Bringing the Silver Screen to Polson

Flathead Lake International Cinemafest kicks off its fifth year on Jan. 20

By Justin Franz
Video still from the film "What Separates Us." Courtesy Photo

About five years ago, a group of film-lovers at the south end of Flathead Lake was thinking of ways to energize the sleepy community of Polson during winter, something to brighten those gloomy days of January.

In 2013, the group found its answer in the Flathead Lake International Cinemafest, a three-day event featuring everything from 30-second shorts to full-length features. The film festival celebrates its fifth anniversary the weekend of Jan. 20–22 at Showboat Cinemas in downtown Polson.

David King, co-chair and producer of the festival, said unlike other events that focus on one genre of film, the Polson festival has no boundaries.

“The variety of films that we offer is what makes this event really unique,” he said. “If you like short films, we’ve got entire blocks of them. If you like documentaries, then we have a rich collection of them for you.”

“Variety is always key,” he added. “Anyone who comes to this festival will be able to find a couple of films that are in their wheelhouse.”

This year, the festival features more than 60 movies, with titles from the United States, Spain, Croatia, Taiwan, Austria, Australia, Canada and France. More than a quarter of the films were produced in Montana.

Among the Montana-made films is a feature length drama called “What Separates Us,” written and directed by Bryan Ferriter and produced by Isaac Marble. The 90-minute film focuses on a man named Danny, a once successful track star who fell on hard times before meeting Parker, a passionate art student who attends a local university. The movie was filmed and produced in Missoula and Helena and has been featured at festivals in Portland, Los Angeles and Alaska, where it won best feature at the Machetanz Film Festival.

Marble, 27, grew up in the Red Lodge area and attended Carroll College, where he first got interested in filmmaking. In the last decade, Marble has helped produce three feature films. He said he is particularly proud of “What Separates Us” and hopes it resonates with anyone who grew up in Montana, although its appeal goes beyond those who are native to Big Sky Country.

“Even though this film is based in Montana, it will resonate with anyone who grew up in a small town,” he said.

The producer said he’s happy with how the film has been received so far. Marble, who now splits his time between Montana and Washington, said festivals like the one in Polson are great for the state’s growing film scene.

“The Flathead Lake International Cinemafest is becoming a premier event,” he said. “This festival gives Montana filmmakers an outlet to showcase what we can do here.”

King, who has worked in film and television for more than three decades, said that giving smaller filmmakers a chance to make it big is one of the goals of the festival.

“We want to give anyone who submits a film a fair shake, and if it’s good, we want to show it,” he said. “I think having a film festival in this part of the country is a really good thing.”

The Flathead Lake International Cinemafest runs Jan. 20–22 at Showboat Cinemas, 416 Main Street in Polson. For information about movie times and tickets, visit www.flicpolson.com.

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