MISSOULA, MT—Resilience – of our world, the species living upon it and the filmmakers who capture it all, takes center stage as The International Wildlife Film Festival returns live and in person for a 45th year.
This spring, Missoula will once again host groundbreaking and inspirational films from many of the most talented wildlife filmmakers working around the world. This long-standing annual event champions wildlife filmmakers and challenges conventional expectations about how we conserve wildlife and habitat. It draws documentarians, industry professionals, and audiences for a week of screenings and community events celebrating ethical wildlife and environmental filmmaking as well as emerging wildlife filmmaking talents.
“Resilience,” IWFF’s theme for 2022, runs through the entire program of 75 films. In recent years environmental pain and devastation has been a sad constant in the natural world, and the IWFF programming team has curated several films about overcoming those challenges. In the wild, beings are pushed to the limits to survive and survival requires skill, ingenuity and adaptation. Film selections this year explore triumphs in nature from the microscopic to the enormous.
Despite not having a full in-person festival in 2020 and 2021, IWFF proved resilient as well. The first virtual festival was an international hit that shared wildlife and environmental films with wider audiences than ever before. In that spirit, following the in-person experience, the IWFF Virtual Festival returns online for everyone in the world from May 1 - May 7. Virtual tickets and festival information are available at wildlifefilms.org.
The festival kicks off on Saturday, April 23rd with the return of the ever-popular WildWalk down Higgins Avenue. Caras Park construction has altered the path of the parade, so this year's parade lineup begins at 10:30am at the First Interstate Bank building and marches north down Higgins Ave toward the XXXXs at 11:00am. The kickoff party WildFest will begin when the parade reaches the XXXXs. Music, food trucks, conservation groups and special live performances will be at the XXXXs to celebrate the festivities. Later that afternoon, the spectrUM Discovery Area at the MIssoula Public Library will open a new interactive exhibit, “The Nearly Forgotten Species Exhibition,” from 2:00-6:00pm.
On April 26th, IWFF and The Nature Conservancy celebrate the biologist, naturalist, and writer E.O. Wilson with a tribute and free screening of E.O. WILSON: OF ANTS AND MEN at the UC Theater at 6:00pm. The opening reception will include an introduction and tribute to the late Dr. Wilson by Glenn Marangelo from the Missoula Butterfly House and Insectarium and mingling with the Insectarium’s friendly bug ambassadors.
Other special events during the week include a free program sponsored by UM Wildlife Biology, “Living with Bears,” a presentation of two films followed by a panel discussion with filmmaker Rob Murray and local bear experts at 6:00pm on April 27th at the UC Theater. On April 28th, IWFF will host the 2022 Awards presentation at The Wilma Theater at 5:30pm. After the awards, the festival will premiere the 2022 IWFF LABS films, and host a free community screening of THE ARCTIC: OUR LAST GREAT WILDERNESS.
Every year, IWFF welcomes extraordinary creators working in the fields of wildlife and conservation to screen their work and discuss it. Highlights this year include screenings of RETURN SASYK TO THE SEA, about the Soviet irrigation eco-disaster in southern Ukraine, with filmmaker Andrea Odezynska; THE ELEPHANT & THE TERMITE, a tribute to the late Dr. Richard Leakey with an introduction by writer and director John Heminway; TRACKING NOTES: THE SECRET WORLD OF MOUNTAIN LIONS about the complex interactions between mountain lions and the forest world with filmmakers Colin Ruggiero and MPG Education Director Joshua Libson; the Western Wildlands Short Film Block which includes Montana-made AMERICAN HORSES, artistic short YELLOWSTONE 88: SONG OF FIRE, and LIFE ON THE LAND: THE BIG HOLE VALLEY with filmmakers Lara Tomov, Jerry van de Beek and Executive Director of the Big Hole Watershed Committee Pedro Marques; and GOING CIRCULAR, a reassessment of what our lives would be like if we worked within Earth’s natural boundaries with Janine Benyus, founder of the Biomimicry Institute, who appears in the film. All these events include talkbacks with artists, conservationists, and wildlife experts on the films’ respective topics.
Additional programming highlights this year include opening night film FIRE OF LOVE, the Sundance award-winning documentary narrated by Miranda July, which follows the life and careers of two volcanologists through an astounding collection of archival footage that the couple gathered from a lifetime of site visits before their deaths in a volcanic explosion; THE YEAR THE EARTH CHANGED, a David Attenborough-narrated film about the 2020 global lockdown and its impact on nature; THE BASTARD KING, the story of a lion cub born with heterochromia - one yellow eye and one blue eye - the result of a taboo union between the Blue-Eyed and Yellow-Eyed prides; and HYPNOTISE, about seemingly symbiotic relationship between the scuttled ship HMAS Brisbane and the marine life that calls it home.
Six filmmakers from the 2022 IWFF film selections were invited to be this year's IWFF LABS Fellows and participate in this year’s IWFF LABS program. Two teams of LABS fellows have created short films during their stay, focused on Montana Wildlife conservation. Teams are curated to encompass exceptional inventiveness, creativity, technical capability, fresh perspectives, and a variety of experience levels that are conducive to exciting collaborations. The final films are on the subjects of Blackfoot Challenge watershed management and the Salish and Kootenai Tribes’ methods of wildlife management along the Highway 93 corridor. The mini-documentaries made by the IWFF Fellows will premiere April 28th 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.
IWFF expands its in-person screenings to Bozeman this year. The IWFF team will present three programs from this year’s selections at The Rialto in Bozeman, MT on Saturday, April 30th. The screenings will include FIRE OF LOVE, and two shorts blocks, one of which, Western Wildlands, contains the hometown premiere of AMERICAN HORSES by Bozemanites Grizzly Creek Films. Tickets are available online at wildlifefilms.org or at the door.
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. The mission of the International Wildlife Film Festival is to promote awareness, knowledge, and understanding of wildlife, habitat, people, and nature through excellence in film. For tickets, full event listings, and times visit wildlifefilms.org.