Fri April 16 thru Sun April 18
Rotterdam is the film festival of choice for those who want to keep abreast of adventurous and experimental world cinema, but can't make it there to get our fix. The closest we in the U.S. come to it are the plethora of "underground" festivals that have popped up all over the country, but those tend to push the boundaries of taste more than form. A true experimental film festival is a rare thing, and a well-curated one is priceless. Though practically brand new, the PDX Film Festival is just such a beast, and a welcome addition to the likes of the Ann Arbor and Black Maria festivals.
This year's PDX Fest has several interesting shorts packages and two very special guests. You may know of Jem Cohen from his feature documentaries Benjamin Smoke and the Fugazi doc Instrument, and if that's the case then you probably already bought tickets to the two programs of his short works and the workshop he's putting on Monday evening. What I've seen of his short work is fantastic. Lost Book Found, for example, weaves recollections of an urban scavenger with images from the streets of New York and lays it on the bed of a subtle (but stunning when you take notice of it) sound design. One film will leave you wanting more, and luckily there is more.
The other guest is DeeDee Halleck, a filmmaker and media activist who has helped create innovative distribution networks for grassroots activists and independent voices. She'll be presenting her movie Ah! The Hopeful Pageantry of Bread and Puppet.
Most of the programming is composed of short film collections, and right now I'm going to tell you the dirty little secret of experimental short films: A lot of them are really funny. Sure, some are dank and depressing, others are simply obtuse, but the best ones have a playful quality that is truly engaging. Then there's the structural experiments that may be an acquired taste, but I love them, and in that vein I'm going out of my way to recommend Sunday's 5:30 program of European experimental shorts. The whole weekend makes for a little taste of Rotterdam, which is more than the rest of the country is normally allowed to have.