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Valley Journal

POLSON – Ukrainian film director Sergii Chebotarenko was the big winner during this year’s Flathead Lake International Cinemafest (FLIC) for his feature debut project “Pulse,” which garnered four FLIC award nominations.

Chebotarenko’s film is based on the real story of a young Ukrainian field athlete, Oksana Boturchuk, whose dream to become an Olympic athlete was shattered by a car accident. The film chronicles Boturchuk’s journey as she refuses to give up and seeks to prove that not even losing most of her eyesight can prevent her from achieving her Olympic dreams.

“Pulse” won the FLIC 2021 Award for both Best Director and Best Feature Picture during Sunday’s closing ceremony. “This is awesome,” said Chebotarenko. “I am super excited. Best Picture and Best Director for my first debut picture – this is great.”

Along with winning two film awards, Chebotarenko had another surprise during the festival.

A fellow countryman that Chebotarenko had never met traveled all the way from Seattle by train and bus to support Chebotarenko and view his film after reading a post on social media about the movie.

“At the Q&A session, after the first screening, he just raises his hand and speaks Ukrainian,” said Chebotarenko. “For me, it was super positive. It was great to find someone from your own country. Right now, I think we are almost buddies.”

A total of 54 films were screened during the ninth edition of FLIC, which was pared down considerably due to the coronavirus pandemic. The films included feature full-length films, shorts, animation, student films and documentaries from Montana. The films based in the United States and the worldwide films were screened under different sections.

This year FLIC canceled their traditionally hosted social events like movie opening parties and public gatherings outside the theater space. Organizers also employed the same nationwide CinemaSafe COVID-19 safety protocols, which are currently in place at the Showboat Stadium 6 where the event was held.

“Overall, it went really well. It was a good year,” said FLIC co-producer Jessica King. “We definitely had lower attendance because of COVID-19. Many of the filmmakers who had other festivals cancel on them this year were so excited to be able to show their film to a live audience – even if it was a smaller one.”

King also said FLIC will be offering a virtual festival component this year, due to COVID-19, and it will be available Friday, Feb. 5, through Thursday, Mar. 4. Virtual FLIC 2021 will be accessible on the FLIC website.

“Most of the films screened this weekend will be accessible online for a whole month,” said King. “So, you just buy a ticket, log in and watch from home.

King noted that two of the films, “More than Miyagi” and “Pulse,” will not be available at the virtual festival.

“Pulse” was not the only movie to win multiple awards during Sunday’s ceremony. Best Actor was Igar Sigau for his performance as the father in the German short film “Lake of Happiness.” The film is about a nine-year-old girl who is sent to an orphanage, but one day, she decides to run away and find her father. The movie also earned the FLIC Best Cinematography Award.

World War II based film “The Girl Who Wore Freedom” took home both FLIC Best Doc-Feature and FLIC People’s Choice Awards.

In other categories, Best Actress was awarded to Michelle Sum in “One Meal.” Best Doc-Short was “Last Tracks.” Best Picture-Short went to “Rehak.” “Renai Dance” won Best Animation.

Montana based film “Xylem, the Heart of the Tree” won Best Montana Film honors.