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AND THE WINNERS ARE... 34th Annual International Wildlife Film Festival, 5/7-14 in Missoula, Montana

April 28, 2011View for printing


Missoula, Montana --- As seven days of final judging wrapped up on Sunday, March 27th, six judges from around the world prepared to head home, leaving behind many newly crowned award-winning films. Elephants, wild horses, wolves, pandas, prairies, prairie dogs and Finland dominated the day, giving animal, film and nature lovers of all types a reason to flock to the theaters May 7-14 for the 34th Annual International Wildlife Film Festival , with this year's special theme of --- "Hope in a Changing World." The films this year offer hope indeed!

The IWFF Best of Festival award has consistently gone to a film combining a captivating story with breathtaking footage, and, this year, executive director Janet Rose urged the judges to incorporate conservation into their analyses. "Even the world's greatest scientists," says Rose, "proclaim that conservation must be a part of wildlife films." Rose adds, "If anything, there were too many great films that the judges had to choose from."

This year's selection, however, rose to the top throughout the process. "Echo, An Unforgettable Elephant," is the 34th IWFF Best of Festival winner. The film is a celebration of the life and legacy of Echo, the world's most famous elephant. Without giving the story away completely, as this matriarchal elephant's life draws to a close in the midst of a relentlessly cruel drought, the focus turns to the drama of her band of 38 elephants and their struggles against hunger and poachers in the wake of the loss of their leader. Will they survive? "Echo" was produced by award-winning filmmaker, Mike Birkhead, for the BBC's Natural World and also received an award for Best Shot.

Coincidentally, "Echo" fits perfectly with this year's festival art and poster, which features a majestic elephant wading through lush green grass, white egrets atop its head, and was created by Kenya-based artist Chris Robitaille, whose brother Greg is a tennis pro in Missoula. In addition, this year's recipient of the IWFF Lifetime Achievement Award for Conservation will be awarded to world-renowned elephant scientist and founder of "Save the Elephants," Dr. Iain Douglas-Hamilton. Douglas-Hamilton will give one of the IWFF Keynotes on Tuesday, May 10th at 6 p.m. Sponsored by The President's Office, Royce Engstrom, of The University of Montana, the Keynote will be at the UC Theater on the 3rd floor of The University Center and is free and open to the public.

"Echo" faced tough competition from this year's nearly 300 entries, including "Vikings of the Wilderness: Finland," the winner of the Sapphire Award and Best Cinematography, as well as "Panda Makers" and "Great Migrations," the recipients of the Special Jury Awards for Program and for Series, respectively.

"Finland" features stunning images of the glaciers, volcanoes and virgin forests that make up the untamed natural world of Northern Europe and reveals unique behaviors of flying squirrels, wolves, bears and wolverines. "Panda Makers" and "Great Migrations" are breathtaking tales of species survival. "Panda Makers" highlights an extraordinary and controversial conservation project in central China to breed and release 300 Giant Pandas to help bring the species back from the brink of extinction. Powerful and inspiring, "Great Migrations" examines how numerous land, air and water-bound species undertake remarkable journeys to ensure their survival in an ever-changing world.

Nearly 100 films will be screened over the eight-day festival in May, and, for the first time, films will be opening at the Roxy Theater. On Saturday, May 7th only, two theaters at the Roxy will be in use simultaneously, allowing those in attendance to move between films and theaters as the day progresses. Multiple films will be screened throughout the morning, afternoon and evening of Saturday, May 7th. The rest of the week, all films will be screened at the Wilma Theatre.

Also unique and special this year --- two-time Grammy Award winner and Native American Performer of the Year, Robert Mirabal, will perform a one-night-only benefit concert at the Wilma on May 12th at 9pm. The concert will follow the World Premiere of the IWFF finalist "Wild Horses and Renegades." Two films this year focus on the wild horse issue in America. Tickets must be purchased specifically for the film/concert special event and are available at Rockin Rudy's and through the IWFF at the Roxy Theater, 718 S. Higgins.

For more information about the 34th IWFF, to purchase tickets or to learn how you can participate or attend the many public events, contact IWFF at 406.728.9380 or email You can also visit the IWFF website at


The Mission of IWFF & the International Wildlife Media Center is:

To promote awareness, knowledge and understanding of wildlife, habitat, people and nature through excellence in film, television & other media

Contact: Janet Rose, Exec. Dir. 406.728.9380 or 880-0683

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Reprinted under the Fair Use doctrine of international copyright law. Full copyright retained by the original publication. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.

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