What to Catch at the 2012 Tacoma Film Festival
It’s easy for local cinephiles to view Seattle as the epicenter of Northwest filmgoing. But for seven years Tacoma has played host to a diverse film festival of its own.
The Tacoma Film Festival has built a reputation as an imaginatively-programmed and filmmaker-friendly event that shines a spotlight on local talent, and it’s consistently sported a goodly share of West Coast and world premieres in its seven-year history. This year, some 118 films will screen at TFF’s various venues around T-Town, and 50 filmmakers will be on hand to represent their handiwork.The Fest began its seven-day stretch last night with a screening of The Taiwan Oyster (an indie dramedy directed by Mark Jarrett) at the Annie Wright School. A complete schedule, directions, and pricing details can be accessed at the website of the Grand Cinema, the Festival’s principal venue.
Full disclosure: I’m serving on the jury for the Festival, so I’ve seen a few of the featured films and shorts. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t present a list of recommendations based on my own observations and advance word from various press sources.
Pilgrim Song (tonight at 6:15 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 7 at 6:00 p.m., Grand Cinema): Martha Stephens’ unique little movie takes its sweet time, ambling along with a loose-limbed ease that feels documentary-like in its spontaneity. It’s the truest evocation of rural life I’ve seen on film in a long time, turning an unvarnished but loving eye on a gallery of odd but totally believable characters and presenting the Kentucky wilderness in all its majestic splendor.
Crawl (tonight at 10:15 p.m. and Sunday, Oct. 7 at 8:45 p.m., Grand Cinema): Paul China, director of this Australian thriller involving a Slavic hitman and the couple who run afoul of him, has been drawing comparisons to the Coen Brothers and Hitchcock for his work on this feature. It should be TFF’s best bet for visceral thrills.
Out on a Limb (Saturday, Oct. 6 at 10:40 a.m., Tacoma Art Museum; Monday October 8 at 2:00pm, Grand Cinema): David Czaky, aka Squirrelman, became a local (and, for that matter, national) source of hubbub when he was booted out of the self-constructed treehouse in which he’d resided for almost two years. You can’t ask for a more topical home-grown documentary.
Lemon (Saturday, Oct. 6 at 3:45 p.m., Grand Cinema): The struggle of three-time felon and Tony Award Winner Lemon Anderson to get his one-man show launched is the stuff of theater legend, so Beth Levison’s and Laura Brownson’s documentary should be an absorbing view. Bonus: L Train, a terrific short by Anna Musso, precedes it.
Dead Man’s Burden (Sunday, Oct. 7 at 2:15 p.m., Grand Cinema): It’ll likely turn out to be the most voluptuously shot, visually beautiful feature of the fest, and it’s a rare bird in these times—a handsome, high-quality western that aims to combine the scenic grandeur of a John Ford epic with the moral ambiguity of Clint Eastwood’s best period work. Director Jared Moshe's love of the genre and his craftsman's eye imbue every frame.
The Historic (Monday, Oct. 8 at 8:15 p.m., Grand Cinema): Mountlake Terrace native Nick Terry helmed his directorial debut (and surprise 2010 SIFF hit ) Senior Prom while he was still in high school. The teen comedy proved to be surprisingly entertaining, so here’s hoping lightning strikes twice with this mockumentary that follows the employees of an historic theater threatened with closure.
Pictured above: Dead Man's Burden.