47 Films to Hit the Big Screen in Polson for the 12th Flathead Lake International Cinemafest

Among the standout submissions to this year's festival, which begins Feb. 16, is "Out There: A National Parks Story"

By Mike Kordenbrock
Audience members at the Showboat Stadium 6 movie theater in Polson take in a film at the Flathead Lake International Cinemafest. Photo courtesy of FLIC

A total of 47 films ranging from as short as a few minutes to nearly two hours long, are hitting the big screen at the Showboat Stadium 6 movie theater in Polson this weekend as part of the 12th annual Flathead Lake International Cinemafest.

In addition to the varied length of films, the festival offers a wide range of film types including animation, documentary, features, student films, foreign films and shorts. There are 22 Q&A sessions planned around screenings, and David King, the festival’s director, said the festival is typically well-attended from filmmakers who tend to mingle with festival-goers.

The weekend festival also has a number of other special events interspersed throughout its run. For people who can’t make it this weekend, there’s also an extension of the festival from Feb. 18 through Feb. 22, which offers additional screenings of films. Some people come for just one or two films in particular, but there are others who make a point of seeing every single film.

King said that he and the judges for the festival curate the lineup, which can set them apart from other festivals. They’re not inviting just any filmmaker to show off their work. As King explained, that means going beyond what is submitted, to find other films that they want to be part of the festival. It’s a process that involves reviewing thousands of trailers, before homing in on specific films that merit reaching out to the filmmaker.

Sami Grisafe, FLIC Producer Jessica King, Kathy Kuras, and FLIC Director David W. King, pose with awards at the 2022 festival. Kuras was the producer and director for the film “Open Field,” which profiles the trailblazers of women’s tackle football, including Grisafe. Photo courtesy of FLIC

From there, if a filmmaker chooses to submit, King and his fellow judges will watch the entire film, make an evaluation, and assign it a score, which helps guide their efforts to get those films into the festival.

“Our main criteria is does it hold our interest? It’s easy to get bogged down and start daydreaming during a film and if that’s happening it’s probably not going to be in FLIC,” King said. “We’re happy to explore different genres. The fact that we have a (single) film with 15 different genres is a good indication that we’re willing to go lots of places. We’re not willing to go to controversial places, politically, that kind of thing, because it’s not our desire to make audience members uncomfortable or to be divisive.”

There’s one film in particular this year that stood out in the judges scoring process. King said that a film called “Out There: A National Parks Story” received a score of 100 from all of the judges, something he said hasn’t happened before in the festival’s history. When King first heard about it, he was skeptical about yet another film about national parks, but watching “Out There” thoroughly disproved those notions. The documentary feature runs for a little over an hour, and follows a young filmmaker embarking on a 10,000-mile exploration of the national parks during the centennial year of the National Parks Service’s founding.

A still from “Out There: A National Parks Story.” The film is screening at this year’s Flathead Lake International Cinemafest.. Photo courtesy of FLIC

“This is just a stunning movie, with a very deeply emotional connection to the people in the film. We were actually crying as we came to the end of the film and realized these connections,” King said. The film is one of the festival’s kickoff films, and is showing at 6 p.m. this Friday.

Other films that King highlighted during a recent interview include “Saving For The Day,” which was shot in Missoula. That’s the aforementioned film that squeezes 15 genres into a single film.

“So you can imagine, it’s a wild ride. Going from one dimension to another, if you will,” King said.

“Saving For The Day” is director John D. Nilles’ look at the story of Joe Bell, a frugal hermit saving money for a real start to life when he receives a treasure chest from a mysterious figure. When the chest is locked, Bell is sent on a series of genre-spanning adventures in attempt to unlock its contents.

Film poster for “Saving For The Day.”

Another notable entry into this year’s festival, per King, is the Canadian film “Les Filles du Roi.” A musical set in the 17th century during the French colonization of Canada, the film tells the story of a young Mohawk girl and her brother, who, according FlIC’s program note, forge “an unlikely alliance with a young French woman whose dream of a new life is more complicated than imagined.”

The full program, including film descriptions, can be found at https://www.flicpolson.com/flic-2024-program/.

FLIC kicks off at 4:30 p.m. on Feb. 16 with a “Taste of Polson” event at the Showboat Stadium 6 theater. Local eateries offering food for the occasion include The Shoe, Finley Point Grill, East Shore Smoke House, Mackenzie River Pizza Company, Maxine’s Coffee Shop & Eatery and Bunkers.

Saturday, Feb. 17, there will be a free kids screening of “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” and an egg burrito breakfast at the Showboat. The event is sponsored by the Polson Rotary Club and starts at 9:15 a.m.

Later in the day Saturday, the Cove Deli & Pizza will host an afternoon mixer with complimentary food starting at 4:30 p.m.

Saturday night will close out at The Durham, with live music from The Montana Shamrockers, the band featured in the film “20 Shades of Green,” which is being shown at the festival. That film tells the history of the bandmates and their love of Irish music. That event starts at 9:30 p.mm.

Sunday, Feb. 18, Good Coffee Roasting Company is hosting a breakfast mixer with food and drinks available for purchase starting at 9:30 a.m. The festival will wrap up with a 5:30 p.m. awards show and dessert reception at the Showboat Theater.

For more information and a complete schedule of film screenings, go to flicpolson.com.