Big Sky Documentary 2019 Overview

The 16th Big Sky Documentary Film Festival

February 15-24

Nearly 60 new or recent doc features screen as part of Montana’s largest film event.


The Feature Competition includes three world premieres – Jesse Alk’s PARIAH DOG, on the street dogs of Kolkata; Alex Lora and Adán Aliaga’s EL CUARTO REINO, which follows people on the margins at a redemption center; and Matt Wechsler and Annie Speicher’s RIGHT TO HARM, about citizen activists facing off against factory farms. Other films in the competition include Jasmin Herold and Michael Beamish’s DARK EDEN, a personal exploration of the dangers of Canada’s oil sands industry; and Mariah Wilson’s SILENT FORESTS, about elephant conservationists in Africa’s Congo Basin. Among titles in the running for the Big Sky Award is Rainer Komers’ BARSTOW, CALIFORNIA, an impressionistic portrait of life in the Mojave Desert.


The remainder of the fest’s lineup consists of various thematic strands. Among these are Activism & Justice, which includes work like Suki Hawley and Michael Galinsky’s THE COMMONS, which focuses on protests around a North Carolina Confederate statue; Margo Guernsey’s COUNCILWOMAN, a portrait of a working-class Dominican politician in Providence; and Shaena Mallett’s FARMSTEADERS, following a couple as they restart a family farm; and Peace & Conflict, with films such as Nizam Najar’s ALEPPO’S FALL, which follows civilian fighters for the Free Syrian Army.


The Sports & Adventure strand includes work like Israel Cannan’s FISH OUT OF WATER, following two men as they set out to cross the ocean in a rowboat; and Grant Baldwin’s THIS MOUNTAIN LIFE, profiles of various adventurers; while Sights & Sounds, offers Elisabeth Silveiro’s VOSTOK N°20, an observational portrait of strangers on a Transsiberian train; and Mat Hames’ WAITING FOR THE PUNCHLINE, which follows a man’s attempts to become a standup comedian.


Other sections include Made in Montana, with Kirk Leclaire’s “…SO GOOD I CAN’T TAKE IT”, about Montana’s forgotten 1980s music scene; All Abilities, with Johnny Sweet’s QUIET STORM: THE RON ARTEST STORY, on the mental health challenges of the NBA champion; Indigenous Stories, with Drew Nicholas’ BLOOD MEMORY, an exploration of the impact of adoption policies on Native American children; Natural Facts, with Peter Nelson’s THE POLLINATORS, about the annual process of aiding honey bees in pollinating our crops; and Stories from Iran, with Kourosh Ataee and Azadeh Moussavi’s FINDING FARIDEH, which follows an adoptee back to her native Iran to find her birth family.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Overviews, Recommendations

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