BY VINCE DEVLIN
The Flathead Lake International Cinemafest is Friday through Sunday, Feb. 1-3, in Polson.
The event kicks off Friday, Feb. 1, with an opening night champagne soiree from 5-6:30 p.m. in the main ballroom of the Kwa Taq Nuk Resort, where tickets are $25 and people are invited to come dressed as their favorite movie star. The soiree includes hors d’oeuvres, champagne, wine and beer. At 7 p.m. at Showboat Cinemas, guest filmmaker Jeff Chiba Stearns screens his documentary “One Big Hapa Family” and three short animated films, and other festival entries will be screened from 9:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Tickets for those are $5 apiece.
On Saturday, Feb. 2, six two-hour blocks of films will be shown at Showboat Cinemas. You can watch them all for $25 or view any particular session for $5. Sessions start at 10 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 3 p.m., 5:30 p.m., 8 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.
On Sunday, Feb. 3, two two-hour blocks of films will be screened at 10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Tickets to each are $5. The festival will conclude with a dessert and awards reception from 3-4 p.m. The reception is free to anyone holding a ticket stub from any of the screenings, or $5 to anyone who isn’t.
Tickets are on sale at Showboat Cinemas, Terrace Flowers and Gifts or at www.flicpolson.com. Screening information can also be found at www.flicpolson.com.
Cannes has the most famous of them all, and around the world you can find film festivals of all shapes and sizes. Some specialize in horror films, some in short films, some in animation, others in science fiction. There are festivals that celebrate emerging filmmakers, independent filmmakers, women filmmakers.
Boston has one for Latino films; Los Angeles one for Irish films. Missoula’s film festivals include one for wildlife films and another for documentaries.
When a committee in Polson charged with developing ways to bring people into town during the off-season – essentially any time other than summer – started tossing around ideas a year ago, a film festival was one that surfaced.
And now the first Flathead Lake International Cinemafest is upon us.
Running Friday through Sunday, Feb. 1-3, the festival will focus on … well, just about anything on film, within reason, of course.
“We didn’t want too narrow of a focus,” co-coordinator Daniel Smith says. “Our community is small, and the beauty of it is we don’t have exposure to a lot of different films and genres.”
So now they have a film festival that will feature everything from a feature shot in eastern Montana called “Cooper,” about family that suffers consequences when one of its own decides to take up cattle rustling, to a six-minute short animated on more than 2,300 sticky notes.
The latter was made by Vancouver, British Columbia filmmaker Jeff Chiba Stearns, who will be a special guest at Polson’s cinemafest, also known as FLIC.
Smith and his wife met Stearns when they lived in Hawaii several years ago. They volunteered to host a filmmaker at the Maui Film Festival, and that filmmaker turned out to be … well, not Stearns.
But hosting got them free tickets to some festival events, and it was at one of those – where actor Jake Gyllenhaal was discussing an upcoming movie he was starring in that he thought might prove controversial called “Broke Back Mountain” – that they found themselves seated next to Stearns.
“We got to talking and really hit it off,” Smith says, and the friendship has continued. The festival’s first night, following an opening champagne soiree, will feature not only the aforementioned “Yellow Sticky Notes” but a documentary by Stearns – who calls himself “half Japanese, half Euro-mutt” – examining why his Japanese mother and all four of her sisters married interracially in Canada.
It’s called “One Big Hapa Family,” and Smith believes it could find an interested audience here, where Indians and non-Indians have been marrying each other for decades.
Who knows what moviegoers will discover at FLIC? As he talked about the festival earlier this month, Smith was opening up a submission from the United Kingdom called “Rose, Mary and Time” about an unhappily married man who, through an old clock he inherits, may have stumbled on the ability to go back in time and save the love of his life, who died several years earlier.
From Oklahoma comes “Peace, Love and Zombies,” an “inside look at the daily lives of the undead.” Out of Washington, “Whiskers” is the story of a couple who purchase a beta android butler but see things take a terrible turn.
There’s the Montana-made “Code of the West,” a documentary that follows the upheavals medical marijuana has gone through in the state.
If you’re starting to think this film festival has a little bit of everything, you’re right.
It’s even got television programming.
“Chasing Fame” is a “docu-reality series” about four wannabe actors trying to make their way in Hollywood. It comes to the Polson festival courtesy of writer, producer and director David W. King.
King, who has spent 30 years in both the television and movie industries in a wide variety of jobs – starting as a production assistant in the 1980s on an obscure Peter Fonda film called “Dance of the Dwarfs” – moved to Polson in 2012 and set up his own production company.
He is one of three local FLIC judges. The others are Karen Lewing of the Port Polson Players and retired Polson teacher Mac Swan, who worked as a projectionist in a Missoula theater while in high school and says, “There’s nothing like watching a movie 20 or 30 times to help you see the strengths and weaknesses in a film.”
FLIC was developed by an Envision Polson subcommittee, which hopes to make it an annual event. The first one has been challenging – “We’re all volunteers,” Smith notes – but if it’s successful and there are more, he’s confident they’ll be able to put to use what they’ve learned.
“We were slow to start getting the word out,” he says, “and we need to give filmmakers more time to enter, and ourselves more time to review films.”
In the meantime, this is a film festival where you can see a movie about cattle rustling, a documentary about a Juneau, Alaska businessman struggling to pay his bills and prepare traditional food (“Smokin’ Fish”) and a five-minute animated short about a Post-It note that escapes a cluttered desk to go in search of its father (“Ode to a Post-It Note”).
And – just guessing – you probably can’t get any of that at Cannes.