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Flint, Fargo the Movie


As closely as archeologists can figure, North Dakota’s first export commodity was flint, a semi-translucent igneous rock that was mined in Dunn and Mercer Counties about 9,500 B.C.

Indigenous peoples of the northern plains hunted mammoths, giant bison and other large animals during this time period. Flint from the Knife River region was used for making knives, scrapers, arrows and other tools, because when chipped, this type of stone provided sharp, knife-like, serrated edges that were very hard and durable. Flint was an important Stone Age trade item in most parts of the world – but flint from what was to be North Dakota really got around. Prehistoric weapons and tools made of Knife River flint have been found from western New York state to western Montana and from central Alberta to northeastern New Mexico.

This last weekend in 1996, the movie “Fargo” premiered at the Fargo Theatre. It went on to be nominated for best picture at the Academy Awards that year, and news agencies descended on Fargo to cover the history-making night.

The scene outside the theater was as quirky as the movie itself, as news people from around the country were bedazzled by a tractor pulling a wagon full of people dressed in farmer-plaids and caps with earflaps. Inside, hundreds watched themselves on the big screen, as they became part of Oscar’s ceremony coverage.

Farther into the evening, the theater’s director made a plea for financial support for the building’s renovation. By this time, enthusiasm had even gripped a jaded New York reporter; dressed in a sweeping, black trench-coat, slapped a ten-dollar bill on the stage and exhorted everybody to follow his example.

While the movie failed to get the best picture award, it definitely put Fargo on the map – so to speak. The 2006 Fargo Film Festival commemorated the film’s 10 year anniversary by having a showing on the side of a downtown Fargo hotel – with an opening feature including Fargo native Kristin Rudrud, who had a role in the film. If you’ve seen the movie, you know that it was quite appropriate that snow was falling as people filled the streets in winter clothing to watch. You may love it or hate it, but the movie “Fargo” is going to be part of North Dakota’s national identity for years to come.

Written by Merry Helm