by Carrie Specht
The third annual Portland Film Festival starts Tuesday, September 1 and runs through Monday, September 7. By all accounts the festival has established itself (within just a few short years) as a strong national presence, known for eclectic films and unique events. Even the esteemed Moviemaker Magazine recently named the festival “one of the coolest film festivals in the world.” This is strong praise indeed when you consider how many festivals are out there each vying to establish some kind of relevant international profile. And this year’s lineup is stronger than ever.
It may surprise some that Portland is celebrating just its third year as host to a film fest. I mean, it is a pretty mighty metropolis on the Pacific seaboard, and doesn’t just about every major city have a film festival in its gazilliunth year? Well, it may be late to the party, but Portland is going strong and doing things right as a leader in the celebration of cinema and those who make it. Fans of the fledgling event will find plenty to feast on with a variety of screenings and events including the highly anticipated ZOMBIE DAY. This will be a free live (mostly – get it?) event that will be attempting to make a new Guinness Book World Record. The goal is to utilize two thousand festival-goers as extras in the short film, “Zombie Day Apocalypse”. I have to say that’s a pretty unique lure that promises to be entertaining even of they don’t make the record. After all, when will you ever get another chance to play a zombie in a movie?
Also on the schedule is a tribute to WILL VINTON, Portland’s Academy Award-winning stop motion pioneer. He’ll receive the Lifetime Achievement Award for Innovation in Filmmaking. WENDY FROUD, the acclaimed creature sculptor and puppet maker will also be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her work as a fabricator on Yoda for “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back” (awesome!). In the same week there will be over seventy workshops led by top industry pros, the obligatory After Parties with live musical performance, and a chance to meet and network with over three hundred and fifty visiting filmmakers (assuming everyone makes their flights).
This year’s film slate includes a diverse selection of competition films, world premieres, spotlights on music themed documentaries and local filmmakers. The talent appearing in films being shown includes James Franco in Yosemite, Jane Seymour in Bereave, Cloris Leachman and Judd Nelson in This is Happening, wrestler Jake The Snake in The Resurrection of Jake The Snake, Patton Oswald in Dude Bro Party Massacre III (the title entices me to check out I and II), and docs on rock the bands Morphine and Twisted Sister. And that’s just a smattering of what’s in store. Full the full festival lineup and info to purchase passes and tickets go to: www.portlandfilmfestival. com
The nonprofit Portland Film Festival was founded by filmmaker and Executive Director Josh Leake in 2013, and is made possible by the generous donation of time and skills by over 300 volunteers each year. Last year the festival drew 23,000 ticket holders (no way of counting the crashers), 240 visiting filmmakers (many from outside the U.S.) and more than a thousand industry members, making it one of Oregon’s most popular cultural events. That’s actually saying a lot considering Portland still stands as one of the meccas of the music industry. With credentials like that, there’s no doubt the Portland Film Festival will continue to raise among the “must” festivals for filmmakers and attendees alike. I encourage going now while the event is still young and playful. It may always remain so, but why take a chance?