'The Falconer'

Rodney Stotts with James, a Lanner falcon. Stotts is one of the few Black falconers in the U.S.

Here are Monday's highlights from the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival.


All 50 short films are available to view throughout the 10-day festival. There are 13 blocks of short films, each of which can be accessed by one single-screening ticket or one bundle/pass use. The following features will open for viewing today:

“The Falconer” — Rodney Stotts is one of the few African-American falconers in the United States, and his path to this ancient practice was not an easy flight. Growing up in Washington, D.C., during the crack epidemic, Rodney lost friends and family to drugs and street violence. He was destined for the same until he joined Earth Conservation Corps, an organization that connects inner city kids to river restoration projects. His work there inspired a love of birds, and Rodney devoted himself to the art and sport of falconry. An intimate portrait of Rodney’s passion as he mentors his son and pursues his dream of building a bird sanctuary outside the nation’s capital. Northwest Premiere. Feature Competition.

Live Q&A with Annie Kaempfer (director), Rodney Stotts (subject), and Akiima Price (Community Engagement Lead); 8 p.m.

“The Place That Makes Us” — An intimate and inspiring portrait of Youngstown, Ohio, a quintessential post-industrial American city, seen through the efforts of a new generation of residents who have chosen not to abandon their hometown, but to stay, rebuild, and make a life for themselves. Northwest Premiere. Feature Competition.

Live Q&A with Karla Murthy (director), Alexandra Nikolchev (producer/director of photography), and Jad Abumrad (executive producer); 6 p.m.

“Petra & Peter: A Tale of Two Siblings” — A family drama about the consequences of alcoholism and adoption for two very different siblings. Petra, adopted from Guyana, and her Swedish brother Peter were emotionally abandoned by their parents due to their own struggles. Petra and Peter are grown now, living separate lives, and dealing with disparate problems. But they have one thing in common: they both want more out of life. Northwest Premiere.

“A Punk Daydream” — In the ‘80s, under Suharto’s regime, tattooed people in Indonesia were viewed as criminals and targeted by death squads. Today, the young punks of Jakarta are shunned by their families and left to fend for themselves on the fringes of society. Drifting through polluted and poverty-stricken urban landscapes, Eka and his teenage friends have a somber view of their country’s future. They feel a deep kinship with the Indigenous Dayak people, who have traditional tattoos and cling to their centuries-old lifestyle, knowing that their culture will ultimately disappear along with the Indonesian rain forest. The two seemingly disparate tribes share an intense quest for individual freedom.

Prerecorded Q&A with Jimmy Hendrickx (director), Kristian Van der Heyden (producer), and Erika Frederickson (moderator/Vi Thompson Overdrive).

Spotlight: Shorts Block, Schoolhouse Docs

Schoolhouse Docs films have been rated for students of all ages by Missoula educators and offer a variety of age-appropriate and perspective-widening themes, bringing non-fiction film to the next generation. In partnership with The Flagship Program, BSDFF has created activity packets for youth and their families to actively engage in this select program of films. Packets can be picked up at Flagship HQ (1305 Wyoming St.) or BSDFF HQ (Zootown Arts Community Center main lobby, 216 W. Main St.).

“Team Meryland” — Born and raised in the Watts projects of Los Angeles, 12-year-old boxer Meryland Gonzalez fights in and out of the ring while attempting to be crowned the 2019 Junior Olympics Boxing Champion (28 min); “Snowy” — Snowy, a four-inch-long pet turtle, has lived an isolated life in the family basement. With help from a team of experts and his caretaker, Uncle Larry, we ask: Can Snowy be happy, and, if so, what would it take? (13 min); “Downstage” — Ballet isn’t easy, and 11-year-old Aedan knows it. As he prepares for his first solo ballet competition, seasoned dancers reflect on their own transformative journeys. Together, they process the challenges and rewards of this demanding art form (13 min); “Magali” — Magali Salinas has dedicated 15 years of her life to rescuing, rehabilitating and releasing wild animals in the Peruvian Amazon rainforest that have suffered from habitat destruction and the wildlife trade. Before releasing a group of Howler monkeys, she talks about life at animal shelter and her connection with the animals in her care (5 min).

The 18th annual Big Sky Documentary Film Festival is an all-virtual affair.

Our online platform is super user-friendly. It allows viewers to browse film selections, pre-order and watch films on their phones, tablets, computers or TV screens. Details on how to sign up and purchase single-screening tickets, 5-film bundles, and festival passes can be found at bigskyfilmfest.org.

Note: Feature films generally have a four-day window in which they can be viewed. When a viewer unlocks a film or a shorts block, they have 48 hours to begin watching. Once viewing has begun, there is a 24-hour window in which to finish watching. Almost all films have a virtual Q&A with the filmmakers — included in the price of the ticket — and a number of those Q&As will be live, so viewers can participate.

Nick Davis is the media director for the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival.