I have many alarming and unsettling thoughts swimming in my head on a regular basis, akin to a piranha eating away at my identity, sanity, and psychological safety. I’d like to think these are common: the unforeseen malignant brain tumor developing in my head, and the inherent paranoia of some ominous, all-seeing ‘big eye’/’power that be’ pulling the strings of life, being smashed by a falling grand piano by seeking some FroYo downtown. You know, the normal stuff.
One of the more upsetting thoughts I have occurs, surprisingly, when I find my feet in a colossal bookstore, music shop, or movie rental place. That feeling is precisely this: Holy zoinks! There is an ENDLESS amount of creative culture to digest.. how will I digest it all?!? The upsetting aspect comes when I think about all the great movies, books and albums that will pass by unnoticed, “creative diamonds in the rough” going unheard and without praise.
That is why I am so enthusiastic and youthfully stoked about the consistently awesome Northwest Film Center and their decision to hold a screening for the finest short films submitted to their 41st Northwest Filmmakers Festival back in 2014. It allows the opportunity to help combat precisely my sinking, existential concern for the diamonds in the rough never possibly being consumed and/or appreciated by an audience. But viola! The Best of the 41st Northwest Filmmakers Festival which screened here in Portland at the Whitsell Auditorium this past Sunday, and screens once more tonight, is a great production and quells these aforementioned concerns for which I am grateful.
The entire screening for this is a mere 85 minutes, but it is a consistently impressive 85 minutes in that all selected nine film shorts are so radically distinct from one another (in both content and form), that the sensation of feeling underwhelmed is avoided, because by the end, it all feels quite varied and thus, quite dense. And by varied, I mean a schizophrenic/multiple-personality disorder individual creating Sims characters, varied.
For example, one short entitled, The Bear’s Progress (dir. by Malia Jensen/Portland, OR), is a curious and often flat-out puzzling silent film about an anonymous individual in an absurdly obvious bear costume that wanders the Oregon landscape. The immediate film following this, The Beast Inside (dir. by Amy Enser, Drew Christie/Seattle, WA), is a glorious animation with a rapper/poet/narrator recounting his own personal horrors with homelessness.
It is this huge range of ideas which this screening has that causes the experience to hardly produce a mundane moment. The films, on their own, are conceptually distinctive, but when put together, their differences are illuminated even more, and it is quite delightful to participate in.
For myself, even among this declared “cream of the crop” selections from Northwest filmmakers, I found a handful of these films as “diamonds from the diamonds of the rough”, and I particularly want to applaud/thank the filmmakers behind the shorts, Anxious Oswald Greene, (dir. Marshall Axani/Vancouver, BC), Proximity (dir. Joshua Cox), and Cooped (dir. Mike A. Smith/Portland, OR).
Anxious Oswald Greene tells a bizarre and fantastical tale of a deeply nervous man and his visit to a terrifyingly outlandish clinic in hopes of curing his deep anxiety issues. It was clear this film had one, if not, THE biggest budget out of all the other films, and not that that matters, but the filmmakers used their resources fairly successfully to create this Orwellian/Warholian nightmare of a world with the comedic and absurd visual flair of a Terry Gilliam movie. I was impressed.
Although being a tad underwhelmed by the end, I adored Proximity because of the set design’s aesthetic wonderfulness and its completely odd story of love and revenge through the perspective of none other than kitschy, glass collectibles.
And, finally, there is the high-spirited Cooped, by and far my favorite of the screening. It is animated beautifully yet claustrophobically, as it is about a comically/tragically inactive dog and his more comically/tragically inactive owner in their squalor of a shared living space. Eventually, circumstances incite the dog’s desire to leave the house, and what follows are a series of events both endearing and hilarious.
But please, faithful Ambit readers, do not just take my word here for these selected shorts! The Best of the 41st Northwest Filmmakers’ Festival is a refreshingly eclectic amalgamation of short films that crisscrosses mediums and successfully manages to be consistently intriguing and enjoyable, and I am positive that there is a short film (out of the nine) here for everyone.
So again, beat the crushing void that plagues some creative people, the possibility of never having an audience or lacking acknowledgement of their blood, sweat, and tears, and come out and support the inspiring, independent artists here in the northwest at the NW Film Center.
The next and unfortunately last screening possible for The Best of the 41st Northwest Filmmakers Festival is on June 11, 7 p.m. Tickets $9 for adult, $8 for PAM members/students/seniors, and $6 for friends of the Film Center.