Anita Casey-Reed
Cinema 100 volunteers Marlene Anderson, Brian Palecek and Todd Ford prepare for the October film series at Bismarck's Grand Theatres (DeAnne Billings)

"Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter" is one film on offer this fall with Cinema 100's "They Passed the Test" series. (Submitted)

In the 1970s, a small band of volunteers wanted to bring in films that weren't shown at the mainstream theaters in the Bismarck-Mandan area. This was a time before VCRs (much less DVDs or Netflix streaming), so cinephiles in the middle of the country had their work cut out for them. Five decades later, Cinema 100 is still run by volunteers, and still dedicated to promoting the world of film on a local level. Twice a year, the group hosts a film series at Bismarck's Grand Theatres (see below), bringing hundreds of audience members together to enjoy an eclectic mix of motion pictures.

The first thing most Cinema 100 attendees see as they enter the Grand Theatres is a small table staffed by Marlene Anderson as she sells tickets and hands out information on each week's film.

Her involvement in the group, however, took some time.

"For a long time, I had to say 'no' because we had kids in school, and they had activities of their own and needed rides and supper and all the rest that parenting entails," she explains. "But finally, there came a day when I could say 'yes' to Cinema 100."

Todd Ford, a board member and the group's website editor, remembers the first time he heard about Cinema 100.

"I moved to Mandan about 21 years ago and was worried that I wouldn't be able to continue feeding my inner movie buff," he explains. After reading a newspaper article about the group and making a phone call to Cinema 100's then-president, Ford quickly became a fixture at screenings.

"The organization has a long history of having open's also forever open to new ideas," he says.

Some of these new ideas include providing grants and technical support to local filmmakers, and sponsoring screenings for local and regional works at events such as the Dakota Digital Film Festival. This fall, another novel idea will shape the Cinema 100 series titled "They Passed the Test." As the volunteers gathered this summer to discuss possibilities for fall films, the conversation turned to how many Hollywood stories were centered on male characters or only portrayed female characters in terms of romance. Then someone mentioned the Bechdel-Wallace test, which asks two simple things:

Does the story have at least two women as characters? Is there at least one conversation between these two characters about something other than a man?

According to Wikipedia, over one-half of all films produced each year do not pass the test. Cinema 100 took this as a challenge, and found five films that were not only interesting in their own right, but also pass the Bechdel-Wallace test.

"I really appreciate the thoughtfulness and artistic eye the planning committee puts into choosing the films," says Renee Stromme, a Cinema 100 board member. "I don't know that anyone is aware of how deep the conversations and deliberations run. This fall series is a prime example."

Brian Palecek has been a member of Cinema 100 since the beginning, and usually introduces the series as well as leading informal discussions after the screenings. He says one of the reasons he has remained involved for so long is because of the people.

"I love the willingness of our audience to experience a real variety of films: classics, new films, old, from anywhere in the world and in any style and language," he says. "They are ready and open to just about anything."

Cinema 100 Fall Film Series

"They Passed the Test"

Oct. 1: Wadjda, 2012 (Saudi Arabia, Germany)

Oct. 8: Dear White People, 2014 (USA)

Oct. 15: Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter, 2014 (USA)

Oct. 22: Two Days, One Night, 2014 (Belgium, France)

Oct. 29: The Babadook, 2014 (Australia)

Season ticket (five films): $10

All movies screen at the Grand Theatres in Bismarck, 3:00 and 5:30 p.m. Thursdays

For more information, visit

Anita Casey-Reed is a member of the Cinema 100 Film Society, a volunteer for the Dakota Digital Film Festival and co-host of "Reel Retro" on Dakota Media Access. She lives in Bismarck with her husband and two children.