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Montana Documentary About Paradise Valley Selected As Banff Competition Finalist

A documentary about a community’s fight to stop a gold mine north of Yellowstone National Park will premiere Saturday at the prestigious Banff Mountain Film Competition in Canada.

Erik Petersen is an award-winning filmmaker based in Clyde Park, north of Livingston. He says getting into the Banff competition is one of the goals he sets for himself each time he makes a documentary. His newest, Paradise, will be his third film to make the cut.

“I’m just excited to have it in front of such a big audience. That’s kind of the goal with these outdoor adventure documentaries. You put so much work and time into them that it’s exciting to be rewarded with an audience of that size and that stature,” Petersen says.

His 20-minute film focuses on a diverse group of local business owners, conservationists and recreationists who unify against exploratory drilling in Emigrant Gulch to protect their quality of life and the tourism economy in Paradise Valley.

The film shows breath-taking views of snowy peaks and the Yellowstone River that winds through the valley, as well as little scenes of daily life (e.g. making pancakes, waxing skis, feeding chickens) from the people who call this place home.

“I hope my grandkids grow up and love this place. I hope they understand that their grandpa fought for this place,” Bryan Wells says in a clip from Paradise.

Petersen says Wells, a conservative, small business owner, played a big role in bringing all the different groups together.

“He was kind of the bridge to bring the environmental groups and the conservation groups and the business owners and the landowners and the ranchers of Paradise Valley. I think he helped unify all those groups,” Petersen says.

Petersen says Wells will help introduce the film in Banff on Saturday. Public screenings of Paradise and panel discussions are tentatively planned for early January in Bozeman, Livingston and Red Lodge.