MISSOULA, Mont. – The 19th annual Big Sky Documentary Film Festival today announced the winners of four competitions at the 2022 event. of potential suitors and raising the level of competition in rarefied air.
The 2022 competitions featured 44 films, including 26 world premieres and 12 North American premieres, in the first-ever hybrid edition of the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival. One winner in each of the four categories – Feature Film, Big Sky Award, Short (under 40 min) and Mini-Doc (under 15 min) – was selected by the festival jury. Considerations were also made for artistic vision in three categories. Winners receive a cash prize of $500, and winners of the shorts and mini-docs automatically qualify for consideration, the following year, for an Oscar in the Short Documentary category subject by the Academy of film arts and sciences.
The 2022 competition judging panel included representatives from Vice Studios, NY Times OpDocs, LA Times Studios, NW Film Center, Collective Eye Films, DC Black Film Festival, Montana Film Commission and numerous independent filmmakers.
“This is probably the most competitive list we’ve seen, perhaps due to the backlog of high-quality films waiting for the opportunity to reach live audiences,” said Rachel Gregg, Managing Director of BigSky. “It was a joy to welcome hundreds of visiting filmmakers as we return to the in-person exhibition event and welcome thousands to enjoy these spectacular films online as well.”
The Encore screenings of the winners will take place at the Roxy on Sunday February 27 at 5:45 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. Learn more about bigskyfilmfest.org.
Mini-Doc Competition – films 15 minutes and under Jury: Amy Dotson (NW Film Center), Kristine Stolakis (Lamplighter Films), Nani Walker (LA Times Studios)
WINNER: NICE TO MEET YOU Director: Guen Murroni Producers: Verity Wislocki, Morgan Tovey Frost 2021, UK — 12 minutes North American Premiere
SYNOPSIS: NICE TO MEET YOU ALL is a celebration of a woman with dissociative identity disorder who survived human trafficking rings in the United States.
Short Film Competition – films lasting between 15 and 40 minutes Judging: Christine Ketcher (NY Times Op-Docs), Kevin Sampson (DC Black Film Festival), Nevo Shinaar (director and independent producer)
WINNING SHORT: SHUT UP AND PAINT Directors: Titus Kaphar, Alex Mallis Producer: Chloe Gbai 2022, USA — 20 minutes World Premiere SYNOPSIS: Painter Titus Kaphar sees film as a medium in the face of an insatiable art market seeking to silence his activism.
SHORT ARTISTIC VISION AWARD: HERD Director: Omer Daida Producer: Roni Caspi 2021, Israel — 37 minutes North American Premiere
SYNOPSIS: Itamar, Naama’s father, owns a ranch that raises cattle for slaughter. Ten-year-old Naama deals with a big philosophical question about life and death while working with her father. Together they attempt to reconcile their worldview regarding death, while Naama develops feelings for cattle, Itamar sees death as an inevitable part of life.
JURY STATEMENT: The jury is awarding an Artistic Vision Award to a beautifully composed coming-of-age meditation on tradition, family ties, and our complicated relationship with the animals we rely on for both companionship and sustenance. The cinematography and sound design – especially the ever-present sound of “the herd” – were mesmerizing, fully immersing us in the world of Na’ama.
Big Sky Award – Presented to a film that artistically honors the character, history, tradition and imagination of the American West. Jury: Joanne Feinberg (Independent Producer and Former Director of Programming at BSDFF), Kanani Koster (Collective Eye Films), Allison Whitmer (Montana Film Commissioner)
BIG SKY AWARD WINNER: NEWTOK Director: Andrew Burton, Michael Kirby Smith Producer: Marie Meade 2021, USA — 97 minutes Northwest premiere
SYNOPSIS: As the permafrost rapidly melts, the native village of Newtok, Alaska rapidly erodes into the ocean. After decades of abuse and government inaction, the Yup’ik people are fighting to keep their community intact. Villagers are forced to choose between abandoning their traditional lands or moving their community. NEWTOK is the powerful story of a community trying to preserve their way of life in the face of devastating climate change.
BIG SKY CATEGORY ARTISTIC VISION AWARD: THE TRAILS BEFORE US Director: Fritz Bitsoie Producers: Emma Hsu Jackson, Luke Tate, Crista Garcia 2021, United States — 13 minutes World premiere
SYNOPSIS: THE TRAILS BEFORE US follows 17-year-old Diné mountain biker Nigel James as he hosts the first Enduro race in the Navajo Nation. By revitalizing ancient sheep and cattle trails on his grandparents’ land, Nigel and a new generation of cyclists are honoring the connection to their land, community and culture.
Jury Statement: We would like to award The Trails Before Us an Artistic Vision Award for its recovery of classic Western tropes and modernization for Indigenous communities today. We particularly like the film for its focus on Indigenous accomplishments and how the perspective of history is told within the community.
Feature Film Competition – films longer than 40 minutes
Jury: Yael Bridge (independent filmmaker and former Big Sky), Alice Bristow (independent filmmaker with Vice Studios) James-Michael Boyer (Collective Eye Films)
MOVIE WINNER: ONE ROAD TO QUARTZSITE Director: Ryan Maxey Producers: Ryan Maxey, Josh Polon 2022, USA — 89 minutes World Premiere
SYNOPSIS: A ragtag group of crustpunks, libertarians, snowbirds, and old people become unlikely neighbors on their annual pilgrimage to a temporary, long-term camping community in Quartzsite, Arizona. Steeped in rural folklore and full of a diverse and quirky cast of characters, ONE ROAD TO QUARTZSITE is a beautiful, poetic and observational portrait of people trying to live outside the constraints of American society or simply to escape the winter.
FEATURE FILM ARTISTIC VISION AWARD: THE BALCON FILM Director: Paweł Łoziński Producers: Paweł Łoziński, Agnieszka Mankiewicz 2021, Poland — 100 minutes North American Premiere
SYNOPSIS: THE BALCONY MOVIE is a unique and endearing film that challenges our collective anxiety about public connection with strangers. The film is entirely made up of conversations the director has with people on the street under his Warsaw apartment; its balcony is transformed into an outlet for passers-by to express their desires, their fears, their frustrations, their regrets or banal observations.
Statement of the jury: The jury has chosen to award an artistic vision prize to THE BALCONY MOVIE. We found the concept of this film unique and innovative, with artistic nods to French New Wave cinema brought up to date. The stylistic approach was executed with dedication by the filmmakers. It was shot and edited perfectly, highlighting the simple yet profound premise at the heart of the film, while making it fun and entertaining to watch.