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Big Events Are Brewing for the Bozeman Film Society

Joseph Shelton  |  Saturday Aug. 1st, 2015

You and I know, Dear Reader, that Bozeman is a veritable cultural mecca of the Inner West, a little Hollywood of the mountainous variety. But as Joseph Conrad said (about London, in his case), this too has been one of the dark places of the Earth.

Before 1978, if a Bozemanite wanted to see a different kind of film, something without lightsabers or toothsome sharks, they would likely have to fly to Seattle, San Diego, or Denver, which is, I think you’ll agree, more than most people will do for great cinema. Before, that is, the “Bozeman Film Society” (nee Bozeman Film Festival) was formed.  

Initially conceived by an interdisciplinary group of Montana State University professors from the Film and TV and English departments, the Bozeman Film Society, according to current Executive Director Lisa McGrory, operated with “the mission of bringing quality classic and contemporary film to Bozeman.”  
McGrory, who is also the owner and founder of Beaucoup Gallery and Framing, located in the Emerson Center for the Arts and Cultural, was generous enough to grant me an interview. The mission statement, she says, hasn’t changed much since then: the Bozeman Film Society aims “to screen quality, adult-oriented film remains the mission, though our focus now is mainly on new releases…  There are so many great films that never make it to the multiplex, so we bring as many of the best films that we can.”

Perhaps (or hopefully) you have seen a few of the BFS films. In the last few years they have brought some of the world’s most challenging, intriguing, and ambitious films to our lovely little burg. Nor are they apt to duck controversy. Among the films they have featured recently they have chosen “Blue is the Warmest Color”, famous or infamous for its erotically charged narrative about the passionate sexual relationship of two young lesbian women in France, and “The Skin I Live In”, Spanish director Pedro Almodovar’s fascinating thriller involving forced sex changes, murder, and other quintessentially Almodovarian pursuits.  



But, as Ms. McGrory points out, the Bozeman Film Festival has some exciting new projects in the works. “We just wrapped up an exciting transition to Main Street’s Ellen Theatre, where we installed a brand new DCP 2K digital projector. The image is incredible and paired with the Ellen Theatre’s sound system, offers a top-notch movie experience. The new state-of-the-art projection system enables the BFS to continue bringing the newest independent films to Bozeman,” she explained.

One of those brand new independent films is “Me and Earl and the Dying Girl”, based on the novel by Jesse Andrews, and winner of the 2015 Sundance Grand Jury and Audience Award prizes. The film, which the New York Times said was “touching and small, but also thoughtful and assured in a way that lingers after the inevitable tears have been shed and the obvious lessons learned,” will screen at the Ellen on Saturday, August 22 at 7:30 pm. And, that DCP 2K digital projector Ms. McGrory mentions means that you can see it in style.

Worry not, cinephiles, for the BFS has provided you with even more to watch by partnering with the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation to present the Montana premiere of the award-winning documentary “Meru”, featuring mountaineering superstar and Bozeman local Conrad Anker. As McGrory says, it’s “an extraordinarily personal film with stunning cinematography shot on the Shark’s Fin of Mount Meru in Tanzania at 21,000 feet. The “Meru” event is the perfect example of how BFS can harness the power of film to raise awareness about exciting programs in our own backyard.” “Meru” will premiere on August 29; the program will feature Conrad Anker himself, as well as Jenni Anker-Lowe, speaking on behalf of their work with the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation, a non-profit, as McGrory tells us, “dedicated to preserving Alex Lowe’s legacy by providing direction and financial support to sustainable, community-based humanitarian programs in remote regions of the world.” In addition, the BFS will continue its tradition of having a “Story Under the Stars” screening at the height of summer. So, remember to go enjoy the free outdoor screening of a film projected on the Story Mansion from the plush comfort of the grass lawn.
Members of the Bozeman Film Society have never been ones to rest on their laurels, so they’ve got an ambitious list of projects and improvements that they are also working on. One is to increase the number of showings.  

“After re-organizing in the 1990s, the BFS moved its operation to the Emerson Art Center and went from showing films seven days per week down to eighteen to twenty-two films per year,” McGrory says. “Our dream is to eventually have our own art house cinema where we can return to showing films seven days per week with a broad range of programming, educational, and community events. Bozeman is a rich community in so many ways -- we’ll have incredible support for this dream when the time comes.”

If you have never seen a film presented by the Bozeman Film Society, there has never been a better time. The Society is an important part of Bozeman’s culture and community, a part that has managed to stay put for decades while at the same time bending to the changing needs and tastes of the Bozeman public, and there is every apparent likelihood that it will continue to do so for another thirty-seven years as well.  

Looking back, Lisa McGrory cannot help but wax a bit poetic. “In my thirteen years with the Bozeman Film Society I’ve been able to be involved in so many great experiences. I’ve met the most amazing and talented people -- all doing great things. The BFS is about community, sharing, learning, and of course, entertainment. I am honored to be a part of it.”  

So, for that matter, should you, dear reader. The BFS has helped to bring considerable light to this previously dark corner of the world. And, it behooves all of us to help them “Keep ‘em flickering.”  

But there is, however, one more cinematic issue for McGrory to weigh in on: personal favorite movie snacks. “Junior Mints vs. Hot Tamales?  Junior Mints!” she avers, and I’d be hard pressed to disagree.   

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