Adaptation – of species, the world, and the filmmakers who capture it all – takes center stage as the International Wildlife Film Festival (IWFF) returns for its 42nd year, April 13-19.
Missoula once again hosts groundbreaking and inspirational films from many of the most talented wildlife filmmakers working around the world. This long-standing annual event draws filmmakers, industry professionals, and audiences for a week of diverse programming and community events that celebrate ethical wildlife and environmental filmmaking as well as emerging filmmakers.
“Adaptation,” IWFF’s theme for 2019, runs through the entire program, from films featuring rare species that have adapted to their unique environment in uncanny ways, like the drills in “Lost Kings of Bioko,” to films that inspire us to modify our own behavior, like the short “A Letter to Congress” about the importance of preserving public lands.
IWFF also explores adaptation as it relates to how filmmakers tell stories by celebrating new voices in film, never-before-seen animal behavior, and moments that reveal both the beauty and the brutality of adaptation in the natural world.
WildWalk & Other Special Events
The festival kicks off on Saturday, April 13, with the ever-popular WildWalk down Higgins Ave. culminating in the annual WildFest in Caras Park, co-hosted by The Wildlife Society of the University of Montana. Festivities include music by Ocelot Wizard, food vendors, face painting, and lots of activities to keep kids entertained and connected to the wild.
Science on Screen returns to the Roxy at 4 p.m. Saturday with a screening of “Black Panther” and a talk on “Biomimicry and the Biology of Elite Athleticism” featuring Shane Campbell-Staton of the Institute for Society and Genetics Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of California, and Arien Darby, marketing coordinator for Warner Bros. Publishing. The film and talk are presented free of charge to anyone 18 and under.
On Tuesday, April 16, author, filmmaker and naturalist Doug Peacock will screen his films “Peacock’s War” and “Grizzly Country” at the University Center Theater at the University of Montana; the event is free and open to the public.
For the better part of five decades now, Peacock has been a fierce advocate for bears. “Peacock’s War” follows this Vietnam veteran as he spends years alone in the Wyoming and Montana wilderness observing grizzly bears and grappling with repercussions of war. “Grizzly Country” highlights how time in the wild changed the course of Peacock’s life. With the protection of Yellowstone grizzlies in mind, he reflects on the importance of habitat and why he continues to fight for wild causes.
Other free special events during the week include Art in the Wild, a showcase of adaptation-themed artwork at the Zootown Arts Community Center (235 North 1st St West) and the IWFF Poster show at Frame of Mind (1706 Brooks St), as well as IWFF Dialogues, an opportunity to dive into topical conversations about the wildlife film industry. IWFF Dialogues are moderated by experts in their field and are designed to reflect the IWFF values of respect, diversity, collaboration, and stewardship within the landscape of wildlife filmmaking and beyond. Check wildlifefilms.org for the dialogues schedule.
On Friday, April 19, IWFF celebrates a week of excellence in wildlife filmmaking with an awards ceremony and free community screening of “Epic Yellowstone: Return of the Predators,” 5 p.m. at The Wilma (131 S Higgins Ave). Following the awards, stick around for a special screening of the newly finished 4K adventure through Yellowstone National Park made by Grizzly Creek Productions and The Smithsonian.
Wildlife Film Fest Highlights
Every year, IWFF welcomes extraordinary creators working in the fields of wildlife and conservation to screen their work and discuss it. Programming highlights this year include “Sea of Shadows,” recipient of The Audience Award at Sundance 2019 in World Cinema Documentary, which follows investigators, environmentalists, journalists, and the Mexican navy on a desperate last-minute effort to rescue the Earth’s smallest whale – the vaquita – from extinction; “The River and The Wall,” an exploration of the impact of building a southern border wall; and a double feature, “Colors for Change” and “The Human Element,” both of which focus on artistic ways of translating the urgency and science of climate change. All these events include talkbacks with artists, conservationists, and wildlife experts on the respective topics.
Sixteen scientists, researchers, journalists and filmmakers selected as IWFF Fellows participated in the third IWFF Labs program. The program is an immersive, cross-disciplinary science filmmaking workshop that teaches the tools needed to communicate the concepts of science, nature and conservation to broad audiences. The mini-documentary made by the IWFF Fellows with a local conservation organization and scientific research team will premiere April 19 during the IWFF Awards Ceremony. In past years, IWFF LABS films have been selected for the National Geographic Short Film Showcase and have won awards at film festivals across the world.
Founded in 1977 at the University of Montana, IWFF is the first and longest running event of its kind. The vision of the IWFF will always be to foster an engaged, enlightened community that finds itself through cinema, and helps the planet to heal. For full event listings and times visit wildlifefilms.org.