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Big Sky Documentary Film Festival opens Valentine's eve

Big Sky Documentary Film Festival opens Valentine's eve

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If you're already looking for something special to do on Valentine's Day, keep in mind that you've got 143 date movies to choose from.

The Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, which opens Friday, Feb. 13, at the Wilma Theatre, is screening a record number of films this year, and has expanded its stay in Missoula to 10 full days.

The films, culled from more than 1,000 entries across the world, will be shown over two full weekends and the week in between, said the BSDFF, which has released its official selections.

That's a change from the festival's previous eight years in the Garden City. Before, the festival typically ran over the span of a weekend and the following four days, wrapping up on a Thursday. And many screenings took place in the afternoon during the week, which the BSDFF has also abandoned.

Mike Steinberg, the new executive director of the BSDFF, said the programmers and directors all agreed that audiences would benefit more from two full weekends of screenings, and a 5 p.m. start to the weekday shows.

"There was a method to our madness," said Steinberg, a filmmaker who has worked with the BSDFF in numerous roles - including judge - and moved to Missoula last summer from St. Louis. "We felt that during the week, the daytime screenings weren't as well attended. … So we made room during a second weekend. It's an opportunity to showcase the winning films in a better way."

The weekend-as-bookend strategy will also allow the festival to honor two filmmakers for its popular retrospective screenings. This year, Canadian filmmaker Ron Mann ("Comic Book Confidential," "Grass") and filmmaker Joe Berlinger ("Brother's Keeper," "Metallica: Some Kind of Monster") will be honored.

Another first for the film festival this year is a showing of a silent documentary accompanied by a live band. The Alloy Orchestra, a three-man Boston band that uses traditional instruments, synthesizers and lots of "junk" to perform everything from German folk songs to modern orchestral works, will accompany the 1919 silent documentary "South: Ernest Shackleton and the Endurance Expedition."

Steinberg said that adds something fresh to the festival - and something not often seen around here.

"What brings that film alive is this band," he said. "It's an amazing experience to see the film come to life with the music."

Steinberg, a St. Louis native, returned to Missoula last summer with his wife, Lulu, and young daughters Ella and Vivian. From 1998 to 2002, he was a filmmaker in Missoula and served as a programmer and judge with the BSDFF before moving back to St. Louis, where he taught film at Webster University.

It's a pleasure to be back as the man in charge at the film festival, Steinberg said.

"Since the first year, I was just absolutely inspired by the possibility of this festival," he said. "Every year, it got bigger and better. The community has really gotten behind it. It's just one more reason to really love this community."

Reporter Jamie Kelly can be reached at 523-5254 or at

See the lineup

Go to for a complete listing of Big Sky Documentary Film Festival entries

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