Rapid Training Graduates Celebrate the Success of "Return to the Blanket" at Big Sky Documentary Film Festival

February 21, 2024 Accelerate Montana Team

Accelerate Montana is proud to announce the exceptional achievements of Return to the Blanket, a compelling film directed by Amanda Bearmedicine (Rapid Training Production Assistant PA Graduate) and co-produced by Lynn-Wood Fields and Joseph Grady. This impactful short film recently received first place in the Indigenous Challenge at the Big Sky Film Festival, highlighting its recognition as one of the winning films from the 2023 Indigenous Filmmaker Challenge run by AudPop, a social impact video platform based in Missoula, MT.

The film follows Joseph, a Blackfeet man raised by a white Irish family during the "sixties scoop," as he embarks on a journey of self-discovery guided by ancestral knowledge and cultural heritage amidst an abundance of lost and innocent blankets. "Innocent blankets" refers to the historical practice of forcibly separating Indigenous children from their families and communities, often under the illusion of providing them with better opportunities.

Accelerate Montana is honored to support this work and is proud to have played a role in empowering aspiring filmmakers through its Rapid Training Production Assistant program. By providing comprehensive training and support to Production Assistants, Accelerate Montana has contributed to job creation, expanded career horizons, and empowered Indigenous peoples to pursue their passion for filmmaking.

During the production of Return to the Blanket, 15 graduates from Accelerate Montana's Rapid Training Production Assistant Course, including 10 Indigenous graduates, received hands-on training. The achievement of Return to the Blanket highlights the effectiveness of our program in equipping aspiring filmmakers with the skills and experience needed to excel in the film industry.

Lynn-Wood Fields, the Program Manager for Film & Media at Accelerate Montana, expressed pride in the role the Rapid Training program has played in the film's success. "It's incredibly rewarding to see our graduates produce award-winning work like 'Return to the Blanket," she remarked. "Our program not only equips individuals with valuable skills but also fosters a supportive community where diverse voices can thrive."

In addition to its success at the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival, Return to the Blanket is currently being showcased at four high schools in Missoula, offering audiences the opportunity to engage in Q&A sessions with the filmmakers, Joseph Grady and Production Assistant Amanda Bearmedicine.

As the film continues to captivate audiences and garner accolades, Accelerate Montana remains steadfast in its commitment to nurturing talent, promoting diversity, and championing inclusive storytelling within the film industry. 

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to all those who contributed to the success of Return to the Blanket. Your dedication, passion, and support have been instrumental in bringing this powerful story to audiences around the world. Production Assistants from the Accelerate Montana Rapid Training Program, including Leslie Belcourt, Evan Smith, Charles Wells, Shana Brown, Justin Ras, Lee Running Crane, Desiree Rowland, Tommy Falcon, Tanya Gardner, Rachel Pauli, Nathan Kornick, Robyn Iron, Juniper Mckelvie, Lucy Takeuchi, Chrissa Kazmierowski, Kristin Bloom, and Carla Hernandez, played a crucial role in the film's production.

Additionally, we'd like to thank other contributors such as Jordyn Taylor, Adrianne Smith, Chaytan Reid, Amber Lamb, State Tribal Economic Development Commission, Tribal Tourism, Roxy Theater, Montana Film Festival, Nova Vento, Amanda Bearmedicine's family, and Joseph Grady for sharing the story. Thank you for your invaluable contributions to this remarkable accomplishment. Your support has made all the difference.

For more information about Accelerate Montana's Production Assistant course visit https://bit.ly/3L5GVL0 or contact Lynn-Wood Fields at lynnwood.fields@mso.umt.edu.

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