The Big Sky Documentary Film Festival closed Wednesday, February 23, with an awards celebration honoring three films picked to carry the titles “Best Short”, “Best Feature” and “Big Sky Award Winner.” Three additional filmmakers were awarded Artistic Vision Awards as Special Jury Prizes.
The seven-day event screened non-stop, 10 am to midnight at Missoula’s Historic Wilma Theater and featured seventy-six films from more than 15 countries, with classics running side-by-side with world premiers. This year’s festival also showcased two long-time independent documentary production houses, Maysles Films and Kartemquin Films, in a retrospective series sponsored by the Montana Committee for the Humanities.
The final picks from the nine judges in the three competitive categories were announced at Missoula’s new Crystal Theater, where an intimate gathering of filmmakers, judges, volunteers and special guests watched the award winners, mingled over appetizers, wine and cake, and celebrated the achievements of all involved.
Big Sky Documentary Film Festival Finalists:
Best Feature Documentary
Citizen King (USA)
Homeland: Four Portraits of Native Action (USA)
Rebel Without Applause (UK)
Saints and Sinners (USA)
With All Deliberate Speed (USA)
Best Short Documentary
Bedroom Radio (UK)
Herders Calling (Canada/Kyrgyz Republic)
My Father Lives in Venezuela (Netherlands)
Naomi and Her Mother (Netherlands)
Other Peoples’ Pictures (USA)
Seoul Train (USA/North Korea/China)
Sing Until They Slaughter You (France/Bosnia)
This Black Soil (USA)
Big Sky Award
Devil’s Teeth (USA)
Los Angeles Plays Itself (USA)
Ridin’ and Rhymin’ (USA)
Greg Snider and Dawn Smallman’s Ridin’ and Rhymin’ took the 2005 Big Sky Award for a film about the American West. Cinda Holt of the Montana Arts Council noted the filmmakers’ “impressive intimacy with their subject,” renowned cowgirl poet, Georgie Sicking, in presenting the award on behalf of the jury.
Best Short Documentary went to Hubert Davis’ emotional film, Hardwood about Davis’ relationship with his father, former Harlem Globetrotter, Mel Davis.
The Short Competition Jury was “particularly inspired” by two additional filmmakers and presented them with special jury awards. The jury gave Roger Teich an Artistic Vision Award “for his inspiring use of sound and image to tell intimate, compelling stories about individuals finding transcendence in unlikely places.” Teich’s two films, Stealing Altitude (1990) and Big Sky World Premier, Devil’s Teeth (2005), screened as part of a shorts program during the second night of the festival.
Rainer Komers’ Nome Road System was awarded a Special Jury Prize “for its unique, uncompromising vision, fascinating structure, and for reminding us of the limitless possibilities of the documentary form.” Teich’s and Komers’ artistry fueled creative dialogue among filmmakers and audience alike throughout the festival.
Best Feature Documentary went to Orlando Bagwell’s Citizen King, a dramatic and intimate look at the last five years of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s life.
The Feature Competition Jury also presented an Artistic Vision Award to Konstantin Boujanov’s Invisible, which in the words of the jurors, “elevates serious, important subject matter to an art form without trivializing, denigrating, or exploiting it. Invisible is compassionate and deeply human, as well as raw, intense, up-close and as real as it gets.” Invisible had it’s world premier at Big Sky.
More than 30 filmmakers came from around the world to address enthusiastic audiences with engaging question and answer sessions. The characters included in several films joined these sessions as well, allowing viewers to address not only the filmmaker but noteworthy individuals featured in the films, including acclaimed ceramic artist Paul Soldner (Playing With Fire) and dedicated Native American activist, Gail Small (Homeland).
Informal gatherings and evening parties created a congenial atmosphere at the festival where long-time experienced filmmakers like Adam Singer (Hoop Dreams, With All Deliberate Speed) and Jerry Blumenthal (Golub), could mingle with many first time filmmakers having their world premiers at Big Sky.
“We are extremely pleased with this year’s increased audience turnout and enthusiasm for the program,” said Festival Director Toni Matlock.
“We’re grateful to the more than thirty filmmakers who were able to attend this year’s event in support of an extraordinary group of documentaries. Our Montana audience appreciated the opportunity to engage them in discussing their work,” added Festival Programmer Doug Hawes-Davis.