Thursday, May 14, 2015
Snowy drive — It may have seemed out of place, but the blizzard over Mother’s Day weekend was typical Black Hills. The blizzard hit early Saturday morning, starting with rain and turning to snow by mid-morning. Keystone even had trees bent and limbs snapped due to the heavy, wet snow. For more information on the May blizzard go to page 14. [PN Photo/CARRIE MOORE]
By Kacie Svoboda
One fateful day seven years ago, Rick and Chris VanNess were having lunch at the Alpine Inn with members of the South Dakota Film Office when an exciting idea arose. The film office members mentioned that Hill City would be a great place to have a film festival, claiming that it would be like the Sundance Film Festival in its smaller, early days.
Rick and Chris considered the idea, recruited Janna Emmel to help and subsequently the Black Hills Film Festival (BHFF) was born. The first festival was held in May 2010, just eight months after they incorporated the organization as a non-profit.
According to festival executive director Chris, the 2015 BHFF was slated to present “lots of good films,” including “many nice historical documentaries for the history buffs, good dramas and six seminars to learn behind-the-scenes information about filmmaking.”
Films for the festival are selected based on two major criteria — telling stories that hold the interest of the audience and presenting topics of special interest to people of the Black Hills region.
One of the highlights of the 2015 BHFF was to be a reception on the 1880 Train on the last day of the festival, May 10, in honor of this year’s train theme. On May 10, 1869, the Union and the Central Pacific railroads joined their rails at Promontory Summit in the Utah Territory and the golden spike was driven to join them. South Dakota State Railroad Museum director Rick Mills had a replica golden spike on display and planned to show the classic movie “Union Pacific” by Cecil B. DeMille.
However, due to the May blizzard, these Sunday events have yet to happen. With rain turning to heavy snow on Saturday, the BHFF board of directors decided to move up the award ceremony to noon, shut down the Hill City Harley-Davidson venue, end the Hill City High School programs at 5 p.m. and postpone the late Saturday and Sunday showings for a later date.
Despite the winter weather, five films were honored at the impromptu award ceremony — “Beyond the Tree Line” for Best Student Film, “Powerful Medicine: Simply Magic” for Best Documentary Short, “Beyond the Divide” for Best Documentary Feature, “Lightning in the Hand” for Best Short Film and “East Side Sushi” for Best Feature Film.
“East Side Sushi” is one of Chris’ personal favorites.
“It is a good Mother’s Day film,” she explained. “It is about a single mom, Juana, who wants to follow her dream to become a real chef and overcomes some cultural challenges along the way.”
Fortunately, “East Side Sushi” and “Behind the Tree Line” should be part of the rescheduled films and those interested in seeing them and others from the original May 10 line-up can watch for BHFF notices on upcoming opportunities to view these films on the organization’s website or email them at Info@BlackHillsFilmFestival.org to get on the notices mailing list.