By Mary Erickson Associate Editor
For four days in October, Bend held its 12th annual film festival, hosting over 80 films, several panels and rockin’ parties for filmmakers and film aficionados alike. The festival’s theme, “Turning Outside In,” welcomed audiences to partake in a selection of documentaries, short film programs, and feature narratives.
Highlights of the festival include Best in Show and Best Narrative Feature Petting Zoo, a Texas-produced film directed by Micah Magee about a teen girl contemplating the consequences of a pregnancy. Erik Shirai was awarded Best Director and Best Documentary for The Birth of Saké, a documentary about the craft of saké production in northern Japan.
Portland-based filmmaker Brian Lindstrom presented his film, Mothering Inside, about the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility’s approach to nurturing incarcerated mothers’ relationships with children. The film received the festival’s Best of the Northwest award.
The festival gave filmmakers and audiences a chance to delve into industry issues with panel discussions devoted to first feature films, incorporating real-life characters into narrative films, using social media in film promotion, and women working in film.
According to BendFilm executive director Todd Looby, the festival improved this year as a result of changes that were made. One influential component was BendFilm’s drive to shift around organizational finances so that it could fund filmmaker travel.
“Once we could help filmmakers get here, we could anticipate a bigger response from filmmakers,” says Looby. “It can be a challenge to get to Bend from other parts of the country, and if we can help with expenses, filmmakers are more excited about submitting to the festival.”
BendFilm brought on festival programmer Mimi Brody to curate the festival’s films. Brody hails from Chicago, where she is the Curator of Film and Director of Block Cinema at Northwestern University. She is a former film programmer for the UCLA Film and Television Archive, the Los Angeles Film Festival, and the San Francisco International Film Festival. Looby said, “Mimi brought her experience and encyclopedic knowledge of films that helped us program great films in Bend.”
BendFilm also brings various screenings and events to Central Oregon. It recently held a screening of the Sundance Film Festival selection, The Mask You Live In, a documentary about contemporary discourses around masculinity and the struggle of several boys and young men in navigating their identities. The film, produced by the director of Miss Representation, was co-presented by BendFilm Festival, Cascades Academy of Central Oregon and Moementum, Inc.
On tap for 2016 is a partnership with Caldera Arts to offer an Artist in Residence spot for a filmmaker in nearby Sisters, Oregon. Austin filmmaker Brittany Reeder is the recipient of the month-long filmmaker residency, and during her tenure at Caldera, Reeder will pursue a three-part multimedia collection of memories from her childhood in Florida.
One of the best things about Reeder’s participation, according to Looby, is her fit with Caldera’s mission. “She has so much experience in personal storytelling,” Looby says. “Caldera is all about using art to express yourself, to tell your story. Brittany is a great fit for the inaugural year of this partnership.”
BendFilm is also planning monthly screenings and events to draw audiences and raise the organization’s profile in the area. “We’re planning some special showings for the year,” says Looby. “We want to get the community out and excited about film.”
Visit www.bendfilm.org for information about various film-related events as well as information about the 2016 BendFilm Festival.