The 5th annual Portland Film Festival will have 152 titles playing this year. It will showcase ten feature films in one week that are all about Portland, Oregon. Those ten are part of a selection called “Portland Lens.” There are other notable trends. 89 of the 152 selections have women as directors, but November is Native American Heritage Month and the festival has curated a group of films, specifically focusing on the Native American experience. Several festivals are exclusively about that experience, but the specific selection here is worth spotlighting.
The selection is called “Indigenous Voices.” There are five features in that selection, four documentaries and one narrative.
When They Awake is one of the two, opening-night films. It chronicles the rising musicians among Indigenous peoples, showing their roles not only in the music scene but also in the community and in the political scene.
Mashpee Nine is about the 40th anniversary of the police raid on July 29, 1976, and subsequent trial of nine members of the Wampanoag tribe in Mashpee, Massachusetts, which is a town on Cape Cod.
On a Knife Edge is an ITVS profile of George Dull Knife, a Lakota teenager on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, as he fights for social justice but comes into conflict with his father and his old ways.
Unauthorized! The Story of the Fighting Sioux tells the story about the University of North Dakota having to change the name of its mascot due to NCAA rules.
The Watchman’s Canoe is the one narrative about a biracial girl who is half-white and half-Indigenous, as well as her difficulties at school and at home.
Of the ten features that are part of the “Portland Lens,” four are documentaries. The rest are narratives. One of which is also part of the “Indigenous Voices,” that of The Watchman’s Canoe.
Zilla & Zoe is the other of the two, opening-night films. The comedy follows two sisters, one of which is getting married and the other is trying to make a horror film.
The Benefits of Gusbandry is a compilation of the first season of the web series of the same name, which focuses on a Will & Grace-type relationship and features two actors from Zilla & Zoe. The screening will also include 3 new episodes from the upcoming second season.
Alien Boy: The Life and Death of James Chasse is the real-life story about a man who died while in police custody. Even though the man who died wasn’t black, this incident was a precursor to the Black Lives Matter Movement in its criticism of unarmed men dying at the hands of police.
There are two, closing-night films. Like on opening night, one is a documentary and the other is a narrative.
Out of State is about Hawaiian inmates who are sent to prisons on the continental United States, places like Arizona, and how it affects them as well as their loved ones who lose easy access.
Crash Pad is the new comedy with Domnhall Gleeson (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) as a hopeless romantic disillusioned by the married woman, played by Christina Applegate (Married With Children), who was simply having an affair with him to get revenge on her husband.
The festival also has special screenings, panel discussions and famous guests. Those guests include Aisha Tyler, formerly of CBS’ The Talk, who’s bringing her directorial debut, Axis, which focuses on a movie star and his sobriety. Shia LaBeouf brings his art project, #TakeMeAnywhere, which follows the young actor on a social media, crowd-sourced journey across America. Joe Dante, the director of Gremlins, is speaking on a panel about Horror and Social Justice, as well as screening his Oscar-winning film Innerspace (1987) for its 30th anniversary.
This blog will be updated with reviews from a half-dozen or so of the films from this festival, #PDXFF17.
Reviews will include Zilla & Zoe, Thirsty, The Valley, On a Knife Edge, Alien Boy: The Life and Death of James Chasse, The VelociPastor, Out of State and Axis.
The Portland Film Festival begins October 30 and runs to November 5. All screenings are at the Laurelhurst Theatre in Portland. Presenting sponsor is Comcast. For more information, times and tickets, go to PortlandFilmFestival.com.