In a town with too many film festivals, the Portland Documentary and eXperimental Film Festival (better known as the PDX Film Fest) is one of the few indispensable ones. An offshoot of local filmmaker Matt McCormick's Peripheral Produce video label, the PDX Film Fest's 2008 edition boasts five days of experimental and documentary films, video and performance art, and workshops.
We'll have more on the PDX Film Fest in next week's Mercury, right about the time that the fest really gets going—but things kick off a bit earlier than that, with Wednesday's opening night screening of Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell, Matt Wolf's touching and gorgeously shot documentary about avant-garde singer/songwriter and producer Russell. Russell's evocative, captivating work was obscure when he recorded it in the '70s and '80s, but recent compilation albums have raised his profile significantly; Wild Combination ties together archival footage of Russell's life and music, insights from his collaborators (like Allen Ginsberg and Philip Glass), and interviews with everyone from Jens Lekman to Russell's charming parents. ("We never did understand his music too well," his mother says, and his father follows, "I call it music you can't really tap your foot to.")
Following the screening of Wild Combination, an opening night party at galleryHomeland (2505 SE 11th) also serves as an introduction to the fest's video installation, Surreal Systems, featuring work from 14 artist and artist teams from the US and Europe.
In the days that follow, there'll also be selections from organizations and people like Cartune Xprez and Craig Baldwin, as well as fun-sounding events like the First Ever Experimental Filmmaker Karaoke Throwdown (in which attendees can sing along to karaoke videos created by the fest's filmmakers) and the much-loved Peripheral Produce Invitational—the infamous "rock 'em, sock 'em film showdown that is widely considered the world championship of experimental cinema."
Admission for individual screenings is $7, while a festival pass will run you $40. For more info, check out Film Shorts on pg. 52, Movie Times on pg. 55, peripheralproduce.com, and next week's Mercury.