LIKE MANY of our art scenes, Portland's filmmakers are a small but active contingency of the film world. We have some big names, but only a few, and some well-known titles under our belts, but again, just a few. The city's biggest boom of late has been in television rather than film—but in an industry as small as ours, that counts. Now in its 39th year, the Northwest Filmmakers' Festival showcases the best and most relevant output from the region. In part, it's to invite the community to discover what's happening onscreen in their corner of the world, but at its heart, it's aimed as much at burgeoning filmmakers as the viewing public—something observable in its marketing, which this year features a bleeding heart being revealed behind screen curtains.
Perhaps the fest's most important function, though, is creating an archive of the Northwest's film culture. The festival isn't necessarily geared toward high-profile premieres: Features like James Westby's Rid of Me and Lynn Shelton's Your Sister's Sister may have already been around the block, for instance, but their inclusion in the festival is important because it places them on the timeline.
As always, lesser-known and distributed films from throughout the Northwest are ripe for discovery. The shorts program might sound like a risky, haphazard proposition, but it's embedded with gems (I've said it before, but the experimental films of Orland Nutt are a goddamn local treasure), and this year features a number of excellent, if macabre, documentaries, most notably The Crime of the d'Autremont Brothers, about a 1923 Oregon train robbery, and the bleak, unflinching East Hastings Pharmacy, which documents the life of pharmacists whose primary duty is dispensing methadone in the downtown eastside of Vancouver, BC. But whatever your preferred genre, the Northwest Filmmakers' Festival has any entry point to the active independent underground at your door.