Big Sky Documentary Film Festival

Big sky documentary film festival is one of the biggest film festivals in the US and it’s the biggest one in the north west. The festival is a part of the institute made to promote the nonfiction storytelling in film. It brings stories from around the world to the American west and the festival grow every year.

It takes place in February from the 14th to the 23rd and you can buy tickets online or at the HQ directly. This year it features the biggest selection of films yet.

What to expect?

The festival takes places over nine days and in that time you’ll get to see as much as 150 movies of different genres, authorships, and countries of origins. Movies come from 35 different countries and as much as 50 percent of them were made by women.

The best way to categorize the movies therefore is based on their subject. There are 11 different subject’s tags, as organized by the guest programmer Joanne Feinberg. These include: “Activism and Justice”, “Nature and Environment”, “Younger than Yesterday”, “Stranger than fiction” and many more.

Opening night films

The opening night always has a specifically significant for both the audience and the film authors. This doesn’t mean that this will be the best film out there but it’s the one that’s supposed to set the tone for the rest of the festival.

The 2020 Big Sky Documentary opens up with The Story of Plastic. The director Deia Schlosberg brings to the attention of the viewer the dangerous effect of the use of plastic. More importantly it showcases its scale which is the component of it that’s most often overlooked and underappreciated by the public.


This year’s festivals will also feature retrospectives showcasing the work of four veteran directors and going in depth in their work and its origin and impact. The first half of the retrospective portion is about the work of Bill and Turner Ross. The two are Ohio natives and their work is a visual representation of local working and blue-collar life.

The second part also showcases the life and work of two artists Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert. Their documentary American factory just won them an Oscar and it showcase the effects of global economy on the American Midwest now when the production of most goods has moved to China.

Big Sky Center piece

This is the new feature of the Big Sky Festival and it came to be because of the amount of films that are now shown during the festival. It’s exactly what it sounds like since it’s a film that the festival will present as its most important movie.

This year it will be a movie called Public Trust. It’s a story about the works of Hall Herring, a Montana based investigative journalist. His work was focused on the rights and laws regarding the public lands and how to protect them.

Doc Shop

Beyond the films themselves there are also other events at the festival that you should visit and that can be of great importance for you if you’re a filmmaker. These include workshops known as DocShop that take place from Monday through Thursday during the festival. There master classes and panels held by filmmakers.  They are also paid for separately.

There are also places where you can pitch your ideas for documentary films and get the funding that you need to have them made, which is an amazing opportunity for a young filmmaker without connection in the world of film.

Big Sky Film Series

Big Sky Film Series took a break in 2019 and now it’s back with a film by renowned documentary filmmaker, Agnès Varda. The screening will take place in Zootown Arts Community Center (ZACC) in downtown Missoula. The film is a perfect summation to the brilliant career of its author.

The film is an autobiography and it has been described as “At once impish and wise, she acts as our spirit guide on a free-associative tour through her six-decade artistic journey, shedding new light on her films, photography, and recent installation works while offering her one-of-a-kind reflections on everything from filmmaking to feminism to aging.”


Big Sky Documentary Film Festival will feature as much as 150 films this year. It’s one of the most important festivals in the industry and it consists of series, Docshop events, pitch meetings and for once the festival will also choose one film that will be its main feature.

Movies are separated in to categories that will help you make the most out of the program and see as much films as you can. There are as much as 11 categories and every film lover will find something from themselves.

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