Ker-Pow! 

Best of the Portland Women's Film Fest

The quality of entries in this year's Portland Women's Film Fest transcends most of the stuff we've seen on the local festival circuit since like, Cannes 1969. Miraculously, we liked most of the films, but here are some of the ones we liked best.

Ava Elderberry (dir. Jacqueline Schaeffer, Santa Monica, CA)

When you were a kid, did you ever wonder what happens when you swallow a watermelon seed? This film answers that question. A cute black-and-white entry about a woman who has a miniature tree growing out of her ear--presumably because a bully shoved a seed in there when she was a kid. As an adult, she is driven to a support group for other grown-ups who have suffered from other old wives' tales--a man whose face is "stuck that way," a blind man with hairy palms (presumably from masturbating). Without dialogue, the main actress manages to convey humor and compassion. PHIL BUSSE Thurs May 29, 8 pm

Bingo Ladies

(dir. Tami Wilson, Vancouver, BC)

Bingo Ladies is a standout. With patience and seamless camerawork, the film unfolds the stories of several Canadian women obsessed with bingo, in turn illuminating the $400 million a year, state-run industry. Wisely, director Tami Wilson adds no commentary or storyline, simply allowing the women to tell their own stories and explain their obsessions. The result is a fascinating journey into a busy-bee subculture, as the women bicker about good luck charms and politely stab each other in the back. PB Thurs May 29, 8 pm

Fair Phyllis

(dir. Beth Portman, Canada)

No cartoon is complete without poop and farting--even one as fluffy and adorable as this one. Phyllis is a tomboy who tends a herd of sheep. She ropes coyotes and drags wayward sheep from mud holes. But she also daydreams about her feminine side and her prince charming. When he arrives, armed with roses and wine, she is caught between her grubby profession and her sexual obsession. PB Thurs May 29, 8 pm

In The Name Of Love

(dir. Shannon O'Rourke, Los Angeles)

A fascinating documentary on the Russian wife industry, In The Name of Love tracks a number of women who are signed up for matchmaking services. Generally paired off to older, wealthy American men, many of the women freely discuss their desire for white-knight fantasies, of being whisked off to a life of prosperity and progeny. It's sort of hard to imagine that some of the men they end up with are quite the men of their dreams. Tackling the stereotypes of "mail order brides," the film documents a few cases in which the women are not desperate to leave the country. One is a fiercely independent, capable career woman who refuses to compromise the respect she is due, and laughs that many of the men her agency attracts are "losers." Occasionally funny, frequently melancholy, the film is absorbing, sensitive, and honest; one wishes it were longer. MARJORIE SKINNER Sun June 1, 7 pm

Signed, Stamped, and Dated: The Story of the Typing Explosion

(dir. Gina Mainwal, Seattle, WA)

The tale of performance-art poets the Typing Explosion, three ladies who will type a collaborative poem on any topic for a dollar, this charming little ditty is as colorful and full of ideas as the vintage dresses worn by its subjects. JULIANNE SHEPHERD May 30, 8 pm

Tulia, Texas: Scenes from the Drug War

(dir. Emily Kunstler & Sarah Kunstler, Brooklyn, NY)

An undercover cop working alone made a gargantuan drug bust in the tiny farming town of Tulia, Texas. Which is great for the drug war and all, except the only evidence he had was written on his leg, and conveniently, every person he arrested was either A. African American or B. a white person married to an African American person. Learn from this documentary how one man's word landed 10% of a town's black population in prison, the racism that let it happen, and the lawyers currently working to restore justice. It's well executed and clear, and you'll be completely infuriated by film's end. JS May 31, 6 pm

Portland Women's Film Festival runs Thurs May 29-Sun June 1 at Itisness, 3016 NE Killingsworth, $5 per night. See Film Times pg 43 for more info or visit www.zonkerfilms.com

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