Black Hills Film Festival changes date

Gray Hughes

Throughout the history of the event, the Black Hills Film Festival has been held in the spring.

However, after receiving feedback from attendees last year, Chris VanNess, executive director of the film festival, said the film festival will move to February.

“We had comments in the surveys that it was too busy for both volunteers and patrons when it was held in April and May,” she said. “We found a date in February that was open.”

In 2020 the film festival will be Feb. 20-25. Feb. 20-21, the film festival will be in Rapid City at the Elks Theatre, Feb. 21-23, the film festival will be in Hot Springs, Feb. 22-23 the film festival will be at the high school theater in Hill City and on Feb. 25 the film festival will be at the Matthews Opera House in Spearfish.

VanNess said the change in the schedule will give people something to do during the winter and help battle “cabin fever.”

While there were some concerns about moving the film festival to a time of the year when much of the tourist areas in the Black Hills — particularly Hill City — are shut down, VanNess said she has talked with merchants groups who expressed stores would be willing to aid filmmakers and patrons coming to visit the area.

VanNess singled out Miner Brewing Company and the Alpine Inn as two examples of businesses that “rise to the occasion” to help out both patrons and filmmakers during the festival.

Over 40 volunteers are needed to make the film film festival a possibility, VanNess said. And, while the dates of the show may be different this year, VanNess said the overall spirit will remain the same.

“Anytime we hear about a local person who has done well in the film industry we like to highlight that,” VanNess said. “It is in our mission to support local filmmakers.”

The film festival already has roughly 40 films ready to be screened, she added, and several of those are from South Dakota filmmakers.

While VanNess said organizers don’t know yet what the feature film will be, they have some documentaries about which organizers are excited.

And, like always, there will be speakers, special guests and workshops such as the filmmaker training sessions.

So, while the dates of the show will be different, the general spirit of the show will remain, VanNess said.

This year, too, in a first for the film festival, the film festival has commissioned artists Sarah Rogers from Sundance, Wyo., to do an original piece to go on the covers of the film festival programs.

“And one of our board members did a short documentary on (Rogers), too,” VanNess said. “That will probably be showed during the festival.”

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