Festival favorites

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HIGHLIGHTS from the BIG SKY DOC FILM FESTIVAL:

Last night, the Wilma Theatre was packed, from ground floor to balcony, for the screening of Sweetgrass, a film about summer sheepherding in the Beartooth Mountains. In attendance: about 15 ranchers from Big Timber who were featured in or associated with the film. Very cool.

If you haven't been paying attention, here are some of the other highlights of the festival so far. Even if you missed these screenings, there's a good chance you can find the films online or at Crystal Video in the near future:

The Last One, directed by Neal Hutchenson, features Popcorn Sutton, a moonshiner in Appalachia who’s making his last batch of bootleg whiskey. The set up of barrels and soldered pipes, and the physics of how the moonshine process works, proves fascinating. The soundtrack consists of locals playing banjo, fiddle and guitar. Mostly though, it's Sutton who drives the story along with his deadpan look, old-timey beard and the things he says like: "This is the last damn liquor I’m gonna make. I guess them revenue officers will be glad of that cause they won’t have to watch me no damn more. They’ve been watchin’ me all my life.”

The crowd for black metal documentary Until the Light Takes Us was solid for an 11:15 p.m. showing on a Sunday night. Still, it was a bit surprising not to see more members of the music community—especially local metal bands. This film, directed by Aaron Aites and Audrey Ewell, was certainly gruesome at times but interesting, especially if you’ve followed the Norwegian black metal scene at all. It takes a look at the controversy surrounding some of these bands, most notably Mayhem and Burzum, and tries to separate truth from fiction in regard to church burnings and murder scandals. Dark stories, but a crisp soundtrack.

Two Missoula high school students screened their mini-documentary films on Sunday, Feb. 14. Mike Workman from Hellgate High School showed Anonymous Rebellion, which follows a couple of local teenage graffiti artists. Workman masked the teenagers to conceal their identities for the after-screening Q&A. Makenzie Enich from Big Sky showed her film AERIE: Internationally Connected, which went behind the scenes of the student literary magazine AERIE and showed how Missoula students worked to form literary international connections. We heard from several audience members that both homegrown films, which were created under the festival’s mentoring program, ended up being a couple of the most impressive of the festival’s mini-doc selection.

If you have your own highlights of the festival, feel free to add them below.

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