When Bill Foster asked me to judge this year’s Northwest shorts, he told me that they’d like to end up with three programs (c. four and a half hours), but that if I only liked one and a half hours worth of film, that would be okay too. I had the opposite (non) problem. Cutting the hours down wasn’t just about trimming the fat—alas, there are a lot of good and meaty shorts being left on the cutting room floor. That’s the bad news. But the good news is that what you’re seeing is what excited me as the best of the best.
I found no predominant Northwest style among these films, although perhaps I saw more can-do joie-de-vivre and less gloom and doom than the cinematic average. The Northwest is lucky to be flowering with such a wealth of filmmaking talent in every style, from the most professionally slick to the most funkily handmade, from the most sincere documentaries to the most eccentrically personal creations, plunging into explorations from our own backyard to the far corners of the world (and to worlds beyond). We have great theaters too—Portland alone has the Northwest Film Center, Cinema 21, Hollywood, Clinton Street, Living Room, Cinema Project, Fifth Avenue, and more. Go to those theaters, watch lots of independent cinema, pitch in to those Kickstarter campaigns, pull out your phone, and start filming. There are great things afoot here, and it’s rewarding and fun to be part of it.
With a B.A. in photography from The Evergreen State College, Christopher Rauschenberg has been a photographer since 1973. Along with over 100 solo shows around the world, he has been a central figure in the regional arts community, co-founding Portland photography festival Photolucida, Blue Sky Gallery, and co-op Nine Gallery. Along the way, he has been involved in curating over 700 photography exhibitions and competitions and edited and produced over 50 art and photography publications. The winner of numerous awards and recognitions, his work is in the collections of 11 major museums. He is also a voracious lover of films of all persuasions.
THE SERIOUS JUICE OF LIFE AWARD: REZ CARZ
We all know what is meant by “if these walls could talk” but really, how much narrative juice is a wall going to bring to its storytelling? Now, “if these cars could talk” starts to really bring the juice—and when “these cars” are cars from the Native American Rez, we’ve hit the jackpot. This movie makes me glad to be alive.
THE AESTHETIC GHOST AWARD: BEYOND MURDER
This true story is a tawdry tale of the banality of evil. Instead of “telling” us that story, though, this film shows it to us through the somewhat uncomprehending eyes of one of the many available ghosts. Watch it for the transcendence; you can look up the banality of evil part on Wikipedia. (I did.)
THE JOHN CAGE SYNESTHESIA AWARD: COMMUTE
The term “experimental film” usually conjures up an expectation of impulsively dense wild creative abandon. A scientist will tell you, though, that the way to run an experiment is to set an initial condition that you are interested in, then take your hands off the wheel and just let it run. COMMUTE does this beautifully and simply. This film made me jealous that I didn’t make it myself.
THE DELICIOUS MEDICINE AWARD: LAYOVER
We’re used to the seeing massive amounts of toxins pour out of a smokestack. It surely is the best medicine to see the inverse—great masses of beautiful swifts pouring into a smokestack. Vanessa is a shaman who knows her business. (Now it’s Hayao Miyazaki’s turn to be jealous.)
THE GIANT ANIMATION AWARD: A TALE OF MOMENTUM & INERTIA
It’s hard to think of a better way to spend seventy seconds than this. Enjoy.
THE LET IT COOK HONORABLE MENTION: A LOVE STORY
This is a great movie about what love is (and how it can bloom where red staters wouldn’t imagine). It spends eight minutes packing a huge amount of emotion into its powerful, heartfelt, and soulful climax, but cuts that climax off well before the full two minutes and forty five seconds it earned. It’s got us all marinated and spiced just right but could use another two minutes to let Sam Cooke cook us all the way through.
PAST FESTIVAL JUDGES
||B. Ruby Rich
|Jo Ann Danzker
||Gus Van Sant