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Love Letter to Leader

Set in a tiny northern Minnesota town, Love Letter to Leader follows the filmmaker's extended farm family from its 19th-century immigrant beginnings, focusing on choices to leave this once-prosperous place alongside decisions to stay and create a close-knit if quirky and unconventional community. Against the backdrop of its own rich history, the people of Leader, Minnesota, define themselves through their abiding links to the land.

Defined by its very ambiguity, Love Letter to Leader never preaches but encourages audiences to draw their own conclusions about the many ways people live today, and the variety of intriguing relationships rural communities are forging with place, land and nature in a time when all humans are rethinking how we abide on our planet in the face of ecological and social challenges – firestorms in California and international environmental migration to name just two examples – brought on by climate change.

Love Letter to Leader subtly but insistently allays unflattering assumptions sometimes made about why people live removed from the bustle of urban centers – cities offering opportunities for more affluent lifestyles – choosing instead to focus their time and energies not on accruing wealth and position but instead on supporting local families and building communities. Likewise, the film personifies diversity without sermonizing, from the broad ethnic background of its immigrant past to the original people who have always been at the heart of all life in the cold country of northernmost North America.

  • Mara Adamitz Scrupe
  • Daniel John Holm
  • Mara Adamitz Scrupe
  • Daniel John Holm
  • Mara Adamitz Scrupe
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Feature
  • Genres:
    Rural America, History, Minnesota, Scandinavian-American History, Ojibwe, Family
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 15 minutes 32 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    January 18, 2020
  • Production Budget:
    60,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • MOZAIK Philanthropy EcoSystems X Future Art Awards 2022
    Los Angeles, California
    United States
    February 15, 2022
    Future Art Award
Director Biography - Mara Adamitz Scrupe, Daniel John Holm

Mara Adamitz Scrupe is a poet, a visual artist and a documentary filmmaker; her fellowships include: NEA CEC/ArtsLink, Washington DC Arts Commission, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Virginia Arts Commission, MacDowell Colony, Djerassi Foundation, Tyrone Guthrie Centre/ Ireland, Montalvo Arts Center, Irish Museum of Modern Art Residency Programme, and USF Verftet-AiR/Bergen and BigCi Environmental Award/ Australia.

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Director Statement

Love Letter to Leader, set in my home state of Minnesota, is my first full length documentary film. Ten years ago, I attended a family reunion in Leader, Minnesota, a once-bustling small town in north-central Minnesota – consisting of a hardware, a grocery, a bar and cafe, an auto repair shop, and a creamery – that my great-grandparents, dairy farmers, helped settle and establish in the mid-nineteenth century. After living on the East Coast for almost three decades and returning to my family’s hometown I was struck by the inventiveness, self-reliance and dedication of residents of this little community. Despite the many intense social and economic pressures on traditional agricultural communities of the Upper Midwest over the past fifty years, residents of “the Leader Area” continue living on and from the land that has, in some cases, been in the same family for generations. In this remote country of windswept landscapes and perilous climate, the people of Leader, Minnesota pursue lives that are deeply embedded in and dependent upon the land, soil and water; theirs are lives measured not in minutes or days, but in decades. This film is my story about a special place and people.