Spellbound and Inspired: The Power of an International Wildlife Film Festival

Talented filmmakers. A vast array of wildlife film stars.  Ranger Rick on the WildWalk Parade. And three sponsored films—including a feature-length. In short, it was another WILD-ly successful International Wildlife Film Festival (IWFF) in Missoula thanks to the Roxy Theater.

You know it’s spring when the International Wildlife Film Festival comes to town!  The festivities kicked off with the WildWalk parade on Earth Day. Hundreds of people ventured out to downtown Missoula to celebrate and to launch the start of IWFF. Ranger Rick arrived just in time to kick off the march down North Higgins Street, with a throng of film-fest friends in wildlife-themed costumes marching alongside him. There was even a Ranger Rick doppelganger.

The WildFest was a great opportunity to talk to both kids and adults about the importance of native species and habitat gardening. This year’s festival focus was fight or flight, so we tailored our booth to have information on native birds, birdhouses, bird feeders, and the different kinds of seeds that native birds like to eat. We even had examples of seeds for the kids to pick up and play with.

But what is the main highlight of the International Wildlife Film Festival? Not only is it in our own backyard, it’s an abundance of stunning stories about the wildlife that surround us and the delicate web of life that sustains us. This is what brings the Federation back to support the event each year. We were particularly drawn to support these highly compelling stories. The first, Sym-Bee-O-Sis, details the life of native bees and the secret killer of their populations. Grounded follows researchers at MPG Ranch, a 15,000-acre conservation property used for research, restoration, and education. In this film they nurse a fallen eagle back to health and release them. Last but not least, Canada: Surviving the Wild North is a feature-length film that takes us through the intricate systems that make life in the wild north possible. Each screening was followed by a Q & A with The Roxy filmmakers or film subjects fielding questions from the audience. What determines stylistic choices? How did filmmakers get their start? Why do the film subjects do what they do? How did the filmmakers decide on a topic and what did they learn about the wildlife they were filming while on site?

Learn more about our work: National Wildlife Federation, Northern Rockies, Prairies and Pacific Region

Following the screening for Canada, Federation affiliate Mandela van Eeden, Sporting Communications Coordinator for the Montana Wildlife Federation, gave a fantastic presentation on her life, her experiences, and where she finds her passion for conservation work. Beginning with her Didgeridoo, Mandela showcased her talent for music and skill replicating native bird calls. She then shared how her time living in southern Africa, Australia, and now Montana, and conversations with conservationists has inspired and shaped her own interest in conservation. Across her career as a river guide, teacher, sportswoman, and radio host, she’s discovered a wide cross-section of possibilities and has fine-tuned the art of storytelling. Her passion for the natural world is contagious! 

“The International Wildlife Film Festival is a source of deep inspiration for us all, a compelling reminder of the wonder that surrounds us and the opportunity we all have to take action to preserve wildlife and wild places. Stay tuned for the 2024 International Wildlife Film Festival, each year is better than the last!”

Erin Ferris-Olsen, Regional Director for Northern Rockies, Prairies, and Pacific

Wildlife films are spellbinding and the week goes by quickly. When the last curtain fell, the National Wildlife Federation and the Roxy Theater co-hosted a closing dinner with live music. We were reminded of the most important conservation issues and the people who do the hard work to safeguard our wildlife, our rivers, and our lands.