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The Big Sky Documentary Film Festival’s opening night couldn’t get any brighter.

Back for the 14th year, the annual film festival is scheduled for Feb. 17-26 at theaters – and this year even a book store – across Missoula. The event will present more than 200 films from around the world, including more than a dozen Montana-made films.

Opening night, Friday, Feb. 17, includes a free screening of “Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds” at the Wilma Theatre in a partnership with HBO.

“We are thrilled to partner with HBO once again for a marvelous opening night film,” said festival director Rachel Gregg in a news release. “ ‘Bright Lights’ gives us a rare peek into the normal lives of two very different yet intertwined Hollywood starlets, a truly human story that will have you laughing in one moment and tug at your heartstrings in the next. We can’t wait to share it with Missoula.”

In addition to screenings, the film festival hosts a five-day filmmaker’s forum that includes panels, workshops and the Big Sky Pitch for works in progress, according to a news release.

It continues, “the 2017 DocShop filmmaker’s forum will focus the many aspects of short film: conceiving, funding, producing and distributing. … DocShop will include panels and workshops with Vice, ITVS, The Atlantic, ESPN, Film Collaborative, and Tribeca Film Institute among other film industry experts, as well as master classes with the 2017 BSDFF retrospective artists.” View the DocShop schedule and find passes to the conference at

According to a news release, the complete lineup for 2017 includes films on human condition, nature and the environment in the face of climate change, culture and conflict in a globalized world, and inspiring personal narratives. The stories hail from 50 nations around the world.

The retrospective programming in 2017 will spotlight the work of award-winning filmmaker Daniel Junge. Ten of Junge’s films will screen at the film festival and he will present a master class on Monday, Feb. 20. The news release states that this year will be “the most expansive retrospective program ever done at Big Sky, the festival will also welcome Montreal-based EyeSteelFilm.”

The Big Sky Documentary Film Festival’s website states that EyeSteelFilm is led by founder Daniel Cross. It continues, “EyeSteelFilm originated through making films with the homeless community. Their original films provided a template for using engaged cinéma-vérité and interactivity for empowerment and change. EyeSteelFilm has branched out to make films on diverse, compelling topics across the globe and is home to a community of committed documentary filmmakers.”

The website states EyeSteelFilm filmmakers in attendance will include Ryan Mullins, Mia Donovan, Bob Moore and Val Shamash, as well as Cross who will present a master class at DocShop on Friday, Feb. 24. EyeSteelFilm project “Let There Be Light” will have its world premiere on Saturday, Feb. 25, with co-founder Mila Aung-Thwin in attendance.

One Montana-made film that an organizer said they’re “super excited” about is “100 Years: One Woman's Fight for Justice.” The film on the late Elouise Cobell will have its Montana premiere at the Wilma on Sunday, Feb. 19.

Festival passes are on sale now.

Learn more about the film festival online at, and stay up-to-date with any news by reading the Missoulian.

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