The city of Missoula sits on Salish land, and Montana is home to twelve tribal nations and seven Indian reservations, each with its own culture, language, identity, and history. Uniquely located to elevate Native voices, Big Sky Documentary Film Festival has a long tradition of celebrating Indigenous documentary film, stories from Indian Country and expressions of American Indian filmmakers. 

In 2018, the Big Sky Film Institute is proud to introduce the Native Filmmaker Initiative to bring more Indigenous stories to the festival, support and engage the American Indian media arts community and have a greater impact on community youth. The initiative includes special festival programming, educational outreach, a digital toolkit curated for Native filmmakers, and a fellowship program.


The Native Filmmaker Fellowship offers four filmmakers the opportunity to attend the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, DocShop filmmaker's forum, and a private seminar with leaders in the Indigenous filmmaking community and the film industry at large. The fellows will also automatically qualify to participate in the 4th World Media Lab at the Seattle International Film Festival in May 2018.


The program will be open to American Indian, Alaska Native and Hawaiian Native applicants from around the country, fellows will be selected and announced in early December. Fellows will receive:

     -  One All Access pass to  BSDFF including all screenings, DocShop sessions and special events
     -  Five nights of accommodations during the festival
     -  One round trip ticket to Missoula, ground transportation arranged
     -  A cash stipend for meals and incidentals in Missoula
     -  All expenses 4th World Lab experience to include round trip transportation, lodging and food for 4 days in Seattle

Fellows application currently closed for entry.


Each year, BSDFF screens a selection of impactful documentaries made by and about Native peoples. Our mission is to bring stories from across the globe to our beautiful mountain town, create a vibrant, quality event that gathers our engaged community and expand conversation around ideas that matter. Indigenous stories and storytellers are paramount to this conversation, and the Native Filmmaker Initiative seeks to elevate the role of Native documentary filmmakers, their perspectives and artistic expressions, in this dialogue.

The festival seeks documentary films directed or produced by American Indian (Native American), Alaska Native and Hawaiian Native filmmakers. Entry fees are waived, and submissions may be of any length, form, genre, and subject matter. The deadline for submissions is October 6, 2017. Selections will screen in the Native Voices strand of the 15th annual Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, February 16-25, 2018.

Submissions for the 2018 program strand are now CLOSED.


To accompany these new programs, BSFI is in the process of curating a digital resource and toolkit where Native filmmakers, storytellers of Native narratives and interested movie-goers can learn more about the history and opportunities in American Indian media. The resource center will feature materials from the National Museum of the American Indian Smithsonian (NMAI), the University of Montana Native American Studies department, and Vision Maker Media, which works with Native producers to develop, produce and distribute educational telecommunications programs for all media including public television and public radio. This digital resource will also include materials on filmmaking and getting work into festivals, to promote and encourage filmmaking as a vocation.

This feature will debut following the 2018 Big Sky Documentary Film Festival. Interested in contributing? Email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


An important part of the Big Sky Film Institute’s mission is bringing our global and educational stories to the next generation. Each year during the BSDFF we bring our quality programming into classrooms with our Filmmakers in the Schools program, in which have special in-school screening of age-appropriate documentaries followed by a discussion with the filmmaker. A part of our NFI educational outreach program will be to bring Indigenous content and films from Native American filmmakers into classrooms, giving students the unique opportunity to dive in deeper into the content of the films by voicing questions and talking with the filmmakers themselves.

In partnership with Inspired Classroom, BSFI is working to become a resource for schools to gain access to educational films about American Indian culture and films produced by Native filmmakers. BSFI is acquiring educational content, including films with classroom guides and curricula, and working with educators to bring this content into classrooms in the fall of 2017. During the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, Native filmmakers will be featured in the Filmmakers in the Schools program, sending filmmakers to classrooms in the Missoula area as well as virtually via video conferencing technology, to discuss their films with middle and high-school age students.


The Big Sky Native Filmmaker Initiative is funded in part by a FilmWatch Grant from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences