SIREN NATION'S annual festival is a reliable showcase of lady-made music, film, visual art, and performance. The festival opens Thursday, November 3 (check next week's paper for more information on the festival's music and visual art offerings).
The film Small, Beautifully Moving Parts makes a great case for festivals like this one: It deals with the sorts of issues that aren't going to get talked about in whatever new movie Sandra Bullock makes for your mom. Sarah (Anna Margaret Hollyman) is a gadget-loving dork whose first response upon learning she's pregnant is to marvel at the quality of the text display on the pregnancy test. But she's worried by her lack of excitement for the pregnancy, so she decides to seek out her own long-estranged mother for advice. While the film hits themes of technology and human connection pretty hard (Sarah's mom is living "off the grid" and her dad is having a long-distance relationship via Skype), it's also gratifyingly unwilling to condemn Sarah for her tech-nerd ways.
An even more impressive offering is Eve and the Fire Horse, which, while it came out in 2005, never played Portland. (Don't bother checking Netflix.) Siren Nation rightly draws attention to this frank little film, which takes a Wonder Years-hued look at two Chinese Canadian sisters in the 1970s. First-generation immigrants, they reject the faith of their parents—and the "bad luck" that seems to dog their father—in favor of Catholicism. Fire Horse acknowledges not only that children have inner lives, but also that they can be just as mixed up and cruel as grownups. Through the eyes of its young protagonists, Eve and the Fire Horse offers a deft, frequently funny look at the first-generation immigrant experience.
Also on deck: The Canal Street Madam, about a New Orleans madam who ran a high-end brothel; and festival opener Hit So Hard: The Life and Near Death Story of Patty Schemel, a documentary look at the band Hole from the point of view of its drummer.