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Column: FLIC 2021 brought the world to us

by CAROLYN HIDY
Lake County Leader | February 4, 2021 12:35 AM

After binge-watching independent films all weekend at FLIC 2021, Flathead Lake International Cinemafest, I left a better person. I felt more informed and open hearted, reconnected to the world, and I heard comments from many others who felt the same.

With my fellow “travelers,” we criss-crossed the globe in spite of the pandemic, through feature films, shorts, animations and documentaries. We met an inspiring Ukranian runner who lost her sight and still became a world champion (“Pulse”); a resolute orphan in Belarus (“Lake of Happiness”); a celebrity philanthropist from Hollywood (“The Man Behind the Golden Stars”); and a wise, determined woman Soli chief in Zambia, who recognized that saving her people from extinction required saving their wildlife from poaching (“Killing the Shepherd”).

Together, we traveled the mountains — from the Crazies of Montana (“Learning to Splitboard in the Northern Rockies”), to the Brooks Range of Alaska by bush plane (“Alaska Long Hunters”) and the unforgiving Atlas Mountains of Morocco on a bike. We crossed the Grand Canyon on a wire, Portugal on a classic bike, and faced with a nine-year-old the life and death of his beloved cowboy grandpa (“Cow Poke”).

We traveled across time, following the inimitable Gwen Verdon dancing her way from a child with rickets through the Broadway musical “Chicago,” four Tony awards and lifetime film career. We visited World War II Normandy on D-Day and returned there with the American veterans still hailed as heroes to this day (“The Girl Who Wore Freedom”).

We tapped our toes (“Cookaphany”), laughed, cried, sighed and cheered in our slick new movie seats in the brand new gift to our community that is the Showboat Stadium 6 in Polson. Perhaps we squirmed a bit when Tom Lehrer’s darkly humorous “Irish Ballad” was brought into stark black-and-white by Polson’s Jim Ereaux (sung exquisitely by Wendi Arnold, also of Polson, with Trish Tavener of Ronan on piano).

We learned about math with the brilliant students of Navajo Nation (“Navajo Math Circles”) and about cooking the perfect steamed fish in a family-owned Chinese restaurant (“One Meal”).

Many film festivals have been cancelled for the year throughout the world, leaving fewer chances for these massive artistic efforts to find an audience. But intrepid festival producers David and Jessica King, along with theater owners Gary and Becky Dupuis, forged ahead, and filmmakers from across the globe were grateful to have a venue and any audience at all. For some of them, this was their film’s first time ever projected onto the big screen.

As with every gathering in this time of pandemic, the usual crowds of moviegoers and movie makers packed in elbow-to-elbow were not possible. But with the newly enlarged theater, attendees were able to safely maintain distancing while still devouring the rich offerings of motion picture art and storytelling for which FLIC is known.

Each year’s FLIC is a product of nearly a year’s work, with film submissions open by April 1.

“It’s like planning a wedding every year,” Jessica King said. It involves screening and selecting films, coordinating filmmakers, venue, volunteers, schedules and awards. This year had some extra complications, with spacing restrictions and extra cleaning requirements.

“With the new theaters, having a smaller audience this year was actually probably a good thing,” Jessica King said. “It gave us a chance to work out some of the kinks,” such as seating arrangements and computer issues. Like a duck, they may have been paddling frantically under the surface, but the audience experience came off cool and smooth, with a friendly hometown atmosphere.

This week is “Encore Week,” offering the same blocks of movies that were screened over the weekend for $5 per block. A new feature, “Virtual Festival,” will offer almost all FLIC2021 films online from Feb. 5 to Mar. 4, again at $5 per block. All-Access passes purchased at the festival are still good throughout the month, or can be purchased for $50 to see all the shows online. This can help ease the anxiety of “Missed Movie Syndrome,” for those who had to choose between overlapping blocks last weekend. See flicpolson.com for schedule and ticket information.

FLIC 2021 “BEST” AWARDS:

Best Picture, Feature: “Pulse,” by Sergii Chebotarenko.

Best Documentary Feature: “The Girl Who Wore Freedom,” by Christian Taylor.

Best Montana Film: “Xylem, the Heart of the Tree,” by Emily Rund.

Best Picture Short: “Rehak”

Best Documentary Short: “Last Tracks,” by Alan Jackson of Livingston

Actress: Michelle Sum, “One Meal.”

Actor: Igar Sigau, “Lake of Happiness.”

Animation: “Renai Dance,” by Han Chen Chang.

Cinematography: Behrooz Karamizade, “Lake of Happiness.”

Director: Sergii Chebotarenko, “Pulse.”

Impact Award: Gary and Becky Dupuis, Howard and Ayron Pickerell.

Audience Award: “The Girl Who Wore Freedom .” Runners up: “The Irish Ballad,” “Killing the Shepherd” and “Pulse.”

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Kyahna Collicott and Camas Renault were part of the Showboat crew that kept FLIC patrons plied with popcorn and other classic movie fare. Specialty baked goods were provided for the awards reception by Scottage Cakery in Polson. (Carolyn Hidy/Lake County Leader)

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A cadre of community volunteer ushers, shown gearing up and handing out flashlights for an evening shift, helped make FLIC possible. (Carolyn Hidy/Lake County Leader)

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Eleanor Wells wrote and directed "Eagle Rock," about a woman who ended up in prison for murder reflecting on the cult she was a part of and what led to her crime. "Filmmaking is something I just HAVE to do. It makes me feel alive," Wells said. (Carolyn Hidy/Lake County Leader)

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Becky and Greg Dupuis (center), owners of Showboat Cinemas, received the FLIC 2021 "Impact Award" from David and Jessica King for their contributions to the film festival.

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A replica of a dress worn by "The Girl Who Wore Freedom" in 1944 as the people of Normandy celebrated their liberation from Nazi occupation by Americans and Allied Forces on D-Day. Christian Taylor, right, directed the film, inspired by a visit to D-Day celebrations when her son Hunter was part of the Army 101st Airborne. (Steven Pickel)