After addressing how to safely host the Flathead Lake International Cinemafest (FLIC) this year in Polson, officials worked together to appease all audiences with both a virtual festival and live screenings at Showboat Cinemas.
“We decided to go ahead and give it a shot,” FLIC Director David King said. “We know it will be a lower attendance, but we try to serve both (audiences) by having a virtual festival.”
The ninth FLIC will show 55 films at the newly renovated Showboat Cinemas in Polson, including four new theaters with stadium seating. The festival’s selections will represent 13 countries, including the world premiere of “Pulse,” a film about Oksana Boturchuk, a Ukrainian track-and-field athlete and Paralympic champion. Director Sergi Chebotarenko is traveling from Ukraine to attend the premiere.
There are also several Montana filmmakers, including Polson resident Jim Ereaux, who directed the musical “The Irish Ballad.” Additionally, there are roughly nine more Montana-made films, including “Last Tracks,” “David Mirisch: The Man Behind the Golden Stars” and more.
Another film called “The Girl Who Wore Freedom” tells untold WWII stories of the men, women and children of Normandy, France, who lived through German occupation, the D-Day invasion and liberation by Allied Forces.
Even though the film festival will be live this year, FLIC officials chose not to host a comedy show this year and canceled all social events in light of the pandemic. However, some filmmakers are still traveling to the festival to participate in the live question-and-answer sessions following their films’ live showings.
“The films are the same, COVID or not,” King said. “They’re fun to watch and stimulating and we have a wide variety of subject matter.”
While audience members can view the films live, FLIC and Showboat Cinemas officials have limited capacity and changed seat spacing to accommodate social distancing. Every other row will be blocked off and groups will also be separated within the rows, with capacity varying between 12 to 25 people in the smaller theaters, depending on group sizes. The largest screen will host a maximum of 60 people.
King says Showboat Cinemas owners Gary and Becky Dupuis had been planning its renovation long before the coronavirus shut down theaters.
“The facility is so much nicer than in the past,” King said. “They added four more screens … it’s truly an immersive experience to be at the theater.”
For audiences who don’t feel comfortable attending the theater, a virtual festival will also be available after the live festival. “Those who wish to come can,” King said. “And those who choose not to can shelter. We’re leaving it up to the filmmakers and attendees.”
FLIC started in 2013 to help boost Polson’s seasonal economy in the slow winter months while improving the town’s morale.
The live festival will run Jan. 29-31 with encore screenings through Feb. 4. The virtual festival runs Feb. 5-March 4.
To purchase live or virtual tickets, visit www.flicpolson.com.