Spend enough time away from the cineplex—as I have during this recession—and it becomes difficult to think of film exclusively in terms of three acts, two leads, and a single dissolving kiss. That's what the PDX Film Fest is here for—to help us sort out the possibilities contained within (and outside) the sprockets.
This year, there are two accidental themes popping up in the festival's lineup of international experimental and documentary films. The first is the many alternate formats through which we can watch cinema—installation art, videogames, even PowerPoint. This will be strongly represented on opening night at galleryHOMELAND, where Cartune Xprez is curating a showcase of over 20 artists, including local collective Mumblehop, who have built a DIY arcade game for attendees to play.
The second unintended theme is featured in RiP: A Remix Manifesto, a documentary by Brett Gaylor that profiles mash-up artist Gregg Gillis (AKA Girl Talk) while examining the history of sampling.
"Though RiP focuses on music," festival organizer Gretchen Hogue says, "its vision of a future free from copyright has immediate correlations to what experimental filmmaking has been doing for years."
The tradition Hogue refers to began with Bruce Conner, the filmmaker often cited as the first mash-up artist for the ingenious way he began re-appropriating industrial films in the late-1950s. A retrospective of the recently passed Conner's works will screen on opening night. "Conner is one of the most influential artists in the entire canon of experimental film," Hogue says. "He created work that is intelligent yet playful, a bit punk rock, and one of a kind."
Then, of course, there's the Peripheral Produce Invitational, which has been a staple of the festival since 2002, its inaugural year. Here, filmmakers try to out-clever each other with the most striking stunt filmmaking they can muster. Past winners have made movies with View-Masters and close-ups of facial contortions.
This year's invitational should be just as unique—and just as surprising. When I ask Hogue how the competing filmmakers for this year's invitation were chosen, she answers, "The selection process is top secret and very complex. I'd have to kill you if I told you."