Living and playing in Montana and the vast expanses of wilderness therein means relying on a tried-and-true way of living, one based on the experiences of those who came before us, enhancing our lives with their know-how and what they learned from indulging their outdoor passions.
But in modern times, with technology moving faster than the Middle Fork of the Flathead in early spring, living in Montana also means no longer being secluded and isolated from the larger outside world.
Joining these traditions together is the impetus behind the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation’s upcoming showing of the Mountainfilm Tour, scheduled to take place March 22 at the O’Shaughnessy Center in Whitefish.
Founded in 2000, Mountainfilm began as a way to use film to get ideas out to the world. The BMWF brings a selection of current and best-loved films from the annual festival in Telluride, Colorado, to Montana and the Flathead every year as the foundation’s spring fundraiser. The foundation presents the films in areas around the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, with showings in Helena and Great Falls as well.
“We only have two major fundraisers every year,” Jessica Shaw, outreach coordinator at the MBWF, said. “This is our spring one, and it’s really important to us.”
As a small nonprofit, the BMWF has three full-time employees, and their goal is to connect Americans with their wilderness heritage. This usually means volunteering for work trips in the summer; Shaw said last year, the foundation sent 387 people into the wilderness.
A spring fundraiser is necessary to help fund a summer’s worth of trail work, she said. This summer, they hope to send 30 trips and 400 volunteers.
“The money raised here is so vital to funding our trail work,” Shaw said. “What we’re gearing up for is the launch of our 2018 field season.”
Film fest attendants will not only get an eyeful of some of the best and brightest filming mountain culture today, but also have a chance to chat with BMWF folks about the 2018 field season, sign ups, and more details on the trips.
The film lineup this year includes “Denali’s Raven,” showing the lives of a mountain guide and commercial pilot in Alaska and her daughter as they make her life work; “My Irnik,” detailing the lives of a family living in the harsh Canadian Arctic; “La Langosta,” about a 70-foot waterfall and Rafa Ortiz, who shoots the falls in various fashions and in various watercraft; and “Cowtown,” documenting the oldest professional rodeo in the United States.
Don Scharfe, owner of Rocky Mountain Outfitter in Kalispell and BMWF board member, said he particularly likes to share these films because not only do they feed an adventurous spirit, but they also highlight the importance of conserving these beautiful places. He and his wife have followed the Banff Film Festival for 40 years.
“For me I’ve always been a climber and a skier, and I feel like we have to take care of the Earth,” Scharfe said. “These film fests give us the opportunity to see not only really exciting things people are doing in outdoor sports, but also there are great lines about conservation.”
Scharfe said now that film festivals have caught on and there are many for Flathead residents to attend each year, the BMWF takes a careful look at which films to bring in for the Mountainfilm Tour, picking movies that haven’t yet been shown here. Each film runs 5 to 20 minutes.
Doors open at 6 p.m., kicking off an hour of drinks and socializing. The beer comes courtesy of The Front Brewing Company out of Great Falls, so each beer purchase goes directly to the BMWF. There will also be food, and of course some raffle prizes, ranging from outdoor apparel to half-day trekking adventures with pack-llamas. The grand prize is a $1,000 Kokopelli packraft.
Movies start playing at 7 p.m., with an intermission at 8:15 p.m.
Shaw said the film festival is important for the BMWF, but it’s also a good chance for locals to shake off winter and get pumped for the warmer seasons.
“The film festival is one of those things where it’s still winter and we can’t be out in the wilderness as much as we want to be. The sunny days are starting to tease us out,” Shaw said.
Scharfe finished her thought.
“The more people who get outdoors, the more people who are there fighting for wilderness,” he said.
For more information on the 2018 Mountainfilm Tour, visit www.bmwf.org/events. Tickets are available at Rocky Mountain Outfitters in Kalispell (406) 752-2446 and Sportsman and Ski Haus in Whitefish (406) 862-3111.