Documentary filmmaking and Montana are getting along like a house on fire. Every February, Missoula's Big Sky Documentary Film Festival draws a growing audience to more and more non-fiction films that have been submitted by filmmakers from around the globe, furthering the Big Sky Film Institute's mission to encourage media literacy by fostering public understanding and appreciation of documentary film.
The 13th annual festival lights up the big screens of downtown Missoula February 19 - 28, 2016, when over 200 films are scheduled to be screened at five different venues, often with the filmmaker in attendance.
Just a sample of the films' titles hints at the diverse range of topics, styles, and points of view in the festival: "Last Refuge of the Troublemaker" "Dead When I Got Here" "Finconceivable" "Cairo In One Breath" "If Only I Were That Warrior" "Lenny And The Rat" "My Aleppo" "K2 and The Invisible Footmen" and "The Sounds of No Time."
Executive Director Gita Saedi Kiely fills Michael Marsolek in on some festival highlights and special events:
Opening night, February 19, features a screening of "Mavis!," a feature-length HBO documentary about the legendary gospel/soul singer and civil rights activist, Mavis Staples, and her family group, The Staple Singers. 6:00 p.m., The Wilma Theater. Free admission.
The work of award-winning filmmakers Lucy Walker and Ondi Timoner is highlighted in a series of weekend screenings, February 20-21 and 25-27. Lucy Walker's latest virtual reality project, "A History of Cuban Dance," is on view for free at the Rocky Mountain School of Photography daily, February 22 - 26.
Films that could spark a kid's imagination are scheduled for the after-school "Schoolhouse Doc" slots, February 22-26 at the Roxy Theater.
Closing night, the Volkswagon Beetle gets a cinematic tune-up in Damon Ristau's latest film, "The Bug: Life And Times of the People's Car," 7:00 p.m. at The Wilma.
The seventh annual DocShop runs February 22 - 26. It's a five-day conference on the art and impact of filmmaking, with workshops, panels, pitches and presentations focusing on this year's topic, "Films For Change."
For the third year, the BSDFF teams up with the University of Montana School of Journalism for Teen Mentor Days, a two-day mentoring program available to high school students from across Montana, February 27 and 28. Participants receive technical help with filming, editing and completion of a short PSA on the topics of cyberbullying or climate change. The course culminates in the screening of these short films at the Wilma Theater on the February 28, during the final evening of the festival.
Alt-country singer Lydia Loveless performs at The Top Hat on Thursday, February 25 at 8:00 p.m.
Saedi Kiely points out: "Sometimes it's wonderful to go see a film that you don't even think you'd be interested in, because most people are pleasantly surprised. If you go specifically to see a short film that's playing in a shorts block, you might see very different films in that block, and hopefully they're films that you can get a lot out of."