Indie Cinema: Genres–Regional Features

Before there were Fargo and TV’s Northern Exposure, about the lives and struggles of Americans in cold, rural climates, there was Northern Lights (1978), a quietly moving, dignified drama, co-directed by John Hanson and Rob Nilsson, about harsh life in early 20th-century North Dakota.

David Burton Morris

Several of David Burton Morris’ films were made in his native Minnesota. Loose Ends (1974), which cost only $30,000, was one of the first efforts at regional filmmaking in the Twin cities, a blue-collar drama shot by Morris and his wife Victoria Wozniak. In Purple Haze (1981), Morris and Wozniak returned to Minneapolis to make a 1960s-set, draft-dodging serio comedy. Made on a bigger budget ($350,000), Patti Rocks (1988), a sequel to Loose Ends, revolved around a romantic triangle.


John Hanson and Sandra Schulberg’s Wildrose (1985) was a compellingly realistic drama about heartland folks, using the particularities of place to enhance the story of June Lorich (Lisa Eichorn), a sturdy young woman and her choices of work, love friendship and community. The setting is Northern Minnesota’s Mesabi Iron Range, where mining is the chief occupation. June goes to work in the mines, after a decree opens these jobs to women, but the economy is ailing, and she and the other women are resented. She befriends an elderly Finnish woman, who lives alone in the woods and once worked in a lumber camp. Together, they swap anecdotes about the roughness of getting along in a male-dominated world.

If you want to know more about this issue, please consult my book, Cinema of Outsiders: The Rise of American Independent Film(NYU Press, paperback 2001)