Elena Rue
Elena Rue

Celebrating its fifth year, Oneota Film Festival (OFF) will screen 23 notable documentary films from around the world, present acclaimed filmmakers, expand its venues and collaborate with the Luther College Ethnic Arts Festival.

All events are free of charge during the three-day OFF festival, Feb. 28-Mar. 2. The first screening begins at 4 p.m. Friday, Feb. 28.

"This is by far the largest and most far-ranging festival we have ever produced," festival Director Erika Kambs said. "We think audiences will find the films spellbinding and the events exciting. Those who attend will get an extraordinary glimpse inside the world we all live in."

In addition to films selected by the OFF board of directors, the festival invited filmmakers from around the world to submit their work, which is judged by a panel of experts led by Luther Associate Professor Andy Hageman. The winner of the OFF film invitational will be screened at the Festival and announced at the reception Saturday night at T-Bock's Upstairs.

Filmmaker Elena Rue, formerly of Decorah, will be on hand to discuss her heartfelt film, "Shared Origins," the story of two Ethiopian-American girls who, with two mothers and one motherless girl, navigate the geographical, cultural and emotional space of losing and finding family.

Rue is cofounder of StoryMineMedia, a visual storytelling company specializing in documentary storytelling. She is director of the Lewis Hine Documentary Fellowship Program at Duke University.

Filmmakers Hunter and Sarah Weeks will return to OFF to talk about their film, "Walter." After an encounter with Walter Breuning, the world's oldest man, the film embarks on an adventure to capture the extraordinary lives of people 110 years and older.

As part of the screening of "Mysteries of the Driftless," a documentary about a team of explorers and scientists kayaking the intriguing Driftless area of Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota, filmmaker Tim Jacobson will do a question and answer.

As an added opportunity, OFF attendees have the option to experience the Luther Ethnic Arts Festival Country Fair anytime from 1-4 p.m. in the Dahl Centennial Union Saturday, which is just a few steps from where the films are screened on campus. The Ethnic Arts Festival is designed as an educational and entertaining activity for families, as well as a celebration of cultures by students. Ethnic cuisine will be served in Peace Dining from 4:30-6:30 p.m. (tickets required), followed by a free student performance in the Center for Faith and Life Main Hall March 1 at 7 p.m.

In conjunction with a home show at Decorah High School, OFF will screen two films in the newly remodeled high school orchestra room Sunday, March 2 - "Tiny," an adventure in building tiny houses and "living small," and "Bringing It Home," a film about the entrepreneurial opportunities of hemp inspired by environmentally conscious home builder Anthony Brenner.

Health and wellness take center stage for part of the festival, which will include opportunities to stretch as well as understand the ascendance of fitness techniques that benefit the mind and body. "Room To Breathe," a surprising story of transformation for struggling kids in a San Francisco public middle school who are introduced to the practice of mindfulness meditation, will be shown. A mindfulness mediation workshop will follow.

"A Movement of Movement" also will be presented. This beautiful film explores the emergence of the Pilates movement and expanding human experience through fitness. A workshop led by Amanda Rhine, Discover Happy, will follow.

"The Crash Reel" will be screened at 3 p.m. Saturday at T-Bock's Upstairs. "Klunkerz" and "Arrival" will follow, in an evening film set beginning at 8:15 p.m. "The Crash Reel" is an eye-popping film combining stunning action footage with new specially shot verité footage.

The film follows U.S. champion snowboarder Kevin Pearce -- and exposes the irresistible but potentially fatal appeal of extreme sports. Using archival footage, still photographs and interviews, "Klunkerz" tells the story of the earliest days of the mountain bike sport from the perspective of those who were there. Some of the biggest names in the industry, as well as some more obscure characters, recount the events that shaped the sport.

"Arrival," with its amazing cinematography, gives audiences a view of a breathtaking new generation of free riders and bike racers who challenge some of the nation's most difficult trails and tracks. Mountain bike films at T-Bock's are sponsored by Decorah Bicycles.

Other films include "Mosuo Sisters," "Shadows of Liberty," "Symphony of the Soil," "Trashed" with Jeremy Irons, "The Waiting Room," "North of the Sun," "The Price of Sand," "Arrival," "Gyre," "Go Tell it on the Mountain," "Battle for the Elephants," "Forbidden Voices" and the "Fabulous Fashionistas."

A complete list and schedule is available at oneotafilmfestival.org.

Short films made by local 7th-12th grade students as part of the OFF Micro-Film Seminar also will be presented.

A free reception open to all OFF attendees (wear your wristband) will be held at T-Bock's Upstairs beginning at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Mar.1. Film submission winners will be announced and attendees will have an opportunity to converse with filmmakers and friends. Hors d'oeuvres will be prepared by the Oneota Community Co-op. The reception will have a cash bar.

All films, panel discussions, workshops and the reception are free of charge. Registration is required. Advanced registration is preferable, though people can register at the door in Valders Hall at Luther College throughout the festival and before films at T-Bock's Upstairs and Decorah High School. Online registration and a full schedule are available at oneotafilmfestival.org.

The Oneota Film Festival is made possible in part by the generous support of a large number of sponsors and donors across the regional community, including host Luther College, primary sponsors Oneota Community Co-op and The Depot Outlet, major sponsor Decorah Bank and Trust, other individual film and event sponsors, members, free will donations at the screenings, in kind support from a number of local businesses and service providers and the Decorah Public Library. Film underwriters this year are Discover Happy, Decorah Bicycles, The Yoga Room, The Decorah Hatchery, The Good Foot/Amundson's Clothing, Upper Iowa Organics, Fancy Pants, NE Iowa Unitarian Universalists, the Northeast Iowa Peace and Justice Center and Winneshiek County Recycling.

The Student Micro-Film Seminar was sponsored by Featherlite Trailers, ArtHaus and The Game Exchange.