BOZEMAN — Film has the power to bring people together, regardless of age, gender, political affiliation or motive. The art of storytelling has transfixed audiences for thousands of years.
Stories difficult to put into words are put on the screen. BZN 2021, the Bozeman International Film Festival, is screening over 100 films to the community. Available both in person and via the festival's app, filmmakers from around the country and right in our own community will soon have a Bozeman premiere.
“I’ve been really excited to have this film screen in my own community, where I’ve been talking about this case to my friends for the last five years,” Christi Cooper says, “There’s a lot of really activated people here in Bozeman, where this film could resonate with them.”
Christi Cooper is the owner of Barrelmaker Productions and the director and producer for the documentary film, "Youth v. Gov".
“This experience was really interesting and rewarding. For the first two and a half years, I was working by myself. I had friends that would go on shoots with me and basically work for free. I would pay them back later, but they really supported me. We drove across the country and filmed this journey together,” Cooper said.
"Youth v. Gov" was a five-year project that eventually led to a team being formed through connections with Montana State University and an eventual co-production partnership with Vulcan Productions.
Releasing a film in the midst of a pandemic ultimately forced cast and crew to stay separate during a momentous occasion. The BZN International Film Festival will be Cooper’s fifth festival in person, out of the twenty-plus film festivals the documentary has been in.
Another documentary film screening in Bozeman is "The First Step". Directed by Brandon Kramer, the film follows Anthony Van Jones and a team of activists that work to bring liberals and conservatives together on a criminal justice reform bill.
“It’s a behind-the-scenes look at policymaking, and it looks at the perils of bipartisanship. The film focuses a lot on ‘Van’ in his attempt to work across the aisle and engage with conservative leaders, he was really attacked by people in his community for taking that step,” Kramer said.
One of the activists featured in the film is Louis L. Reed, the senior director of membership and partnerships for the REFORM alliance. Raised in Bridgeport, Connecticut, during a cocaine crisis of the 1990s, Reed witnessed at a young age the criminal justice system.
“Both of my parents were indicted, and they served a term of federal imprisonment,” Reed said. “One of the things that I understood is that I had more friends that were incarcerated and or lost their life than who graduated high school.”
Reed explains that access to housing, employment, healthcare, and other services is lacking for those released from the U.S. prison system.
“It’s a film meant to humanize leaders on both sides and to create a film that is not partisan. Just from having conversations, Bozeman is a very politically diverse city. My team and I are really eager for our film to play in a city like this,” Kramer said.
"Youth v. Gov" will be screening at the BZN2021 Festival on Friday, Sept. 10 at 1:30 p.m. in the Emerson Center Ballroom. "The First Step" will be screening on Sunday, Sept. 12 at 7:00 p.m. in the Crawford Theater at The Emerson Center.