Wild and Scenic Film Festival to Raise Funds for Columbia Falls Schools

The Columbia Falls Academic Foundation will be screening nine nature-focused films on Friday at Columbia Falls High School

By Denali Sagner
Waves crash into a rock near Bird Island on Flathead Lake on July 10, 2022. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

At this year’s Wild and Scenic Film Festival in Columbia Falls, attendees will be transported around the world, from Baffin Island, Canada to Mongolia, all without leaving the Columbia Falls High School Little Theatre.

The Nov. 3 event is not just an opportunity for Flathead Valley residents to watch nine adventure and wildlife films, but is also a fundraiser for the Columbia Falls Academic Foundation (CFAF) as it continues to fund critical programs for Columbia Falls High School students.

“Our goal was to raise funds, but also to have a fun night out for the community that’s supporting us,” CFAF chair Kim Wortman said.

While the majority of programs at Columbia Falls High School are covered by a combination of federal, state and local funding, budgetary gaps remain, especially when it comes to making extracurricular activities and advanced opportunities available to students.

Since the foundation was created a decade ago (CFAF was formerly known as the CFHS Alumni/Community Academic Endowment before the board changed the name this summer to better reflect CFAF’s mission), it has helped students pay for Advanced Placement (AP) testing, college courses at Flathead Valley Community College, and travel to academic and athletic competitions, both in Montana and across the country. The foundation has also purchased new equipment for classrooms, including audio equipment for the choir, a stand-up bass for the band, biotech supplies for science classes and CrossFit fitness gear.

Requests for support come directly from teachers, which CFAF then tries to fulfill. Wortman said that the foundation is focused on “experiences and activities and actual goods in the classroom that teachers wouldn’t otherwise be able to have.”

“Our guideline is to provide funding for things that fall outside of the school district budget,” Wortman said, adding that the foundation believes it’s “really important to support the students” when they want to expand their education outside of the traditional curriculum.

While CFAF’s endowment, as well as a handful of dedicated donors, provides a regular flow of funding, Wortman said that the foundation is always looking to expand its support so that it’s able to provide even more opportunities for students. With the Wild and Scenic Film Festival, Wortman and her board are hoping to bring in donations for CFAF while offering a creative event to the Columbia Falls community.

“We were really trying to find something that wasn’t just asking for money or asking for donations from businesses, but giving something back,” Wortman said, calling the film festival “a cool experience and a great community event.”

The nine films that will be shown on Nov. 3 were shot around the world, and feature wildlife, adventure sports and outdoor scenery, including stories of Canadian sled dogs, birding in Brazil and wooden boat-building. The films range from three to 25 minutes, and there will be concessions, giveaways and a silent auction.

Tickets for the festival are $12 in advance and $15 at the door. Advance tickets can be purchased on the CFAF website, Facebook page or Instagram account.

The festival starts at 7 p.m, and doors will open at 6:30.