'The Last of the Elephant Men'

"The Last of the Elephant Men" screens again at 10:45 a.m. Sunday, Feb 28, at the Crystal Theater.

Aroon Thaewchatturat

The winners of the award competitions at the 13th annual Big Sky Documentary Film Festival were announced Friday.

"Last of the Elephant Men" won the feature competition for films more than 40 minutes in length.

Directors Daniel Ferguson and Arnaud Bouquet chronicled the effects of deforestation by logging and mining companies on indigenous people in eastern Cambodia.

According to a news release, judges were impressed by "the film's sensitive exploration of the mythic relationship between elephants and people" in the "beautifully and patiently shot" film.

"Following Kina" won the artistic vision in the feature category. Sonia Goldenberg tracked the efforts of two young women to become Peruvian world boxing champions, in the footsteps of previous title-holder Kina Malpartdia.

The judges complimented the movie's "insightful depiction of the rural and urban backdrops to two women" vying for the title, as well as its entree into the world of women's boxing in Peru.

The Big Sky Award, which is presented to a film that "honors the character, history, tradition and imagination of the American West," went to "Hunting in Wartime."

Director Samantha Farinella profiled Tlingit veterans from Alaska who discuss witnessing traumas on Vietnamese civilians, readjustments to civilian life and service to a government that oppresses their people. "Their stories give an important human face to the combat soldier and show the lasting affects of war on individuals, families and communities," according to the news release.

In the short competition, for movies between 15 and 40 minutes, "Daguava Delta" took top honors. Rainer Komers' movie depicts a "social island" of suburbs outside a Latvian city. The artistic vision award for shorts went to Gaëlle Cintré's "Zone Blanche," about four women who are hypersensitive to electromagnetic fields, which drives them to seek refuge deep in the Alps and away from any technology.

In the Mini-Doc Competition, for films 15 minutes and shorter, Callum Rice's "Mining, Poems or Odes" took the No. 1 spot. The film is about a former shipyard welder who is compelled to write poetry.

The artistic vision award for mini-docs went to "A Cerebral Game." Director Reid Davenport, who has cerebral palsy, contemplated his changed identity via baseball. The jury said it "demonstrates the core virtues of perseverance and passion that are essential to the art of filmmaking itself, and perhaps especially to the documentary genre."

The winners receive $500, and the winners of the Mini-Doc and Short categories are eligible for consideration for the Academy Awards.

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The award winners were selected by different panels of judges from around the world, including directors like Lucy Walker and Ondi Timoner and representatives of Sundance Film Festival and American Documentary Inc./POV. They aren't selected by the Big Sky staff.

"Like most years, the winners are stellar films from across the world, and I think what amazes me most is the quality of these stories, but also the diversity of the award winners. It's not one type of film. They're the best film in each category. And they're so varied and so beautiful," festival executive director Gita Saedi Kiely said.

"It's never exactly who you thought would win, but they're always the most elegant choices," she said.

As the festival entered its final weekend, she said audience numbers have supported the increased number of movies this year, which surpassed 200.

"I didn't know if it was going to be too much for the Missoula audience, but the turnout for these films has been amazing. It seems Missoula has a hunger for documentary films that can support how big and varied the festival has become," she said.

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