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Ely Film Festival preparing for February, looking for hosts

OPENING NIGHT at the End of Road Film Festival at the State Theater in Ely in February of 2023. Photo by Chris Ellerbroek.

by Parker Loew

Organizers of the Ely Film Festival have been hard at work preparing for this year’s festival, slated to take place Feb. 8-11.

The festival has received a great response from filmmakers looking to be in the festival, and received a total of 191 film submissions.

Too many films were submitted for all to be shown in the four-day festival, so organizers whittled down the number of films to 71 feature-length and short films.

Organizers and screeners had to sift through roughly 96 hours of film to come up with the final 71.

This year there will be adventure/nature-themed films, indigenous films, regional films, films about human nature, and some different genre films such as western, thriller, and slasher films.

One of the more highly anticipated films this year at the festival is about the Arrowhead 135 dogsledding race from International Falls to Fortune Bay, titled ‘40 Below: The Toughest Race in the World.’

“We’re really excited about that film because we’ve got local folks that have been in that race who are in the film,” said festival director Jacob White.

The film was made during the 2019 race where the temperatures never reached above negative ten degrees Fahrenheit.

“We’re hoping to sell that event out on Saturday night, Feb. 10th at 7 p.m. at the State Theater,” said White. “The film sold out to an audience of almost 700 people at the NorShor Theatre in Duluth during the Duluth-Superior Film Festival back in October.”

Over the next few weeks, organizers will publicly announce the schedule and begin to sell tickets to each individual screening.

Festival passes are currently available on the Ely Film Festival website for a price of $95 and include free access to the pass holders breakfasts, after parties, free access to all panels and workshops, and a discount on t-shirts.

There will be a Christmas sale on festival passes from Dec. 21 through Dec. 26, where passes will be sold at a discounted rate of $75.

The full festival schedule and tickets for individual blocks will be online and ready to purchase around the first week of January.

The festival has already sold 120 four-day passes, and White expects this year to be just as busy, if not busier.

“We’re right on track with where we were last year for attendance. It might even be a bigger turnout,” he said. “We’re hoping that everyone will turn up and the weather holds out for people that are traveling from other places.”

Similar to last year, the Ely Film Festival will offer the Friday Indigenous Students Day program where they host around 100 students from six different area schools who come and watch films all morning on Friday.

“That was a huge success for us last year,” said White. “It’s so important for us to help connect the students with opportunities to see stories that are different than what they can typically find on Netflix or the big screen.”

Although the festival is currently collaborating with several lodging establishments to host filmmakers, they still need housing for 13-15 filmmakers and are seeking volunteer homestay hosts.

“The Homestay Host Program is a good opportunity for local families to meet filmmakers and have a chance to get to know them a little more personally,” said White.

All that is required to accommodate a filmmaker is a spare bedroom, and the experience will vary depending on what the filmmaker/host wants to get out of it.

“Some filmmakers might really want to connect and share a meal and swap stories and hang out with their host, but other times the host might meet them on Thursday afternoon and then not see them until they leave Sunday morning,” said White.

Hosts this year will receive a bag of Gene Hicks coffee and Crapola Granola as thanks from festival organizers.

If you would like to volunteer as a homestay host, please visit elyfilmfest.com and click on ‘volunteer’ under the ‘support’ tab.

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