HAMILTON — If you saw the lines in front of Hamilton's Pharaohplex Cinema it wasn't because of the latest Hollywood blockbuster, but you were missing a special screening of a Bitterroot-based film that drew hundreds of people from all over Western Montana.
The lines started early for the screening of "Trail of Justice", the latest western to be produced by a young group of Bitterroot filmmakers now known as Eagle Ridge Studios. In fact, the turnout was so large it filled four different theaters.
The finished movie represents three years of extremely hard work, with filming around the Bitterroot Valley, Lolo Creek and Anaconda. It tells the story of contrasts between one young man and his friends trying to navigate tragedy and moral choices, as they cross the path of a vicious gang leader that can't seem to change his past.
The film used dozens of cast members from around the area, all lined up for the "red carpet" treatment, including members of the Salish and Crow tribes, and was funded in part with a Big Sky Film Grant from the Montana Film Office.
Montana Film Commissioner Allison Whitmer says "Trail of Justice" is the kind of filmmaking the state loves to have happening in Montana communities.
"We have such a beautiful resource here. We have amazing public lands. We have incredible national parks. We have private land owners that take very good care of their pieces and their towns and their lands. And it's such a privilege to be able to work with all of them. And to introduce new filmmakers to the best things about Montana," said Whitmer.
While this weekend's screenings are over, the producers will be entering 17-different festivals for competition, and we'll keep you posted on distribution for the "Trail of Justice" as those details are worked out in the coming weeks.