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Good enough for a sequel:

Flathead Lake International Cinemafest exceeds expectations

By Lailani Upham

Brooke Pepion Swaney and Daniel Smith, Flathead Film Festival coordinator, strike a pose before the question and answer segment on opening night at the Polson Showboat. (Lailani Upham photo)Brooke Pepion Swaney and Daniel Smith, Flathead Film Festival coordinator, strike a pose before the question and answer segment on opening night at the Polson Showboat. (Lailani Upham photo)

POLSON — When the curtain closed on the blockbuster second annual Flathead Lake International Cinemafest, it had the feeling it had been going on for years. Attendees and honored guests were impressed.

To add to the excitement and growth of the new film festival, during the opening party FLIC co-chair and KSKC-TV producer Frank Tyro announced collaboration with Salish Kootenai College in the future.

“On behalf of President Robert DePoe, Salish Kootenai College is proud to announce that we will be collaborating with the Flathead Lake International Cinemafest in the 3rd Annual Festival in 2015 to develop an Indigenous Film Track. We are excited to begin this endeavor and offer the 205 seat Johnny Arlee/Victor Charlo Theatre as an additional venue for film screenings if needed.

“SKC has connections to both Native and Indigenous communities and individuals world wide. An Indigenous Films track will give the festival a broader base on the Reservation,” Tyro said.

Thirteen filmmakers, four producers, four actors and one screenwriter, from California, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, South Dakota, Utah and Canada, mingled with film lovers during the three-day festival that hosted a packed house each showing at the Polson Showboat Theater.

“It is hard to believe this is only FLIC’s second year,” says Daniel Smith, FLIC co-chair. “It already feels as if this film festival has been around a lot longer.”

Both theatres at the Polson Showboat were packed for the weekend during the showings of the 79 films featured for the second annual Flathead Film Festival. (Lailani Upham photo) Both theatres at the Polson Showboat were packed for the weekend during the showings of the 79 films featured for the second annual Flathead Film Festival. (Lailani Upham photo)

The success of a film festival can be reflected in the numbers: FLIC exceeded all expectations in online sales, attendance, numbers of films screened, and the number of filmmakers and crewmembers in attendance, says Smith.

Short films of two minutes to feature length films from 16 different countries including 41 world premieres were viewed in a three-day span. Nearly 80 films were shown.

“Dakota 38,” the feature length film received two awards: Best Documentary and the People’s Choice. Filmmakers Alberta Iron Cloud Miller and James Miller, of Porcupine, South Dakota, answered questions after their film screened to a packed house. (See related article by clicking here.) Work from two local filmmakers in attendance was viewed; Brooke Pepion Swaney, Polson, “OK Breathe Auralee” and Gary Henderson, Eureka, “Ruby’s Doll.” Henderson presented a trailer for The Ruby Rescue Doll Project to increase awareness of Human Trafficking. “Ruby’s Doll” received a Best Picture Short Honorable Mention Award.

“OK Breathe Auralee” is about a young lady, who eagerly wants to have a baby. She begins to search for her Native identity through a journey in a relationship with her non-Native boyfriend. Her film features a small part played by Native Cree actor Nathaniel Arcand. Pepion Swaney’s film was an Official Selection of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and the 2011 imagineNative Film and Media Arts Festival.

Pepion Swaney also had a Q and A after the showing and immediately had to jump a plane to the Netherlands for another film, she co-produced, “Bella Vista,” that premiered at the International Film Festival Rotterdam, Netherlands.

Swaney conducts two Q and A’s on opening night, prior to catching an early flight to International Film Festival in The Netherlands to premiere “Bella Vista,” a film directed by Vera Brunner-Sung and produced by Swaney, Sung, and Jeri Rafter. (Lailani Upham photo) Swaney conducts two Q and A’s on opening night, prior to catching an early flight to International Film Festival in The Netherlands to premiere “Bella Vista,” a film directed by Vera Brunner-Sung and produced by Swaney, Sung, and Jeri Rafter. (Lailani Upham photo)

It is Jeff Chiba Stearns from Vancouver, Canada, second year of presenting his films at FLIC. This year the Canadian animator also provided FLIC with an Animated Film Program that filled two theaters at Showboat Cinemas.

“It says a lot that this festival, in its second year, needed to open a second theater. Jeff continued, “That is a true testament to how the festival is being run.”

Smith says the festival mission is to provide makers of all film genres a venue through which they enrich themselves and their audiences by engaging with film.

The Year-Round Envision Polson! Committee that created the film festival to enhance the local economy during the off-season can feel good about the influx of folks into Polson for the weekend, says Smith.

The festival ended with a Closing Ceremony where FLIC judges named the “Best Of” awards. In addition to “Dakota 38,” which can be viewed on YouTube, other award winners were: The Best Feature Length, “Heroes of Arvine Place,” Best FLIC Jr. “Evolution;” Best Actress: Brynn Samms, “88 Miles to Moscow;” Best Actor, Cullen Moss, “The Heroes of Arvine Place;” Best Director, Karen Glienke “88 Miles to Moscow;” Best Animation, “Home Sweet Home,” and Best Short, “88 Miles to Moscow.”

SKC is looking forward to their involvement in hopes to increase attendance and participation by the Native community on the Flathead Reservation and beyond. “We feel this collaboration is a win-win for FLIC, SKC, our sponsors, the film community and all who attend.”

Information about FLIC films can be viewed at www.flicpolson.com.

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