HELENA – The director of an award-winning documentary focusing on Montana’s battle over disclosure of campaign spending, says the film is receiving a strong reaction in the state.
“Dark Money” opened this week at theaters in Helena, Missoula and Billings. It also received a one-night only showing in Bozeman.
“In a lot of ways, this is a homecoming for the film,” said director Kimberly Reed.
Over the weekend, Reed held a number of question-and-answer sessions after screenings of the movie.
“The reception for the screenings we’ve had so far has been wonderful,” she said.
After a screening at the Myrna Loy Center in Helena Sunday afternoon, Reed was joined by Republican state Rep. Rob Cook of Conrad and former state Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl, both featured in the film. They took questions from a nearly full auditorium.
The term “dark money” refers to spending on advertisements, mailers and other materials intended to influence campaigns, when the source of that spending is difficult to track. The documentary follows Montana reporters and political leaders as they investigate those sources.
Montana experienced a rush of that type of campaign spending about a decade ago. In 2015, the Montana Legislature passed a law known as the Disclose Act, which sought to regulate spending and require more reporting on where it came from and where it was spent.
Reed said Montana’s story is a relevant example for the whole country.
“What I think people are going to get when they watch the film is not just this vague idea that this stuff is going on, but a very precise connecting of the dots that shows how this stuff goes on,” she said.
Reed said political figures from both the Republican and Democratic parties played important roles in taking on “dark money” in Montana. She said she sees the film less as a story about politics, and more as one about people working together to find a solution.
“I think that our film celebrates these kind of everyday heroes, just doing their jobs and doing it with a lot of integrity,” she said. “They weren’t doing it because they thought they would be celebrated for it, but it’s nice to be able to call some attention to these people.”
Reed, who grew up in Helena, said the state itself is an important part of the movie.
“I love showing off Montana – how beautiful it is, but even more than that the people that make up Montana,” she said.
“Dark Money” is scheduled to play through this week at the Myrna Loy Center, as well as in Billings and Missoula. It will also air nationally on PBS television stations this fall.