Opening Night: Portland International Film Fest

Jeff Alworth

Piff_posterOne of Portland's finest events kicked off this evening--The Portland International Film Festival.  Based on the yawns this information has elicited from even my filmie friends and acquaintances, my guess is that it remains one of Portland's least appreciated events, as well.  If you're one of those people who likes movies to look more like art than a fourth of July celebration (the selfsame acquaintances who shrugged when I mentioned this fact, for instance), you need to get downtown sometime over the next two weeks. 

To put things into context, five years ago, I managed to go to Sundance for a few days.  Like PIFF, there are way too many movies to see in a day.  Like PIFF, many of the movies will never make it off the festival circuit.  And like PIFF, the movies typically feature real-looking people doing real-looking things.  Explosions are at a minimum.  But unlike Sundance, PIFF has better movies.  Last year two of the best four movies I saw, I saw at PIFF. At Sundance, I saw interesting movies.  You see the difference.

The reason it's such a good event is because PIFF really does focus on foreign film.  The sample size is larger than Sundance's.  Of the 75 features, only 9 are American.  You'll be able to see films from Angola, Bhutan, Chile, Iceland, Kazakhstan, and Senegal, among many others (40 countries in all). 

My plan is to try to review as many as I see here--though I'll condense the reviews and the posting so you don't feel like I'm spamming the site.  With each review, I'll give info about when the film is showing next.  But keep in mind: many show just a couplethree days apart, so act quickly.

Tickets are available at the ticket office (901 SW Taylor @ Park Avenue) from 11 am on (I'm not sure how late), or at least a day in advance via phone: 503.228.PIFF (7433).  No internet sales.  You can also wing it and show up at each screening--they wait until 10 minutes before the show and then sell tickets for remaining seats.  You need to be there at least ten minutes before the show, or your seat may have been sold (see previous sentence).

Films are good for the heart: go watch.


Tonight's movie: Dear Frankie

Frankie_1In a scene a third of the way into Dear Frankie, a schoolmate of the 9-year-old title character bets him that his father won't be on the ACCRA when it arrives in harbor in a few days.  Frankie has never met his father, whom he believes is a seaman on the ACCRA.  He receives regular mail from his father and tracks the course of the ACCRA across the seas.  But by this time in the movie, we also know his father is not on the ship, and I began to feel a sitcom-y like premonition that improbable plot twists were in the offing.

It didn't help that the opening line in PIFF's program is the deadly: "Dear Frankie is a heartwarming and often humorous story..."  Rule six for any film buff is "be very wary of movies described as 'heartwarming.'"

There's a warm center to this movie, but "heartwarming" is as misleading as the setup.  It's a movie about relationships, and plot isn't a direct line--it meanders and explores along the way.  Here's another fact: Frankie is deaf.  There's a reason for this, but it's not to sucker the audience.  Frankie's deafness is treated as only as a part of his character--after five minutes, the viewer relates to his deafness like they relate to his love of stamps and the sea.  They're part of who he is, nothing more.

This is what the movie's like. In the end you feel good, but you don't feel manipulated or scammed.  It's an honest warmth.

Next showing: 6pm Monday, Whittsell Auditorium

connect with blueoregon