NORMALLY, WOMEN MAKE UP less than 10 percent of the film director population, but for four days at the Hollywood Theatre, the Portland Oregon Women's Film Fest (POW) blows the glass roof off that anemic figure. Culled from over 450 entries, POW will showcase 44 short films and features, covering dreams of Bollywood to teenagers in post-Katrina New Orleans—and they're 100 percent women-directed.
Thursday, March 18 kicks off the fest with an all-local showcase. Starting with Heather Harlow's achingly beautiful short documentary, Nous Deux Encore, which is about the 13-year marriage of Maxie and Yiannis, a sun-kissed couple who are irrevocably in love. They have thousands of pictures of their time together, caught with Yiannis' self-timed camera, before he unexpectedly died and left Maxie alone in 1984. It's 17 minutes of evocative, bittersweet perfection and a rousing start to POW.
Friday's highlight is Playground. Director Libby Spears' documentary is a harrowing illumination of the sexual exploitation of children in the US. Think that child sex tourism only happens overseas? Wrong. The horrors perpetuated against children make Playground a brutally effective call-to-arms, cut with lovely animation from Yoshitomo Nara.
Saturday is the fullest docket on POW's calendar—with experimental animation, short docs, and mature-audience shorts. The Hollywood-esque romcom Love Hurts is a fun romp, starring Carrie-Anne Moss and Richard E. Grant as a middle-aged married couple in romantic breakdown. But the real standout is Stages. It's an almost too-perfect documentary setup: Two groups of amateur acting troupes in NYC—one from a senior center and one from a youth center—come together to enact a play about their varied life stories.
Bring the daughters and nieces on Sunday for POW's wrap-up, as the screenings focus on family-friendly tales of inspiration. Coupled with the encouragement of Kathryn Bigelow's Best Director Oscar, POW no doubt intends to inspire girls to get behind the cameras so those lowly numbers rise.