Category Archives: Big Sky Documentary Film Festival

Must-see “Limited Screening” Baato Begins the 2020 Mountainfilm Festival

Posted by Larry Gleeson

Nothing quite like leaping into uncharted waters. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Mountainfilm Festival re-imagined this year’s edition into a virtual experience. And boy, am I glad they did. With over 100 on-demand films and presentations over that I can watch on my time and from the comforts of my home theatre, I sprang out of bed, logged into my newly created account to access my festival (thank you, Nora Bernard), I spied Baato, a limited screening feature.

Without further adieu, I settled myself into a magnificent journey to a mountain peak in Nepal. And, it wasn’t by helicopter. Filmmakers Lucas Millard and Kate Stryker managed to capture an intimate portrait of a family in remote eastern Nepal collecting medicinal herbs, before making an annual 300-kilometer trek, partly on foot and partly by ramshackle bus, to lowland, urban markets – the nearest economic marketplace for their harvested medicinal herbs.

And, like any major endeavor, this one begins with the first step of many as the group sets out by foot with the women carrying the traditional, cultural load while the men complain about how difficult this walking portion of the journey is as they down a simple, collegiate-style backpack. Along the way, however, a three-part narrative emerges as Nepal is undergoing national development and the filmmakers capture a major road project being undertaken to link this area of Nepal to the southern border of China promising less walking and perhaps a less arduous life in some distant future. The massive project has employed many manual laborers, allowed for heavy construction equipment imports, and has a detrimental effect on local farming patches.

Deftly, Baato illuminates developmental pratfalls as road engineers take bribes to avoid destroying homes. Meanwhile,  the herb collectors plot to avoid shakedowns by police and bus operators as they miraculously make their way to market. This is an observant film as the viewer witnesses a deep dive into a Himalayan culture engaged in a slow and chaotic, yet inexorable transition to modern life. Excellent cinematography, compelling narrative coupled with a mesmerizing soundtrack makes this documentary a “must-see!”

Stay tuned for more as 2020 Mountainfilm Festival is just beginning.

Baato limited Screening



Big Sky Documentary Film Festival announces opening movie, retrospective directors

Posted by Larry Gleeson

The Big Sky Documentary Film Festival has announced its opening night film and the filmmakers selected for its retrospectives.

The festival, set for Feb. 17-26, features 150 nonfiction films from across the world at venues in Missoula, the Wilma Theater, the Roxy Theater, the Silver Theatre and the Missoula Hellgate Elks Lodge.


The free Feb. 17 opener presented in partnership with HBO is Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds.

According to a press release, the film is “an intimate portrait of Hollywood royalty, in all its eccentricity. At 83 years old, grand dame Reynolds (star of Singin’ in the Rain) still performs a Vegas act dressed in gold lamé at the risk of her health, and her daughter, Fisher (of Star Wars fame) is helpless to react in the face of her mother’s determination that ‘the show must go on.”

Bright Lights gives us a rare peek into the normal lives of two very different yet intertwined Hollywood starlets, a truly human story that will have you laughing in one moment and tug at your heartstrings in the next,” festival director Rachel Gregg said in a news release.

The Big Sky retrospectives, a regular festival feature, examine the careers of influential documentary filmmakers.

This year, they’ve picked Daniel Junge. He won an Academy Award for the 2012 short Saving Face. The film, co-directed with Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, focuses on a plastic surgeon in Pakistan who helps women disfigured in acid attacks. He won the South by Southwest Grand Jury award in 2009 for They Killed Sister Dorothy, which examined the murder of an Ohio nun in the Amazon.

 Closer to Montana, Junge directed 2015’s Being Evel, about the Butte-born daredevil legend Evel Knievel.

The other retrospective package is billed as the most expansive ever done at Big Sky. It examines the work of EyeSteel Films, a Montreal collective that has covered topics around the world.

Last year’s festival-goers may have caught Chameleon, by collective member Ryan Mullins. The film took viewers inside the world of Anas, a Ghanaian investigative journalist whose deep-cover techniques merge spycraft and advocacy.

The 2017 festival the Big Sky DocShop, a film forum with panels, workshops and the Big Sky Pitch for works in progress.

The forum this year will highlight aspects in the rapidly growing medium of short film, such as conceiving, funding, producing and distributing.

DocShop will include panels and workshops with Vice, ITVS, The Atlantic, ESPN, Film Collaborative, and Tribeca Film Institute among other film industry experts, as well as master classes with the 2017 BSDFF retrospective artists.

The official selections and the schedule will be announced mid-January. Sales for tickets and passes as well as DocShop registration open in late January. For more information, go to