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The British Broadcasting Corp. will be well represented, as usual, at the 26th annual International Wildlife Film Festival which will be held in Missoula on April 19-26.

The festival received a record 267 wildlife film entries this year, said Janet Rose, executive director of the IWFF. The final judging of the films was completed recently, with winners selected in 18 categories.

The Best of Festival Award winner this year goes to a BBC film, "Iguanas: Living Like Dinosaurs."

"BBC consistently does very well at this festival, even though we have different judges every year," said Rose. "Their film about iguanas is so well done and beautifully shot and produced."

"Iguanas" not only captured best of show, but the best-of-festival award for photography, and also won first place in the television program category.

Overall, BBC films took nine of 13 best-of-festival awards this year.

BBC's "Killer Whales" took best-of-festival honors in underwater photography. The awards for best sound design and best script went to BBC's "Cats under Serengeti Stars," which also took second place behind "Iguanas" in the television program category.

"Open Worlds," another BBC film, won the festival's best editing award. The BBC film "Ape Hunters" earned best-of-festival honors for best conservation message, and took first place in the conservation and environment category.

"Be an Animal" and "The Life of Mammals" were named best of festival for graphics and animation, and educational value, respectively. Yet another BBC film, "Return to the Water," took first place in the category for best presenter or host.

The IWFF will be the premier showing of most of the films, according to Rose.

Criteria for judging films at the festival was refined and revised this year to make filmmakers adhere to even more rigorous standards of ethics and scientific accuracy, according to Rose.

Those higher standards, along with the record number of entries, put more pressure on the final judges, she added.

"The final judges were a phenomenal group," said Rose.

The judges were Maureen Lemire, head of the Natural History Unit of the Discovery Channel in Maryland; Madeleine Carter, supervising producer for National Geographic Channels; Greg Dieffenbach, vice president for Devillier/Donegan, a large film and television production company; Dan Breton, award-winning independent filmmaker from New York City; Denise Hunter, wildlife photographer and artist from Lakeside and this year's winner of the IWFF poster art contest; and Hans Rosenwinkel, film professor and filmmaker at the University of Idaho.

The IWFF and Media Center is closer to its goal of purchasing the Roxy Theater as a permanent home for the festival and a cultural and educational center for Missoula, Rose said.

The IWFF wildlife art auction March 1 brought in $10,000, Rose said. And the second of two installments of a $50,000 grant from the Charles Engelhard Foundation has brought the nonprofit organization within $175,000 of its goal of raising $400,000 for the purchase of the Roxy and additional technical equipment.

"With the festival coming up, and more exposure and activities, it will help raise more money toward the Roxy campaign," Rose said. "A lot of businesses were waiting to see how it would work for us being in the Roxy. I think they're seeing it's a valuable venue for the community and for educational purposes. Two years ago, I didn't think it could be done. But it was sure worth a try. A lot of people shared that vision and dream."

Reporter Daryl Gadbow can be reached at 523-5264 or at dgadbow@missoulian.com

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