Early on in the film Howdy, Montana, Joey Running Crane and his band Goddammitboyhowdy are seen practicing in the upstairs of a house in the town of Browning on the Blackfeet Reservation. The three young men seem introverted at first, engaging in small talk with little emotion as Running Crane restrings his guitar. But when they burst into their three-chord punk rock songs, suddenly they seem set free, as if they’ve hit a level of ecstasy that only music could deliver for them. Clapping and grinning, they sing together, “You must become the fire! Set! Yourself! On fire!”
Howdy, Montana is one of 125-plus films screening this year at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival. The 10-day festival celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, and that milestone marks how, in its own way, the festival has caught fire over the years, becoming one of the most anticipated events in Missoula and the largest cinematic event in Montana. This year brings a few changes, including the departure of longtime festival director Mike Steinberg and the arrival of his successor, Gita Saedi Kiely. It’s also the first time in a few years that there won’t be a live-scored film; in the past Yo La Tengo, Next Door Prison Hotel, Boston’s Alloy Orchestra and local bands have provided a popular musical element to the festival lineup.
Changes aside, this year still offers an ample collection of films you’ve never heard of and others that have received recent national buzz. It can be an overwhelming barrage of content, so in honor of the 10th anniversary, we offer 10 must-see recommendations. If these documentaries don’t light a fire under you, nothing will.