Last week, the 19th Annual BendFilm Festival concluded and gifted me with one of the most magical experiences of my life. To my very specific wavelength, I'm not sure there's anything more fascinating than experiencing a piece of art and then immediately getting to interact with the creator and learn about their process and intention. As someone who wants to tell my own stories for a living, in hearing storytellers talk about their passion, it's hard not to be inspired to create more of my own art instead of only talking about what other people make.
As much as the films are the centerpiece of any film festival, what I really connected to this year were the people. Actors, filmmakers, cinematographers, writers and industry insiders from around the world came together across four days and became a community, celebrating movies with each other. I didn't see a single clash of egos or a moment of sour grapes for any of the award winners. In fact, at the closing night party all I saw was a group of artists, happy to be at a film festival again after so many years, dancing late into the night under the power of their own joy.
For this column, I thought about making a list of all the unforgettable interactions with astounding human beings I had over the last few days, but bullet points and numbers didn't seem to capture what made the festival special in the first place. The pure elation of watching Canadian/Korean director Jude Chun see his award-winning feature, "Unidentified" with an audience for the first time was bigger than a listicle could hold. Seeing director Daniel J. Egbert's humble awe as he watched audiences be deeply moved by his stunning short film "Chorus" can't be relegated to a graph.
Or how IndieWoman of the Year Tamara Jenkins caught as many movies at the fest as humanly possible, asking incisive questions to the filmmakers and genuinely taking pleasure in crafting relationships with the next generation of artists. Or how the legendary actor Gary Farmer walked up to me and gave me a copy of his new CD. Or sitting on a wooden bench at the closing night party and eating the spiciest chicken sandwich I've ever had in my life while the iconic and badass actress Tallie Medel laughed at me as I was destroyed by uncontrollable hiccuping.
These are just moments. But added together, they are so much more than the sum of their parts. The BendFilm staff and board waded through a few dark years and then crafted something of undefinable light. Executive Director Todd Looby, Head of Festival Programming Selin Sevinc and Operations Manager Hanna Mason (along with the dozens of staff and volunteers) made a thing and it was beautiful.
Best in Show: "
You Resemble Me" directed by Dina Amer
Best Outdoor/Environmental Feature:
"Au Revoir" directed by Justin Loiselle and Jonathan Ferguson
Best Indigenous Feature:
"Urya: The Rising Forest" directed by Juliana Curi
Best Documentary Feature:
"Sam Now" by Reed Harkness
Best Narrative Feature:
"The Game" directed by Ana Lazarevic
Special Jury Award For Narrative Features:
Malek Rahbani for his performance in "Jacir."
Jason Reid and Darren Lund for "Sam Now."
Bae Jin Baek for his work on "Unidentified."
Elisa Levine and Gabriel Miller for "Sweetheart Deal."
Special Jury Award for Excellence in Personal Filmmaking:
"Bad Axe" directed by David Siev
Best Documentary Short:
"Meantime" directed by Michael T. Workman
Best Narrative Short:
"Enjoy" by Saul Abraham
Best Northwest Short:
"No Spectators Allowed" directed by Kanani Koster
Special Jury Award for Social Impact:
"One Buck Won't Hurt" directed by Christopher Stoudt
Special Jury Award for Animated Short:
"The Seine's Tears" directed by Yanis Belaid, et al.
Best Animated Short:
"Ice Merchants" directed by Joao Gonzalez
Special Jury Award for Personal Vision:
"Babysitting" directed by Patrick Noth
Best Outdoor/Environmental Short:
"Monumental Divide" Directed by Brian Oliver
Best Indigenous Short:
"Daughter of the Sea" directed by Alexis C. Garcia
Best Student Short:
"El Carrito" directed by Zahida Pirani
Meanwhile, the Katie Merritt Audience Award Feature
and Short Film Winners will be announced on Oct. 24.