Just as a band's sophomore album tends to be among its best, so too is the second year of the BendFilm Festival under Director Todd Looby gearing up to be one of the fest's best. From the quality and quantity of the films—we're talking about hundreds more submissions than last year, and of exponentially greater quality—to the general swagger BendFilm earned after last year's success, the 12th annual film festival boasts an impressive lineup for fair-weather and fanatical film fans alike.
"Our goal this year is to invite as many people as possible to come and enjoy the festival," says Looby. "Especially those that have always wanted to come, but for some reason held back."
In an effort to bring out the crowds, Looby has built on last year's already eclectic lineup—which included everything from gay flag football teams to floating abortion clinics—pumping up the diversity to appeal to a broad range of attendees.
"We purposely made our program incredibly diverse so that there is at least one film that each member of our community and festival travelers will love," Looby explains. "We have movies about lumberjacks, teenage rock stars, ballerinas, urban comedies, Elvis impersonators, foreign films, end-of-life journeys, spiritual films, LGBT films, family shorts, works by Northwest filmmakers, our own Future Filmmakers, and so much more."
All those choices can be a bit overwhelming. Although BendFilm offers all access passes for the truly dedicated (or the retired), Looby doesn't advise binging for the average viewer.
"We ask that people take a few minutes to go through the guide and pick the 1-2 films that jump out at them and make plans to go to the fest," he says, noting that inexpensive childcare is available on Friday and Saturday nights to make it easier for parents to attend.
With that in mind, lets take a look at some highlights of the films in competition this year.
The Big Lonely: Directed by David Manougian (Documentary, Northwest Premiere)
This one will lay audiences flat. The Big Lonely is an incredibly important and powerful film that never uses cheap and easy manipulation to send its message. The documentary follows Michael, a homeless man who decided he couldn't survive living under bridges or on the street anymore, so he moved onto public land in the Oregon forest and built an incredible cabin. What makes this film so special is that Director David Manougian gave Michael the cameras to film himself, so there is no removed from the reality of being alone for months (and sometimes a year or more) at a time. With just the companionship of his dog Tic, Michael lives his solitary existence as only he knows how, one day at a time. His story is sad, yet hopeful, and filled with enough tension and drama for a dozen scripted features.
Bloomin' Mud Shuffle: Directed by Frank V. Ross (Narrative, West Coast Premiere)
James Ransone has been one of Hollywood's finest character actors for over a decade, going back to his role as the perpetual screw-up Ziggy Sabotka in HBO's "The Wire," which he then solidified as Cpl. Person in David Simon's masterpiece "Generation Kill." Bloomin' Mud Shuffle gives him a rare leading role as Lonnie, a mostly drunk house painter just trying to get through the days. When an office romance threatens to make his life somewhat more complicated, delightful and sardonic hijinks ensue. Effortlessly funny and charming, Bloomin Mud Shuffle will surprise anyone thinking they're in line for just another romantic comedy.
Son: Directed by Judd Myers (Late Night Short)
The most classically-frightening short film in ages, Son will work on audiences' childhood paranoia like a charm. A young, sheltered boy fakes a sick day and his reluctant mother leaves him at home alone. The most important rule is not to go into his parent's bedroom unattended, which he breaks almost instantly. What he finds will put ice in your veins and a shocked and stupefied smile on your face. One of the most narratively simple, yet inventive films of the year and worth watching even for people who don't like things that go bump in the night.
Times, locations, and prices vary
Check Bendfilm.org for details