A few weeks ago, Nicolas and Anna Hudak’s film, “Where God Likes To Be,” premiered before an enthusiastic crowd at Missoula’s Big Sky Documentary Film Festival. It was a long way from a snowy February night on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in 2002 when the project began.
Nicolas and Anna were students in New Zealand at the time and in Kalispell for 10 days visiting Nicolas’ hometown. Anna had flown in and out of Calgary because it was cheaper and the two were driving back north when they got stuck in a snowstorm in Browning.
As they sat at the Subway restaurant along U.S. Highway 2, Anna, who is originally from Germany, started talking to some locals. The couple was fascinated by life on the reservation and how, as they would find out later while making the film, the people there faced challenges that were both similar and foreign to their own.
Seven years after that fateful night in Browning, the couple returned and started filming “Where God Likes To Be,” a feature-length documentary about being young and growing up on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. The film has been screened in Missoula and Browning and will be shown twice at the Museum at Central School in Kalispell on March 7 at 5:30 and 7 p.m.
“I wanted to create a bridge between Kalispell, where I grew up, and the reservation on the other side of the mountains,” Nicolas said. “We also wanted to make a film that didn’t just focus on the hardships.”
The film focuses on three young Blackfeet members, Andrea Running Wolf, Edward Tailfeathers and Douglas Fitzgerald, over the course of one summer. Running Wolf was a senior in high school when she first met the filmmakers and was hesitant to let people follow her for an entire summer, but when she found out that Nicolas wanted to put a positive spin on it, she agreed.
“I thought it might be a good opportunity,” she said. “All my classmates were asking me why a film crew was following me around and it was sort of embarrassing at first. But after a while it was just like having a conversation, except I was being filmed.”
Nicolas said the film crew spent time with the three subjects whenever they were available throughout the summer. And he found that even though they grew up in different places, they were not all that different from each other. The local filmmaker was surprised about how little he knew about the rich culture just over the mountains.
“I find it astonishing that I didn’t learn about this stuff in high school,” he said. “We have all of this history and culture right at our doorstep and yet we’re just learning about the French Revolution.”
After filming, Anna and Nicolas slowly worked on editing and finishing the film, but on occasion other projects got in the way. Finally, this year it was ready to be shown to an audience, although Nicolas said finishing touches were being made just hours before it premiered in Missoula. So far the reception has been overwhelmingly positive.
Running Wolf said she was happy how the film portrayed the Blackfeet Reservation and that time in her life. The summer she was filmed, Running Wolf was torn about leaving home for the first time. Today, she lives in Missoula and is finishing a degree in psychology. But she plans on moving home to Browning and working in the schools.
“They captured my home, they captured the beauty of the reservation,” she said of the filmmakers.
“Where God Likes To Be” will be screened at the Museum at Central School on March 7 at 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m. For more information visit www.wheregodlikestobe.com.
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