Golden leaves floating down to the ground, cool and chilly mornings, pumpkin spice lattes – these are things you might typically associate with fall. But, in our frenzy of a film world, this means that festival season has begun! Three particular film festivals – the Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, the Tacoma Film Festival, and the Orcas Island Film Festival – are about to kick off their respective programs with stunning lineups and exciting events. Washington Filmworks interviewed the festival directors about the identity and state of their organization, as well as to get a glimpse of what audiences can expect this year.
2014 Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival (SLGFF): October 9-19
Executive Director: Jason Plourde; Festival Director: Kathleen Mullen
WF: The Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival is heading into its 19th year. How has the identity and brand of the festival changed from its inception to 2014?
Jason: Our organization, Three Dollar Bill Cinema, was founded to produce the Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival. And while it remains our largest program, it is just one of our year-round events. The size and scope of the festival has certainly evolved. In the first few years it was held in one cinema for seven days. Now we’re over 11 days at multiple venues and we’re able to show four times the amount of films. I think we’ve become a go-to festival for quality programming, fun guests, and great parties!
Kathleen: This festival has garnered national recognition for showcasing extraordinary and award-winning work, and it is a festival with a very loyal audience in a city that is excited about cinema. The LGBT community has really built the festival into THE event of the season. Many folks from all walks of life come out to attend and have a great time.
WF: In terms of programming, what can audiences anticipate and expect this year? What are your ‘must-sees’?
Kathleen: Audiences can anticipate 15 stellar shorts programs and an amazing collection of documentaries and features. Our Themes in Focus include World Watch, BFFS (Best Friends Forever), Local Connections, and Influential Women. We have a Thrive@5 series where all films are $5 at 5 PM. Some of these highlights include a transgendered love story, the documentary Off Road, and Alec Mapa: Baby Daddy. Alec Mapa will be in attendance. A major highlight of course is our Opening Night film Back on Board: Greg Louganis with Greg Louganis and Director Cheryl Furjanic in attendance. Our Centerpiece galas include the moving Blackbird starring the Academy Award® winner Mo’nique; the humorous and winsome Sundance hit Appropriate Behavior; and the intense and provocative Match, starring Patrick Stewart and Matthew Lillard. Lillard will be here along with director Stephen Belber for that screening. We close the festival with the comedy Life Partners about a gay woman and her best straight friend, played by Leighton Meester (Gossip Girl) and Gillian Jacobs (Community). And our parties are definitely “Don’t Miss” events, particularly our Club King After Party at Re-bar, put on by the infamous club promoter (and Seattle native) Mario Diaz!
WF: How do you two specifically see SLGFF benefiting the community, and what’s your vision of the festival as it enters its third decade soon?
Kathleen: For LGBTQ people a film festival like ours gives an opportunity to feel that you are part of a larger community, and to be able to see yourself and your experiences onscreen—to have characters and narratives that you can relate to. And it gives everyone a chance to see LGBTQ films that open another world or make you think about the issues in our community and in the greater LGBTQ world. It’s a unique forum for queer artists and filmmakers to show and discuss their work as well.
Jason: I see us continuing that mission and building on the support we can give to filmmaking happening in our local community.
SLGFF runs from October 9-19, and more information is available on their website.
2014 Tacoma Film Festival (TFF), October 9-16
Festival Director: Laura Marshall; Marketing Director at Grand Cinema: Zach Powers
WF: How did the Tacoma Film Festival originate, and what factors promote Washington’s film culture?
TFF: TFF was started in 2006 by the Grand Cinema’s Executive Director at the time, Shawn Sylvian. They played 55 films within the course of a week including local films – one a documentary about Thea Foss who created the first maritime service to cross the Port of Tacoma. TFF is the leading programmer and presenter of new South Sound films and of the over 100 films selected annually for TFF, usually over a third of those are films by Pacific Northwest filmmakers.We make promoting Washington films one of our top priorities, programming them at prime hours in venues where we believe they will have the highest potential to draw great audiences. We also work very hard to pitch our Washington selections to the media who cover TFF.
WF: What is particularly exciting about this year’s lineup?
TFF: TFF is growing exponentially and we’re extremely excited to welcome one of the most accomplished and beloved film critics of our time, Leonard Maltin, to this year’s festival. Almost our entire staff has read at least one of his books and his reviews are read and watched widely by our patrons at The Grand Cinema. It will be the first time that TFF and The Grand have welcomed a film personality of this prestige to Tacoma and we’re hoping that Leonard will be the first of many. As not only a television personality, but also a critic, historian and scholar of film, Leonard very much embodies the culture of film dialogue, education and exploration that we try to cultivate at both TFF and The Grand.
WF: What is your vision for the future of the Tacoma Film Festival?
TFF: We see TFF as a celebration of independent film mirroring Tacoma’s diverse and eclectic sensibilities. Now in its ninth year, we see the festival as an established and highly valued regional arts event, but each year our staff pushes ourselves to expand programming, find even better films and try to promote the festival to even more cinephiles both in Tacoma/Pierce County and beyond. Bringing in a major special guest this year in Leonard Maltin is a major expansion in programming and we’re sure it’s something we will be doing more of. TFF will always prioritize celebrating local film, but part of how we do that is holding up the best of local film right alongside the best of national and international indie film. As we grow we’re able to be increasingly selective in the national and international films we program and we’re able to book increasingly prestigious filmmakers and personalize to headline our events. In that way TFF is very much a formally “local” film festival in the midst of transitioning to the much more exclusive rank and file of “regional/national” film festival.
WF: How do you see Tacoma benefiting from the festival?
TFF: Tacoma’s arts scene is extraordinarily vibrant, home to a cadre of award-winning major arts organizations as well as thriving DIY film, visual arts, and music communities. You’d truly be hard pressed to find a city of 200,000 residents anywhere in the world indulging in such a passionate love-affair with the visual and performance arts. That said, because we’re not an enormous city we don’t have a ton of overlap in terms of who does what for major arts programs and events. The Grand Cinema is the flagship for independent film programs and TFF is its biggest event of the year and is by far the largest film festival in Pierce County. Any city as arts-centric as Tacoma deserves to have a great film festival, so not only does Tacoma benefit by having one, we feel a great honor to deliver a film festival befitting of our city’s arts scene. TFF is also an event that unites multiple centers for arts and culture as in addition to The Grand Cinema, TFF screenings are also held at The Museum of Glass, University of Washington Tacoma, and Tacoma Community College.
TFF runs from October 9-16, and more information is available on their website.
2014 Orcas Island Film Festival (OIFF), October 10-13
Co-Producer and Creative Director: Jared Lovejoy; Artistic Director: Carl Spence
WF: This is the first annual Orcas Island Film Festival. What was the impetus and motivation behind it?
OIFF: The San Juan Island Archipelago and, in particular, Orcas Island is an incredible cinematic environment. The Islands are also known for being supportive of the arts and progressive issues. Most importantly, there is a longtime cinema – The Seaview – on the island along with other great vibrant venues such as the Orcas Center which provide a strong foundation for the community to come together and showcase culture from around the world.
WF: How would you describe the character of your festival?
OIFF: The festival is a community effort put together entirely by volunteers that are passionate about film. We want to highlight films that push the edge and promote ideas that can illuminate and provoke discussion, debate, and, at the same time, entertain.
WF: Besides it being the first year, what kind of exciting films and events can audiences expect?
OIFF: We’ve put together an extraordinary line-up of films from 17 countries in our first year including 4 Academy Award® Submissions for Best Foreign Language Film from three continents: Chile (To Kill a Man), Spain (Living is Easy with Eyes Closed), Canada (Mommy), and Belgium (Two Days, One Night). A definite must see highlight is the audience award-winner from the most recent Toronto International Film Festival – The Imitation Game – which many critics are already touting as one of the best pictures of the year with standout performances by Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley. The film will be released in Seattle on Christmas Day. [There are also] fantastic documentaries looking at a wide-range of topics from the Yogi that brought Yoga to the US in the 20s (Awake: The Life of Yogananda), to the music shaman who resides on Orcas Island (Song of the New Earth) to a magical and quirky look at garden obsessed lovers – literally and figuratively – in Finland (Garden Lovers), amongst other fascinating topics. Renowned filmmakers with films in the festival include Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Xavier Dolan, David Trueba, Lynn Shelton and Lucas Moodyson, amongst others.
WF: What are your hopes and vision for the Orcas Island Film Festival in the future?
OIFF: Our hopes are for audiences to discover this magical place and setting and to see films that can also provide an equally rewarding experience. [We’d love] to expand the filmmaking opportunities as well as support film culture – the free exchange of ideas [that] build a stronger community on and off the island.
WF: What do you hope to achieve, this year at least, with the new festival?
OIFF: To provide the foundation for an annual event that will bring people to Orcas and provide filmmakers with an opportunity to share their work with audiences and each other.
OIFF runs October 10-13, and more information is available on their website.
Make sure to check out these three distinct and rousing film festivals, in addition to many more happening this time of year – Ellensburg Film Festival, Renton Film Frenzy, Seattle Latino Film Festival (SLFF), Seattle South Asian Film Festival (SSAFF), Maelstrom International Fantastic Film Festival, North Bend Mountain Film Festival, Seattle Polish Film Festival (SPFF), Seattle Social Justice Film Festival, Quick Shot Film Festival, Tri-Cities International Film Festival (TCIF3), Gig Harbor Film Festival (GHFF), Irish Reels Film Festival, Bleedingham Film Festival, Celluloid Bainbridge Film Festival, Friday Harbor Film Festival, Olympia Film Festival, 48 Hour Horror Film Project: Seattle, and Seattle Shorts Film Festival!