'Crime on the Bayou'

"A Crime on the Bayou" is the story of the lasting bond formed between Gary Duncan, an unjustly arrested Black man, and Richard Sobol, his young Jewish attorney. In 1966, 19-year-old Duncan faced the white supremacist court system in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, for daring to touch a white boy’s arm. Standing united, the pair takes Duncan’s case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to fight for the rights of all Americans to a fair trial.

Here are the highlights for Thursday at the all-virtual Big Sky Documentary Film Festival.

Film

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 feature films open for viewing today:

“The Big Scary 'S' Word” — A former Marine and a public school teacher find themselves broke and unable to pay the bills, despite working multiple jobs. Activated by the energy of the 2016 Sanders presidential campaign and murmurs of a statewide teacher strike, both turn to socialism, a once-fringe ideology, to tackle problems larger than themselves. With inequality growing, a climate catastrophe looming, and right-wing extremism ascending around the world, more and more Americans are wondering what an alternative to capitalism might look like. Is it dictatorship or democracy? Reform or revolution? The film unravels the decades-long debate around this misunderstood ideology. Montana Premiere.

Live Q&A with Yael Bridge (director) and Kristie Herring (editor). Moderated by Michael Workman (BSDFF); 6 p.m.

“Since I Been Down” — In 1993, Washington state voters passed a three-strikes law that sent children to prison for life without parole, branding them as irredeemable “superpredators.” Kimonti Carter is serving out a life sentence without parole based on these harsh laws, but rather than accept this condemnation, he has worked to transform his peers’ lives through education. An investigation into the circumstances and inequities that have landed a generation of African American youth in prison, and a demonstration of a path to justice and healing led from inside prison walls.

Live Q&A with Gilda Sheppard (director), Tonya Wilson and Kimonti Carter (subjects). Moderated by Gita Saedi Kiely (BSDFF); 8 p.m.

“A Crime on the Bayou” — A story of the lasting bond formed between Gary Duncan, an unjustly arrested Black man, and Richard Sobol, his young Jewish attorney. In 1966, 19-year-old Duncan faced the white supremacist court system in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana, for daring to touch a white boy’s arm. Standing united, the pair takes Duncan’s case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to fight for the rights of all Americans to a fair trial. Northwest Premiere. Feature Competition.

Prerecorded Q&A with Nancy Buirski (director) and Lois Eric Ellie (subject).

“So Late So Soon” — An intimate portrait of the energetic and beautifully eccentric Chicago-based artists Jackie and Don Seiden, married for five decades. We follow the couple while they face their impending fragility with raw honesty and eerie elegance. The film offers a privileged window into their art-making, domesticity, relationship friction, and the ultimate project of aging and caring for each other. Northwest Premiere.

Prerecorded Q&A with Daniel Hymanson (director) and Rachel Gregg (moderator/BSDFF).

Spotlight — Shorts Block 3: Living Together

“Snowy” — Snowy, a 4-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? Northwest premiere. (13 min.); “Halpate” — Considered a staple of Florida tourism, alligator wrestling has been performed by members of the Seminole Tribe for over a century. As the practice has changed over the years, "Halpate" profiles the hazards and history of the spectacle through the words of the tribe’s alligator wrestlers themselves, and what it has meant to their people’s survival. Northwest premiere. (14 min). “Sarna” — A story of howls, barks and desolate glances on the outskirts of the Pan American Highway, where most of the inhabitants are stray dogs that roam through the gray and melancholic streets. North American premiere. (18 min). “Blue Frontier” — A Serbian man has spent his entire life searching for the biggest fish in the blue Danube. Two rivals — one on the surface of the water, and the other, concealed within the depths of the mighty river. Every sunrise sees the old fisherman attempt to lure the river giant from hiding. Northwest Premiere. (20 min); “Khoniyar’s Children” — In a small village in Iran, four siblings, all over 70 and never married, live together. The villagers shun them, as they believe they are doomed, damned or both, leaving the brothers and sisters to live out their lives in solitude. World premiere. Short competition. (30 min.)

Prerecorded Q&A with directors Ivan Milosavljević (“Blue Frontier”), Josué García Prado (“Sarno”), Kaitlyn Schwalje and Alexander Lewis (“Snowy”). Moderated by Warren Etheredge.

Competition awards show

Winners of the Best Feature, Best Short, Best Mini-Doc, and Big Sky Award competitions will be revealed during a prerecorded virtual presentation. One ticket or pass use will unlock the program, featuring film highlights, jury statements, and winning filmmaker statements. 7 p.m.

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, five-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. Nearly 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.