Portland Film Festival, while still a ‘baby’ festival as far as film festivals go, has already established itself as a major regional player. Since its inception, the festival has aspired to be more than just a place to see movies, incorporating a robust schedule of panels and workshops into the schedule. Last year there was even a day long zombie film shoot.
This year, under new Director of Programming Brad Wilke, who founded the Catalyst Program at Seattle International Film Festival, the program possesses a focus and gravity that surpasses previous years. On top of that, over 50% of the presenting directors are women. Film Festivals have really been leading the charge to bring gender equality to Hollywood. Also new this year are the Milestones and Visionaries Sections, celebrating classics of cinema, including Q&As with Chuck Palahniuk for CHOKE and William F. Nolan for LOGAN’S RUN.
“This year’s screenings, panels, and programs are an exciting cross-section of icons of classic cinema, engaging new filmmakers, and the best of modern indie film,” says Josh Leake, Portland Film Festival Founder and Executive Director; “We’re truly proud to bring this year’s eclectic program to local audiences.”
Here are some highlights of PDXFF.
MIDDLE MAN (Opening Night Narrative) A dark comedy about an accountant who becomes the least funny stand –up ever, until he teams up with a morally-lacking manager who thinks he can make a ‘killing’ off his client’s naivete. Ned Crowley directs Jim O’Heir (Parks & Rec), Andrew J. West (The Walking Dead) in a film that resembles a that car crash that happens in slow motion on the other side of the highway… you…can’t…stop…watching…
PANOPTICON (Narrative Competition) World Premiere – A webcam hacker stays inside all day watching the lives of others through his computer, desperate to be a part of the outside world, but held in check by a strange sun allergy. As his voyeurism draws him closer to his subject, the ‘hero’ faces the problematic conflict of revealing himself to save them from themselves.
THE REMNANT (Narrative Competition) World Premiere – A post-apocalyptic teen musical about a work house orphanage where they clean garbage out of waste water for reuse in a land that hasn’t seen rain in seven years. Based on a stage play, the film features heart-stirring songs and a multi-cultural cast of non-professional actors in a world where the sun coming up tomorrow is the worst thing that can happen.
SOME FREAKS (Narrative Competition) A high school kid picked-upon for his one eye falls for the edgy fat girl, both improperly defined by their appearances, until they go off to college, each taking a step toward ‘standard,’ and find they have little left in common. For a first feature, Ian MacAllister McDonald shows remarkable courage and understanding, and a willingness to not let anyone off easy, including the audience. See my full interview and do not miss your chance to catch this one.
UNSEEN (Documentary Competition) A harrowing true crime story from Cleveland, where police found eleven bodies buried below the home of known sex offender Anthony Sowell, who was able to execute his crimes because most people looked the other way on the crime-ridden corner beset by heroin addicts. Giving a voice to the ‘invisible’ victims, including several women who escaped the serial killer, UNSEEN is less about the crime and more about the society that let it happen.
YESTERDAY WAS EVERYTHING (Documentary Competition) World Premiere – You don’t have to like metalcore or even know what it is to appreciate this story of band that rose from the ashes of tragedy reforming with their original members and going back out on the road… without first trying to deal with any of the reasons they went their separate ways in the first place. Possibly the best behind-the-scenes band doc since Some Kind of Monster.
MY MILLENNIAL LIFE (Stranger than Fiction) US Premiere – Millennials, where did they come from and when will they ever grow up? Canadian filmmaker Maureen Judge, whose somewhat disturbing doll-collecting-doc LIVING DOLLS I had the opportunity of world premiering at Austin Film Festival, has a keen eye for characters, not judging, but also not letting them off the hook for the idiosyncrasies. The film follows five twenty-somethingz trying to navigate their way into adulthood as they face the dismal future we all made for them (but surely, they could proof read that email they just sent all the same, right?)
The 2016 PORTLAND FILM FESTIVAL will screen 54 narrative and documentary feature films and 89 short films selected from over 3,800+ submissions, August 29 – September 5, 2016, at Portland’s iconic Laurelhurst Theater. Complete festival lineup and passes are available at: www.portlandfilmfestival.com. [full disclosure… or self-promotion… Portland is also playing my short Roadside Assistance… so if you are there, come to the SciFi Shorts block on Friday night)