MISSOULA – Colorful costumes and music marched down Higgins on Saturday to commemorate the beginning of the 41st International Wildlife Film Festival.
The Wild Walk marked the beginning of the week-long festival that hosts over a 150 short and feature-length documentary films focusing on wildlife. Festival producer Jeri Rafter says that this year will be intimate.
“We have 115 filmmakers visiting us this year so there’s a good chance you’re gonna go to a screening and meet the person who made the film. It’s just gonna be really fun!” Rafter said.
Rafter added Missoula is the best place to have the festival and events because of the history and community surrounding wildlife biology and filmmaking.
“Missoula also appreciates the connection of art and science together. We have a great wildlife biology program, we have a history of environmental activism in this town. It just made it the perfect place to have the wildlife film festival," Rafter said.
“I think it’s unique that Missoula brings a wildlife film festival to town especially films that are appropriate for little kids. Missoula’s a place that has a parade for everyone and a film festival for everyone," Rafter added.
One film, in particular, focused on the increased human and bear conflicts in Colorado. Bears of Durango was centered around wildlife biologists in Durango, Colorado going to lengths to determine how and why bears were becoming more and more brave.
Director Dusty Hulet and Doctor Heather Johnson — a former Colorado Parks and Wildlife researcher — said that they wanted to show the work that happens behind the data.
“To crawl headfirst into a bear den with a tranquilizer on a telescope…and that tranquilizer doesn’t do anything for the first 15 minutes. It’s…an intriguing repetitive process that these folks are doing with many different bears," Hulet said.
“The hardest thing about having Dusty follow us was when things went wrong. As sometimes happened. You know you never want people with the media to be out in the field with you when things go wrong," Johnson added. Which you have to see the film, there’s a clip in the film net you can see one of our worst field days on display in the documentary.”
The International Wildlife Film Festival runs at the Roxy Theater with the films running from 12 p.m. until 8 p.m. through April 22. Click here to view a full schedule of events.