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Lake County Leader

Destined to become a beloved Montana classic, “The Last Beyond” was named Best Feature Picture at last weekend’s Flathead Lake International Cinemafest (FLIC) in Polson.

Fifteen years in the making, the engaging drama combines expansive Montana scenery with captivating, original storytelling and delightful characters, including “Flying Bear,” played by Salish Pend d’Oreille Elder Stephen Small Salmon of Ronan. The film earned additional honors for Best Montana Film, Best Director (Graham DuBose), and Best Original Score (Gordy Haab), and was among the top four FLIC Audience Award candidates. FLIC Co-producer David King called it “a rich American tapestry of aspiration, colliding cultures, missteps, love, and pathos — all informed by powerful music, sound, writing, imagery, and performances.”

Emily Bronte’s classic gothic story of undying love and tormented passion, “Wuthering Heights,” was another big winner. Filmed mostly near Helena, and also in England, won the FLIC Audience Award, Best Male Actor (Bryan Ferriter as Heathcliff, who also directed) and Best Cinematography (Jason Owen Rogers). Ferriter, a Montana native, pulled together this inspiring version of the well-known epic with a small, tightly knit team of actors and professionals, including Jasmine Jandreau of Austria as Cathy Earnshaw, and another Montana native, Mary Riitano, who anchored the story with her strong portrayal of Nelly Dean. Rogers’ cinematography included the rare skill of creating almost the entire movie with natural light, including sunlight, moonlight, and candles.

“Browning Rising Voices,” about the Browning High School poetry club, was named FLIC Junior Best Picture. This student-made documentary received a 2019 National Student Production Award for Short Form – Non-fiction, the student-film version of the Emmy Awards.

Best Picture – Narrative Short went to “Montana,” an intriguing story relating to mental health therapy and suicide prevention, filmed on the shores of Flathead Lake. Director Michael Schwartz hopes to make “Montana” into a TV series.

Best Foreign Film went to German director Udo Flohr’s “Effigy – Poison and the City,” based on the true story of serial killer Gesche Gottfried in Bremen in the 1820s. Suzan Anbeh was awarded Best Female Actor for her portrayal of murderess. Flohr and actress Elisa Thiemann (who gave a stellar performance opposite Anbeh as an intelligent, professional court clerk in a time when women professionals were rare), attended the festival and shared insights and stories with moviegoers.

“Maestro,” a two-minute French gem, won Best Animated Film, charming the audience with a squirrel conducting an operatic performance by forest animals.

Best Picture – Documentary Short went to “The Kaleidoscope Guy at the Market,” about a Seattle artist famous for kaleidoscopes sold at Pike Place Market.

Paula Mozen, who has taught film at MSU-Bozeman, won Best Picture – Documentary Feature for “Life Interrupted,” a bold, honest telling of stories from the “Dreaded Sisterhood, the club you never wanted to be a member of,” those diagnosed with breast cancer.

In addition to the award winners were myriad treasures, from a young man escaping violence in Nigeria, ”Never Give Up,” and the story behind the famous Tiananmen Square photo, “Tank Man,” to major adventures such as climbing Mount Everest in “Beyond Dreams” and speed-hungry skydiving in “Chasing the Jet Stream.”

“The Avant Gardener,” a bright and fantastical music album/video by Plains native Lindsay Katt was nominated for Best Original Score. Katt wrote, directed, and starred in the film and composed and performed the music, with powerful, enchanting vocals. The film has won nearly 70 festival awards worldwide.

“Sand+Box,” a 13-minute crowd-pleaser by Brandon Smith and Eden Bryant of Polson, was nominated for Best Male Actor, and several other locally made films received high audience praise. Smith and Bryant will be working on a feature to be filmed this summer in the Polson area.

This year’s festival featured nearly 70 independent films of all lengths and many genres, with filmmakers from as far away as South Korea and Germany attending with their films. Hundreds of local moviegoers mingled with filmmakers and their families at live events and at receptions at the Perfect Shot and the Cove and engaged in lively conversation and photo sessions in the Showboat lobby. With both theaters engaged at once, dedicated fans are still found at Showboat Cinemas this week, catching encore showings of what they missed during the festival.

King thinks FLIC 2020 was the best yet. “We all had so much fun this year. We are so grateful for the enthusiasm of all the filmmakers and attendees. It’s rewarding to hear how much people enjoyed films and then to see them have the opportunity to interact with filmmakers. Lifelong friendships grow out of events like this!” He also expressed his deep gratitude to event sponsors.