The Covellite International Film Festival in Butte is back for another showing, and organizers Brian Boyd and Don Andrews say this year general admission is free.
The festival runs Sept. 12 through 17 and will feature more than 110 films, ranging from short- and feature-length dramatic and documentary films to movies made by youth. (See sidebar.)
Andrews said the festival received about 300 submissions (up from last year) and that the filmmakers who submitted their work come from throughout the U.S. and world -- including from places “as far away and exotic as Canada,” Andrews said.
Both Boyd and Andrews expressed enthusiasm for the 2017 lineup.
“I think the quality of films we’ve been getting has just been unbelievable” said Andrews.
Boyd, meanwhile, said a surprising highlight for him is “Perfect,” a documentary about synchronized swimming.
At first, Boyd said, he thought he’d have no interest in the film because, you know, it’s synchronized swimming.
But Boyd said the “Perfect” filmmakers did what filmmakers do best: find a compelling human story within even the most seemingly obscure subject.
“It’s about the pursuit of excellence at the highest level in a field where success is subjective,” said Boyd. “So it’s completely out of their control -- but it’s all about control.”
Andrews said one of his favorites is the Covellite opener, a documentary called “Charged: The Eduardo Garcia Story,” which documents the life of Eduardo Garcia, a man who was shocked with 2400 volts of electricity in a “freak incident” in Montana’s backcountry, according to the film’s synopsis, and who later became a celebrity chef known as the “bionic chef” because of his prosthetic arm, a relic from his brush with death.
“He loses part of his arm and had burns all over his body. He has to go through this whole life-changing process, and through this process, he becomes the person he actually wants to become,” said Andrews.
Andrews also said he’s excited for audiences to see “Chasing Evel,” a film about Robbie Knievel, and the feature-length film “Scent of Cigar” by Indian filmmaker Nandaian K.A.
“It’s like Christopher Nolan meets Alfred Hitchcock, but they’re Indian,” said Andrews.
Several of the filmmakers who presented in 2016 will return, but there will also be some fresh faces.
New to the lineup this year is the youth block, which will feature films by filmmakers 18 years old and younger.
Also new is a second-run screening location.
Andrews said that anyone wishing to see a movie after its initial screening can do so from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday during the festival at Thunder Alley, 821 S. Montana St.
But perhaps the biggest change to the festival is the price of admission.
General admission will be free for 2017, Andrews said, but participants can still get premium features by purchasing a day or VIP pass, which gives them reserved seating for workshops, filmmaker forums, and films.
Since the festival’s premier last year, Andrews and Boyd have kept themselves busy.
The two have started the Covellite Cinema Club, which meets every Sunday in the Covellite Theatre, 215 W. Broadway St., where folks watch and discuss movies, while Boyd, an actor, took on a leading role in “No Greater Love,” the musical depicting the Granite Mountain-Speculator Mine fire.
The duo also launched their own production company called Covellite Studios, took part in three ongoing or planned projects with scenes filmed in Butte, and bought an Uptown building to house their operations.
To some, the Covellite Studios building at 61 W. Broadway St. might seem like a series of dilapidated old store fronts, replete with signage from businesses that have long ago shut their doors. But in the two-story building, Boyd and Andrews see a field of dreams. In the building they want to create an animation bay, sound studio, rooms for editing and effects, living quarters, and an office and welcome center for the film festival on the ground level.
They purchased the building for $1,000 from Butte’s Urban Revitalization Agency last year. Since then, they’ve been slowly gutting the building, tearing down walls and drop ceilings, and building new load-bearing beams.
“It’s one of the things I use for a therapy,” Boyd said. “I’ll come up here and I’ll start scraping on the walls.”
As for the festival, Boyd and Andrews encouraged Butte residents who may have missed the films last year to stop by one of the Covellite’s nine screening locations.
“Come out, watch movies, meet some filmmakers,” said Andrews.