"It's so much more than just watching a movie and I think people understand that," says BendFilm Artistic Director Orit Schwartz.
Now in its eighth year, the film festival has become well rooted within Bend's cultural landscape while also weathering the financial woes thrust upon nonprofits in this economy. Still, BendFilm has maintained a reputation as one of the best small festivals in the country. This year, the festival seems to have shed the "not for everyone" tag some had applied to it by making the event as accessible as it's ever been. The ticket prices are low ($11/film), the parties aren't hoity-toity and there are even a number of free panels featuring some experts in their field.
An interesting addition this year is the First Friday Block party (5-9 p.m., Wells Fargo parking lot on Wall Street), which invites the public to check out a film by festival sponsor American Licorice and also check out short films from the festival. They can also meet filmmakers at the festival's hub (Liberty Theater, 849 Wall Street) on Friday evening during that same time.
Yes, it's more accessible than it's ever been, but BendFilm hasn't sacrificed quality; the crop of films selected for screening at this year's festival look as good as any other edition of BendFilm.
Learn Something: The Panels
One of the underrated aspects of BendFilm has always been the special presentations and filmmakers' panels. This year, this facet of the festival is even more accessible, given that they are completely free. To everyone, in fact. Held in the comfort of the Father Luke's Room on the McMenamins campus, the panels feature topics ranging from documentary filmmaking to a look inside the creative process to a behind-the-scenes peek at how BendFilm and other film festivals go about choosing their winners.
10:30 am Friday
How to Raise Money for Your Project
12:30 pm Friday
The Art of No-Budget Filmmaking
2:30 pm Friday
From Pen to Screen: The Creative Process
10:30 am Saturday
Behind the Scenes of a Film Festival Jury Room
1:00 pm Saturday
Documentary Filmmaking: Sending the Message
What to See: Our Picks for BendFilm
We went ahead and put our eyeballs on a trailer for damn near every film screening at this weekend's festival. We also learned about the filmmakers and stuff like that. Here are just a few of the flicks you need to see during BendFilm
A Beginner's Guide to Endings (Opening Night Film)
While not up for awards from the jury, this film, which opens the festival on Thursday night at the Tower Theatre, has the look of something hilariously special. Harvey Keitel as a deadbeat gambling addict of a father who subjects his three adult sons to a sketchy pharmaceutical experiment. The problem is that the drugs turned out to be lethal, leaving the three men with little time left on the planet. Starring Scott Caan and The Daily Show's Jason Jones star in this film that's hardly as sad (and twice as funny) as this short description just made it sound. Regardless, A Beginner's Guide to Endings, should be an excellent artistic harbinger of the quality of this year's festival.
5:30pm Thursday. Tower Theatre.
East Fifth Bliss
Fans of the hit cable series Dexter get a look at Michael C. Hall in a much different (and non-murderous) role in this film. East Fifth Bliss tells the story of Morris Bliss, a through-and-through loser who still lives with his father (who's played by Peter Fonda) and has found himself in a romantic relationship with the 18-year-old daughter of an old friend. Hall has been lauded for his performance in this funny as hell role and he plays excellently against this A-list cast that also includes Lucy Liu and Chris Messina. 8pm Friday, Tower Theatre. 8:30pm Saturday, Regal Old Mill. 1pm Sunday, Sisters Movie House.
Rid of Me
This film was written and directed by Portland's own James Westby and uses the Rose City's hipster/indie rock milieu as a backdrop for its quirkily dark comedy about a woman who's rejected by the cool crowd and heads down a path toward punk rock status. You'll notice plenty of Portland in the film, as well as some familiar faces from the city, like actor/singer Storm Large and a brief appearance by Everclear front man Art Alexakis. The film did well at the Tribecca Film Festival and earned a super positive review from the Los Angeles Times which called it a "Mean Girls for adults." 8pm Thursday, Tower Theatre. 6pm Saturday, Regal Old Mill.
Why in the hell would a Swiss filmmaker create a documentary about a tiny town in the desert of California? We have no idea, but rarely has a documentary premise seemed as intriguing as the one presented by director Nick Brandestini, who brings us to this seemingly godforsaken town outside of Death Valley where water and jobs are scarce (as is sanity, judging by some of the conspiracy theories espoused in the trailer). And to top it off, military weapons are tested just a few miles away from the incredibly remote outpost. It might sound like a living hell to you, but for Brandestini, it's documentary gold. 3pm Friday, Oxford Hotel. 6pm Saturday, Sisters Movie House.
Boom Varietal: The Rise of Malbec
Some readers of this paper might not need any further information about this documentary, given we featured the film and its director, Rage Production's Sky Pinnick, in a feature a few weeks back, but here's another reminder: go see this documentary. Not just because it was made by an all-local crew of filmmakers, but because it's a beautifully made piece about an intriguing subject, the booming popularity of Malbec wine. 3pm Friday, Regal Old Mill. 3:30pm Saturday, Oxford Hotel.
Adventures in Plymptoons
There is no shortage of cult-favorite animator Bill Plympton at this year's BendFilm festival. Not only is he screening an animated film of his own making, speaking at a panel about film funding and emceeing the festival's award ceremony, there's also a documentary about Plympton showing at BendFilm. Adventures in Plymptoons, directed by Alexia Anastasio, that takes us into the sometimes-twisted mind of this legendary animator and illustrator who counts two Oscar nominations amongst his many accomplishments. If you didn't know, the dude is hilarious, so either check out this film or see him in person at some point this weekend. 2:45pm Friday, Tower Theatre. 9pm Saturday, Regal Old Mill.