Friday, December 4, 2009

Big Sky to Host Live Pitch Session with Richard Saiz of ITVS


December 3, 2010

Missoula, MT - Big Sky Documentary Film Festival will host a special pitch session with Richard Saiz, Senior Program Manager at ITVS on Friday, February 19, 2010. Saiz, who serves as a liaison with producers and ITVS, one of the largest and most important funders of independent documentary work in the U.S. will hear fifteen live pitches during the session at the 7th Annual Big Sky Documentary Film Festival.

BSDFF is currently accepting proposals to pitch. The deadline for receipt of proposals is January 1, 2010. There is no charge to submit.

Proposals for independently produced documentaries, in-progress, of any length on any subject should include the following: a one-paragraph description of the project, which should include information about the subject of the film, the style/form of the film, basic technical details (shooting format), the current status of the project, including any funding sources secured to-date, and a ball-park total budget for the film. Addition information required: a website for the filmmaker (if available), personal filmography/film credits (if available), contact info - email/phone number.

Fifteen (15) pitches will be selected to present on February 19. Filmmakers selected for the pitch session will be notified of acceptance by January 15, 2010. Those accepted in the session are required to pay a non-refundable $45 registration fee. Presenting filmmakers will be able to show clips or trailers of their Works-In-Progress (if available) as part of their pitch. Each pitch will be limited to 10 minutes total, which can include not more than 3 minutes of WIP material, and not more than a 4 minute pitch. This will be followed by discussion and questions from Richard Saiz.

The live pitch session is open to the general public for observation for $5 at the door, and free to Big Sky Documentary Film Festival All-Access Pass holders (1st come first serve).

Proposals should be sent to They must be received no later than January 1, 2010.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

We'd Like to Thank the Academy...


November 11, 2009

Big Sky Documentary Film Festival has received a generous $10,000 grant from The Academy Foundation of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The grant will be used to support special programs at the 2010 Festival (February 12-21 in Missoula, MT), including filmmaker retrospectives and a special sidebar entitled “Indigenous Visions: Films by and about Native Americans”.

The Academy Foundation awarded $450,000 to 24 U.S. film festivals for the 2010 calendar year. “We are extremely grateful to The Academy for their support,” said Big Sky Festival Director Mike Steinberg. “Without their generosity this sort of programming would simply not be possible.”

“Indigenous Visions” will feature new and historic work that conveys the depth and beauty of Native American life. The program will include guest artists and panel discussions throughout the ten day event. The program is being currated by Steinberg, filmmaker Gita Saedi Kiely, and Angelica Lawson, a professor in Native American Studies at the University of Montana.

The full slate of films and events, along with the Official Selections of the 7th Annual Big Sky Documentary Film Festival will be available in early January at

Passes for the ten-day event are available now on line at

For more information:

Big Sky Documentary Film Festival
131 South Higgins Ave. Suite 3-6
Missoula, Montana 59802
(406) 541-3456

Monday, October 19, 2009

2010 Big Sky Documentary Film Festival Submission Deadlines

Final Entry Postmark Deadlines Approaching for the 2010 Big Sky Documentary Film Festival:

Final Deadline - October 20, 2009
Rough Cuts and Works In Progress are accepted ONLY for this Final Deadline

Special Extended Entry Deadline- October 31, 2009
This Special Deadline is for WITHOUTABOX ENTRIES ONLY

The Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, the premier venue for nonfiction film in the American West, is seeking submissions for its seventh annual event. From February 12-21, 2010 the festival will screen 100 films, including world and U.S. premieres, classics, rare and experimental works on Montana's largest screen at the historic Wilma Theater in downtown Missoula, Montana. In addition to ten days of screenings, the event will feature many public and VIP events including panel discussions, galas, receptions and networking round-tables.

The competitive event is open to non-fiction films and videos of all genres, subject matter, lengths and production dates. Awards and cash prizes will be given for Best Documentary Feature (over 50 minutes), Best Documentary Short (15-50 minutes), Best Mini-Doc (under 15 minutes) and best documentary about the American West (the "Big Sky Award").

VHS (NTSC/PAL), DVD (NTSC/PAL), DVCAM (NTSC/PAL), HDV (NTSC), and miniDV (NTSC/PAL) accepted for preview.

Enter via

or download entry form in pdf format

If you would like an entry form emailed to you in pdf format, send a request to

For more information visit

We look forward to viewing your films!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Big Sky Documentary Film Festival
Announces Call For Entries

May 11, 2009

Missoula, Montana - The Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, the premier venue for nonfiction film in the American West, is seeking submissions for its seventh annual event. From February 12-21, 2010 the festival will screen 100 films, including world and U.S. premieres, classics, rare and experimental works on Montana’s largest screen at the historic Wilma Theater in downtown Missoula, Montana. In addition to ten days of screenings, the event will feature many public and VIP events including panel discussions, galas, receptions and networking round-tables.

The competitive event is open to non-fiction films and videos of all genres, subject matter, lengths and production dates. Awards and cash prizes will be given for Best Documentary Feature (over 50 minutes), Best Documentary Short (15-50 minutes), Best Mini-Doc (under 15
minutes) and best documentary about the American West (the “Big Sky Award”).

DVD (NTSC/PAL), VHS (NTSC/PAL), DVCAM (NTSC/PAL), HDV (NTSC), and miniDV (NTSC/PAL) accepted for preview.

Enter via Here

Download entry form in pdf format Here

If you would like an entry form emailed to you in pdf format, send a request Send Email

For more information visit

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Big Sky Announces 2010 Festival Dates

The 7th Annual Big Sky Documentary Film Festival will be held February 12 - 21, 2010 in Missoula , MT. Open call for entries begins later this spring. Keep an eye on the website for further details.

Thanks again to all the amazing filmmakers and volunteers that made BSDFF 2009 such a tremendous sucess.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Closing Statement

With an estimated 10,000 filmgoers this year, attendance at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival has noticeably increased within the past five years. But the fest is over, and out-of-town volunteers, visitors and filmmakers have all returned to their respective homes, only to prepare for next year's 10-day doc binge.

Final Word: While I had the ability to watch as many as 100 documentary films in their entirety, I didn't because, as I've stated before, I suffer from some sort of weird distraction thing. And, of course, because I was blogging half the time. But, that said, I did see one film (a short) in full that I will say was very, very good.
I Love Alaska is much like a slideshow in that it showed stills of the state's scenery while a woman's AOL searches were read outloud. The woman is introduced as a case number--one of thousands whose search histories were exposed and posted publicly online after a glitch in the AOL server--and referred to as that case number throughout the story. If one were to read the transcript of this film, it would be bullet points, though all structured in a narrative manner, describing this woman's life as represented by these phrases and words entered into the internet search engine.
While the entire idea is conveyed within the first 15 minutes (runtime is about 40), the concept is so novel and concise and heartbreaking (she has hypochondriac tendancies and researches divorce, lesbianism, social stigmas and the effects of extramarital affairs) that it pulls you in, leaving you wanting more of this obsessive web-browsing. And it makes you think about tracking your own Google searches and how much they reveal about your own state of mind.
Highly recommended.

See you next year! Thanks for reading and thanks for rocking, Missoula, MT.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

I talk with Doug Hawes-Davis, founder of the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, about this year's turn-out, the state of documentary, and his position as programming director.

T: How many submissions did you receive this year?

DHD: About 1000 from over 30 different countries

T: Is that more or less compared to last year?

DHD: Perhaps a couple of hundred more than 2008.

T: What about the turn-out? How does that compare to last year's and in years past?

DHD: Total numbers are not in yet, but it's looking like about a 25% increase over last year.

T: What is your association this year compared to last year? 

DHD: I'm still very involved, but Mike is handling a large chunk of the programming - both the open call and the retrospectives. I was significantly involved in programming and will continue to be, but it'll be more of a team effort from here on out I reckon. We've now got a festival director with major programming experience, so it only makes sense to take advantage of that.

T: How many people do you work with who help choose which films get in the festival?

DHD: There are six of us:

Mike Steinberg
Dru Carr
Gita Saedi
Doug Whyte
Jenny Rohrer
and yours truly

T: What do you think about the future state of documentaries? Where is this genre going?

DHD: Anybody's guess, but I don't see it being replaced by so-called "reality TV" or social issue video games. Nevertheless, the marketing, production, and funding of non-fiction film is a rapidly changing landscape.

Oscar-Nominated Film Screens Today at Big Sky

From the ashes of the 1992 L.A. riots, the South Central Farmers have nurtured the nations largest urban farm. They have created a miracle in one of the country's most blighted neighborhoods. Growing their own food. Feeding their families. But now bulldozers are poised to level their 14 acre oasis. THE GARDEN is an unflinching look at the struggle between these Latino farmers and the City of Los Angeles and a powerful developer who want to evict them and build warehouses. Leaving the farmers to ask 'Where is our 'Justice for all'?'

The Garden is nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Documentary Feature category and screens this afternoon at 2.45pm in Wilma 1. 

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Missoula and Its Flare

shot by Brendan Canty

Whatever It Takes at Big Sky

When Chris Wong's friend, Edward Tom, decided to become an educator after working for years at Saks Fifth Avenue, Wong knew he had to tell his story. 

Whatever It Takes chronicles Tom's first year as principal at a high school in the Bronx while focusing almost primarily on his interaction with Sharifea Baskerville, a struggling ninth-grader. 

While the film's subjects are an African American student and an Asian American (two races that are not typically known to get along in the inner-city environment), Wong says the film "isn't about racial conflict, because that issue really doesn't pop up, but I think that's definitely an interesting aspect....seeing them work hand-in-hand is pretty revolutionary."

Wong says the first two or three weeks of filming was difficult because the students wanted to be on screen all the time, but "once they realized they weren't going to be on the news or MTV, they sorta relaxed." 
"I think it's pretty evident from the film that no one notices the camera...that they aren't acting for the camera." 

Editor Zeb Smith agrees. 
"That's one of the benefits to a long-term project, when you spend a year on the story, they get used to you being around. I also think in that kind of community, there's a sense of adaptation to their surroundings." 

"It also takes a special person to adjust to the camera," adds Wong. "They're kind of raw...they say and do what they want without thinking. I think that's always the kind of character you want for a documentary film. We got lucky."  

Any why did they decide to sneak preview it here?
"We chose to bring Whatever It Takes to Big Sky because had heard a lot of good things about the festival," says Wong. "It seems to have a good reputation and we love being in a place which focuses purely on documentaries, that way we don't get lost."

Whatever it Takes screens today at 1.30pm.

Next stop is the World Premiere at the Asian American Film Festival in San Francisco. And Wong's current project about game shows and its fandom (Wheel of Jeopardy) is due out within the next couple years. 

Joe Berlinger and his Q&A's at Big Sky

At 12.3o today Big Sky will present another one of Berlinger's great films, Gray Matter, a contemporary story that illuminates one of history's darkest periods. It's a compelling tale of murder, conspiracy, guilt and redemption. It accounts Berlinger's hunt for 89-year-old Dr. Heinrich Gross, one of Austria's leading forensic psychiatrists and alleged murderer of hundreds of handicapped children. A Q&A will follow the film.

At 2.30 plays Metallica: Some Kind of Monster, an in-depth portrait of the most successful heavy metal band of all time, as they faced monumental personal and professional challenges while recording their first studio album of original songs in five years. The film trades rock-star posing for truthful introspection, and reveals an intimate portrait of the individuals behind a legendary band and their unique creative journey. A Q&A will follow the film.

Friday, February 20, 2009

New Wilco Film from the Makers of Burn to Shine

What Brendan Canty and Christoph Green have created with their Burn to Shine project is a way for artists to gather in one spot and create something that can never be recreated.

It began in 2004 when a friend offered them a house given to him by an old woman who had recently died. The friend wanted to honor the woman, and Green and Canty came up with this idea, which eventually became Burn to Shine--the first one was shot in Washington D.C., when many of the bands there were in flux. Other featured cities include Atlanta, Seattle, Portland, and Chicago.

"I thought it'd be interesting, like that photo in Harlem with all the jazz bands," explains Canty. "Then when you look at it in 20 years, it illuminates the relationships that people had. My idea was to film a bunch of people who were connected...a community of musicians in one day...not to create a full-blown documentary, but just to create a portrait."

Green: "On a visceral level, it's emotional when you actually watch one (of the Burn to Shine films) the end, when the house comes down you have a sort of feeling for the house, oddly enough." 

The Seattle installment of Burn to Shine will screen on Saturday, but the real draw this weekend is Friday night's World Premiere of Ashes of American Flags, a definitive Wilco concert film. As a huge Nels Cline fan (the newly- installed guitarist for the band), Canty said making the film was an ultimate pleasure. Ashes follows Wilco on their southern tour and captures the band's performances, the fans, and the band's thoughts on each other and the changing American landscape. Even if you aren't a Wilco fan, say Canty and Green, you'll like this film. 

Ashes of American Flags won Big Sky's 2009 Programmer's Choice Award for Best Editing. 

The Rolling Stone gives props to the film, Ashes of American Flags, premiering tonight at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival in Missoula, MT at 9.30pm. Read More. 

"Any positive feedback is like a light at the end of the tunnel."--Brendan Canty (pictured above)

The Money Fix

I talk with Alan Rosenblith, director of The Money Fix, about his background, the state of the economy, the evolution of Twitter and the truth about where our money is made.

The Money Fix screens tonight at its WORLD PREMIERE at 4.45pm.

T: What inspired you to make such a film?

AR: A few years ago, I was pretty heavily involved in the sustainability movement in Santa Fe NM. It suddenly occurred to me that every major problem the folks in my community were trying to address always came back to money. Why do we clear-cut forests? To make money. Why do some corporations exploit workers in developing countries? To make money. Etc. etc. As I realized this, I also realized that neither I nor any one I knew knew anything at all about money: what it is, where it comes from, etc. So I started doing some research, and I discovered that even a lot of so-called experts in economics had no idea. So, clearly there was a need for a documentary about it.

T: What does your company have to do with the message your film conveys?
AR: Since making the film, I have been involved in several efforts to bring community currency into mainstream usage. The film details how communities don't have to be dependent on the dollar in order to prosper, and I became so passionate about that I jumped to the other side of the camera so to speak.

I founded Community Prosper as an Oregon based non-profit whose purpose is to promote the use and development of peer-to-peer based currency (one type of currency design). Recently, I have been working with a Twitter-based start-up that uses Twitter to make payments in micro-currencies called "Twollars." I think this kind of direct audience engagement is how to ensure financial success for social-purpose documentaries in today's Internet-based media climate.

T: Do you have a filmmaking background?
AR: No. I got into filmmaking by accident, and to be honest I think of filmmaking as only one tool in a broader toolkit to promote human evolution. So to the degree filmmaking serves that purpose, I am involved with it. Not to say I don't love films, but my role is first and foremost as an agent for creating cultural mind shifts.

T: What is the biggest misconception people have about money?
AR: There are so many it's hard to list. The first is that dollars come from the government. They don't. They are issued by private banks as debt, so if everyone payed off their debt, there would be no money left.
The second misconception is that money is a THING in the sense that there is only so much of it. Money is actually nothing more than information about who owes who what. And this is a very good thing. Right now, we are experiencing a "credit crunch" which means money is disappearing. But think about it, we are still all here with the same talents and resources. The only thing that is missing is money to enable exchange. The problem is that, as a culture, we make something that is inherently just information (and therefore sufficient) into something scarce. This is in fact the sole function of our financial system. Think about it, if you have to make money to live, you have to compete for it. That is not something inherent, but rather something that is there by design.

T: How did Big Sky get to be the place you premiered your film?
AR:ichard Beer suggested I submit it. Also, I was interested in a less commercially-driven festival since these ideas can really upset people with a large financial stake.

T: Who do you hope to reach with this film? Who is your audience?
AR: I suppose I was aiming this film at what has been termed "Cultural Creatives." The film requires that people have open hearts and minds. I have been really surprised by who has reacted well and who hasn't. Money is one of those things that stirs up a lot of emotions in people, and for some, finding out how the whole monetary system is really nothing more than a poorly designed game, really shakes their foundations...I think a lot of people are much more open to hearing this news now that the economy is in crisis.

T: Any future projects?
AR: I am really passionate about using filmmaking as a catalyst for human evolution (particularly in the domain of money), so I am working on a series of follow-up pieces to THE MONEY FIX that will get into greater depth. The issues around money go VERY deep, and I think there could be several more feature length films worth of material there.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Fest Winners and Screening Schedule

Big Sky Documentary Film Festival Announces Award Winners

Best Feature: Rough Aunties by Kim Longinotto

Artistic Vision: In A Dream by Jeremiah Zagar

Best Short: Bronx Princess by Musa Syeed & Yoni Brook

Artistic Vision: The First Kid to Learn English From Mexico by Peter Jordan

Best MiniDoc: Jennifer by Stewart Copeland

Artistic Vision: The Secret Life of Beards by Melanie Levy

Big Sky Award: Red Gold by Travis Rummel & Ben Knight

Programmer’s Choice Awards

Best Editing: Crude by Joe Berlinger

Best Cinematography: Ashes of American Flags by Brendan Canty & Christoph Green

Best Music Doc: The Choir by Michael Davie


Fri. Feb 20, 2009 at 7 pm - In A Dream, Jennifer & The Secret Life of Beards

Sat. Feb 21, 2009 at 7 pm - Red Gold; Bronx Princess; The First Kid to Learn English From Mexico,

Sun. Feb 22, 2009 at 8 pm - The Choir & Rough Aunties

Thanks to the nine-member festival jury:
Richard Beer
Joe Berlinger
Mike Bonfiglio
Brendan Canty
Kristen Fitzpatrick
Brett Ingram
Anna Rau
Dawn Smallman
Chris White

Crude Independence

Several days after reading an article in the "New York Times" about an oil boom in North Dakota, Wesleyan University senior Noah Hutton flew west and began his preliminary research for what would later become the feature-length documentary, Crude Independence.

Hutton, a neuroscience and art history major, had never made a documentary, much less a film, but felt the issue was topical and was compelled to expose a story about the newest and deepest oil discovery in the United States.

He returned to North Dakota that following May (in 2006), when news of the oil discovery began to peak. Hutton and his crew of two, with a budget of $10,000 (all tracked on an Excel spreadsheet by their "finance manager"), produced an account of what he describes as an "historical moment."

Just in the past years, says Hutton, the North Dakota landscape has transformed from a flat, uninhabited wasteland to a sprawling scene of power lines, trailers and "bobbing creatures" digging 10,000 feet for one of the world's most precious resources. The state had a surplus of $1Billion last fiscal year and is hugely profiting from this boom; there are hundreds of jobs for the transient workforce, but housing is scarce.

The film just won Best of Fest at the Oxford Film Festival and will go on tour after leaving Big Sky.

Hutton hopes to make his next film about artificial intelligence and a process to measure its existence, called the "Turing Test."

Harrod Blank and his crazy, wacky art cars

Harrod Blank created a film called Wild Wheels back in the day, but has now come out with something even more wild: Automorphosis!

It's a straightforward piece about people and their art cars--nothing more, nothing less. What drives people to decorate their cars? Is it ego? Insecurity? Obsession? After 13 years, Blank (son of filmmaker Les Blank), may have figured it all out. 

The film played Wednesday night to a very inquisitive crowd whose favorite car was this one

At the discussion panel today, Blank spoke about the business of documentary filmmaking and how his passion outweighs his desire to make money. While he's reluctant to go the online digital route ("highway robbery") of screening his work, he understands that by selling to Netflix or to Amazon, you can reach a different audience you might not reach if you tour the festival circuit. Blank is about getting his film seen--not about "selling out." 

Check out Blank's cool site here. He's currently working working on a film about The Burning Man Festival (shot on 16mm) due out in the Fall of 2010.

Joe Berlinger Retrospective

Award-winning filmmaker, journalist and photographer Joe Berlinger has created some of the most compelling non-fiction films of the last thirty years. Whether exploring the dark terrains of child murder and siblingcide or the complications of a heavy metal group's therapy, Berlinger's films go deep into the complex topography of humanness.

He has also directed and produced numerous hours of television, including the Sundance Channel series, Iconoclasts.

Berlinger joins Big Sky 2009 for an intimate look at his work.

CRUDE  5pm





Wednesday, February 18, 2009

"We Need to Make Films to Feel Alive."--Erin Hudson

Members of today's discussion on short-form documentary give their advice to anyone seeking a career in doc filmmaking.

  • Start small; if it needs to grow, let it grow.
  • Work in scenes to determine length, but include as many scenes as needed to convey your story.
  • What should drive you is content.
  • Think of it as making lots of little shorts put together when making a feature.
  • Let the subject determine the length.

  • Things to consider:
    • There seems to be more paying work in doc filmmaking than in fiction filmmaking.
    • Consider trimming your feature down--it may work better that way.
    • Posting online may affect its possibility of being widely distributed.
    • Wear lots of hats; learn to do one or more thing in the business.

    Questions to ask yourself:
    • Are people's attention spans shortening or are they just more hungry for solid content?
    • How do you feel about posting your shorts for free?
    • Who would want to watch this film?
    • What's the film's niche market?

    Thursday's panel is on the business of documentary--how to distribute your independent work in the world of mass media. Moderated by Chris White. 2pm at the Crystal Theatre.

    Photo by Cathrine Walters

    Boy Interrupted

    oday at 6.45, HBO Documentary Films presents a feature-length doc about the life, bi-polar illness and suicide of Evan Perry from the point of view of his mother. In the film she describes his struggle and the effect his death had on those who loved him the most.

    Boy Interrupted, 92 minutes, 6.45pm at the Wilma. 

    Wednesday's Panel

    Today Doug Whyte, director of the International Documentary Challenge, comes to us from Portland, Oregon to discuss short-form documentary and its place in a market driven by high-profile documentary features. What are the broadcast, exhibition and internet options for short-form docs?

    Join us at the Crystal Theatre, 515 Higgins Avenue, at 2pm.

    FREE and open to the public.

    Tuesday, February 17, 2009

    Panel Wrap-Up

    The big question: Is realism the truth?

    Today's discussion focusing on the art of documentary film welcomed seven panelists whose films ranged from the debated "art doc" to more formulaic pieces and features by amateurs to works about "cultural collision."
    Michael Murphy of the Media Arts Department at the University moderated and talked about proper venues for these documentaries and the emotional/physical processes of creating a film in this genre.

    • How do you get at the truth in your filmmaking process?
    • How much of your own tone, interpretation and subject-to-director interaction goes into that process?
    • How truly objective can a documentary be?
    • How many varieties of documentary film are there within the genre? ie Post-modern, avant garde, fly-on-the-wall, directorial inclusion, etc.

    Wednesday's panel at 2pm focuses on short-form documentary and is hosted by Doug Whyte at the Crystal Theatre.

    Photo by Cathrine Walters

    Panel Discussion 2pm @ The Crystal Theatre

    What is the relationship between Art & Commerce in Non-Fiction film? I there a home for the so-called Art Doc in the wide fields dominated by issue-driven cinema? Come to this informative discussion and decide for yourself.

    Panel members will include Richard Beer of Film Action Oregon; John Kane, director of the short Frontier Youth; Lisa Whitmer of No Strings Attached; and Mike Murphy of the Media Arts Department at U of M.

    Hosted by the Crystal Theatre, 515 S. Higgins Avenue, Missoula
    2pm on Tuesday, February 17th

    *FREE and Open to the Public

    Monday, February 16, 2009

    Montana Filmmaker Comes Out

    Kimberly Reed's Prodigal Sons, at its core, is about her brother Mark's mental illness due to a head injury, her own sexual transition and how those facets fit into their family dynamic. She views tonight's screening as a homecoming, with dozens of people (including many family members) driving in from Helena to see her "coming out" in both senses of the word: as a filmmaker with a Montana premiere and, of course, as a woman. 

    As a teenager growing up in Helena, Paul McKerrow (now Kimberly Reed) was a popular high school hunk and athlete. He left his hometown after graduation and moved to the Bay area and then to New York, only to return home years later as a woman. 

    She reconnected with old friends at her father's funeral in 2003, then began shooting the film at her high school reunion in 2005. While the film explores sexuality, her adopted brother's unique family associations, and mental illness, Reed says that it's mostly about a family who is faced with restructuring itself. 

    "We get a chance to reinvent ourselves," says Reed. "I think Mark and I have become these symbols for people moving and changing and reinventing ourselves and coming home." 

    Reed says the film could be "a bit disturbing" due to its level of family intimacy, but knows that the story, no matter how difficult it is to tell or watch, can potentially help other people struggling with the same issues. 

    "If you have this dark secret you don't want anyone to know...whether that's me and my issues of gender or whether it's our family and this issue of mental want to keep it buried." 

    But Reed describes her experience making the film as "liberating" and somewhere therapeutic in the sense that it helped her face what she needed to face with regard to both herself and her family. 

    The Montana premiere of Prodigal Sons screens tonight at 5.45pm in Wilma 1. Attendance is expected to be high.

    Push for the Doc Shorts

    I have a short attention span.

    That is why I like the SHORTS PROGRAMS.

    Monday at 1.15pm SHORTS PROGRAM #3 New York Stories

    Monday at 9.45pm SHORTS PROGRAM #4 Some Dreamers

    Tuesday 6.30pm SHORTS PROGRAM #5 Wide Open Spaces II


    Sunday 3.15pm SHORTS PROGRAM #6 What Work Is

    Sunday, February 15, 2009

    Know Your Ron Mann

    Ron Mann's Favorite Beer: Guinness

    Ron Mann's Favorite Silent Film: The General

    Ron Mann's Favorite Bald Man: His former sound man who intimidated Bukowski

    Ron Mann's Favorite City: Tie between Missoula and Barcelona, Spain

    Ron Mann's Favorite Essayist: Chuck Klosterman

    Ron Mann's Favorite Magazine: "Stop Smiling" out of L.A.

    The best (and only) conversation Ron Mann's had with Michael Moore: MM said to RM, "3rd Floor Please."

    What Ron Mann likes:
    Kombucha and yoga. Lapel buttons from Berlin. Pilsner beer, loves 1960's music and Big Sky Film Festival

    The scoop on Ron Mann:
    The Canadian filmmaker has been working for over 25 years in the documentary field and has collaborated with people like Chubby Checker (Twist), Pete Townsend, John Goodman (Ran Fink), Woody Harrelson (Go Further) and Jim Jarmusch (Know Your Mushrooms).

    Ron Mann's Problem:
    "The problem with editing is that there's no end. You either run out of money or run out of energy, and I certainly run out of both."

    But with a collection of 10 ("I don't know, though, I've sorta lost count") feature-length films, several shorts and some music videos, he apparently hasn't run out of either.

    And why has he chosen documentary filmmaking?
    "Why am I doing this? No one really asked me to do this...but I feel a responsibility to history. And I know I'm doing the right thing."

    Mann recently finished his retrospective at Big Sky, lives in Toronto and once lived on a commune.

    Get Your Alloys Right!

    Roger Ebert has called the Alloy Orchestra "the best in the world" at what they do, and, after their musical accompaniment the 1919 silent film, South, those in the audience tonight might feel the same way.

    The Boston-based Alloy Orchestra has been around since 1991 when Ken Winokur and Terry Donahue united their unique percussion backgrounds with a pianist who was later replaced by the current pianist, a trained compositionist and a former punk rocker, Roger Miller, nearly 11 years ago. Their premiere film was the Fritz Lang classic Metropolis. (The man who asked them to provide the score apparently didn't like the 1980's Freddy Mercury version.) The ensemble insists on using only the best prints available, and has travelled as far as New Zealand and Sweden to play their compositions made for both short and feature-length silent films.

    One of the most intriguing aspects of the band is the "rack of junk" that travels with the trio to every gig. Depending on the airport stipulations, however, the number of instruments may vary.

    The rack of junk may include any or all of the following:
    2 or 3 gongs
    4 horseshoes
    2 truck springs
    random bells
    metal pipes used as chimes
    a metal bedpan
    a real drumset torn apart and spread out
    cakepans used as untuned steel drums
    a giant xylophone made of 2x4's

    Terry Donahue, a percussionist, has also picked up the accordion and the musical saw, or what he calls the "poorman's theramine," a rare instrument typically used in the early 1900's. He uses the saw because "has a lot of traits that work much better for us. It is much more durable to travel with and lends itself to the junk thing very well."

    "We anticipate we'll be together for a long time, so it's been worth our learning instruments and learning styles of music that we can bring into the band," says Ken Winokur, the second percussionist.
    He picked up the clarinet 8-10 years ago because he felt the group needed more melodic instruments.
    "I figured it was warm and pretty instead of the harsh metal stuff."

    Roger uses sheet music, but leaves room for improvisation, while Terry tries to memorize as much as possible, but phases it out as quickly as he can. Kerry composes a kind of "complex storyboard." For him, it's all about reading ahead and anticipating which sticks he needs for which drum or cymbal at which time.

    While the musical compositions aren't too difficult to sort out, Winokur explains that choosing films is not as easy as it looks, and that being "commissioned" is usually not an option.

    "We typically will figure out what we want to do or get asked by a film festival, so the trick for us is to figure out what will represent our tour for a year or more," says Winokur. "Because we don't want to do one film just once...if we're gonna do it, we're gonna do it a lot."

    Donahue agrees.
    "So that's the trick: finding a film that we wanna play and that people want to see that can be accessible. Some festivals want the really obscure ones."

    "When we were asked to do it [Metropolis], we did it the way we thought it should be done," says Donahue. "We didn't look back at the old scores and think of it as something old...we still try to think of these things that work as pieces of art that will stand the test of time. We just try to play music we think is appropriate to the film."

    One the trio's toughest challenges is their likelihood as a percussion-based band to overwhelm the score with drums and too much noise even when the scene is soft and quiet.

    "I think what's difficult for us is that we have a tendency to be large and exciting
    and powerful, I mean, that's our style, but all the films don't call for that, and all the scenes don't call for that, so I think it's important to keep control of ourselves and bring the volume down, and bring the emotion qualities," says Winokur.

    "The best example of that is Blackmail (Hitchcock, 1929)," adds Donahue. "We want to be drummers and we want to hit'em and Blackmail is so...suspenseful. It's one of the hardest ones just for that reason, because everytime you wanna play something, you gotta pull back and say no, i only have to play a quarter of what I want to play."

    "But on the other hand I think that adds to what makes the score really work for it. Because our feeling of tension of pulling back translates into a feeling of suspense which is perfect for a Hitchcock movie. Mostly we try to find the feel and vibe and the rhythm of the movie, try not to overplay it then go from there. Sometimes it's easier said than done."

    Audiences ("little kids, hipsters and grandparents") continue to be moved by their compositions and follow their work around the world. Their next project, Man with a Movie Camera, will premiere in St. Petersburg, Russia in April.

    Jennifer Screens Today at 3pm

    In the short film 'Jennifer,' filmmaker Stewart Copeland explores his relationship with his mother through a recorded conversation between eighth-grade students and astronauts aboard the international space station.

    It plays at 3pm today in Wilma 1 with the shorts series.

    Director Stewart Copeland hails from Tullahoma, Tennessee and graduated from Webster University with a degree in film production. He continues to shoot photography and short films, adding to his repertoire of visual arts.

    Friday, February 13, 2009

    Interview with Virginia Lee Hunter of Carny

    I talk with photographer Virginia Lee Hunter about carnivals, train hopping and her inspirations.

    Hunter assisted Alison Murray with her film, Carny, which screens at 11.15am on Monday, February 16th in Wilma 1.


    T: Tell me a little about your involvement in the film. How did you meet Alison Murray?

    VLH: I met Alison at a hobo convention in Britt Iowa in 1999. She was making her first doc called ‘Train on the Brain’ about riding freight trains across Canada. At the time we met, I too was riding freight trains but my main photographic focus was working on a personal photo project documenting the pop culture of carnivals as Americana and the subculture of carnival workers. I had often felt this project would be a good documentary film but I had no experience in telling a moving picture story. I admired the way she handled her subjects with great empathy and wit in ‘Train on the Brain’ and thought one day we might be able to team up and turn my project into a documentary.

    T: In what capacity were your photos helpful for the making of her film?

    VLH: Alison and I kept in touch and in 2005 I asked her if she’d like to make a documentary with me based off the work I had been doing on my carnival project. Although we had never collaborated before, we were willing to see if we could make this happen and throw caution to the wind, so to speak. We each brought elements to the film that the other was lacking--her creativity in crafting compelling story lines as a film and my in roads to this elusive sub culture that is traditionally sensitive towards any media attention as well as my visual aesthetics on a subject I had dedicated several years to...we both gained respect and trust in each’s input and in the end, the film speaks for itself in the richly, compelling stories and vivid visual capturing of the carnival.
    During that time we were working on the film I had my photographs published in a book titled, ‘Carny; Americana on the Midway,' published by Umbrage Editions which I guess makes this endeavor I began so many years ago complete.

    T: What drove you to shoot Carnival people? What is it about carnies that intrigues you?

    VLH: I became interested in exploring carnivals as how they relate to modern Americana when I went to a carnival in the early '90s. As I wandered around the midway I saw myself, when I was a teen, marauding throughout the midway with my girlfriends, flirting with the town boys and the carnies, who to us were dark and mysterious outsiders. Those were my distinct memories. As I recognized my own, I thought if I had memories what are others around me and their memories? I began to see others, old, young, couples, with families, laughing, and creating their own memories , as they were repeatedly unfolding over time.

    It was my own memory and seeing others’ that inspired me to photograph the carnival as nostalgic homage to Americana. They are America’s gypsies. I wanted to give them a chance to tell their stories as so many tales and impressions, and not all kind, have been told about them. The Carnival Midway then becomes a very unique and bizarre autonomous zone complete with whirling twirling lights and zany cacophony. Very strange and magical.

    T: Have you been influenced by Arbus or Meiselas? If so, in what way?

    VLH: Perhaps subconsciously, in my earliest years exploring my voice and vision in photography, I was influenced by Arbus. However, it was on the eve of my first trip to photograph carnivals in 1996 that I was introduced to and given Meiselas’ book ‘Carnival Stripper’. Everything she had done in the book; style of shooting, the gritty black and white, even the interviews transcribed, I had envisioned to be my approach to capturing the essence of carny life. I was both disheartened and inspired. Disheartened because it had been done before me, and inspired because I knew I was on then, the right path as I related to that book. I since added color imagery to define the pop culture of the carnival midway so the end body of work is not mimicking Meiselas’ ‘Carnival Strippers’, but certainly, I was inspired.

    T: Where do you shoot mostly? In what cities? Do you follow one circus in particular?

    VLH: I’m most interested in the rural areas the carnivals travel through as it seems the carnival plays a more significant role in rural American entertainment and celebration. When Alison and I made CARNY, we settled on one show out of North Carolina that traveled up into New York State and back down again into North Carolina. We needed to stay with the stories of our subjects and the show they were traveling with, but in my approach for the book I was going for a broader swath to portray the carnival life as ‘Americana’. In my own project, I traveled across the western states, Appalachia and into upstate New York.

    Filmmakers Bring their Work to Hellgate High School

    Kathy Corley, director of Secret: The Josephine Baker FBI Files, speaks to students at Hellgate.

    Education Coordinator Niki Payton has networked with several high schools to bring Big Sky documentaries and their filmmakers to area students. The first day of the Festival, Kathy Corley (Secret: The Josephine Baker Files) and Eran Barak (Bloomfield or Childhood Memory) showed their respective short films to classes in the auditorium then answered questions from students.

    Zach Stauffer speaks with students after screening his short, A Day Late in Oakland

    Thursday, February 12, 2009

    Ron Mann Retrospective

    This year at Big Sky, the work of Canadian filmmaker Ron Mann will be presented as one of the festival's three retrospectives. Mann has been making films for more than 25 years, and presents 6 documentaries from his vault that embody his reputation as a "cultural historian."

    Ron Mann screenings at the Wilma Theatre:

    Saturday 2/14 @ 10am

    TWIST (1991)
    Saturday 2/14 @12pm

    GRASS (1999)
    Saturday 2/14 @1.45pm

    Sunday 2/15 @10am

    Sunday 2/15 @11.40am

    Sunday 2/15 @1.40pm

    More about Ron Mann:


    Missoula Independent Features Big Sky Doc Film Festival

    Read more HERE.

    Up and Coming

    Cloudy and 27F here in Missoula. Snowing intermittently.
    VIP goodie bags filled.
    Final screening questions answered.
    Bicycle for blogger provided.
    Filmmakers trickling in from airport.
    Twitter updated, Flickr updated.

    On tap for tomorrow:
    --HBO's special presentation of Thriller in Manila at 6pm (FREE public admission)
    --Kickoff Party at 8pm (FREE to All-Access Pass holders, or $5 admission)

    Monday, February 9, 2009

    Interview with Paige Browning, Big Sky Intern

    I talk with Paige Browning, current intern for Big Sky and student at UM in Radio-Television and Environmental Studies, about The Oscars, her position at the fest, and her history with film fests.

    T: How did you get involved with the festival?

    PB: One of my professors last semester, Gita Saedi, is a Programming Director for the Festival. She briefly talked about the festival and the High Plains Film Institute in our class. I knew immediately that I wanted to be involved because I hope to make documentaries or work with festivals in the future. Gita got me in contact with the people in the Festival office, and the rest is history.

    T: What event or film are you most excited about this year?

    PB: I am really excited for several of the films this year. My interest isn't necessarily related to just the topic, just the filmmaker, or production style, but a mix of everything. I look forward to seeing "At the Edge of the World", "Ask Not", and the "Dhamma Brothers" in particular.
    I also really look forward to the Wrap Party at the end of the week. It should be a pretty fun way to end the week, and meet some of the people involved in making the documentaries.

    T: What's the best part about working with Big Sky?

    PB: The Big Sky staff is awesome. I love working with them because they teach me new things all the time. I've learned a ton about what works and what doesn't in a documentary, how to network within the community, and a great detail of how to put on a good festival (from the Filmmakers lounge to the screening times of films).

    T: What does your position as "intern" entail?

    PB: I've had several projects throughout the past couple of months. I don't really have one job, but mostly do work with maintaining info on our website, putting together our VIP bags, advertising around town, creating festival passes for all attendees, and helping work on details of just about all projects within our office. I do a lot of the footwork for things that our Program Director or Coordinator are working on.

    T: How did you get the gig?

    PB:After I showed interest in the Festival to my professor Gita Saedi, she put me in contact with the Festival Director/Programmer Mike Steinberg. We chatted via email a couple of times in December and I started interning in January.

    T: Is the position as cool as you thought it'd be?

    PB: This position not only keeps me busy with fun projects, but has taught me a lot. So, yes, it's definitely as cool as I thought it would be. I've been able to help with all the things I wanted to and more, including some basic editing and Photoshop assignments.

    T: What's your history in the film scene? Have you worked at fests before?

    PB: I really don't have any history. This is my first experience with a film festival, and with the documentary industry. Working at the festival is really a starting point for me to be much more involved in the future.

    T: Do you think Heath Ledger is going to win the Oscar?

    PB: I sure do. People loved him. It will be more of an award in memory of him than for his talent in acting. (but I do think he did a dang good job as the joker).

    Sunday, February 8, 2009

    Goth Cruise

    What first struck me about Jeanie Finlay was her shoes: ankle-cut healed lace-ups. She wore them with tights and a long skirt and a flowing top. She had just arrived from England to present her newest film, Goth Cruise, to the audience at the Webster Film Series in St. Louis. Jeanie was engaging and articulate and friendly. And her movie rocked.

    Goth Cruise is a film about, well, exactly what you'd think it's about: a cruise inhabited by Goths. Finlay found the subjects for her "Gothumentary" in both the UK and the USA, and follows them on their journey to organize and ultimately enjoy their time on the Caribbean cruise of 150 Goths and 2,500 "norms." The feature length film documents the lifestyles, traditions and outside perceptions of this seemingly controversial group of people, and presents it in a way that's intriguing and informative.

    There's the guy whose coworkers have no idea about his after-hours appearance.
    The man who dresses in Goth drag.
    The woman who never fit in and finds comfort in dressing Goth.
    The couple who brings their child along on the cruise.

    Finlay shows them packing everything from their sunscreen to their head dresses to their horns, then captures the reaction of the other attendees ("norms") as they board the ship, party, and take advantage of all the amenities cruise ships offer--like shuffleboard and buffets. The contrasts presented are striking, and the impressions of the elderly on-lookers is, at times, heartbreaking; but, overall, the film realistically explores the side of everyday people whose penchant for piercings, darkness, leather and make-up ultimately has an effect on the attention (negative or positive) they receive from those different than themselves.

    The pace, the soundtrack, the intimacy of the interviews, the colorful portraits and the extraordinary cinematography (Finlay is also a photographer) make this film one of the must-sees at Big Sky this year.

    Goth Cruise screens Sunday, February 15th at 9pm in Wilma 1.

    Finlay's previous film, Teenland, looks at the life of 4 teenagers in their bedrooms. It aired on the BBC two years ago.
    Above photo from Finlay's Flickr site documenting the cruise.

    Friday, February 6, 2009

    Delta Rising filmmaker Michael Afendakis

    I talk with Michael Afendakis, filmmaker of Delta Rising, a story about blues in Clarksdale, Mississippi, about inspiration, Morgan Freeman and future projects.

    Delta Rising is a Big Sky Official Selection and makes its Northwest premiere at 3pm on Monday, February 16th at the Wilma.

    T: How did you come upon the small town and its claim of blues ownership?

    AF: Delta Rising grew out of a story about a musician named Chris Cotton, an incredibly talented San Francisco bluesman that plays in a style that hasn't really been done in 40 or 50 years. Chris was introduced to me by one of the producers - Matthew Goff back in 2003. Well Chris went to Clarksdale, MS to record an album entitled "I watched Devil Die" and we went along to document that process. It was an eye opening, wildly pleasurable experience and we spent a lot of time in juke joints and at front porch parties getting to know the local folks and musicians in that town. This is a place where folks like John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, BB King, Ike Turner, Sam Cooke, Son House and many others reign from - it is definitely ground zero for the delta blues scene.

    T: What inspired you to research the topic?

    AF: I wasn't really a blues fan at the time I agreed to do the film, but I definitely am now. Chris was really the inspiration for doing the film but it was experiencing this place, Clarksdale, MS and the people and history of the place that really took us to the next level. It was during this exploration that we discovered Morgan Freeman owned a blues club, called Ground Zero there and we began to see if we might have him engaged in the film. It took about 9 months but our schedules finally aligned and we got to interview him about what the area means to him, what this music means to him - it was really terrific. He has a great quote - The Blues is America's Classical Music - and I agree.

    T: How long did it take you to shoot and complete the film?

    AF: Most of the shooting happened in 2006-2008 though, some of it in 2003/4. It doesn't seem like 6 years, and the interesting thing about documentaries, at least this one for sure is - you could do it forever, there is always more to get, but at some point though you know you have your story down and it is complete.

    We didn't really plan, shoot, edit in that order, we kind of shot, plan, edit, edit, edit, shoot, plan, plan edit edit. It was an iterative process and I think gave us something that feels like a tapestry or a collage about the delta blues rather than a story about one particular thing.

    T: How has the making of this film changed you?

    AF: I'm a much better filmmaker now than I was when I started, I have an appreciation for the south, especially Mississippi, that I didn't have before which I really cherish. The real truth is - that most of the people I spend time with now all came out of this project, they are my friends and associates - this is an entire cast of folks that I never would have met otherwise. My life feels so much richer because of this project because of all these terrific relationships that have come out of it.

    T: What other sorts of projects have you worked on?

    Delta Rising introduced me to Morgan Freeman and his business partner Bill Luckett. Bill, an amazing Renaissance kind of man, introduced me to Laura Bernieri (Next Stop Wonderland, Kettle of Fish) who is now one of my producer partners in this project, both Laura and Bill have really helped open a lot of doors for me.

    We are currently working on a television show with Rob Long (writer/producer - Cheers) and Morgan about this town and the people that live there and how the history of place and time can influence the present. As for other projects we are in production on another music documentary called ToTimbuktu which is about Vieux Farka Toure (talented son of musical legend Ali Farka Toure) and his journey from Mali Africa (Timbuktu) to the US. We have also initiated a project called "Men in Green" about the Boston Celtics. Both of these projects I am working on with Laura Bernieri.

    T: How was your film received at the Victoria Film Festival, where it was last played?

    AF: The film screened there on February 1st to a sold out audience of 400 which was thrilling. I actually have a short 4 minute video that captures some of that feeling that is on the blog for the Big Sky Festival hosted by b-side. It is always nerve racking and thrilling to screen your own work in front of strangers and get the reaction. It was very positive and if you like documentary, and music you'll have a really good time with the film and that is what we tend to find.

    The audiences really seem to like the film and what they pick up from it, you get your toe tapping and get to experience a place many people don't know too well. One comment a person made that I really appreciated was how much they enjoyed the intimate performances people gave us. That is particularly satisfying to me because that was something we purposely did - getting these amazing musicians to play us a song or two in their home, on their porch, on the street - we have a lot of blues club performance too but folks seem to like that intimate experience with the musicians up close and personal. It has been a really amazing journey and I hope that people at the festival enjoy it too.

    Thursday, February 5, 2009

    Full schedule and descriptions up on Big SkyDoc's Official Site


    Wednesday, January 21, 2009

    The Missoulian on Big Sky

    Tuesday, January 20, 2009

    Interview with Jeff Medley

    Truckey speaks with Big Sky's Volunteer Coordinator Jeff Medley about his inability to get a job at a grocery store in Missoula ("Come on, I have a degree!"), documentary directors' fascinations with nail files, his plan to sing before each screening on Valentine's Day, and, of course, the perks of being a volunteer BSDFF.

    TRUCKEY: What are the perks for the volunteers who work long, arduous hours at the fest?

    MEDLEY: The perks, for my beloved volunteers... I would have to say the camaraderie. There's a certain buzz in the air that time of year.

    They do get a nice t-shirt (American Apparell again this year, I think), a ticket per shift and for those crazy few who sign up for 12 shifts - the VIP All-Access Pass!!! That is a huge time commitment of approximately 36 hours, but that's four hours easier than last year. With that pass, these crazed volunteers can hit the lounge in the morning for coffee and snacks, happy hours several of the afternoons and parties quite a few nights allowing them to maintain a steady buzz for the entire festival. Not to mention all the great films. Crap! It's fun!

    The biggest perk is that I'm planning to sing My Funny Valentine before each screening on Valentine's Day, if time allows, to serenade my volunteers and the people out on dates. There will be so many people at films on dates with their sweethearts! This probably will not actually happen since I haven't even mentioned it to any of the powers that be... I'm a little shy, too.

    T: If you had to do one of the volunteer positions for the fest, which would it be?

    M: In the morning, I would probably have to choose the lounge... the filmmakers' lounge. It's tough to beat coffee, tea, pastries or something similar. The resident volunteer has to sample the wares to monitor the level of freshness...

    I should be plugging the box office and will call. We need people in there selling tickets... the front line of the public interface, making change, swiping credit cards.

    T: How long have you been working with Big Sky?

    M: This is my third year at the festival.

    T: How did you get involved?

    M: Three years ago, I was still pretty new on the Missoula scene, trying to get involved in the community, meet people and find gainful employment in a tough town. I was on the verge of throwing myself off a cliff... I had been rejected from a grocery store hiring for a frozen food stocker. Come on, I have a degree! But, I didn't have any experience handling large quantities of frozen food. It was a dark time.

    Anyway, this girl, Mary, mentioned that the festival was looking for volunteers. I had a lot of time on my hands, went in to talk with them, started signing up for a few blocks of time and ended up leaving with the distinguished title of VIP Liaison. which meant picking up directors at the airport and taking them out to buy nail files, Missoula's best burger and things like that.

    Last year, I was encouraged to become the volunteer coordinator and here I am again.

    T: What's the best thing, hands down, about working at Big Sky?

    M: The best thing... it's that buzz, I suppose, not the caffeine/alcohol buzz, but the love/Pisces sort of buzz. These creative directors are coming to Missoula from all over the world and sharing their labors of love... these works of art that, in some cases, they have devoted years of their lives to making. And the crowd, while mostly made up of the lovely people of Missoula and surrounding areas, is made up of people from all over the country and the world, for that matter. It is a special event.


    See Medley's plea for volunteers below. 


    The Big Sky Documentary Film Festival wants you!!!

    We need so many volunteers from Feb. 13 - 22, it's not funny! Well, maybe a little depending on your sense of humor.

    I'm the volunteer coordinator and I need your help.
    So, please, contact me at and I'll explain everything... EVERYTHING.
    We need ushers, box office/will call, pass line, projectionists, lounge attendants and more!!!

    Here's the site for the festival:
    And this one has descriptions of the films being screened:
    It'll be fun, you'll see some great films, meet interesting people.
    Think about it and don't hesitate to get involved!

    Tell your friends, colleagues and strangers about this great opportunity. Forward this message, so you and the recipients will be able to explain everything just by contacting me and it's possible that millions of dollars will appear in their bank accounts from Nigeria or the Philippines!


    Jeff Medley
    BSDFF Volunteer Coordinator

    Monday, January 5, 2009



    January 5, 2009

    Missoula, Montana – The 2009 Big Sky Documentary Film Festival has announced the Official Selections for the annual 10-day event, February 13-22. Now in its sixth year, the 2009 installment includes 143 extraordinary films from more than 30 countries, a selection chosen from nearly 1000 submissions. The 2009 program is truly distinguished, offering the most diverse exhibition of work to ever screen under the Big Sky.

    This year’s films cover the gamut of possibilities within the non-fiction form, with topics ranging from the ivory-billed woodpecker to art cars; from rock docs to opera; from Antarctica to Swaziland! Special presentations include retrospectives of filmmakers Ron Mann & Joe Berlinger (both in attendance) and a live musical accompaniment to silent film by the world renowned Alloy Orchestra.

    Now expanded to 10 days, downtown Missoula’s historic Wilma Theatre, the 1100-seat venue that houses Montana's largest screen, once again hosts the visual immersion into a world where reality plays itself. With packed audiences of avid moviegoers, most films are accompanied by a Q&A with their respective filmmakers.

    Screening passes are now available for purchase at tickets.html.

    A full schedule of events will be published later this week.

    For more information, visit

    Or sign up for RSS feed at the Big Sky Blog

    2009 Big Sky Documentary Film Festival Official Selections:

    Documentary Feature Competition

    At The Edge Of The World

    Director: Dan Stone


    Director: Harrod Blank

    The Beetle

    Director: Yishai Orian

    Boy Interrupted

    Director: Dana Perry


    Director: Joe Berlinger


    Director: Nik Sheehan

    Prodigal Sons

    Director: Kimberley Reed

    Rock-A-Fire Explosion

    Director: Brett Whitcomb

    Rough Aunties

    Director: Kim Longinotto

    Documentary Short Competition

    Bronx Princess

    Director: Yoni Brook & Musa Syeed

    A Day Late in Oakland

    Director: Zachary Stauffer

    The First Kid to Learn English from Mexico

    Director: Peter Jordan

    Intifada NYC

    Director: David Teague

    Living Lightly

    Director: Robin Burke

    Pickin' & Trimmin'

    Director: Matt Morris

    Big Sky Award Competition

    Carts of Darkness

    Director: Murray Siple

    Crude Independence

    Director: Noah Hutton

    Ghost Mountain Experiment

    Director: John McDonald

    I Love Alaska

    Directors: Lernert Engelberts & Sander Plug

    In Place Out of Time

    Director: Erin Hudson

    March Point

    Directors: Tracy Rector, Annie Silverstein, Nick Clark, Cody Cayou, Travis Tom

    Red Gold

    Directors: Travis Rummel & Ben Knight

    Summer Sun Winter Moon

    Director: Hugo Perez

    Upstream Battle

    Director: Ben Kempas

    MiniDoc Competition

    Arts Magna

    Director: Sean Roach

    Before the Sea

    Director: Charlene Music


    Director: Eric Metzgar


    Director: Meghan O'Hara

    The Champ

    Director: Peter Jordan

    Click Whoosh

    Director: Reid Kuennen

    Coober: A Desert Speedway Story

    Directors: Caro Macdonald & Tanya Curnow

    I Can See Everything

    Directors: Kristine Samuelson & John Haptas


    Director: Stewart Copeland

    Reverse Graffiti Project

    Director: Doug Pray

    Roz & Joshua

    Director: Charlene Music

    The Secret Life of Beards

    Director: Melanie Levy

    Special Presentations

    Opening Night Film

    Thriller in Manila

    Director: John Dower

    Free Screening Sponsored by HBO

    Ron Mann Retrospective - Filmmaker In Attendance!

    Comic Book Confidential


    Imagine the Sound

    Poetry in Motion

    Tales of the Rat Fink


    Joe Berlinger Retrospective - Filmmaker In Attendance!

    Brother's Keeper

    Gray Matter

    Iconoclasts: Sean Penn & Jon Krakauer

    Metallica: Some Kind of Monster

    Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Woods

    Paradise Lost 2: Revelations

    Live Musical Accompaniment to the Classic Silent Film

    South: Ernest Shackleton and the Endurance Expedition (1919)

    Director : Frank Hurley

    Performed by the World Renowned

    Alloy Orchestra

    Music Docs with Brendan Canty & Christoph Green - Filmmakers In Attendance!

    Bob Mould: Circle of Friends

    Burn to Shine: Seattle


    Ashes of American Flags (Wilco Tour Film)

    Preview Screenings


    Director: Brett Ingram

    The Way We Get By

    Director: Aron Gaudet

    Whatever it Takes

    Director: Christopher Wong



    Director: Stefan Lukacs

    Milking the Rhino

    Director: David E. Simpson

    The Choir

    Director: Michael Davie

    Today the Hawk Takes One Chick

    Director: Jane Gillooly

    Throw Down Your Heart

    Director: Sascha Paladino


    Directors: Benjamin Kirk Nielsen & Emil M. Morell

    Youssou Ndour: I Bring What I Love

    Director: Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi

    (Plus three competition films, Bronx Princess and Rough Aunties)

    International Documentary Challenge Showcase

    Arts Magna

    Director: Sean Roach


    Director: Eric Metzgar

    Bend & Bow

    Director: Maya Mumma

    Click Whoosh

    Director: Reid Kuennen

    Fiercely Independent

    Director: Laurie Collins


    Director: Kevin Thomas

    Ice Fishing

    Director: Ari Cohen Jetty


    Director: Courtney Hermann

    Meet the Freegans

    Director: Travis Sheilds

    Red Light Blues

    Director: Erga Netz

    Stick & Pound

    Director: Tony Nguyen

    Official Selections Screening Out Of Competition


    10 Short Documentaries of My Childhood Home

    Director: Dorothea Braemer

    111 Degrees Longitude

    Directors: Cindy Stillwell & Yuri Makino

    Bingo Nation

    Director: Stephanie Stender

    Bloomfield or A Childhood Memory

    Director: Eran Barak

    Bob's Knee

    Director: Mike Attie

    Body Job

    Director: Joanne Nereuberg

    The Bush Man

    Director: Hanh Nguyen

    Coney Island's for the Birds

    Director: Alexis Neophytides

    Dead Lonesome

    Director: Joe Taylor

    Frontier Youth

    Director: John Kane

    Hair Cowboy

    Director: Patrick Robins


    Director: John Nizzari

    The Last Butcher in Little Italy

    Director: Laura Terruso

    Lessons in America Episode 17: Montana

    Director: Andrew Sobey

    Mare Liberum

    Director: Dr. Robert Batcelor & Sari Gilbeert

    Matchstick Traveller

    Director: Mareike Wegener

    The Mongolian Marmot

    Director: Thomas Winston

    Monster Dudes

    Director: Lance Bauscher

    Mrs. Henderson’s Kids

    Director: Veena Rao

    Naturally Obsessed

    Director: Richard Rifkind & Carole Rifkind

    No Strings Attached

    Director: Lisa Whitmer

    The Oldest Tree

    Director: Dale Elrod


    Director: Oksana Sokol

    Pigeon Men

    Director: Marryanne Christodoulou

    Propaganda Repolution

    Director: Jeremy Flores

    Say Cheese: The Hamburger Harry Story

    Director: Erin Szwejkowski

    Secret: The Josephine Baker FBI Files

    Director: Kathy Corley

    Smile Boston Project

    Director: David Tames

    Water Paper Time

    Director: Gretchen Hogue

    Western Brothers Adventure Story

    Matt Xauthopolos


    All of Us

    Director: Emily Abt

    American Swing

    Directors: Mathew Kaufman & Jon Hart

    As Slow As Possible

    Director: Scott Smith

    Ask Not

    Director: Johnny Symons


    Director: Paul Devlin

    Bone Crusher

    Director: Michael Fountain


    Director: Alison Murray

    Chasing Birds

    Director: Greg Woodland

    Chicago Block

    Director: Ingeborg Jansen

    Delta Rising

    Directors: Michael Afendakis, Laura Bernieri & Matt Goff

    The Dhamma Brothers

    Directors: Jenny Phillips, Anne Marie Stein & Andrew Kukura

    Fire Under the Snow

    Director: Makoto Sasa

    The Garden

    Director: Scott Hamilton Kennedy

    Garrison Keillor: The Man on the Radio in the Red Shoes

    Director: Peter Rosen

    Gogol Bordello: Never Stop

    Director: Margarita Jimeno

    Goth Cruise

    Director: Jeanie Finlay

    The Greening of Southie

    Directors: Ian Cheney & Curtis Ellis

    Guest of Cindy Sherman

    Directors: Tom Donahue & Paul HO

    Hotel Gramercy Park

    Director: Douglas Keeve

    I Think We're Alone Now

    Director: Sean Donnelly

    Immokalee U.S.A.

    Director: Georg Koszulinski

    In A Dream

    Directors: Jeremy Yaches & Jeremiah Zagar

    Killer Poet

    Director: Susan Gray


    Director: Eric Metzgar

    The Lord God Bird: The Enduring Quest for the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker

    Director: George Butler

    Lost in the Fog

    Director: John Corey


    Director: Dianna Dilworth

    The Money Fix

    Director: Alan Rosenblith

    A Nashville State of Mind

    Directors: John-Martin Vogel & Eric LaRocca Mainade

    Number One With a Bullet

    Director: Jim Dziura

    One Bad Cat: The Reverend Albert Wagner Story

    Director: Thomas Miller

    Out Late

    Directors: Jennifer Brooke & Beatrice Alda

    Song Sung Blue

    Director: Greg Kohs


    Director: Iris Olsson

    Sync or Swim

    Director: Cheryl Furjanic

    Tattooed Under Fire

    Director: Nancy Schiesari

    That's My Time

    Director: Adamm Liley

    We Are Wizards

    Director: Josh Koury

    Who Does She Think She Is?

    Director: Pamela T. Boll

    Witch Hunt

    Directors: Don Hardy & Dana Nachman

    2009 Festival Sponsors

    Bresnan Communications, HBO Documentary Films, Montana Film Office, The Washington Foundation, Montana PBS, Montana Public Radio, KGBA, Rockin' Rudy's, Missoula Art Museum, First Security Bank, NorthWestern Energy, The Independent, Sony, Media 100, Edgewater/Doubletree, Best Western Grant Creek Inn, Red Lion Inn Missoula, Campus Inn, Big Sky Brewery, Ten Spoon Winery, Thomas Kemper Soda, Porta Brace, Docurama, Vann's Electronics.