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Bemidji State University students Emma Li (left) and Rachel Niklaus decided a good way to experience northern Minnesota culture was to go duck hunting. That’s one of the activities depicted in Li’s short film, “Our Northern Minnesota Experience,” which will be shown tonight as part of the Headwaters Film Festival at BSU. Submitted Photo

BSU student’s film documents local culture; Headwaters Film Festival opens tonight

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BEMIDJI — Emma Li was not satisfied sitting in classrooms and studying in the library during her time at Bemidji State University. She wanted to experience all that northern Minnesota has to offer.

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So the senior from China hooked up with two other international students and went duck hunting. They ate wild rice hotdish. They attended a Beaver hockey game. And they went cross country skiing.

It’s all documented in Emma’s film, “Our Northern Minnesota Experience,” which is one of 13 short films to be shown at 7 p.m. today as part of the Headwaters Film Festival. The event is free and open to the public. It will be held on the main stage in the Bangsberg Fine Arts Complex at BSU.

“I had been here for a year and a half,” Li said, “and I was fascinated by the northern Minnesota culture. It is so different from China. I wanted to document it from an international perspective.”

She and fellow BSU students Rachel Niklaus from Switzerland and Lee Rowe-Elliott from England devised the plan for the film.

“We wanted to do things we wouldn’t do anywhere else,” Li said.

The duck hunting experience was one of those. The trio got up at 4 a.m. one day last fall, painted their faces and put on camouflage gear, then headed to their hunting spot on the Mississippi River.

“Rachel and I shot a gun for the first time that day. It was the last day of hunting season, so the ducks were all gone. But it was still fun to go through the whole preparing process.”

Angie Gora, director of summer programs at Bemidji State and an organizer of this weekend’s film festival, is impressed with the talent displayed in the student competition.

“It’s a way of supporting student filmmakers and their rising stardom,” Gora said.

Li hopes to focus on documentaries as she begins her career on the West Coast.

“I am interested in movie making, but particularly documentaries,” she said. “I have a passion to give a voice to those who have none, and to feature different cultures and minorities.”

Meanwhile, she will cherish her final month in the northland.

“I’ve really enjoyed my time here,” said Li, who plans to move to California to pursue a film career after graduating in May. “I’ve had a fabulous time in Minnesota and I wanted to document it. I really felt welcomed. Bemidji is a small community that’s very artsy, very creative. I really like that.”

Festival Films

BEMIDJI — This year’s Headwaters Film Festival starts tonight through Saturday on the main stage in the Bangsberg Fine Arts Complex on the BSU campus. The festival opens with a student film competition, featuring the work of 13 students from schools across the country. The festival also features feature screenings of “Twilight of the Mississippi” and “Doomtree: Team the Best Team.” All events are open to the public free of charge.

The student showcase competition will begin at 7 p.m. today with the awards ceremony at 10 p.m. The films:

“Our Northern Minnesota Experience” by BSU student Emma Li

“Within” by Minneapolis College of Art and Design student Maria Forsythe

“Painting the Community: A Portrait of Jeredt Runions” by University of Wisconsin-Superior student Jessica Prihoda

“Family Business” by Minneapolis Community and Technical College student Josh Mathison

“Chute Through the Heart” by Minneapolis Community and Technical College student Stefanie Toftey

“Bringing It All Back Home” by Minneapolis Community and Technical College student Tammara Melloy

“A Girl Worth Baking For” by University of Minnesota student Shelby Miner

“How People Talked in the 1940s” by University of Minnesota student Nathan Hastings

“Letters and a Rose” by Potter Homeschool student Aaron Potter

“Oh Baby! Baby?” by University of Southern California student Sungho Ahn

“A Wrinkle in Tim” and “Afterlight” by University of Iowa student Timothy-David Orme

“The Secrets of Lemur Lane” by University of North Carolina-Greensboro student Tiffany Stephenson.

The screening of “Twilight of the Mississippi” will take place at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. It will be followed by 4:30 p.m. workshop with Chris Hadland, director of “Doomtree: Team the Best Team,” which will be shown at 7 p.m.

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