Cast of characters 

Big Sky Film Festival documents the reel world

A dancing outlaw, a theater organist, Ernest Hemingway’s boat captain and George W. Bush are just a few of the characters who will appear this week at the Wilma Theatre as subjects of the nonfiction films showing at the 2005 Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, Feb. 17–23. In the festival’s second year, co-directors Doug Hawes-Davis and Toni Matlock narrowed almost 600 submissions to 70-some screenings from more than 15 countries. The weeklong event, Matlock says, combines “fresh, emerging works with retrospectives to create a showcase of the documentary genre.” In anticipation, the Indy previewed seven reasons why we’ll all be okay if the lack of snow keeps us indoors for one more week.

Kinsey
by Barak Goodman and John Maggio
90 minutes, 2005
What do sex and gall wasps have in common? Dr. Alfred Kinsey said both come in a great variety. Dr. Kinsey, as many know, was an entomologist and sex researcher at Indiana University during the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, and he is the central figure of this new documentary exploring his life and work. In Kinsey (not to be confused with the motion picture of the same name starring Liam Neeson), the bright and willful doctor plunges headlong into the relatively unexplored field of sex research after experiencing his own bout of sexual inadequacy. Although a good chunk of the film details Kinsey’s approach to conducting his “histories,” more engaging is the film’s exploration of Kinsey’s seemingly boundless appetite for sexual experience in the pursuit of scientific knowledge, and the unexpected consequences thereof. Saturday, Feb. 19, 8 p.m. (Diego Bejarano)

This Black Soil
by Teresa Konechne
58 minutes, 2003
This film has been widely described as “inspiring,” and while that word is often thrown around like cupcakes at a kindergarten party, here the word rises to its fullest potential. The film tells the story of Bayview, Va., a small, economically destitute black community that unites in 1994 to resist the state’s plans to build a maximum-security prison in their neighborhood. And “economically destitute” in this case truly means poor as dirt: no running water, high unemployment, rundown shacks, hope in the gutter—basically, the Third World works—and only 200 miles from Washington, D.C. The community’s resistance to the prison propels a drive for social justice that reaches the halls of Congress and ultimately ends in victory. The residents of Bayview refuse to accept the second-rate hand-me-downs of a stingy government, and instead demand humane and sustainable living conditions. Most important, they demand respect—and get it. Tuesday, Feb. 22, 5:45 p.m. (Diego Bejarano)

Bedroom Radio
by Doug Aubrey and Mario Olesen
42 minutes, 2004
In an economically depressed part of Glasgow, Scotland, DJ Allusion is busted for airing pirate radio from his small apartment. The feds confiscate $5,500 worth of equipment, and DJ Allusion knows he’ll be fined at his upcoming court date. In the grim light of his bleak prospects, he does what any pirate would do when his ship is sunk: get a new one. So while waiting for the arrival of his new radio transmitter, we get to know his girlfriend Yvonne, who had five kids before she was 19, and the couple’s three-legged dog. In anticipation of the transmitter’s arrival, the enterprising pirate rigs antennas on top of the building, anxious to spread euro-techno and hard house on the airwaves once again. The transmitter finally arrives, but the saga twists and turns in ways not anticipated. Sunday, Feb. 20, 7 p.m. (Eric Segalstad)

Highway Amazon by Ronnie Cramer
12 minutes, 2004
It’s no secret that many couples enjoy casual wrestling in bed, but you might be surprised to learn that there are professional women traveling the country to wrestle men in hotel rooms. Highway Amazon introduces us to superwoman Christine Fetzer and offers a glimpse into her life. And a glimpse it is; clocking in at barely 12 minutes, the short leaves the viewer with more questions than answers. How does she get appointments? How did she get into the profession? These and other curiosities linger in the viewer’s mind, but Fetzer’s awkward monologue sprinkled between the hilarious sessions makes the documentary worth the time. “They wanna feel small and weak,” she says about her clients. “It turns them on to be dominated.” Match time for the Amazon is Friday, Feb. 18, at 4:45 p.m. (Eric Segalstad)

Salesman
by Albert & David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin
90 minutes, 1968
“There’s money in the Bible business”—or so says the big boss to a room full of Bible salesmen at a 1967 Bible-selling conference in Chicago. Salesman follows four door-to-door Bible salesmen—Paul “the Badger” Brennan, James “the Rabbit” Baker, Ray “the Bull” Martos and Charlie “the Gipper” McDewitt—as they traipse from New England to Miami hawking what they call “the world’s best seller.” The Rabbit, known for his youthful energy, tries to convince a Spanish-speaking mother to order a Bible, but she can’t understand him. The Badger drives all over Miami, unable to find an address, and later lets loose: “Christ, the guy who laid out this city…” From poolside Bible-peddling pep talks to bullying tactics that get a nervous man to buy a Bible likely to anger his wife, Salesman is a trip into the hearts and homes of an America that—minus its obsession with the bottom line—just doesn’t exist anymore. Cheap motel rooms, chain smoking and total job insecurity meet God, Saturday, Feb. 19, 10 a.m. (Robin Troy)

A Hard Straight
by Goro Toshima
72 minutes, 2004
A gang member is released from prison under the parole condition that he not associate with other gang members. A 40-something meth-using mom gets out after serving time for forgery charges, with the condition that any substance use can land her back in jail. A small-time drug dealer is handed $200 upon his release and told he best not find housing in a bad neighborhood, because being in the vicinity of criminal activity could put him back behind bars. A Hard Straight follows the lives of these three ex-cons who seem set up for failure in California, where about 50 percent of released prisoners return to jail for parole violations. In a tightly woven 72 minutes, this film mixes the hope of freedom with the futility of trying to make things right with a couple hundred bucks, an overloaded caseworker and a lifetime of hard knocks. A Hard Straight does a compelling job of laying plain that while two wrongs may not make a right, the right answers are also pretty tough to find. Friday, Feb. 18, 11:15 a.m. (Robin Troy)

Buried in the Backyard
by Sarah Prior and Monica Bigler
30 minutes, 2005
From Utah to Michigan to New England, Buried in the Backyard takes a look at Americans who are actively bracing themselves for nuclear attack. Single men and married couples with children build, stock, eat and play in their bomb shelters. Some families have more than one shelter–and more than a year’s worth of food—to flee to in case of emergency. Whether in a backwoods campground or a suburban living room, these bomb-shelter believers talk about how their paranoia is viewed by less cautious folk, and how those bomb-shelterless people will become a threat to them, crowding into their shelters, if a crisis does come. This film depicts the lengths to which American families will go to quell their fear of nuclear war and fulfill what they see as the job of protecting their families. Sunday, Feb. 20, 7 p.m. (Leah Young)

Individual tickets ($6 evenings, $5 matinees) and passes ($50 all-screenings, $25 five-screening pass) are for sale, cash only, at the Wilma Theatre before each show. Pass purchases by credit card are available online at www.bigskyfilmfest.org.

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