In 2000, film enthusiasts booked the Fargo Theatre for a Library of Congress Film Preservation Tour, and actress Janet Leigh was in attendance for the event. That tour served as a precursor to the Fargo Film Festival, which became a reality in March 2001 and has continued to be a cultural staple in Fargo every year since.
The festival began in 2001 with only 30 submissions from filmmakers in North Dakota and nearby states, and today averages more than 150 submissions from 28 states and 12 countries. The event, always held in early March, features films that are shown at several locations in the Fargo-Moorhead community, including the headquarters site of Fargo Theatre. The restored theater has an art deco design and is equipped with the latest in sound and film-viewing technology, plus has seating for 870 people.
Movies that are showcased and judged at the five-day festival are in categories such as animated, comedy, documentary, drama, experimental, narrative feature, narrative short, short documentary and student. In addition, the 2012 festival, which was the 12th annual, introduced a tribute to The Big Lebowski that included a contest where filmmakers made two-minute movies to honor the 1998 comedy classic.
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