Reality Playing Itself with the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival


living far away from home (at least 3/4 of the time) certainly has its hardships.

but it also has some benefits.

‘exhibit a’ in the ‘gallery of benefits’: belated birthday gifts.

a five-film pass to the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival.

a world-class event highlighting several world and U.S. premieres of engaging and evocative works from all around the globe.

their theme? ‘Where Reality Plays Itself’.

for a guy who thrives not only on seeing fine films, but also in discovering the extraordinary in the ordinary occurrences of everyday life, the ‘sacred’ in the secular’, this gathering is a dream come true, a fantasy based on and lived out in reality.

my family definitely knows what i like.

the film i saw last night is entitled ‘Howdy, Montana’.

it was made by two guys from Brooklyn (Matt Cascella and Corey Gegner) wanting to do a piece on young musicians. what they ended up with was something much broader and universal in scope, but still as humble and down-to-earth as the subjects whose stories they convey.

they read an article by a writer in Missoula about Joey Running Crane, a young man leading a fledgling punk band in Browning, MT. they had never been to a Native American reservation like the one where Joey and his family live. but they ventured out west, and discovered not only Joey’s compelling journey (which is the ‘trunk’ and ‘branches’ of the creative ‘tree’ that grows over the 45 minutes of the film), but also amazing little snippets from the journeys of other sojourners from across the state (emerging as beautiful ‘leaves’ on the ‘tree’).

as a piece of art, it is economically eloquent, beautiful in its brevity, transcendent in its transience.

it reveals the simple gifts that can arise out of the complex circumstances of life, the seeds of hope that can emerge out of a soil of toil, tribulation, and transmogrification.

it is inspirational in its depiction of the perspirational that leads to the transformational.

one of the great aspects of the BSDFF is the chance to interact with the filmmakers, mostly through ‘Q & A’ sessions following their films. and sure enough, after the screening at the main venue for the Festival (The Wilma Theatre), the two filmmakers took the stage to field questions and share about their experience of creating the film.

to my surprise, they were also joined by the band, who in the three years since filming have relocated to Missoula and are working their way into developing a slowly growing following.

and the ‘Q & A’ was quickly transformed into a blistering ‘mini-gig’ by the band, barnstorming through a few of their songs at what seemed to be the largest venue they have ever played.


at one point in the gig, Joey thanked the audience for coming, looking fairly perplexed and overwhelmed at the size and enthusiasm of the crowd. and then he passionately spoke of who they are and why they do what they do. to paraphrase what i remember him saying…

‘we are thankful to be here representing a people who have endured a lot of oppression over the years. but we are NOT the ‘noble savages’ of the past. we are NOT poor, helpless victims of injustice. we are people who work and laugh and love and live pretty simple lives. we see life as a gift to be shared.’

and then he quoted one of the most resounding lines from one of their songs, with an urgency befitting their music…

‘so set yourself on fire…BECOME the fire!’

from a band called ‘goddammitboyhowdy‘ (and a song called ‘faith and thunder’), it was a powerful and profoundly spiritual image.

but it just goes to show, as i realize on an almost daily basis, that the stuff of illumination so often is ensconced in the elements of everyday life.

the sparks of sacred Fire are conjured from the crackling embers of existence in the here and now, and fanned into flames of living Love by winds of Spirit as unpredictable and uncontainable as the cosmos.

inspiration comes from perspiration that unfolds into transformation.

‘Reality playing itself’ indeed.


To see more of Brian’s writing, check out the Brian Marsh main page here at Make it Missoula. And for even more, check out his personal blog, Apocalypso Now.


i’m a wanderer and a wonderer. a percussive and paradoxical pastor who exists happily (and hope-full-y) at the intersection of doubt and faith. journeying with my unique and special family (my wife, Kirsten, and sons, Ian and Trevor) whilst temporarily splitting my time between two unique and beautiful places (Missoula, Montana and Ukiah, California). restless and lazy, usually amazed, always in process, i’m continually surprised and usually delighted at discovering the extraordinary in the ordinary, the ‘sacred’ in the ‘secular’, the shafts of light that sneak into the shrouds of darkness. i drum decently, surf poorly, love multicultural food, music, and community, and living in the ‘Zoo.