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Celebrating Film and Filmmakers in Decorah
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Celebrating Film and Filmmakers in Decorah

“I didn’t think documentary films could be fun! That was fun!”

“I changed my business model, based on films I saw at the Oneota Film Festival a couple of years ago!” “That guy who sat next to me during the film knew a lot about this subject!”

“Wow! I will never think about that in the same way again!”

The subjects of the films to be shown at the 6th Annual Oneota Film Festival on March 6-8, 2015, on the Luther College campus in Decorah, Iowa, will be as varied as the opinions and comments heard at past Festivals. There will be films about rock climbing, Guatemalan grandparents seeing their American grandchildren for the first time, Beethoven’s Ninth, gardening in the city, recycling/reusing, dancing garbage trucks, racing at the Arrowhead135, the truth about magic, surfing in India, immigration stories, race relations, and more…

Seven years ago, Luther College graduate and world-traveler Walter Ordway initiated a meeting at Luther with his friend Kyrl Henderson at his side. Walter had made some small documentary films about the places and the people he had photographed. As a filmmaker, he loved talking with audiences about his films. He felt that a group of volunteers with the support of the college, could create a wonderful community event with filmmakers showing their films and discussing them with the audience. And so, the Oneota Film Festival, also know as OFF, was born.

“Oneota” is a designation archaeologists use to refer to a culture that existed in the eastern plains and Great Lakes area of what is now the United States from around AD 900 to around 1700. Some times the Upper Iowa River, which flows through Decorah, has been called the Oneota River.

During the three days of OFF, more than 50 films will be screened. All of the films were created within the past two years. You probably haven’t seen them on television or the internet. Some were selected based on the recommendation of past audience members. Filmmakers, including student filmmakers, submitted some.

There will be awards for the best of the submitted films. This year the awards ceremony has been re-titled The Walter Ordway Awards Ceremony. It appears that last November, Walter drowned in a small lake within a couple of miles of his home in Western Iowa, trying to save his dog that had fallen through the ice. Walter’s body has avoided discovery by search teams. The Oneota Film Festival celebrates his idea: we, too, love discussing films about issues that matter to us with the people who made the films.


Photo: Nancy Sojka, "Upper Iowa River in February"


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  1. Travel Iowa Team
    Travel Iowa Team
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