WRENSHALL, Minn. — As they've done every last weekend of July for the past decade, Annie Dugan and her husband will invite 500 of their closest friends to squeeze into their barn this weekend and watch a couple dozen movies.
The movie night on steroids is called the Free Range Film Festival, the Duluth News Tribune reported Thursday (http://bit.ly/11gog2n ). It bills itself as a farm fresh alternative to stale cinema. It runs Friday night and most of Saturday at their property in Wrenshall, southwest of Duluth in Carlton County.
Dugan and her husband, Janaki Fisher-Merritt, bought the well-kept red barn 11 years ago and knew they had to find a way to use it. There wasn't enough land to support cattle or horses, so they began using it as their personal movie theater, inviting friends over for screenings. Eventually, their movie nights got a lot bigger.
"It sort of snowballed into a film festival," Dugan said.
This year, in honor of the 10th anniversary, they'll be doing things a little differently. While there are a slew of new movies in the lineup, they'll also screen some old favorites from past festivals. And instead of the usual live bluegrass as intermission entertainment, the Duluth band Portrait of a Drowned Man will play their instrumental post-rock Friday evening.
Their group's music is also used in the short documentary "Inside the Whale," which follows an artist's quest to draw one image every day for every page of the novel "Moby Dick." That film will screen just before the band's performance.
The band won't be the only VIPs there. Many of the filmmakers will attend, too, and a few films will have question-and-answer sessions after showings. Mike Scholtz, who helped create the festival, said he's looking forward to the banter after "The Harvest," a documentary about a foundation that grants terminally ill kids the chance to hunt.
"It's a movie that makes some people mad," Scholtz said. "I'm hoping the Q&A will be contentious."
Scholtz estimates that the film jury — including him, Dugan, Fisher-Merritt and Scholtz's girlfriend, Valerie Coit — spent 100 hours wading through close to 300 film submissions. The 30 mostly short films playing this weekend are what they deemed the best of the best.
"We get popcorn and caffeine and go to town," Dugan said of the judging process.
And the criteria are strict, she added.
"If we like something, we show it," she said.