The Big Sky Documentary Film Festival announced its winners late last night. The Best Feature Award went to Lixin Fan's film Last Train Home about the consequences of a migrant family in China whose parents live and work in the city to make higher wages while the children stay in the country. But it's, of course, a reflection of the larger economic and political changes happening China.
Josh Fox, director of Gasland, was awarded the Artistic Vision Award for his first-person look into the effects of natural gas extraction, called fracking.
The Big Sky Award went to Joseph Aguirres' Next Year Country, about three farming families in Montana, the drought they endure and the sort of desperation that leads them to hiring a rainmaker from California.
Sweetgrass, directed by Lucien Castaing Talors and Ilisa Barbash, got a lot of buzz during the festival. It's style was surprising: unsentimental, no narration, no scripting, entirely immersed in the sometimes slow, stark feel of the story, which tells of the last sheep ranchers to summer their herd in Montana's Absaroka-Beartooth mountains. It won for Artistic Excellence.
Danza Del Viejo Inmigrante (The Old Immigrants Dance) by Charlene Music received the Best Short Award for its elegance and unpretentious scenes portraying elderly Latinos forging spirited new lives in the U.S. And Kelly Anderson's Never Enough got the Artistic Excellence award in the short category for a film that dealt sensitively with people who have hoarding disorders.
The Mini Doc Award went to Paramita Nath for Found, a six-minute film by about Toronto poet Souvankham Thammavongsa, whose parents lived in a Lao refugee camp in Thailand. And Tony Donoghue's animated piece, A Film About My Parish: 6 Farms, got the Artistic Excellence award in that category.
The Big Sky Festival Film staff awarded Four Programmers Choice Awards:
Excellence in Cinematography: Michael Angus' Salt and Robert Drew's The Sun Ship Game
Excellence in Editing: Rainer Komers Milltown, Montana
Natural Facts Award: Briar March's There Once Was An Island, which gives props to the film for its artistic rendering of climate change and its effect of human life.
You get another chance to watch these award-winning films if you slacked on them the first time. Awards screenings are:
Friday, February 19 at 7:30:
Danza Del Viejo Inmigrante
Found A Film About My Parish 6 Farms
Dark Light: The Art of Blind Photographers*
Anonymous Rebellion (High school filmmaker Mike Worman's film, which is re-screening due to technical difficulties.)
Saturday February 20 at 7:30:
Next Year Country
Sunday February 21 at 8:00:
Last Train Home