By Karen Peterson
POLSON – The seventh annual Flathead Lake International Cinemafest opened on Friday with 56 films, and one couple went with a mission to watch as many features as possible during the three-day event. They even stuck around for the award ceremony on Sunday.
Kristin and Dale Nelson’s movie-watching marathon started with a highlighting marker and a couple copies of the schedule. First, they each highlight the movies they wanted to see, and together, they compare their choices and make compromises to create a final “master plan” schedule of the films they plan to watch.
“We would see them all, but it’s not possible,” Kristin said. She explained that Showboat Cinemas features two films at the same time during the festival to fit in as many as possible.
On Sunday, Kristin sat in a movie theater seat and counted up all the highlighted films she and her husband had attended. She determined that they had seen 37 films during the weekend, but they weren’t done. “We will see some of the ones we missed during the encore week.” A selection of the films is being shown until Thursday, Jan. 31.
To kick off the event, the couple purchased an all-access pass for $40 each, and then they sat down in the morning hours to watch films from around the globe until the last evening production. “Go big or go home, right?” she said.
But – the couple experienced a few struggles during their marathon journey. “I hit the wall,” Kristin said. “I nodded off once. It wasn’t the film. I won’t insult the filmmaker by saying which one it was.”
FLIC coordinated with local businesses to provide venues for food and drinks along with a chance to talk with filmmakers, which gave the couple an opportunity to stretch their legs. “Walking there gave us a nice break,” she said.
The Nelsons had a long list of films they thought were great. “We saw the one about the Bison Range, and it was really good,” she said. “It was really fun to see people we know on the big screen.”
This is the third year the couple has attended the film festival. “Each year they step it up and make it even better,” Dale said. “And more people are coming to it.”
On Sunday, Joanne Morrow – another FLIC fan – left the theater with tears in her eyes. She had just watched “Shindler’s List” on screen two. “Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, so it was a good day to watch that film again. It was wonderful,” she said. Jenny Scrivner said the film was powerful and full of emotion.
Meeting the creator of a film is one of the things that sets a festival apart from regular features, and the FLIC festival followed tradition by hosting 38 filmmakers at the event.
The producer of “Schindler’s List” walked to the front of the stage during a standing ovation after the film was shown. Gerald R. Molen spent an hour with the audience answering questions. He grew up in Great Falls, Montana, and went on to work with Steven Spielberg on several films. Molen has continued to promote “Schindler’s List” 25 years after it first appeared on screen. The film is about a Nazi, played by Liam Neeson, who has a moment of clarity and realizes that what was going on around him during the Holocaust was wrong. “It’s important people know what this story is about,” Molen said before explaining that a knowledge of history could help prevent atrocities from happening again.
On the lighter side, Tim Ryan Rouillier was at the festival to talk about his film “My Grandpa’s Fiddle.” The musical production showcased his “symphonic memoir,” including his ties to Montana and memories of his grandfather. Many locals also performed in this production.
Rouillier’s film received the Audience Award at the festival by getting the most votes from the public. It also received FLIC’s Best Montana Film award. Rouillier said getting the awards “capped off” the project on the high note. “This film was about all of our stories because we all live here,” he said of the Flathead Indian Reservation. “It was great to come home and have so many validate this project. The word of the people means more to me than anything else.”
In other categories, Best Picture for a FLIC Junior production went to “Staples and Paper Hearts” about an elementary teacher. Best Animation was awarded to “Negative Space,” which explores the relationship a son has to his father. Best Cinematography went to “Forever Young,” a film about being true to one’s self. The Best Doc-Short was “The Science of Collective Discovery.”
The Best Picture award was handed to “Selfie” about a high school student and a smartphone. The Best Female Actor was awarded to Susan Gordon in “Ginger.” The Best Male Actor was given to Marcel Lures in “Octav.”
A fun film about the sport of speedcubing with the Rubik’s Cube called “Why We Cube” was given Best Documentary Feature. In the Best Foreign Film category, “Octav,” which is based in Romania, won. The Best Director award went to James and Melissa Boratyn for their work on “Ginger.” And Best Picture Feature went to “Ginger.”
FLIC Producer Jessica King thanked everyone who helped with the film festival – from local businesses to the theater where the films are shown. “We couldn’t do what we do here if it wasn’t for all the people behind the scenes,” she said.
This year’s film festival received positive reviews from the public, according to FLIC director David W. King. He said it isn’t difficult to attract people to the festival. “We call ourselves the most beautiful film festival in the world and no one has proven us wrong,” he said.