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.