Historical Society last year on a film project that highlighted the movie theater's past and present in Morris. Other projects included visiting filmmakers who worked with UMM and community students including workshops at the public library.

For more information on the screen times and the show times for the regional movies, check the theater's website at or the Morris Theatre Facebook page.