The Big Sky Documentary Film Festival announced its official selections yesterday and, as usual, the list of more than 100 films is impressive. There's an abundance of music docs and events, including the now-annual live musical accompaniment of silent films; this year features, for the first time, local musicians (Stellarondo) and filmmakers (Andy Smetanka). There's a sneak peek of the much-anticipated Montana production of Winter in the Blood. There's also a free opening night screening of HBO Films' Marina Abramovic The Artist Is Present. All of those headline-grabbers stood out in yesterday's press release.
Below, however, are four films not specifically singled out in the press release but deserving of their own buzz. There will surely be more to add as the festival approaches on Feb. 17, but we'll start with these.
Sing Your Song
This film about Harry Belafonte covers more than six decades, and focuses on the iconic entertainer's extensive humanitarian work. Also shortlisted by the Academy.
Andrew Bird: Fever Year (feature film competition)
Bird is an incredibly talented alt-folk musician who has received great praise for his solo projects. This film screened at the Chicago International Film Festival in October and critic Bill Stamets wrote, "Chicago filmmaker Xan Aranda documents the creative flow of singer-musician Andrew Bird, an exquisite all-around craftsman. Aranda's own style is equally thoughtful." Variety gushed that the film "should rock the faithful and uninitiated alike."
If A Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
Already a perfect fit for a Missoula audience, the film has received rave reviews from national critics. It carries an 87% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with Entertainment Weekly writing, "The film sweeps us up like a thriller, forcing us to at least ask whether terrorism like the ELF's (which targeted property, never human lives) might ever be justified." Also shortlisted by the Academy. Here's the film's official trailer: