The Best Feature prize was awarded to THIS WAY OF LIFE

The judges of the 8th annual Big Sky Documentary Film Festival have announced this year’s award winning films in the four competitive categories: Best Feature, Big Sky Award, Best Short Film and Best Mini Doc (under 15 minutes). The awards were announced Thursday evening at a ceremony at The Loft in downtown Missoula. The Feature Category winner will receive $1000, while the films in the other three categories will receive a cash prize of $500, courtesy of The Documentary Channel.

This year’s jury included Andrew Catauro of POV, Michael Lumpkin of the International Documentary Association, Ian McCluskey from NW Documentary, Kate Pearson of the Documentary Channel, Tracy Rector of Longhouse Media, Oscar-winning filmmaker Chuck Workman and Paco de Onis & Pamela Yates of Skylight Pictures, the makers of GRANITO.

At a reception sponsored by the Documentary Channel, the jury announced the following awards:

FEATURE FILM COMPETITION The Best Feature prize was awarded to Thomas Burstyn’s THIS WAY OF LIFE, a story of one family’s struggles and success at forging a simple life based around horses, hunting, and being together. Jurors Kate Pearson and Ian McCluskey noted that “despite being evicted from their home, having their horses stolen, and their subsistence lifestyle counter to the forward pressure of modernity, this family demonstrates genuine perseverance and commitment to each other. With candid personal interviews, lots of gorgeous scenery, the filmmakers create an authentic portrait of a marginal, and marginalized, way of life, that has, at its center, areal heartbeat of human love.”

FEATURE FILM, ARTISTIC VISION AWARD Judges Kate Pearson and Ian McCluskey chose STEAM OF LIFE for the Feature Film Artistic Vision award. They herald the film as a masterpiece, “from the tender opening scene between husband and wife who have bathed each other in their sauna for 51 years, the audience knows they are in for a very special treat. This documentary, directed by Joonas Berghall and Mika Hotakainen, takes viewers into the small confines of saunas to reveal sad men, old men, fathers and sons. It is a film simple in concept, elegant in execution, and haunting for the emotional depth of raw human experience. With an ebb and flow like the water on the sauna rocks, this film breathes with a life all its own.”

SHORT FILM COMPETITION Michael Lumpkin and Chuck Workman awarded the Short Film prize to Goro Toshimas BROKEN DOORS.  The film follows a young, homeless couple, struggling to survive on the streets of Hollywood, as they confront one of the biggest challenges of their lives, an unexpected pregnancy.

MINI-DOC Jurors Paco de Onis and Pamela Yates awarded the prize to Kevin Gordon and Rebekah Meredith’s, DREAMS AWAKE, a meditation on immigration through the life and poetry of Doroteo Garcia, a janitor who discovered his artistic and political voice in the United States.

MINI-DOC, ARTISTIC VISION MICHAEL AND HIS DRAGON by Briar March, was described by judges Paco de Onis and Pamela Yates as “a refreshing and poetic insight into the experience of post traumatic disorder, told from the perspective of a contemporary veteran”.

BIG SKY AWARD WINNER Director Kevin Gordon (who also garnered this year’s Mini Doc Award for his film DREAMS AWAKE) received the award for his film TUNED IN, a documentary that takes us on a sonic journey into the world of Steve McGreevy, one natural radio pioneer and his efforts to capture these mesmerizing sounds.

BIG SKY AWARD, ARTISTIC VISION Judges Andrew Catauro and Tracy Rector noted that “Nick Brandestini’s artistic achievement, DARWIN, crafted an honest account of a place. In the inhospitable California desert, Darwin sustains 35 residents–each of whom blazed their own trail into what is ironically a one road town. As Connie and Hank Jones remark in the film ‘no one here is interested in who you were, or who you could be; only who you are today.’ Their neighbors meet them where they’re at, and Nick did the same. To characters who may be considered society’s fringe, DARWIN gives voice — creating a carefully woven quilt of personalities and stories.”

The Awards Screenings will take place in the Wilma Theatre, February
19 & 20,  The schedule for this weekend’s screenings is as follows:

Saturday, February 19 at 8:00pm
TUNED IN – 5 mins
DARWIN – 86 mins

Sunday, February 20 at 8:00pm
BROKEN DOORS – 34 mins
THIS WAY OF LIFE – 85 mins
STEAM OF LIFE – 81 mins

[ via Big Sky Documentary Film Festival ]

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