No account yet? Register

First Comes Love

Big Sky Documentary Film Festival announced the official selections for the 10th annual festival, being held February 15-24, 2013 at the Historic Wilma and Crystal Theaters in downtown Missoula, Montana.  The 2013 program was curated from more than 1000 entries from around the globe.  The opening night film, Nina Davenport’s “First Comes Love,” will be free and open to the public, courtesy of HBO Documentary Films.

In addition to special programming events and the competitive selections, the 10th Big Sky Documentary Film Festival will celebrate a decade of non-fiction movie programming with a “Best 10 of 10” series, re-screening some of the greatest films ever shown at Big Sky.  This special “Best of” screening series is sponsored by Humanities Montana.  Additionally, the 2013 Retrospective Series will feature MacArthur Fellow, Stanley Nelson.  Nelson’s films have aired on the prestigious PBS series’ American Experience, American Masters, and Independent Lens.  In 2006 his film “Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple” was shortlisted for the Academy Awards in the Documentary Feature category.

The Big Sky Doc Shop, an industry-focused four-day event that offers documentary filmmakers opportunities for networking, discussion, and professional development, through workshops, panels, and the annual Big Sky Documentary Pitch session will begin Monday, February 18th. The Documentary Pitch Session panelists include some of the top non-fiction commissioning editors in television representing BBC Storyville, POV/The American Documentary, CNN, ITVS, and the Sundance Documentary Fund.



ALIEN BOY:THE LIFE AND DEATH OF JAMES CHASSE/USA/91 min/Dir: Brian Lindstrom/In 2006, James Chasse was tackled by three law officers on a downtown Portland, Oregon, street corner before a dozen eye-witnesses. James was not suspected of a crime. He had not committed a crime. 

 Alien Boy: The Death and Life of James Chasse is a feature length documentary film about what happened to James Chasse. 

AS ABOVE, SO BELOW/USA/50 min/Dir: Sarah J. Christman/For thousands of years, alchemists toiled to synthesize rare substances and universal cures, to manipulate the speed of natural processes. Today, a woman has her husband’s ashes transformed into a memorial diamond. Precious metals are extracted from obsolete electronics. What was once the world’s largest landfill– now also the final resting place of the World Trade Center’s remains– is being converted into a public park. The film intimately examines various transmutations, both microscopic and massive, that reshape matter and its meanings. What separates the permanent from the impermanent, the things we discard from those we preserve?

AS GOES JANESVILLE/USA/83min/Dir. Brad Lichtenstein/ As Goes Janesville shows the front lines over the future of America’s middle class – a debate that became a battle over unions in Wisconsin. First, GM shut down – Janesville’s century-old plant causing massive layoffs. Then, newly elected governor Scott Walker ignites a firestorm by ending collective bargaining unleashing a fury of protesters demanding a recall election. We tell the tale from inside, following 3 years in the lives of workers trying to reinvent themselves; business leaders aligned with the Governor to promote a pro-business agenda to woo companies to town, and a state senator trying to bring peace to his warring state and protect workers’ rights. As Goes Janesville, so goes America, a country mired in polarization and falling short of the American Dream.

BAD BRAINS: A BAND IN DC/USA/104 min/Dir: Ben Logan, Mandy Stein/The Bad Brains are one of the most important and influential American bands still working today. They meld punk and reggae into an innovative style that has yet to be copied. Their impact and influence can be heard in groups like Beastie Boys, No Doubt, Nirvana, Jane’s Addiction and countless more. Despite the troubles of an eccentric front man, they have stayed together for 30 years without ever reaching the level of success so many think they deserve. Using rare archival footage and original comic illustrations the film re-constructs Bad Brains’ rich and complicated history.

BETTING THE FARM/USA/85 min/Dir: Jason Mann and Cecily Pingree/Betting The Farm is the story of a group of Maine dairy farmers who, dropped by their national milk company, are suddenly confronted with the real possibility of losing their farms. Banding together, the farmers launch their own milk company. 
Farmers Vaughn Chase, Richard Lary, and Aaron Bell–along with their families–struggle to make ends meet as they get the company off the ground. But faced with slow sales and mounting bills, can the farmers hang together long enough for the gamble to pay off? Or will they be left worse off than before?

BLOOD BROTHER/USA/105 min/Dir: Steve Hoover/Rocky Braat never really liked kids. But because of a whimsical choice he made five years ago, he now lives in Tamil Nadu, India, caring for a group of HIV-positive orphans. They are his life–and his visa is up for review. The odds are that he’ll be sent away from those he loves most. The only chance he has is to become an Indian citizen, and let go, forever, of any hold his friends and family in America still have on him.

BUILDING BABEL/USA/58 min/Dir: David Osit/Building Babel tells the story of Sharif El-Gamal, developer of the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ in Lower Manhattan. With unfettered and exclusive access to Sharif’s life and family over the course of two years, the film tracks Sharif’s struggle to bring his project, a controversial Muslim community center two blocks from the site of Ground Zero, to fruition. Told in observational style, Building Babel is a portrait of American identity ten years on from September 11th – who are Muslims, and who are Americans? Where does the line get drawn, and who gets to draw it?

BUZKASHI!/Canada/82 Min/Dir: Najeeb Mirza/From the shadows of the majestic Pamir Mountains of Tajikistan comes the story of Azam, a shepherd and Buzkashi champion, who faces the pressures of modernization in the sport and in his own personal life. Azam plays in the traditional way; for honor as an individual. But his success is increasingly thwarted by organized alliances–a.k.a. mafias–encouraged by his rival Khurshed, a member of Tajikistan’s nouveau riche. Khurshed believes that team play is the future of the sport, and has designs on it becoming an Olympic event. Between challenges on the field and at home within his own family, Azam tries to find a place for himself in the new Tajikistan.

THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE/120 min/ Dir. Ken Burns, David McMahon & Sarah Burns/In 1989, five black and Latino teenagers from Harlem were arrested and later convicted of raping a white woman in New York City’s Central Park. They spent between six and 13 years in prison before a serial rapist confessed that he alone had committed the crime, resulting in their convictions being overturned.

CITY WORLD/USA/70 min/Dir: Brent Chesanek/A young boy relates historical legends of mankind, defying nature and imagines apocalyptic futures over images of a deserted, suburban Orlando. The stories he tells are based on the city’s history, mythologies, and theme park rides, all intertwined. This landscape film combines both documentary and narrative elements, showcasing Central Florida’s mundane suburbs, lush natural settings, and stark architectural environments, all filtered through the point of view of the boy’s consciousness. 

DELTA BOYS/USA/Nigeria/58min./Dir:Andrew Berends/ In Delta Boys, Berends crosses the lines of Nigeria’s oil conflict to bear witness to the lives of the militants engaged in the struggle, and the civilians caught in the crossfire. With breathtaking cinematography, Delta Boys offers a never-before-seen glimpse of life in the volatile Niger Delta.

DIGNITY HARBOR/USA/58min/Dir. Mike Gualdoni/ Dignity Harbor follows the story of Dignity Harbor; a homeless encampment just north of the St. Louis Arch. They struggle to survive living in the bitter cold of the harsh winter, but as temperatures drop and tempers rise, they soon must struggle to survive living with themselves.

DOWNEAST/USA/79min/Dir.David Redmon and Ashley Sabin/ Set during an era of U.S. post-industrialization in which numerous factories have been exported, Downeast focuses on Antonio Bussone’s efforts to open a processing factory in rural Maine.

DRIVERS WANTED/USA/54 min/Dir: Joshua Z Weinstein/The documentary focuses on three people from a dirty, metallic, confusing Queens garage: the avuncular Jewish manager, Stanley, who projects firmness and compassion in casually balanced terms; the veteran Johnnie, a cigar-smoking African American, who’s been on the job since 1945; and the new driver, Eric, who is Chinese, handsome, earnest, broke, and the father of two.

EXOTIC WORLD/USA/90min/Dir: Red Tremmel/Funded by retired exotic dancer Dixie Evans’ social security checks, “Exotic World” is a Mojave Desert haven for burlesque legends and revivalists, and the world’s first and only museum devoted to striptease. But as Dixie’s health declines, County regulators threaten the operation, and the desert assails the museum’s fragile collection, will Exotic World survive?

IN SEARCH OF BLIND JOE DEATH: THE SAGA OF JOHN FAHEY/Canada/58 min/Dir: James Cullingham/John Fahey is known as “the father of American Primitive Guitar.” Some think of him as a foundational figure in American folk music. Fahey himself, however, insists, “I am not a volk, how can I be a volk? I’m from the suburbs.” All jesting aside, Fahey transcends his essential Delta influences combining bluegrass, Brazilian, classical, Indian, New Orleans, musique, concrète, and gothic industrial ambience.

 Participants in the film include Pete Townshend, Joey Burns of Calexico, Chris Funk of The Decemberists, and many of Fahey’s closest collaborators and friends, including renowned radio personality Barry Hansen, aka Dr. Demento.

FIRST COMES LOVE/USA/107 min/Dir: Nina Davenport/First Comes Love is an autobiographical documentary set in New York City that taps into the ripe subject of single motherhood as a choice. Unattached at the age of 41, Davenport decides to have a baby on her own and to film the process.

GLOW:THE STORY OF THE GORGEOUS LADIES OF WRESTLING/USA/76/Brett Whitcomb/The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling chronicles the rise and fall of the first ever all-female wrestling show through the stories of those who lived it.

THE GREAT NORTHWEST/USA/70 min/Matt McCormick/The Great Northwest is an experimental documentary based on the recreation of a 3,200 mile road-trip made in 1958 by four Seattle women who thoroughly documented their journey in an elaborate scrapbook of photos, postcards, and brochures.   Fifty years later, Portland artist and filmmaker Matt McCormick found that scrapbook in a thrift store, and in 2010 set out on the road, following their route as precisely as possible and searching out every stop in which the ladies had documented.  Patiently shot with an observational and voyeuristic approach, The Great Northwest is a lyrical time-capsule that explores how the landscape, architecture, and culture of the Pacific Northwest has changed over the past 50 years.

GREGORY CREWDSON: BREIF ENCOUNTERS/USA/78/Dir: Ben Shapiro/Filmed over a decade, Brief Encounters follows internationally renowned photographer Gregory Crewdson’s quest to create his unique, surreal, and incredibly elaborate portraits of suburban life. He sets a house on fire, builds 90-foot sets with crews of sixty, shuts down city streets…all in the service of his haunted image of American life, and his own anxieties, dreams, and inner desires. Brief Encounters is an intimate portrait of one of the most heralded image-makers of our time.

HERMANS HOUSE/Canada/81 min/Dir: Angad Bhalla/The injustice of solitary confinement and the transformative power of art are explored in Herman’s House, a feature documentary that follows the unlikely friendship between a New York artist and one of America’s most famous inmates as they collaborate on an acclaimed art project.

HOLDING ON TO JAH:THE GENESIS OF REVOLUTION/USA/96 min/Dir: Roger Landon Hall/ A unique film about the history and culture of roots Reggae music and the Rastafarian movement in Jamaica, as told by world renowned Reggae musicians and historians.

HOWDY, MONTANA/USA/46 min/Dir: Matt Cascella/Shot primarily in the cities of Missoula and Browning, Howdy, Montana is an exploration of the unfamiliar. The film follows the state’s roaming cultural and physical landscape, guided by the life and music of Joey Running Crane. Joey is a 20-year-old punk rock musician growing up on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. While he and his band-mates navigate their way through practice sessions and day jobs, we see lives tucked away beneath a big sky and Glacier National Park. From painters to sharpshooters, Howdy, Montana introduces a state of contained dreams, sprawling spaces, wide-open youth and the feeling you get when a punk rock song blasts across the airwaves and all you see are the mountains in front of you.

I AM NOT A ROCK STAR/Canada/86 min/Dir.Bobbi Jo Hart /Filmed over eight years by director Bobbi Jo Hart, I AM NOT A ROCK STAR follows the dramatic coming of age story of classical phenom Marika Bournaki from age 12 to 20. Hart’s film amounts to a front row seat in the unfolding of a life and the forming of a personality. Shot in verite style in concert halls, hotels and airports around the world — and featuring stunning piano performances – the film turns Bournaki’s life into a visual narrative, revealing both the rewards and costs of a life dedicated to music excellence.

INFORMANT/USA/80 min/Dir: Jamie Meltzer/Examines Brandon Darby, a radical activist turned FBI informant who has been both vilified and deified, but never entirely understood. In 2005, Darby becomes an overnight activist hero when he travels to Katrina-devastated New Orleans and braves toxic floodwaters to
 rescue a friend stranded in the Ninth Ward. Soon after, he becomes a founding member of Common Ground, a successful grass roots
 relief organization. After two young activists are arrested at the 2008 Republican National Convention, Darby shocks
 close friends and activists nationwide by revealing he has been instrumental in the indictment as an FBI informant.

THE IRAN JOB/USA, IRAN/90min/Dir. Till Schauder and Sara Nodjoumi/ When American basketball player Kevin Sheppard accepts a job to play in one of the world’s most feared countries – Iran – he expects the worst. But what he finds is a country brimming with generosity, acceptance, and sensuality. With a charismatic personality that charms everyone he meets, Kevin forms an unlikely friendship with three outspoken Iranian women who share with him their strong opinions on everything from politics to religion to gender roles.

JEPPE ON A FRIDAY/South Africa, Canada/87 min/Dir: Shannon Walsh, Arya Lalloo/Jeppe on a Friday follows the joys and struggles of 5 diverse people living in a Johannesburg neighborhood under threat of gentrification. A collaborative, verite documentary, Jeppe on a Friday was shot by a team of South African women directors over the course of one day.

LA CAMIONETA: THE JOURNEY OF ONE AMERICAN SCHOOL BUS/USA/72 min/ Dir: Mark Kendall/Every day dozens of decommissioned school buses leave the United States on a southward migration that carries them to Guatemala, where they are repaired, repainted, and resurrected as the brightly-colored camionetas that bring the vast majority of Guatemalans to work each day. Since 2006, nearly one thousand camioneta drivers and fare-collectors have been killed for either refusing or being unable to pay the extortion money demanded by local gangs. LA CAMIONETA moves beyond the blood-soaked headlines, tracking the migration and resurrection of one bus as a vehicle to understand the aspirations of five men amidst the insecurity that surrounds them. Like the bus that unites their stories, the choice between obsolescence and innovation defines their decisions, propelling them toward an increasingly uncertain future.

LA SOURCE/USA/71 min/Dir: Patrick Shen/Narrated by Oscar-nominated actor Don Cheadle (Hotel Rwanda, Crash), in what The Washington Post calls an “artfully shot documentary,” La Source tells the uplifting story of Josue Lajuenesse, a Haitian Princeton janitor who returns to his country after the devastating 2010 earthquake to revive his lifelong dream to bring what is most fundamental to his village’s survival; clean water.

LOST RIVERS/Canada/72 min/Dir: Caroline Bacle/Once upon a time, in almost every city, many rivers flowed. Why did they disappear? How? And could we see them again? This documentary tries to find answers by meeting visionary urban thinkers, activists and artists from around the world.

LOVE AT A CERTAIN AGE/USA/92 min/Dir: Logan Hendricks/Think dating is hard when you’re 20 years old? Try 70, 80, or even 100. Set in sunny Sarasota County, Florida, Love at a Certain Age is the story of four senior citizens as they navigate their sunset years. A rare glimpse into the window of senior homes, fraternities, bars, and community centers, the stories in this film will affirm intimacy, sex, and true love are not exclusive to the young. And that life really does begin after 65.

MOSUO SISTERS/China, USA/80 min/Dir: Marlo Poras/The Mosuo Sisters is a tale of two sisters caught in the whirlwind of China’s breakneck modernization. Juma and Latso, young women from one of the world’s last remaining matriarchal societies, are thrust into the worldwide economic downturn when they lose their jobs in Beijing. Left with few options, they return home to their remote village in the foothills of the Himalayas. But home is no longer what it was, as growing exposure to the modern world irreparably alters the provocative traditions of the Mosuo. Ultimately, though, it’s the sisters’ relationship with one another that hangs in the balance as they struggle to navigate the vast cultural and economic divides that define contemporary China.

MUSICWOOD/USA/80 min/Maxine Trump/This film gives a modern twist to the classic story of an urgent battle between the white man and Native Americans, where age-old land disputes result in an upending of our simplistic view of the past. 

An unusual band of famous guitar-makers travel together into the heart of one of the most primeval rain forests in the world. Their mission: to negotiate with Native American loggers and change the way this forest is logged before it’s too late for acoustic guitars.

 Cultures clash: Getting them to stop their devastating logging practices won’t be easy. Enter Greenpeace, with an agenda distasteful to both sides of the conflict. The result is a funny, complex, and heartbreaking battle over natural resources and a profound cultural conflict.

NOT YET BEGUN TO FIGHT/USA/60 min/Dir: Sabrina Lee, Shasta Grenier/In the space between war and a new battle, Not Yet Begun to Fight unfolds, offering an intimate look at the human cost of combat. A retired Marine Colonel reaches out to five men, a new generation returning from the battlefield. He brings them to the river. He puts a fly rod into each of their hands, teaches them to cast, and shares his secret: There are places where you can still be consumed by a simple act, find joy in a fight, and be redeemed as you gently release another creature, unharmed, into quiet waters.

THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY/UK, Hungary/70 min/Dir: Sam Lawlor and Lindsay Pollock/In 1944 Thomas Beck, aged 15, risked his life to escape a Nazi prison. He had only one regret – leaving behind Edith, another internee with whom he had fallen in love. 

Thomas was to spend a year on the run, repeatedly coming face to face with death and surviving on his considerable luck, wit, and charm alone. 

A lifetime later Thomas returns to Hungary and Slovakia to retrace his wartime journey. On the other side of the globe, from her home in Melbourne, Edith Greiman remembers her own path to survival. 

The two begin corresponding. The documentary weaves the divergent stories of their past with their crystallizing friendship in the present. But after 60 years apart, will they change one another’s lives again?

ONLY THE YOUNG/USA/72 min/Dir: Elizabeth Mims, Jason Tippet/Garrison and Kevin are best friends. They skate every day and explore the underpasses and abandoned homes of their Southern California desert idyll. But everything changes when Garrison discovers the opposite sex. Only the Young powerfully summons up an evanescent moment: that potent stew of teenage urgency, boredom, and young love that adults misconstrue as aimless wandering. It will lure you in with sugar-sweet shots of abandoned mini-golf courses and an infectiously expectation-defying score, but it sets its hooks by working both with and against the performative veneer of teen life that is universal. Even the film’s wide-eyed Christian youth, unsure quite how to rebel, still know they need to. This is the kind of film you’ll want to hold close to your chest for days, revisiting its tender love for its subjects. Only the Young isn’t jealous of youth, it is youth.

PEOPLE OF A FEATHER/Canada/ 92 min/Dir: Joel Heath/Featuring groundbreaking footage from seven winters in the Arctic, People of a Feather takes you through time into the world of Inuit on the Belcher Islands in Hudson Bay. Connecting past present and future is a unique cultural relationship with the eider duck. Eider down, the warmest feather in the world, allows both Inuit and bird to survive harsh Arctic winters. Recreations of traditional life are juxtaposed with modern life in Sanikiluaq, as both people and eiders face the challenges posed by changing sea ice and ocean currents disrupted by the massive hydroelectric dams powering eastern North America. The eyes of a remote subsistence culture challenge the world to find energy solutions that work with the seasons of our hydrological cycle.

ICEBERG SLIM: PORTRAIT OF A PIMP/USA/89 min/Dir:Jorge Hinojosa/Iceberg Slim blends pulp fiction imagery with ambitious biographical digging to tell the story of legendary pimp/author Iceberg Slim, whose gritty and poetic books about ghetto life gave birth to Street Lit. Interviews include Chris Rock, Ice-T, Snoop Dogg and Quincy Jones.

THE 99% – OCCUPY COLLABORATIVE FILM/USA/92 min/Dir: Audrey Ewell, Aaron Aites, Lucian Read, Nina Krstic/A feature-length documentary film being made by 99 independent filmmakers across the country. Among them are the directors, producers, editors, and cinematographers of many award-winning, internationally distributed films, as well as many people new to the film process.  This film is 100% independent.  It is not Occupy affiliated, though some of the contributors are.  The film aims to paint a portrait of this moment in history, using an experimental collaborative process. It is a parallel experiment, design using the open and collaborative character of the movement and see what would happen if this approach were applied to the film production process.

RACING THE REZ/USA/59 min/Dir: Brian Truglio/In the rugged canyon lands of Northern Arizona, Navajo and Hopi cross-country runners from two rival high schools put it all on the line for tribal pride, triumph over personal adversity and state championship glory.  Win or lose, the course of their seasons will change the rest of their lives.

RADIO UNNAMEABLE/USA/90min/Dir. Paul Lovelace and Jessica Wolfson/Radio Unnameable tells the story of influential radio personality Bob Fass who revolutionized the airwaves by developing a patchwork of music, politics, comedy and reports from the street, effectively creating free-form radio.  For nearly 50 years, Fass has been heard at midnight on listener-sponsored WBAI-FM, broadcast out of New York.  Long before today’s innovations in social media, Fass utilized the airwaves for mobilization, encouraging luminaries and ordinary listeners to talk openly, taking the program in surprising directions. 

RISING FROM ASHES/USA/82 min/Dir: T.C. Johnstone/Two worlds collide when cycling legend Jock Boyer moves to Rwanda, Africa, to help a group of struggling genocide survivors pursue their dream of a national team. As they set out against impossible odds both Jock and the team find new purpose as they rise from the ashes of their past.

SEEKING ASIAN FEMALE/USA/82mins/Dir: Debbie Lum/The story of an Asian American filmmaker and her unlikely friendship with one of her worst nightmares: a white American man with a hopeless case of ‘yellow fever’ who seeks – and appears to find online! – his perfect, exotic young bride from China.

SWEET DREAMS/USA/89 min/Dir: Rob Fruchtman, Lisa Fruchtman/The story of a group of Rwandan women as they try to rebuild their lives after the 1994 genocide, in which the majority Hutus slaughtered ethnic Tutsis, leaving almost one million people dead.

THE THICK DARK FOG/USA/57min/Dir: Randy Vasquez/Walter Littlemoon, attended a federal Indian boarding school on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota in the 1940’s and 50s, where his Lakota culture, language and spirituality were brutally suppressed. The Thick Dark Fog profiles Walter’s journey to heal himself and reclaim his heritage.

TIME ZERO: LAST YEAR OF POLAROID FILM/USA/93 min/Dir:Grant Hamilton/This film starts as a eulogy to Polaroid instant film and cameras, sharing with viewers the magic of Polaroid through the perspective of a few Polaroid artists and former employees of the corporation. After documenting the fateful day when Polaroid announced it would cease production of instant film, Time Zero shares the intense emotions of several photographers as they recount hearing the news. The documentary chronicles the passionate efforts of a small team who – against all odds – try to keep instant photography alive.

TOKYO WAKA/Japan, USA/63 min/Dir:John Haptas, Kristine Samuelson/Aptly subtitled “a city poem,” John Haptas and Kristine Samuelson’s documentary is as much a carefully etched, lyrical portrait of Tokyo and its denizens as it is a full-fledged rendering of the surprisingly rich life of crows, here embodying the wild, adaptive, animistic spirit of the city. Populated with telling moments that add up to an uncanny snapshot of a metropolis’s “metabolism,” as one architect interviewed here puts it, Tokyo Waka takes its cues from the least visible of city scavengers; the crows that pick through garbage, cut stark black shapes in the sky, and build astonishingly intricate nests of purloined hangers.

UPRISING/Egypt, USA/85 min/Dir: Fredrik Stanton/Uprising tells the inside story of the Egyptian revolution from the perspective of its principal leaders and organizers, including four Nobel Peace Prize nominees. Their success in forcing the downfall of a brutal dictatorship has changed the face of the Middle East and provided hope for millions of oppressed people across the world. Above all, it is a story of profound hope, of courage rewarded, of a people who beat back a police state and threw off the shackles of decades of degradation and oppression.

WELCOME TO THE MACHINE/USA/85 min/Dir: Avi Weider/Upon becoming the father to triplets, filmmaker Avi Zev Weider explores the nature of technology. Woven together with expert interviews and portraits of people who have intimate relationships with technology, “Welcome To The Machine” takes the conversation away from the business of technology or the latest gadgets and leads the audience to ultimately consider questions of life and death, revealing that all discussions about technology are really about what it means to be human.

WE’RE NOT BROKE/USA/81min/ Dir.Victoria Bruce and Karin Hayes/WE’RE NOT BROKE tells the story of how multi-national corporations like Exxon, Google and Apple make record profits, yet dodge billions of dollars in income tax, and how seven fed-up citizens take their frustration to the streets…and vow to make the corporations pay their fair share.

WILD BILL’S RUN/USA/60 min/Dir: Mike Scholtz/This is the strange but true story of Wild Bill Cooper. Part Arctic adventure and part crime caper, Wild Bill’s Run is an unforgettable ride with a true American folk hero and photographers on a grueling expedition across the polar ice. During some of the darkest days of the Cold War, their goal was to snowmobile 5,000 miles from Minnesota to Moscow. They didn’t quite make it.

WITHOUT A NET/USA/60 min/Dir: Kelly J Richardson/In an abandoned parking lot in a Rio de Janeiro ghetto sits a circus tent; an incongruous sight, but no more unusual than its motley crew of young performers, searching for a life apart from the drug-related violence around them. As chronicled by first-time feature filmmaker Kelly J Richardson, putting on a show takes rigor and resourcefulness in their impoverished community, and even this modest production of acrobats, aerialists, and contortionists isn’t free of injuries and ego clashes. But the big top is their oasis and the human drama of hope and ambition is the greatest show on earth.

WONDER WOMEN! THE UNTOLD STORY OF AMERICAN SUPERHEROINES/USA/79 min/Kristy Guevara-Flanagan/This film traces the fascinating evolution and legacy of Wonder Woman. From the birth of the comic book superheroine in the 1940s to the blockbusters of today, WONDER WOMEN! looks at how popular representations of powerful women often reflect society’s anxieties about women’s liberation.

TCHOOUPITOULAS/USA/80 min/Dir: Bill Ross,Turner Ross/Tchoupitoulas takes the term documentary to mean, primarily, the documenting of an experience—a distinct time and a place and the people that inhabit it. No interviews, no voiceover; just the evocation of an existence and the feelings it conjures. Three young brothers take a secret sunset journey across a river to a pleasure island that’s always been forbidden to them. As such, the narrative conceit of Tchoupitoulas is as timeless as a fairy tale. But through the eyes of our juvenile protagonists, we experience an impressionistic immersion into this beguiling kaleidoscope of dancers, musicians, hustlers, drag queens, and revelers that parade through the lamp-lit streets between Rampart and the river. While the kids can only glance at the glittery surface, the camera follows the melodies that emanate from these corridors to admit us to the cabarets, into the dark alleyways, next to the barflies, behind the curtains, and on the bandstand with the people who make this place their audience, their stage, their home. The Rosses capture the fleeting moments of an enduring experience in one of the world’s most unique cities.

THE WORLD ACCORDING TO DICK CHENEY/USA/146 min/Dir: R.J. Cutler and Greg Finton/How did Dick Cheney become the single most powerful non-presidential figure in American history? This multi-layered examination of Cheney’s life, career, key relationships, and controversial worldview features exclusive interviews with the former vice president and his closest allies.

THE WORLD BEFORE HER/Canada/90 min/Dir:Nisha Pahuja/Twenty young women from across India arrive for an intense, month-long beauty boot camp: They are the hand-picked contestants for the Miss India pageant. Winning the coveted title means instant stardom, a lucrative career path, and freedom from the constraints of a patriarchal society. 

In another corner of India we visit a camp for young girls run by the militant fundamentalist movement. Through lectures and physical combat training, the girls learn what it means to be good Hindu women. 

Moving between the transformative action at both camps and the characters’ private lives, The World Before Her creates a lively, provocative portrait of the world’s largest democracy at a critical transitional moment.

YEAR OF THE LIVING DEAD/USA76 min/Dir: Rob Kuhns/In 1968 a young college drop-out named George A. Romero directed “Night of the Living Dead,” a low budget horror film that shocked the world, became an icon of the counterculture, and spawned a billion dollar zombie industry that continues to this day.

YOUNG LAKOTA/USA/75 min/Dir: Marion Lipschutz,  Rose Rosenblatt/ In a small town in the heart of the Pine Ridge Reservation, Sunny Clifford, her twin sister Serena, and their neighbor, Brandon Ferguson, share a common dream of helping to create a better future for their tribe. When South Dakota passes a law criminalizing abortion, their tribal President, Cecelia Fire Thunder, challenges it with a threat to build a clinic on the reservation, drawing Sunny, Serena, and Brandon into a political storm that changes the course of each of their lives.

ZIPPER: CONEY ISLAND’S LAST WILD RIDE/USA/76 min/Dir: Amy Nicholson/A story about greed, politics, and the land grab of the century, Zipper chronicles the battle over an American cultural icon. Small-time ride operator, Eddie Miranda, proudly operates a 38-year-old carnival contraption called the Zipper in the heart of Coney Island’s gritty amusement district. When his rented lot is snatched up by a real-estate mogul, Eddie and his ride become casualties of a power struggle between the developer and the City of New York over the world-famous destination. Be it an affront to history or simply the path pf progress, the spirit of Coney Island is at stake. In an increasingly corporate landscape, where authenticity is often sacrificed for economic growth, the Zipper may be just the beginning of what is lost.



25572 BUTTEL/Germany/5min/Dir. Rainer Komers/25572 Buttel is an experimental film that takes you from the tree lined rivers, mobile homes, and industrial zones that surround chemical plants and power stations; while in the midst of a memorial for dead World War soldiers.

AMAR/ India/10min/ Dir. Andrew Hinton/Amar is 14 years old and top of his class. Someday he’d like to be a professional cricketer, but for now he’s the family’s main bread-winner, working two jobs six-and-a-half days a week on top of attending school in the afternoons. This short observational documentary is a simple journey with Amar through his daily routine.

AMERICANIZED/USA/4min/Dir. Abhi Singh/ A Sikh teenager navigates between American High School and the world of the Sikh community in Fremont, California.

ARTIST HUSTLER/Nigeria/ 3min/ Dir. Taiwo Badejo/The film explores the creative process, execution and overall passion of a young- talented wood sculptor based in Ibadan, Nigeria.

ASAPH/USA/15min/Dir. Marshall Granger/From concert halls to shopping malls, Asaph Adonai strives to teach the world the beauty of the song, finding himself a significant place in the secretly expansive culture of Montana. ASAPH is a portrait of a pianist and artist who lives for the love of music.

AXE MAN/Australia/7mins/Dir. Rob Norton/Steve Sunk makes knives, he has a tough exterior, but there is an underlying gracefulness in his creations and the patterns they yield.

BART/USA/4 mins/Dir. Dan Boyce and Rob Norton/Bart Burnison, drifter/musician, is a man not afraid to sing loud drinking songs at the Saturday farmers market in Helena, Montana.

BO/USA/22min/Dir. Kelly McCoy and David Schwep/A vibrant man’s diagnosis is the beginning of an unforgettable adventure into the jungles of Peru, through the most forbidding corners of the mind, and down the road to redemption.

BUG PEOPLE/USA/15min/Dir. Paul Meyers/ In this playful essay film, the filmmaker investigates our culture’s discomfort with all things many-legged.

CHICKEN & ZOE/ USA/4min/Dir. Yael Bridge/ Eating chicken takes on new meaning for 4 year old Zoe as she observes her first slaughter.

THE CORNER GARDEN/USA/14min/Dir. Duygu Erucman/ In a small garden, a group of teenagers in East Oakland struggle to grow their own vegetables, and think about the food they eat in a different way.

DO NOT DUPLICATE/USA/31min/Dir. Jonathan Mann and Mary Anne Rothberg/Safecracker–locksmith Phil Mortillaro has an obsession: to permanently leave his mark in NYC.  After years of labor, he transformed his shop’s façade into a celebration of his profession and an homage to the city of his youth. Phil’s art captures the creativity and energy of an evolving Greenwich Village.

DHARAVI DIARY/India/14min/Dir. Nawneet Ranjan/Re-developers are destroying the Dharavi slum.Its one million residents struggle to keep their hopes and dreams alive.

EAGLE BOY/Norway,USA/27min/Dir. Gry Elisabeth Mortensen/Eight year old Sage spends his sunny days playing with friends, swimming and fishing the rivers of the Flathead Reservation, until he and his parents move to Norway. Sage starts  school in Tromsø, but he is different from his schoolmates. He is the only boy with long hair and braids, and he doesn’t speak one word of Norwegian but most important to the others, he’s a real Indian!

EVERYBODY’S BUSINESS/USA/20min/Dir. Laura Green/The small, tight-knit community of Vashon Island has become a reluctant poster child for the growing debate around childhood vaccinations. This portrait of an island community digs beneath the surface to investigate the tensions between individual choices and collective responsibilities.

EL ULTIMO HIELERO/Ecuador/14min/ Dir. Sandy Patch/ For the last 53 years, Baltazar Ushca has harvested glacial ice from the tallest mountain in Ecuador. His brothers, Gregorio and Juan, have long since retired from the mountain. This is a tale of cultural change in a small indigenous community and how three brothers have adapted to it.

FISHING WITH POPO/United Kingdom/8min/Dir. WingYan Lilian Fu/Two years after my grandmother’s death, I decided to do a documentary about her. I had no footage of her except a half-hour interview and some photographs. I interviewed my relatives as they revealed how her simplicity and humility always concealed her sacrifices in her lifetime. In those interviews, I realized that ‘true accounts’ would, however, be shadowed by the interviewee’s personality and vocabulary. The more I dug for her stories and physical traces, the more I realized my memories of her were the most powerful images upon which to build a portrait of her. In animation I have tried to relive those memories and stories and express my longing for her.

FLEXING MUSCLES/Mexico, USA/21min/Dir. Charles Fairbanks/Flexing Muscles is a wrestling movie about postmodern consumption and production: physical work and embodied culture for the digital age.

FREE/USA, Germany/ 40min/ Dir. Mark Lechner/ FREE is an extraordinary journey through New York as seen through the eyes of Konstantin Bokov, who uses for over 35 years the city’s trash and refuse as raw materials for his art. Improvised open-air galleries in public places are his preferred means of displaying his so-called ‘recycling art’.

GRAND FUGUE ON THE ART OF GUMBO/USA/ 9min/Dir. Gideon Kennedy and Isabel Machado/ Grand Fugue on the Art of Gumbo studies ‘the baroque complexity of the South’ through the musings of Mobile, Alabama, native Eugene Walter, author, actor, artist, creator, and chef. Using Walter’s own radio broadcasts as narration, the film takes a peek at the simple ingredients that make up the Gulf Coast and its signature cuisine, gumbo, and shows how their staggered repetition builds something wholly unique and intricately beautiful.

HOME/New Zealand/11min/Dir. Thomas Gleeson/ We often think of houses as solid, strong, permanent things. In fact they can be weak, fragile and as this film shows mobile. What is that makes a house a home? What gives it it’s strength?

HOME TURF/Ireland/14min/Dir. Ross Whitaker/ Home Turf is a fascinating visual celebration of the ancient art of cutting turf by hand in County Kerry, Ireland.

I BEAT MIKE TYSON/USA/13min/Dir. Joshua Z Weinstein/ In 2005, an unknown Irish boxer beat Mike Tyson in front of hundreds of thousands of people. Then he disappeared.

INDIAN SANTA/USA/9min/Dir. David Lee and Rex New/ Every Christmas, Thomas Dardar and his family deliver toys to children in communities in coastal Louisiana, many of which are still reeling from the effects of the BP oil spill. But Thomas is no ordinary Santa…

IRISH FOLK FURNITURE/ Ireland/8min/Dir. Tony Donoghue/ An animated documentary about repair and recycling in rural Ireland. 
In Ireland old hand-painted furniture is often associated with hard times, with poverty, and with a time many would rather forget. Because of this association much of the country’s furniture heritage lies rotting in barns and sheds. 
In the making of this film 16 pieces of abandoned folk furniture were restored and returned back into daily use. This film was shot in a green and environmentally friendly way using local craftspeople, local narrators, and inexpensive second-hand equipment. Only natural light was used to shoot this film. 

KIRKCALDY MAN/United Kingdom/18min/Dir. Julian Schwanitz/ Who is Jocky Wilson? 
Twenty years ago every child in Kirkcaldy, on the east coast of Scotland, could answer that question. One of the best darts players ever, world champion in 1982 and 1989, he was the hero of an entire nation. 
But in ’95 Jocky paid the price for his self-destructive life style. Suffering from diabetes, arthritis, and depression, he retired into a reclusive existence. In search of his myth, we follow the forces that shaped Jocky’s hometown and its inhabitants as we discover lost memories of the man who once inspired the nation.

MAGNETIC RECONNECTION/Canada/12:30min/Dir. Kyle Armstrong/ Magnetic Reconnection is a short documentary film contrasting the Northern Lights with decaying man-made debris surrounding the Arctic Canadian town of Churchill, Manitoba. The film touches on the regenerative power of nature and the futility of mankind’s struggle against natural processes of decay. The film features an original score by Jim O’Rourke, a voice-over by Will Oldham, and likely some of the best footage of the aurora borealis ever captured.

MELODICO/Italy, USA/14min/Dir. Valerio Ciriaci/ Melodico is a short documentary chronicling the story of Tony Maiorino, a modern day Italian immigrant living in the Bronx’s Little Italy. Tony’s a normal guy on the surface. He runs a barbershop, he raises his family, he has his vices, but Tony hides a passion: Between customers, the barber turns singer, trading in his scissors for a keyboard and microphone. The film follows Tony after the announcement that he’ll be singing at the locally famous Festival of Saint Anthony, the largest Italian community event in New York City. Tony’s journey to the stage portrays not only his life, but that of the entire Italian community in its search for solidarity within its traditions and its nostalgia for a landscape left behind.

NED ABDUL NEEDS MORE RETAIL SPACE OR: HOW TO SAY GOODBYE TO AN OLD FRIEND/USA/19min/Dir. Dan Schneidkraut/ Ned Abdul Needs More Retail Space is a short first person documentary about the loss of a sacred place shot at the historic Uptown Theatre in Minneapolis, Minnesota the night before its demise.

NILE PERCH/Uganda/17min/Dir. Josh Gibson/ A man and a fish on Lake Victoria in Uganda. This hand-made black and white film is a meditation on the economic impact of an invasive species as well as a parable about the effects of globalization and colonialism on Africa.

OLD RADICALS/ USA/45min/Dir. Matthew Leahy & Elisha Stone/ In a world battered by death and destruction, these elderly activists refuse to give in. Age brings a stark reminder of their own mortality, yet they continually risk their very lives for what they believe in. These 5 ‘old radicals’ are a living testament to the beauty of life and a compelling picture of how ‘living on the edge’ has no age limits.

OUR SUMMER MADE HER LIGHT ESCAPE/ USA/ 5min/ Dir. Sasha Waters Freyer/ A wordless, 16mm portrait of interiority, maternal ambivalence and the passage of time.  A crippled bee, a mole in its death throes, a smashed robin’s egg.

PART OF THE CHANGE/USA, Vietnam/13min/ Dir. Ezra Millstein/ In April 2012, a group of U.S. veterans of the Vietnam War traveled with Habitat for/ Humanity to the Mekong Delta. Over two weeks, the veterans healed decades-old wounds of war while building houses and hope in partnership with Vietnamese families. This film follows Vic Romback from memories of his Air Force deployment through his return to Vietnam, the construction of three Habitat for Humanity homes, and a moving tribute to soldiers laid to rest in a Vietnamese National Cemetery.

PEOPLE AREN’T ALL BAD/USA/4min/Dir. Matthew Hashiguchi/ Eighty-eight year Yutaka Kobayashi shares his struggles as a Japanese American before and leading up to the World War II Japanese American Internment Camps.

SAVED BY THE BIRDS/USA/4min/Dir: Damon Ristau/On May 5, 1967, Helen Carlson was severely depressed and ready to end her life. She walked to the shoreline of a Montana river, and instead of committing suicide, her life was transformed. A bird swam in front of her and caught her attention, piquing her curiosity and snapping her out of her depression. Since that day 45 years ago, she has dedicated her life to birding and holds the record for the number of bird species seen in Montana. She is 90 years old.

SCAVENGER/Thailand/10min/Dir. Torben Bernhard/ Living off the grid in a northeast Thailand slum, Wichan Chaona collects recyclables from public trash bins to earn money to support his family of seven. Shot from his motorcycle sidecar, Scavenger poetically weaves Wichan’s daily routine with his observations, reminding us of the universal roots of human dignity and respect.

SERGEANT DAN EDWARDS/USA/6min/ Dir. Andy Smetanka/ Since August, 2012, Missoula animator Andy Smetanka has been working in secrecy on his Kickstarter-powered animated Great War documentary feature, And We Were Young. This short featurette, depicting in silhouette the hair-raising ordeal of its title character, gives a curious public its first glimpse of what Smetanka has been up to.

SLOMO/USA/17min/Dir. Joshua Izenberg/ Depressed and frustrated with his life, Dr. John Kitchin abandons his career as a neurologist and moves to Pacific Beach. There, he undergoes a radical transformation into SLOMO, trading his lab coat for a pair of rollerblades and his IRA for a taste of divinity.

SPIRIT FIGURES/USA/5min/Dir. Lor Petchers/ An artist creates figurative sculptures that seemingly come to life as they grow under her hand.

TEN QUINTILLION/Australia/9min/Dir. Romilly Spiers/ Ten Quintillion, featuring a tiny garden and the creatures that rely on its existence for their survival, is an audio-visual journey through a rarely acknowledged world. All who delve into the garden will come away with a new-found respect for the creatures living below.

THE GAMBLING MAN/USA/20min/Dir. Aron Gaudet/ A profile of Albert Hurwit, an 80-year-old retired doctor who can’t read or write music, yet composes an award-winning symphony.

THE LAST SUPPER/USA/6min/Dir. Ira Chute/ An artist becomes obsessed with her local newspaper’s detailed description of an executed prisoner’s final meal request, leading her on a personal crusade to see the death penalty abolished through her artistic protest of painting more than 500 final meal requests on ceramic plates.

THE LIFE OF A LANGUAGE/USA/ 16min/Dir. Paul Donatelli/ With less than ten fluent speakers of their native language still alive, one family of the Karuk tribe, living along the Klamath River in Northern California, struggles to save their language from dying amidst the obstacles, both historical and modern, they face in their everyday lives.

THE MERCANTILE/USA/16min/ Dir. Brian Bolster/Nestled in a remote mountain valley and at the foot door of Montana’s Glacier National Park, the historic Polebridge Mercantile dutifully endures as one of the last outposts of its kind in the American West.

THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN US/ Nepal/ 14min/ Dir. Maria Fortiz-Morse A documentary exposing the challenges that girls face in pursuit of education in rural Nepal. This short film tells the compelling story of two Nepali girls who set out to defy the odds and become the first in their families to attend higher secondary school.

THE UNION MAN/ USA/9min/Dir. Bobby Lewis/ Oscar Wilde said, ‘There are moments when art attains almost to the dignity of manual labor.’ Shot in black and white, The Union Man captures the inexplicable subtleties that one faces while engaged in work that is often taken for granted.

TRACK BY TRACK/USA/15min/Dir. Anna Moot-Levin/ Track by Track follows the story of Kendall Collins, an 18-year-old sketch artist with autism who is on the brink of adulthood. As he prepares for college and promotes his artwork, he must learn to navigate the practicalities of everyday life. Kendall struggles with the tension between the sanctuary of his sketched world and an unknown future in the world of adults. Using his passion for trains and art, he begins to lay tracks for the journey ahead.

THE WORDS IN THE MARGINS/USA/15min/ Dir. SaraMott/ 31 year-old Axel is learning to read for the first time with the help of his friend and tutor, Steve, a Kenyan immigrant.

A special presentation of the short film series created by Dave Eggers and Brent Hoff of McSweeney’s publishing house. It is named after the marine animal of the same name, a rare hybrid of a false killer whale and a dolphin, which highlights its unusual nature.

The Big Sky Documentary Film Festival is excited to welcome Stanley Nelson as the 2013 filmmaker retrospective.  Stanley is an Emmy-winning MacArthur “genius” Fellow, and is co-founder and Executive Director of Firelight Media.

2013 marks The Big Sky Documentary Film Festival’s tenth anniversary and what better way to celebrate than showing some of our favorite films from the past ten years


Share ...

Subscribe for Blog Updates

Sign up for our latest updates.

Please follow us to get updates online.