'Winter in the Blood' to debut at Los Angeles Film Festival

2013-05-02T13:00:00Z 2014-01-03T18:10:58Z 'Winter in the Blood' to debut at Los Angeles Film Festival

The “made-in-Montana” label can be attached to the upcoming film “Winter in the Blood” from almost any angle.

It’s based on the first novel by a beloved Montana and Native American author, the late James Welch of Missoula.

The story was brought to the screen by its co-directors, Montana natives Alex and Andrew Smith.

The novel was set on Montana’s Hi-Line, where Welch grew up, and the movie was filmed on Montana’s Hi-Line. Its cast includes 21 Montanans, several of them first-time actors from the Fort Belknap and Rocky Boy’s Indian reservations.

Its star, Chaske Spencer of “Twilight Saga” fame, spent part of his childhood growing up in Poplar on the Fort Peck Reservation. Sixty of its crew members were Montanans, and 100 extras were Montanans.

And so it’s only natural that its world premiere will occur in ... Los Angeles?

It’s actually terrific news for “Winter in the Blood,” which otherwise will enjoy its Montana premier later this year.

On Tuesday, the Los Angeles Film Festival announced “Winter in the Blood” is one of a dozen feature films it has selected to compete in the festival’s Narrative Competition next month.

The narrative and documentary categories are the festival’s most prestigious competitions, and carry $15,000 prizes for the winners.

The festival attracts more than 90,000 filmgoers annually.


“This has been a labor of love that stretches back a generation,” says filmmaker Andrew Smith, who is also an associate professor at the University of Montana’s School of Media Arts. “At every stage, from early grants to open casting calls, from raising money to location scouting, from shooting on location to our extended post-production phase, we are grateful for the support of countless Montanans. Now we can start showing this uniquely Montana film on the world stage.”

“Winter in the Blood” tells the story of Virgil First Raise (played by Spencer), who heads out in search of his renegade wife and the beloved rifle she stole from him, and winds up finding himself. Virgil is described as “a young and troubled Native American man,” his journey as “a wild and darkly comic odyssey on the plains of north-central Montana.”

It was filmed in Chinook and Havre, honoring the settings in Welch’s novel.

The cast also includes David Morse (“The Hurt Locker,” “The Green Mile”), who also starred in the Smiths’ 2002 Montana-set “The Slaughter Rule,” Gary Farmer (“Smoke Signals”), Julia Jones (“Twilight Saga”), Dana Wheeler-Nicholson (“Tombstone,” “Friday Night Lights”) and Montana native Lily Gladstone.

“Winter” was filmed during the summer of 2011.


Also known as the LA Film Fest, the 11-day event starts June 13 this year.

“Winter in the Blood” will have its world premiere on June 14, and be screened again on June 19. In addition to the Narrative Competition, it is eligible for the Audience Award for Best Narrative Film.

Last year’s Audience Award winner was “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” which went on to earn four Academy Award nominations, including one for Best Picture.

Fewer than 200 feature films, shorts, documentaries and music videos are screened during the festival, chosen from 5,428 that were submitted this year.

“The Way, Way Back,” starring Steve Carell, Toni Collette and Allison Janney, was announced Tuesday as the Closing Night film for 2013.

Also headlining the festival are “Only God Forgives” with Ryan Gosling and “Fruitvale Station,” both named as the festival’s Gala screenings.

“Winter in the Blood” will compete with 11 other films “made by talented emerging filmmakers” in the Narrative Competition, the festival announced. Eight of them are making their world premieres in Los Angeles.

The other 11 are “All Together Now,” “Forey,” “Forty Years from Yesterday,” “Four Dogs,” “Goodbye World,” “The House that Jack Built,” “I.D.,” “Mother, I Love You,” “My Sister’s Quinceanera,” “Pollywogs” and “Workers.”

Reporter Vince Devlin can be reached at 1-800-366-7186 or by email at

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(1) Comments

  1. lovemissoula
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    lovemissoula - May 02, 2013 9:17 pm
    Congratulations.....can't wait to see it. Hope to see it at the Wilma.
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