a shorter version of this article

first appeared in Winter, 2004

Film Festival Reporter

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The Sky’s the Limit at

This Montana Fest

Long lines in their first year out could mean even longer ones for 2005





o doubt about it.  Big Sky Documentary Film Festival’s first year in 2004 was a rip roaring success.   Now they face doing it all over again.   Can they recreate the magic that brought them sold-out screenings last year?  


“It was amazing,” said Hawes-Davis as quoted by the Missoulian after the festival last year.   Apparently, there was more than one screening that had as many as 50 eager patrons turned away because the house was full.   Hawes-Davis, is a documentary filmmaker who, just six months before that first event, came to that amazing point of awe where dreams turn into realities.   It was one of those ‘Wow, this is a really great idea’ moments that sent him about the daunting task of assembling a staff of volunteers, recruiting and sifting through 400 film submissions to find 75 worthy of screening.  And, apparently, he did it and very successfully to the surprised, wonder-filled eyes of onlookers.   He was so adept at doing the right thing the first time out, he even got 15 of the filmmakers to come talk to audiences.  


Now, it’s that time again . . . for a second Big Sky event!   Running from February 17th through 23rd, 2005, this year’s festival will showcase over 70 documentary films with all screenings taking place in Missoula, Montana at the historic Wilma Theater.  The selection, which will include all styles and formats, will represent a broad cross-section ranging from the most innovative, new films to classic or rare historical productions.  Included in the impressive offerings are two retrospective series from prominent independents, Maysles Films and Kartemquin Films.  Also a free discussion panel, "Indie Doc: Speaking to the Source" is available for those eager for the opportunity to converse with filmmakers. 


Big Sky feels they have selected films that offer a great expanse of topic, expression and perspective.   Their stated objective is to illustrate the role of film in properly documenting history.   This is readily apparent in their choices of World Premieres in documentary features this year.   Goodman and Maggio’s KINSEY, is a feature about the controversial sex therapist whose quest to explore the reality of American sexual behavior in its rawest form resulted in concepts of sexuality that exposed Americans everywhere in the most intimate sense, and in the process, took him on an inward journey that tested his own sexual boundaries.   Mike Steinberg’s STAN KANN:  THE HAPPIEST MAN IN THE WORLD, tells the story of the gadget guru whose TV popularity made his name a household word in the 70’s and 80’s.  On a more political note, Tamara Barschak’s REBEL WITHOUT APPLAUSE, documents the strange tale of the ‘Comedy Terrorist’ who accidentally catapulted himself to fame overnight by his life pursuit of crime, hijacking the socially and politically prominent.  Another world premiere in competition for the Big Sky Award is Roger Teich’s short DEVIL’S TEETH, a parable that invokes the challenge of somehow finding freedom while, at the same time, trying to confront the inner demons of illness and fear literally tearing you apart inside.   


Awards will be presented for the best feature, and the best short documentary.  A third award, The Big Sky Award, will go to a film about the American West.   


"We have a truly incredible line-up of films to present to our Missoula audience this year.  Submissions were up to almost 600 and the high quality of entries made it a very challenging task to narrow the field to the 70 plus films we'll screen in February," said Festival Programmer, Doug Hawes-Davis.  “Given the fantastic nature of the venue, the range of styles and subject matter of the films, and filmmakers that will be attending to represent their work, we are really looking forward to this year's event."


Festival Director, Toni Matlock adds, "It's exciting to present films from the 1960s and 70s that are as fresh and thought-provoking today as they were at the time of their release.  Viewing these older films back to back with brand new work provides an avenue for viewers to consider how the genre has evolved, but also to recognize the timeless nature of documentary film in a historic context." 


Also gear up for another exciting new festival coming to Montana later on in the year.  This one is focused on woman and the films of Myrna Loy!   Sounds to me like the sky’s the limit in Montana this year!  Come check it out!  

For more information about the festival see www.bigskyfilmfest.org



© January, 2004.