The New Year Parade (Best Director Award, Tom Quinn) was perhaps the most interesting, focusing on a divorce and the subsequent fallout of family and friend alliances. The context is South Philadelphia and its marching band orchestra. Using actors and plain ordinary people gave it a forceful character study of good people, bad reactions and even worse relationships.
Monkey Puzzle (Dir: Mark Forstman) and Ugly Pretty People (Dir: Tate Taylor) have a lot in common as they are both "hiking-in-the-woods-with-friends" movies provoking the character's secrets, insecurities and demons to pop up every which way. Both had ringing truths unearthed and unwanted agendas revealed. Monkey Puzzle was as heavy handed and as dark as they get with top-notch acting performances. Ugly Pretty People handled the underlying themes of politics, sexual orientations and obesity with a lighter droll flair but the subtext was just as intense
A refreshing twist was the short called I F***ing Hate You (Dir: Zak Forsman), a love story and song about breaking up. Better Watch Out (Dir: Steve Callan) had me laughing out loud with its tale of a drunken department store Santa that is kidnapped and tortured by two dimwitted thugs living with their mom. They're angry with Santa because they never got what they wanted for Christmas. It goes much deeper than that with a warped vision of the real meaning of X-mas. Very sick and twisted.
Best audience award went to The Flyboys (Dir: Rocco DeVilliers), a self professed Spielberg influenced action adventure flick along the lines of a Hardy Boys mystery-with guns, fights, car and plane chases, people flying through the air sans parachutes, mobsters, heroes, villains and above all: Tom freaking Sizemore proving he came out of his drug and alcohol coma to become a real actor again. Man Maid (Dir: Chris Lusvardi) shot mainly in Redmond and other assorted recognizable Central Oregon locales was a fast paced, predictable little love story/happy ending flick eliciting tons of laughter. Man Of Motion (Dir: Teafly) seemed to get the biggest audience reaction in a packed theatre. John Flannery, the local pedi-bike cab motor-mouth, is now truly a star.
Selfless (Dir: Pander Brothers) won Best Feature and was by far the most intriguing flick of the bunch. Shot in Portland and Seattle with an artistic architectural style, Selfless was a creepy homage to mystery movies. Focusing on a seemingly together yuppie architect, doing a little innocent sketchbook drawing at an airport turns into revenge and murder. It's the step by step obliteration of one's identity, heavy on angst, Asian chicks with long legs, inner turmoil, and samurai swords.
Santiago's Voodoo (Dir: Joaquin Baldwin) was my favorite animated short feature. Done in super high tech CGI, it tells the story of an evil mannequin that abuses voodoo dolls.
Over all, the festival (from what I got to see) gave us a lot to chew on...it ran the gamut from laughing at ultra-funny moments, soaring with high adventure, even walk-outs at intense scenes and sniffling in unison at sad parts. When the all-too-real and depressing moments came, like all good artistic endeavors the films gave us hope. As one lucky enough to meet a lot of the filmmakers, I can attest that they're truly a fun and inspirational bunch.