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Inaugural Montana International Film Festival (MINT) Announces Winners

Human Affairs, General Magic, We Were Íslands Among Honored Films


The First Annual Montana International Film Festival (MINT) wrapped today with an awards ceremony and closing celebration at Doc Harper’s in historic downtown Billings. The weekend featured screenings of 55 films, panels and events attended by filmmakers, press and Billings locals.


“This first year’s festival was a resounding success, even exceeding our expectations,” said MINT executive director Brian Murnion. We’re a new and boutique festival and to be able to host so many talented filmmakers and guests was an honor.”


MINT’s competition lineup of six narrative and eight documentary features were competing for a combined $15,000 in cash and in-kind prizes and awards included the first-ever MINT Spirit Award, as well as six juried awards: Best Female Director, Best Narrative Feature, Best Narrative Short Film, Best Documentary Feature Film, Best Documentary Short Film and the “Made In Montana” award.


Best Narrative Feature went to Charlie Birns’ HUMAN AFFAIRS, which stars Kerry Condon, Julia Sokolowski, David Harbour and Dominic Fumusa. The jury stated, “HUMAN AFFAIRS transcended the traditional narrative structure to make a beautiful statement.” The jury also elected to give a Special Jury Award to Ari Gold’s THE SONG OF SWAY LAKE. The narrative jury was comprised of Oxford Film Festival executive director Melanie Addington, producer Milan Chakraborty (MY FRIEND DAHMER, ASSASSINATION NATION), and former Hatch Film Festival executive director, Penny Ronning.


The Documentary Feature jury, comprised of Moviemaker Magazine West Coast Editor Greg Hamilton and Big Sky Film Institute executive director Rachel Gregg, chose GENERAL MAGIC, Sarah Kerruish & Matt Maude’s story of a groundbreaking Silicon Valley company far ahead of its time, saying “GENERAL MAGIC has a creative energy and unexpected soulfulness that set it apart. It captures the roller coaster world of technology and human genius, with a side of hubris and redemption.” The jury also chose to give a Special Jury Award to Charles Cohen’s RIDING WILD.


AMERICAN RELAPSE, Pat McGee & Adam Linkenhelt’s documentary chronicling the corrupt underground rehab industry that has sprung up around Southern Florida’s heroin epidemic, took home the MINT Spirit Award, from a jury comprised of Brian Murnion and Ryan Kabeary.


Francesca Mirabella’s narrative short film WILLOW CREEK ROAD picked up the “Made In Montana” prize from jurors MSU Assistant Professor of History Dr. Bryan Joseph and former Montana Poet Laureate and MSU professor Tami Haaland who remarked that “WILLOW CREEK ROAD authentically captured the subtle sounds and rhythms of the plains and the people who inhabit it. The cinematography is gorgeous, and we were impressed with the main character's exploration of boundaries in this rural community.”


Amrita Pradhan was named Best Female Director for her film WE WERE ÍSLANDS, with Katie Galloway and Dawn Valadez picking up a Special Jury Award for THE PUSHOUTS. The jury was comprised of MSU Billings art and feminist studies professor and Art Department Chair Dr. Patricia Vettel Becker; Associate Professor, Department of History & Director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Center at MSU Billings Dr. Jennifer Lynn; and journalist and publicist Sabina de Plasse and said of the winner, “Amrita Pradhan’s comedic yet extremely poignant direction in WE WERE ÍSLANDS not only breaks stereotypes for ethnicity and gender, it reveals how many relationships struggle to exist in a world full of standards that have no relevance to the reality in which we all live in, especially for women in the 21st century. Pradhan is a promising female director and filmmaker — a highlight for the first MINT!”


MINT’s short jury chose Severine De Streyker & Maxime Feyers’ CALAMITY to receive the narrative short award, praising the film as “a modern take on GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER that handled its characters with humor, integrity and honesty all in a short span of time.” The best documentary prize went to THE BATTERED WIFE, directed by Jessica Portuondo, “a painfully moving portrait of this very state [Montana] which finds its land constantly under attack. Portuondo features Russell Rowland’s essay ‘The Battered Wife’ and uses images to great effect, bringing the essay to life.” The jury also chose to give a Special Jury Prize to Shaandiin Tome’s narrative short film, MUD (Hashtl’ishnii). The shorts jury was comprised of Montana Film Society founder Tyler Grutsch (Montana Creative + Video), Ted Kim (Furnace Filmworks) and Hammer to Nail editor-in-chief Don Lewis.


In addition to film screenings, the festival also hosted two well-received panel discussions, each focusing on an under-represented segment of the industry. The Women in Film panel featured festival filmmakers Shaandiin Tome (MUD), Amrita Pradhan (WE WERE ÍSLANDS), producer MaryAnn Tanedo, Oxford Film Festival executive director Melanie Addington and Jenna Ciralli, the writer, star and producer of MINT short film WILLOW CREEK ROAD. The panel was moderated by Allison Whitmer, Film Commissioner at the Montana Film Office.


The Indigenous Film Panel featured Aleut actress, director, choreographer and playwright Jane Lind, Ponca/Ojibwe filmmaker Migizi Pensoneau, Blackfeet, Chippewa, and 3 Affiliated Tribes filmmaker Maya Dittloff, Shaandiin Tome and Oglala Sioux filmmaker and festival founder Willi White. It was moderated by noted Crow/Northern Cheyenne artists Ben Pease.  Commenting on the panel, Addington remarked that it “was outstanding and a real highlight of the fest.”


A complete list of awards follows below:


Narrative Feature



Directed by Charlie Birns




Directed by Ari Gold



Documentary Feature



Directed by Sarah Kerruish & Matt Maude




Directed by Charles Cohen


MINT Spirit Award


Directed by Pat McGee & Adam Linkenhelt


Made In Montana


Directed by Francesca Mirabella


Female Director



Directed by Amrita Pradhan




Directed by Katie Galloway and Dawn Valadez


Narrative Short Film



Directed by Severine De Streyker & Maxime Feyers




Directed by Shaandiin Tome


Documentary Short Film



Directed by Jessica Portuondo

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