The quality of selections showcased by the Local Sightings Film Festival has skyrocketed in recent years, but the fest’s 18th iteration, which opens Thursday night at the Northwest Film Forum and runs through Oct. 3, has really knocked it out of the park. The stacked lineup sports ample local-interest works, as well as a dizzying array of selections that literally travel the globe. Given the consistency of what’s playing, a festival pass ($190 general admission, $100 for Film Forum members) is a worthwhile option, but enclosed please find some of the undeniable standouts. As the old cliché goes, there’s something for everyone.
Must-See Local Interest Program
Local Sightings’ Opening Night: Sprawl to Action (Thursday, Sept. 24) kicks off the fest with nine short films comprising a fascinating window into Seattle’s past and future. Among the selections, Reed O’Beirne’s three-minute short $0$ provides a birds-eye view of the last days of the Kingdome prior to and during its 2000 demolition, and Minda Martin’s Seattle Freeway Revolt dips back even further, with ample evidence that the conflict between Seattle’s urban growth and the maintenance of its soul has been a decades-long struggle. The most interesting shorts amongst the Opening Night program cover the most disparate points of Seattle’s history: The mini-doc What is So Great About Seattle? is a fascinating historic curio filmed by a consortium of architects and city planners circa 1967, while Alex Berry’s Legendary offers an immediate and affecting view of the metamorphosis of Capitol Hill through the eyes of artist John Criscitello. The Northwest Film Forum’s 20th Anniversary Party follows at 10 p.m., and partygoers are encouraged to dress up as their favorite character from any film screened at the Film Forum over the last two decades.
Filmmakers Amy Benson and Scott Squires follow a family in Nepal over several years in Drawing the Tiger (Friday, Sept. 25) as daughter Shanta receives a charity scholarship for schooling in cultural mecca Kathmandu. The pull between her broadened horizons of opportunity and her family’s wrenching poverty packs a major emotional wallop, and it’s shot with indisputable beauty by Squires.
Arresting Power: Resisting Police Violence in Portland, Oregon (Tuesday, Sept. 29) presents the most shattering call-to-arms of Local Sightings 2015, chronicling the Portland Police Department’s jaw-droppingly brutal and racist backstory with an activist’s fire.
Bezango, Washington (Wednesday, Sept. 30) is a laid-back, quietly charming history of Northwest cartooning from the turn-of-the-twentieth century exploits of Umbrella Man through the creative explosion sparked by locally based Fantagraphics Books.
Lewis Bennett’s The Sandwich Nazi (Thursday, Oct.1) chronicles Salim Kahil, a Vancouver deli owner and former male escort full of so many (sometimes gleefully raunchy, sometimes disarmingly emotional) stories and insights, you’ll swear he’s a work of fiction.
Must-See Music Films
Vancouver filmmaker Beth Harrington’s The Winding Stream (Monday, Sept. 28) is a handsome and nigh-faultless history of iconic roots dynasty The Carter Family, sporting live performances from Johnny and June Carter Cash that’ll have country and roots music fans salivating.
One of the most exhilarating surprises of Local Sightings 2015 has to be Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai (aka Rain the Color of Blue with a Little Red in it, Friday, Oct. 2), a music drama directed by Portland filmmaker Christopher Kirkley. Shot on location in Agadez, Niger and filmed entirely in the Tuareg language (a first for a fiction film), it transposes Prince’s Purple Rain through the lens of the indigenous culture with ragged charm, and the musical numbers are mesmerizing.
In Vancouver director Ana Valine’s Sitting on the Edge of Marlene (Monday, Sept. 28), Suzanne Clement plays the title character, a grifter whose schemes and disintegrating psyche play hell on her daughter Sammi (Paloma Kwiatkowski). Valine’s direction and script are sharp and knowing, and the two leads couldn’t be better.
Dead Body (Saturday, Sept. 26 at the Grand Illusion) hits a few of the dialogue and characterization potholes endemic in modern horror movies, but director Bobbin Ramsey delivers the jumps and shocks with visceral efficacy, and the ensemble cast throws themselves into their stock roles with brio. Best of all, the ending packs a haymaker punch whether you see the writing on the wall or not.
Matt Orefice’s animated feature Bubble Bubble Meows and the Lame-O Baby Jib (Friday, Sept. 25) plays like a standard-issue kiddie TV show hilariously stretched and mutated like lysergic taffy. If you’re the right kind of freak (and I’ll readily align myself to that corner), you’ll devour it accordingly.
Finally, Jaffe Zinn’s Children (Sunday, Sept. 27) follows two quiet evangelical Christian girls as they road-trip through the Idaho wilderness, filling their eyes with scenery and their ears with end-of-days talk radio. It’s a disorienting slow burn that’ll likely frustrate some, but its languid beauty and carefully-crafted atmosphere of dread mark it as one of the most unique and subtly bone-chilling things you’re likely to see from a local filmmaker all year.
Local Sightings festival passes and individual tickets are available at nwfilmforum.org.