Friday, November 9, 2012


As the 39th Northwest Filmmakers' Festival gets underway this evening at the NW Film Center, it's worth noting the marked difference between it and the MANY film fests hosted within the city limits each year (seriously, Portland, do ya like film much?).  Whereas POWFest, PIFF, QDoc, and all the other acronym heavy festivals populate their schedules with submissions around the globe, the NW Filmmakers' Fest places the emphasis on the makers, themes, and film community that's risen out of the NW region.

Call it a flavor, if you will, but one can't help but detect something different percolating below the surface of films made here in the Northwest.  Maybe it comes from being surrounded by more trees than buildings or perhaps it's the rain (or the coffee), but the political, social, and narrative concerns broached by so many of our region's filmmakers tend to shy away from the formulaic patterns thrown down by the big H-Wood (that's Hollywood, for those weary of made up slang).

Chel White's Bird of Flames

Given the small amount of time that I have to blog today, I'm just going to cut straight to the chase here.  I've only been able to view a small slice of the films screening at the fest, so there's bound to be gads of fine films programmed into the schedule that have yet to pass before my eyes.  With that in mind, I can definitely recommend a large handful of titles to catch over the next week and a half.

Lewis Bennett's The Sandwich Nazi

Let's start with the shorts:

Tonight's Shorts I presentation, which repeats again next Friday, contains several must-see short form works, including Lewis Bennett's The Sandwich Nazi, a beautiful and profane portrait of a deli shop proprietor with an endless series of outrageous stories to tell.  It's definitely not for the kiddies (unless your kids love hearing about some aging dude's sex life), but adults will be cackling throughout.  I'm also fond of Orland Nutt's bizarrely engaging Dear Peter, Wood Chips, an open letter to a friend that has the effect of transforming the mundane into something far more epic.  Nathaniel Akin's animated short A Tax on Bunny Rabbits, winner of the judge's award for best animated work at the fest, bounces around the screen for two minutes in a most pleasing and silly way.  I haven't seen Joanna Priestley's Dear Pluto yet, but I have viewed enough of her past work to know to seek out anything she makes.

Nathaniel Akin's A Tax on Bunny Rabbits

The compilation of works that make up the Shorts II program (scheduled for Sat. the 10th & Thurs. the 15th) includes the stunningly surreal Chrysta Bell music video Bird of Flames, directed by Chel White, likely the best (and weirdest) short at the fest that I've seen; of course, one would absolutely expect strange imagery matched to a song produced by and featuring David Lynch.  Also worth getting excited about: Kimberly Warner's CPR, which I raved about when it played POWFest earlier in the year, and Bahar Noorizadeh's Lingo.

Kimberly Warner's CPR

Shorts III has Tess Martin's beautifully animated piece The Whale Story, based on the Radiolab segment "Animal Minds."  I also really enjoyed Melissa Gregory Rue's Century Farm, Jarratt Taylor's The New Debutantes, and Rob Tyler's The Way We Melt (full disclosure: I'm friends with those last three filmmakers, but, y'know, if I didn't like the work, I would just neglect to mention it).  Shorts III plays on Sun. the 11th and Sat. the 17th.

Rob Tyler's The Way We Melt

As for the feature-length films on the schedule, the easy picks are Lynn Shelton's Your Sister's Sister and James Westby's Rid of Me, both of which received high profile releases and favorable press.  Just as worthy of recognition is Tom Olsen's The Crime of the D'autremont Brothers, a non-fiction piece exploring the forgotten history of a 1923 train robbery in Ashland, Oregon.  Matt McCormick's The Great Northwest returns to the Film Center for the fest (see my earlier review for it here).  And Jon Garcia's much talked about locally-produced film The Falls gets another local go-round.  I'm personally hoping to see Steve Doughton's Buoy over the next few days (it plays at the fest on Sat. the 17th), so keep an eye on the blog, since I expect to review it before the screening.

Tom Olsen's The Crime of the D'autremont Brothers

Anyone in the mood for some trailers?
Here, now, are the coming attractions (some of which I didn't mention, chiefly because I haven't seen the films):

The 39th Northwest Filmmakers' Festival begins on Friday, November 9th.  The festival website can be accessed here.

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