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Frozen River Film Festival in Winona welcomes filmmakers from around the world

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WINONA, Minn. (FOX 47) -

Winona, Minnesota has a population of 28,000 people. 

The small, artsy college town has drawn in its fair share of tourists over the years because of the various festivals it hosts.

One of those festivals is the Frozen River Film Festival, an annual festival held in Winona for the past 12 years.

"We have films from all over the world...we also have new filmmakers that come every year," said Crystal Hegge, executive director of the Frozen River Film Festival.

According to Hegge, the film festival is truly an international festival, bringing in filmmakers from countries like Brazil and Rwanda. At the same time, it allows Winona natives to show their own films.

"It's not often you have a festival right in your hometown," said Mary Farrell, whose film "John Latsch: The Man & His River" will premiere on Sunday. She works for Winona's tourism office during the week, while using her days off to work on her film.

Farrell has spent the past three years working on her 22-minute film about John Latsch. If you aren't familiar with Latsch, he has been considered a Winona icon. He was a quiet millionaire who loved canoeing the Mississippi River. He helped purchase land on the Mississippi shore so that the riverbanks would be accessible and welcome to everyone.

"It was sort of like, 'Maybe I could try this and challenge myself to do something new and different,'" said Farrell. 

Naturally, she's anxious for others to see her finished project. "I am excited and nervous because there's always 'what if?'"

The festival also welcomes filmmakers from across the country. Deanpaul Russell is a cameraman from Utah, but recently moved to Minneapolis. Russell has said he's incredibly excited for people to see his work on "Love of Place."

"It's one of those stories where you look at something that you love, and whatever that is for you, you're willing to do anything for the thing you love."

Russell's film is about a Utah park ranger who found an invasive tree in a river basin and made it his life's mission to eradicate it from the area.

Like Farrell, the festival will be the first for Russell. 

The festival will show 81 films this year, the most they've had since the festival's inception 12 years ago. Though if you're looking for a juicy drama or romantic comedy, you won't find it here. That's because the Frozen River Film Festival only screens documentaries. 

In order to get into the festival, filmmakers must first submit their film online. After that a 12-person committee will go through hundreds of submissions and rate them, eventually picking the best ones. At that point, according to Hegge, there's still too many films. So the committee then makes the final cut by selecting films that are relevant to local and global issues as well as films that fit the theme of that year's festival. The theme for the 2017 festival is digital humanities.

For more information about the film festival, click here.

If you'd like to purchase tickets to the festival, click here.

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