The 13th annual Big Sky Documentary Film Festival (“BSDFF”) concluded on February 28 after a successful 10-day run at multiple venues in Missoula, including their flagship at the newly remodeled Wilma, the Crystal, the Roxy, the Top Hat and Shakespeare & Company.
Besides screening more than 100 films, this year’s BSDFF included two different five day series of lectures and workshops, including Schoolhouse Docs for kids, held at first-time venue the Roxy, and DocShop, which featured lectures and a pitch session for filmmakers to present their ideas for future projects.
The Festival included a live concert by Lydia Loveless, an up and coming alt-country performer and the subject of the documentary Who is Lydia Loveless?, also shown during the Festival, as well as numerous Q&A sessions with filmmakers, cast and crew following screenings of their respective films.
BSDFF relies heavily on the use of volunteers, who staff many of the events and provide numerous services during the Festival. This writer was once again fortunate enough to be one of those volunteers, staffing the Wilma for three shifts as well as a shift at the DocShop session on Tuesday.
The Festival opened on February 19 with a screening of Mavis!, sponsored by HBO Now. In addition, Sundance Now debuted their new Doc Club, a Netflix-like service for documentary film lovers.
One of the highlights of the Festival was the screening of the top 12 finalists in the Fusion Doc Challenge, which give filmmakers a subject, a genre, and five days to completely write, film and edit a short (4-7 minute) documentary. One of the films, Don’t Call me Cute, caught the attention of this reviewer, as it was about sexism in the music business. Watch for a follow-up article on this one.
Another featured film was the world premier of Tear the Roof Off: The Untold Story of Parliament Funkadelic. This provocative film by Bobby J. Brown featured the back story of the creation of P-Funk, as well as allegations of former members regarding their treatment by George Clinton. The Q&A afterwards featured Brown as well as original bassist Billy “Bass” Nelson, “Tear the Roof Off” co-songwriter Jerome “Bigfoot” Brailey, and former Bride of Funkenstein member Satori Shakoor. The Q&A was so successful that it delayed the next screening by 30 minutes.
If Only I was That Warrior was a documentary regarding the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1935, and the controversy over a monument to Fascist General Rodolfo Graziani, a war criminal during the reign of Mussolini. The documentary was well done and the follow-up Q&A with director Valerio Ciriaci was very informative.