The Lizard, Hungry Hogs and a Photo a Day for 8 Years




Frederick Manfred


Here is more about Siouxland and Frederick Manfred which I wrote about in the previous posting. I’m also sharing information about a fellow who I think people should know more about: Mike Hazard, the writer, director and producer of American Grizzly: Frederick Manfred as well as several other videos.


This film, co-produced and directed and written by Twin Cities photographer, filmmaker, teacher and poet Mike Hazard, provides an excellent insight into the late writer Frederick Manfred. American Grizzly: Frederick Manfred is a half hour biographical portrait of the late author with poetry, excerpts from novels, and interviews.

I’m not sure how many videos or films have been done about the Luverne, MN writer, but I think this one does a marvelous job of showing Manfred in his prairie element as well as his rural northwest Iowa roots. Particularly enjoyable is Manfred reading a passage out of his semi-autobiographical book, Green Earth where he relates a scene where the character Free rescues his brother Albert from a bunch of sows who want to have the hapless younger brother for lunch.

Most of Manfred’s novels were tightly focused on what he called Siouxland, a place I described in the previous post. He wrote about the people, the farms, the land and the values of that area near the junction of the three states of South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa — a drawback for some critics who tended to classify him as a regional writer, not one who had a worldly viewpoint in his work. But for those who have read Manfred – and I have read only a few of his books – will notice that even though the characters, the language and setting appear to only depict this fictive region – they reflect a broader and more universal experience that rolls across borders and resonate as truth in the hearts and minds of a wider swath of readership than eastern critics would want us to believe.

Mike Hazard: Someone you should get to know.


Mike Hazard_by Tressa Suarz
Mike Hazard (Photo by Tressa Suarz)

Mike Hazard, the executive producer of this film, has been the artist in residence for the Center for International Education since 1975. His Facebook profile says he “makes documentary films, writes poems, clicks photographs and walks around the block.” Mike also teaches people of all ages how to make videos and photographs for COMPAS, a non-profit education organization in St. Paul, MN that teaches through art. Besides American Grizzly, Mike has also produced and written films about the poet Robert Bly and the Hmong in the Twin Cities.


Nicknamed Media Mike, Hazard has written, directed and produced five films that have been released nationally on PBS. His documentary on the late Senator Eugene McCarthy was awarded the D.L. Mabery Prize, Minnesota’s Oscar. He is a Bush Artist Fellow, and his work has been collected by museums around the world including the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

I got to know who Mike Hazard was from my sister-in-law, Cheryl Pashby Dickson. Cheryl lives in St. Paul and is the retired executive director of the Minnesota Humanities Commission through which she met Mike. Her organization provided some of the funding for American Grizzly: Frederick Manfred. My wife and I were having coffee with Cheryl this last October during our last visit to the Twin Cities and she thought Mike and I shared some similar interests and talents and suggested I connect with him. I checked out Mike’s work online at the Center for International Education and COMPAS. Both sites also referred me to his Facebook page where there were several “Albums” of his very extensive work.

365 Friends

Mike became interested in Ko Un who writes a poem about every single person he has met in his life. Also serving as inspiration for Mike was William Stafford who tried to write a poem every day and Jim Denomie who painted a painting every day during 2005.

Inspired by these three, Mike has been posting pictures with stories to Facebook every single day for eight years. That’s a lot of photographs. And a lot of stories. But there’s more: Mike also is profiling people at an organization called Peace House in photos and words and photographing the Hmong American Farmers Association in a project titled Seeds of Change. The project includes a video, a book and a growing collection of photographs.

For me, it is the 365 Friends album that is most interesting. Each photograph and story features someone you might meet while walking around the block, or going for a Saturday afternoon drive. Like Cindy Mase, the proprietor of the Towne Marina at Waconia Lake. She’s also a retired school teacher. Or Tom, who was “fixing the trippers” (the bricks that posed a tripping hazard) on the floor of the Cowles Conservatory. Then there’s Damien, a third grader who starts his day by stopping in and saying hello to Mrs. E., his teacher from second grade.

Anyway, you’ll get the picture . . . and story . . . at 365 Friends. After you’ve watched American Grizzly, stop on by Mike Hazard’s Facebook page and check out his albums and projects. If you have any curiosity about the human condition or education or arts or just to want to learn about some interesting people, you won’t be disappointed.

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