Frozen River Film Festival 2017

Sara Walters

Winona may be small, but the talent it draws is big. This year’s Frozen River Film Festival (FRFF), a winter cultural staple in the area, is no exception. A highlight of the 2017 event will be the screening of “Free CeCe” with special guest CeCe McDonald, the subject of the film.

McDonald, an African-American bi-trans woman, gained national attention when she was incarcerated for an attack that was widely regarded as racist and transphobic. Spearheaded by Laverne Cox of “Orange is the New Black” fame, FRFF will show the film and then welcome McDonald to the stage to share her experiences.

“Free CeCe” is just one example of how FRFF brings people together to “educate them on issues, topics and stories they typically aren’t exposed to in their everyday lives,” says Logan Anderson, FRFF marketing coordinator. “Our goal is to inspire people to be active and vocal in their community, to stand and fight for the causes they are passionate about.”

Anderson and FRFF work year-round to bring programming to the area. During the summer months, they encourage locals to create and submit 30-second short films to be screened and voted on at the annual festival. Last fall they also partnered with Beer by Bike Brigade to bring a multi-venue film event to La Crosse called Films by Bike. They’ve also started showing films at St. Mane Theatre in Lanesboro, Minnesota. “Aside from those three events, we hold multiple smaller film screenings in Winona and La Crosse periodically throughout the year,” adds Anderson.

Anderson’s efforts come to a head each winter, though, when FRFF lures big-name filmmakers to the area and gives stir-crazy film fans something to look forward to. For him, the best parts of the festival are the Q&As after the films—when a filmmaker makes the trek to Winona, it’s usually because they’re very passionate about their project. “I try to make it to as many screenings with Q&As as I can so I can not only watch a great film, but also engage in conversation and pick the brain of either the director, producer or subject of the film itself. Being able to speak with someone involved in the production brings another dynamic to how I receive the film as a whole,” said Anderson.

As Anderson prepares for the festival on February 15 through 19, he encourages volunteers to reach out. Although most shifts are filled for this year, the FRFF is always looking for additional hands to cover miscellaneous needs. For more information contact

Frozen River Film Festival Preview

Courtesy of FRFF:

Short films will be shown continuously during the window of time noted. 


  • Runtime: 7 minutes
  • Directed by Ryan Heffernan and Grayson Schaffer
  • Location & Time 1: St. Mane Theatre, Lanesboro: Feb. 11, 7:30 – 9:15 p.m.
  • Location & Time 2: Science Laboratory Center 120, Winona State University: Feb. 18, 8:30 – 10:00 p.m.

Mark Engler is a guide’s guide. He’s spent decades guiding fishing trips in Colorado and New Mexico and has become a legend for it: the crusty guy who’s seen it all, who catches more fish than anyone, the boat you don’t want to be behind—the one who’s going to get them no matter what.

Free CeCe screening with special guest CeCe McDonald

  • Runtime: 85 minutes
  • Directed by Jacqueline (Jac) Gares
  • Location & Time: Harriet Johnson Auditorium (in Somsen Hall), Winona State University: Feb. 16, 6:30 p.m.
  • Details in article

  • Runtime: 7 minutes
  • Directed by Lindsay Branham and Jon Kasbe  
  • Location & Time: Minnesota Conservatory for the Arts, Winona: Feb. 16, 9:30 – 11:00 p.m.

Two children, a Christian boy and a Muslim girl, give their perspectives on growing up in the divided and desperately poor Central African Republic. Despite differences in their upbringings and religious backgrounds, the pair share a hopeful vision of peace that would allow them to be friends.


  • Runtime: 8 minutes
  • Directed by Ben Moon
  • Location & Time: Minnesota Conservatory for the Arts, Winona: Feb. 16, 9:30 – 11:00 p.m.

For Daniel Norris, baseball has been a passion, career, patient teacher and cruel master. But becoming a professional athlete means life in a high-stakes world of intense pressure where players are constantly under the microscope. That’s why, during the offseason, Norris lives in his VW van, Shaggy. It’s a simple life. He travels alone, taking pictures, surfing, exploring the West and hoping that Shaggy will make it to the next destination.

50 Feet From Syria

  • Runtime: 39 minutes
  • Directed by Skye Fitzgerald  
  • Location & Time: Miller[WA1]  Auditorium (in Stark Hall), Winona State University: Feb. 18, 1:00 – 2:30 p.m.

“50 Feet from Syria” follows surgeon Hisham Bismar to the Syrian border to operate on victims from the Syrian civil war. The film captures the human cost of conflict and serves as a portal into one of the most brutal, dehumanizing conflicts in modern history.


  • Runtime: 60 minutes
  • Directed by James Redford
  • Location & Time: Harriet Johnson Auditorium (in Somsen Hall), Winona State University: Feb. 19, 1:00 – 2:30 p.m.

Researchers have recently discovered a dangerous biological syndrome caused by abuse and neglect during childhood. As the new documentary “Resilience” reveals, toxic stress can trigger hormones that wreak havoc on the brains and bodies of children, putting them at a greater risk for disease, homelessness, prison time, and early death. While the broader impacts of poverty worsen the risk, no segment of society is immune. “Resilience,” however, also chronicles the dawn of a movement that is determined to fight back. Trailblazers in pediatrics, education, and social welfare are using cutting-edge science and field-tested therapies to protect children from the insidious effects of toxic stress—and the dark legacy of a childhood that no child would choose.

To learn more about these films and others that will be showing February 15 throught 19, including film location sites, visit