WEEKEND — Port Townsend Film Festival's dazzling lineup
By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
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Where else can you see Yoda, E.T. and a guy who 'shot' John Wayne?By Diane Urbani de la Paz
PORT TOWNSEND — Alongside the torrent of movies, this year's Port Townsend Film Festival has a slate of highly unusual experiences: silent cinema with a live band; a special guest who once “shot” John Wayne in the back; and a visit from Yoda the Jedi master among them.
Here's a sampling of the festival activities today through Sunday, starting with the movie classics to be shown free, outdoors on Taylor Street.
“E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial,” Steven Spielberg's 1982 story of a boy who befriends an alien, is outdoor movie No. 1, tonight at 7:30 on the big screen on Taylor Street downtown. Everybody's invited to come sit on straw bales or bring their own chairs to watch the 115-minute classic.
“The Empire Strikes Back,” George Lucas' 1980 space epic starring Yoda, lights Taylor Street's outdoor screen at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
“Tootsie,” the 1982 comedy starring Dustin Hoffman, Jessica Lange and Geena Davis in her screen debut, is the final free outdoor movie, showing on Taylor Street at 7:30 p.m. Sunday.
■ One screening of Yasujiro Ozu's silent film “Woman of Tokyo” comes to the Rose Theatre, 235 Taylor St., today at 6:15 p.m. The movie, in Japanese with English subtitles, will be accompanied live by pianist and composer Wayne Horvitz; bassist Geoff Harper; drummer Eric Eagle; vibraphonist Jacques Willis and tenor saxophone and bass clarinet player Greg Sinabaldi.
“Woman” is the story of Chikako, who does everything she can — as a typist by day and an entertainer and prostitute by night — to support the university education of her younger brother Ryoichi. Festival pass holders get in first; then rush tickets for any leftover seats will sell for $10.
■ “A Special Evening with Bruce Dern” has the actor himself at the Uptown Theatre, 1120 Lawrence St., for a screening of his rare comedy, “Smile.” Dern, 76, is the Port Townsend Film Festival's Special Guest, a veteran of many kinds of movies: Westerns like “The Cowboys,” in which his character shot John Wayne, the science fiction flick “Silent Running” and the post-Vietnam drama “Coming Home” among them. Then, last year, he won an Emmy for his portrayal of a polygamist on HBO's Utah-based series “Big Love.” Dern will be interviewed after the showing of “Smile,” a beauty-pageant satire with Barbara Feldon and a young Melanie Griffith. This event is open to pass holders first; remaining seats will sell for $20 at the door.
■ “What the Heck Does A Producer Do Anyway?” is a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the comedy “The Kids Are All Right” at The Upstage, 923 Washington St., at 1 p.m. Saturday. Producer Jeffery Kusama Hinte will share the trials and tribulations of casting and financing the film, which is about two lesbians and their two children, who find their father the sperm donor (played by Mark Ruffalo). Open to pass holders; remaining seats will go for $10.
■ A screening of “The Kids Are All Right,” starring Annette Bening and Julianne Moore, is slated for 3:30 p.m. Saturday at the Uptown Theatre, 1120 Lawrence St. Pass holders get in first; rush tickets will sell for $10.
■ “Wish Me Away,” country singer Chely Wright's story of coming out as a lesbian amid her successful musical career, screens tonight at 6:30 and Saturday at 12:15 p.m. Wright will appear only at tonight's showing at the Uptown Theatre, 1120 Lawrence St., for an onstage interview and then for a private reception. Tickets to this event, called “A Special Evening with Chely Wright,” are $125 including reserved seating for the film, Wright's discussion afterward and the reception; net proceeds will benefit the Port Townsend Film Institute and Jefferson County's Fund for Women and Girls.
Saturday's screening of “Wish Me Away” will be held at the Maritime Center Theatre, 431 Water St., for pass holders and those who buy rush tickets for $10.
■ The Awards Bash is a come-as-you-are party at 9 p.m. Saturday at the Peter Simpson Free Cinema, 209 Monroe St. That means no tuxedoes nor sequins required to celebrate the winners of the Spirit of the PT Film Fest award and other prizes. This event is open to those with passes at the $185 level and above.
But wait, says Janette Force, executive director of the 13th annual Port Townsend Film Festival, which opens today and runs through Sunday in venues uptown and downtown.
There are free movies aplenty, Force promises.
The “One Up” pass costs $35 for one screening, a “Four Up” pass is $85 for four films, the full-festival deal is $185 and it goes up from there.
But this “film lover's block party,” as it is known, is not just for the well-heeled; Force is eager to reel off the many free screenings, indoors and out, that make this three-day festival accessible to all.
Singles, couples and families, first off, can enjoy classics under the night sky as “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Tootsie” light up the big screen tonight, Saturday and Sunday, respectively. All three are free and start at 7:30 p.m., downtown on Taylor Street.
Then there's a whole house full of no-cost movies: the Peter Simpson Free Cinema inside the American Legion Hall at 209 Monroe St.
“This is a good way to get your feet wet,” said Force. “There's festival content to suit everyone's taste. And when you get the flavor of independent cinema, you'll want more.”
A sampling: “The Girls in the Band,” a documentary about all-woman big bands, screens at the Peter Simpson at 3:30 p.m. Saturday; “Go Ganges!” about two adventurers from Alaska traveling down India's big river, is on at 12:30 p.m. Sunday; “Otter 501,” about a kayaker who rescues a sea otter pup, screens at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, and “QWERTY,” a story of love and Scrabble, screens at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.
As always, much of the pleasure of attending film festival screenings comes from the discussions afterward, Force added. Those happen with fellow moviegoers and with the actors, directors and cinematographers who do Q-and-A sessions.
“We have 47 filmmakers visiting us this year,” she said, adding that the festival's movies come in nine languages and from 20 nations.
More than 50 documentaries, feature films and shorts will explore a panoply of topics. To name but a few more, there's “Under African Skies,” a documentary on the making of Paul Simon's “Graceland” album; “Foreign Letters,” the story of an Israeli girl befriending a Vietnamese classmate; and “Dreamworld,” about two sweethearts hoping to find work at California's Pixar animation studio.
And there are common threads, Force said.
These movies are “about people facing adversity, and rising. We have so many films about taking risks,” she said.
There are also stories of “having whatever you have be enough, and sharing it.”
The Port Townsend Film Institute works with many local businesses and groups, Force said, to make the festival lavish, even amid the lingering recession.
“At a time when people are struggling, we understand they need not only entertainment but also inspiration,” she said.
“We have more business sponsors than ever before,” including Kitsap Bank, which sponsors the free outdoor movies.
There is also the Port Townsend Arts Commission, which funds the Peter Simpson Free Cinema, among many other community events through the year.
Force, for her part, saluted the 270 volunteers who help her and the festival staff, who number just three.
She also hails two departed film lovers: Peter Simpson, a co-founder of the Port Townsend Film Festival, and Sydney Pollack, director of “Tootsie.”
Pollack came to the festival five years ago, Force said, and “he was so generous and lovely.”
Sunday evening, around the 7:30 screening of “Tootsie,” everyone is invited to the “Dress for Success” ball on Taylor Street.
The ball “is about people thinking, 'What would I do to get a job?'” and dressing accordingly, Force said.
“Tootsie,” of course, stars Dustin Hoffman as an out-of-work actor who disguises himself as a woman to get a role on a soap opera.
The ball is free for all, and so is another pre-movie event on Saturday.
Nanda, the traveling circus-comedy troupe with members from Port Townsend, will give a performance on Taylor Street at 7:15 p.m. Saturday, just before “The Empire Strikes Back.”
In addition to the outdoor screen and the Peter Simpson Free Cinema, the festival's films will screen at three other theaters: the Rose at 235 Taylor St., the Uptown at 1120 Lawrence St. and the Northwest Maritime Center at 431 Water St.
And while pass holders enjoy first-come, first-served admission to screenings, any remaining seats will be sold at the door, usually for $10.
Complete guides to festival movies and related activities are all over Port Townsend and at www.PTFilmFest.com; the festival office is at 360-379-1333.
And for after the festival lights go down, there's a thing called membership. Pass holders and others who become Port Townsend Film Festival members have access to its independent-cinema library as well as discounts on movie admission and popcorn at the Rose Theatre.
For details on membership levels ranging from $35 to $1,250, see www.PTFilmFest.com.
Last modified: September 21. 2012 12:21AM