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Prairie Grass Film Challenge Comes to an End at Dordt

Prairie Grass Film Challenge Comes to an End at Dordt

Dordt University’s popular Prairie Grass Film Challenge mounted its last event Jan. 20-22, closing a 15-year run. Since 2006 participants have accepted the yearly challenge to start and complete films in just 48 hours, showcasing them at the end and competing for prizes. A key theme of the competition is “Content Worth Consuming.”

 “We think awesome stories can be told without resorting to gratuitous sex, language, adult situations, or going to the lowest common denominator in what passes as humor today. Our challenge to you is this: tell your story—whatever it is—without resorting to those things,” the challenge creators explain in a frequently asked questions list on the Prairie Grass Film Challenge website.

Results of the 2022 competition will be revealed Feb. 18.

Mark Volkers, a digital media instructor at Dordt, is one of the founding members of the Prairie Grass Film Challenge. They launched the competition after Volkers and a group of students entered a similar event in 2005. The group won the comedy award at that festival and wanted to make the same type of competition available closer to home. “Every place has great stories. We just need people to tell them,” Volkers said. “This has been a wonderful way to promote the visual arts in our region.”

In 2016, the Challenge’s 10th anniversary, organizers decided to continue for another five years and end the work-intensive challenge while it “was still going strong,” Volkers said.

About 40 teams have competed each year in the Prairie Grass Film Festival, with entrants vying for the best film in high school, college, and post-college categories, as well as for the overall best of show prize.

Volkers said the Challenge has helped to show “hundreds of young storytellers that excellent, compelling stories can be told without needing to be ‘edgy,’ in whatever form ‘edgy’ is taking at that particular time.

 “Going forward, the storytellers now have a new awareness of what good storytelling needs—and what it does not need,” Volkers said.

While the yearly competition has ended, Volkers said the Dordt communications department is working on a media summer camp for high school students that he sees as a continuation of the film challenge legacy. He hopes to see it open in the next couple of years.

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