Saturday, October 12, 2013

Big Sky Cattle Ranching Doc Rumbles Into Helena

The screening schedule so far for Stephanie Alton's documentary Ridin' for the Brand has been short and Montana-sweet.

The movie sneaked in February at the Big Timber Cinema in Cottonwood, followed by a July outdoor screening at The Livingston Depot in Livingston. This weekend, her look at a year in the life of three practitioners of the age-old Montana concern known as cattle-ranching is tethered to the Myrna Loy Center in Helena.

The film shows this afternoon at 4:00 p.m. and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Among those who have already seen the film is Jim Harrison, author of the novella Legends of the Fall, Oscar-winningly adapted in 1994 with Brad Pitt and Sir Anthony Hopkins. He raves: "Loved your movie. It’s the best film I’ve ever seen on the new west which in terms of ranchers and cowboys is the same as it ever was. The film is utterly genuine."

Alton got her first education at Tacoma's Pacific Lutheran University, the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and NYU film school. But this movie is about her second education gained on various ranches around Montana.

She will be at both screenings for a Q&A, alongside some of the featured ranchers, Montana Historical Society historian Brian Shovers and reps for the Western Sustainability Exchange. As Alton explained to Helena Independent Record arts and entertainment reporter Marga Lincoln, she came to Montana after meeting a wrangler way out northwest in Alaska and following him back to Big Sky country. The rest is documentary history, although it took her ten years to complete the movie, aided by $20,000 from Kickstarter.

The film features music from Ben Bullington, a singer-songwriter who has been described by Rodney Crowell as someone who "draws life-breath from the earth, rivers, sky and people of Montana." Alton's editor Linn Harter, also NYU-minted, has made a similar feature documentary about a multi-generational fishing family still trying to make a go of it in and around Mexico's Sea of Cortez. That film is called Here Lies My Heart.

[Ridin' for the Brand]

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