Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Newspaper, a Movie Theater and Lots of Montana Magic

When the first edition of The Billings Gazette rolled off the presses in the spring of 1885, it was a single page. A couple of decades later came the Babcock Theatre, completed downtown in 1907 and recently restored by its third owners, a collective of local residents.

Tonight, that double dose of Montana-old will collide with some Montana-new in the form of the third annual Magic City Shorts Film Festival, sponsored by the Gazette. A total of 15 shorts were selected for the event and, well, let's just say that several of the featured filmmakers are much younger than either the newspaper or the movie theater.

Per a great write-up by Gazette arts and entertainment reporter Jaci Webb, Toyland, a two-minute cautionary tale about guns in the home, was made by eight-year-old Ali Kniefel, with help from her stepfather Mikel Wolf. Another entry, Outlast, is even shorter - one minute, 40 seconds - and was put together by 13-year-old Alex Laas. From Webb's article:

Laas made the short film in Los Angeles in August as part of his Make-A-Wish Montana dream... Laas, who has cystic fibrosis, made his film through the New York Film Academy Summer Camp in LA. He lives in Billings with his parents and younger brother, David. He has invited his entire Boy Scout troop to watch the short with him.

Tonight's MC is Hot 101.9 FM personality Big J; the event's technical director is Dave Shumway, an accomplished wildlife and landscape photographer. And among the awards to be handed out is one named in honor of Babcock co-owner Kay Foster's late filmmaker son Geno.

A small town, a print newspaper, a surviving movie theater... Coming together to celebrate shorts and documentaries. Magic City, indeed.

[Make-A-Wish Montana]

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