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Year-Around Film: BendFilm and the Tower team up to revamp The Series 

click to enlarge BendFilm and the Tower kick off the Series with the Breast Cancer Diaries
  • BendFilm and the Tower kick off the Series with the Breast Cancer Diaries
BendFilm and the Tower kick off the Series with the Breast Cancer Diaries
For a few days in October, the Tower Theatre becomes home to the BendFilm festival, packing the historic venue with diehard film buffs, as well as locals who just like to get a taste of independent cinema without leaving town. But when the festival closes down, documentaries and out-of-the-mainstream feature films, although not completely vacant from our cultural landscape, are much tougher to find.

While some might think of BendFilm as an entity existing only during that long weekend in October, the organization has teamed with the Tower Theater to present a bi-monthly series of independent films from the festival's library and beyond. Kicking off Indie Reels is The Breast Cancer Diaries, a film documenting a woman's battle with the disease.


With BendFilm stepping in to help, Indie Reels, as the Tower's film program is now called, is getting a much-needed facelift not only in its film selection (the previous lineup was well intentioned, but hardly as appealing as 2008's films - last year's choices included Sleepless in Seattle and Godzilla with a few indies thrown in) but also in its relationship with the community.

"The Tower is our home during the festival, so to marry BendFilm with the Tower Theater is a way to make sure that people see BendFilm year-round," says BendFilm Executive Director Sandy Henderson, who took over the position this past fall.

Both Henderson and Eli Ashley, the executive director of the Tower Theatre Foundation, the nonprofit organization that owns and operates the theater, speak of Indie Reels not only as a chance for Central Oregon to catch films they may have missed during the festival or wouldn't be able to catch anywhere else, but also as a service to the community.

"What we put onstage is really intended to reflect the interests of the community - that's the primary reason for the Tower to exist," Ashley says, "And it's not just the movies - for as many of the films as we can we'll be getting the directors and other speakers in for post-film discussions."

Following the screening of The Breast Cancer Diaries on Tuesday there will be a panel discussion with three local doctors who have experience with breast cancer. The screening is especially personal for Henderson, who survived a battle with breast cancer in 2003.

The Breast Cancer Diaries, which screened at the 2007 BendFilm festival, is a documentary that tracks Ann Murray-Paige, a former television reporter as she deals with breast cancer.

Also improving upon last year's series, the 2008 lineup, which currently has films scheduled on two Tuesdays each month, is also arranged thematically. Starting at the end of February, Indie Reels enters a three-film stretch of music-geared documentaries, starting off with Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten - a look into the life of the former Clash front man. Other themes on the horizon include films, many of which are documentaries, centered on food followed by a collection of movies focused on conservation.

Perhaps the most engaging aspect of Indie Reels is the partnerships between nonprofit organizations that are taking place within Indie Reels. For example, other than the obvious involvement by both the Tower Foundation and BendFilm, the screening of The Breast Cancer Diaries also brings members of cancer-related foundations into the fold to add even more depth to the event.

"This is a chance to showcase independent film, but it's not just about seeing a movie - it's about staying after and listening to experts. It's also about tying in other non-profits that have a message to get out," Henderson says.

With a schedule that's loaded with cerebral material and already extending into the summer, it looks like there will be plenty of messages to get out by way of film - and you don't have to wait for two days in October to hear them.

mike@tsweekly.com

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