THE "SUMMER CAMP" THEME of the 36th annual Northwest Film & Video Festival may not be much more than a marketing aesthetic, but it does accurately capture the festival's reason for being: to scout the region's filmmakers and prepare them for survival in the hairy film industry. Sifting through the talent of the Northwest (which, according to the Film & Video Festival's organizers, the Northwest Film Center, is a vast region that includes Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Alaska, and British Columbia) is this year's judge, Kenneth Turan, the film critic for the Los Angeles Times and NPR's Morning Edition.
Accepted entries come from a rainbow of entrants, from Portlander Irene Taylor Brodsky (whose film The Final Inch, about eradicating polio, was nominated for the Best Short Documentary at the 2009 Oscars), to Northwest Film Center intern Amanda Thomson, presenting her narrative short Dear John Lee. Hometown director and former festival judge Gus Van Sant also antes up with his short, Mansion on the Hill.
The fest, spanning nine days, consists of three unique sets of short films (over 40 shorts in all), each screening twice, as well as about a dozen longer features. While most of the shorts are a mixed bag, the animated shorts largely maximize the wavelength of a few minutes of tape—notably Su-An Ng's visually stunning Nature on its Course, and Salise Hughes' Somewhere, a mash-up love story of a Western cowboy and West Side Story's Maria.
A number of Portlanders-on-Portland films also help to bring the fest home, such as Brian Lindstrom's To Pay My Way with Stories, about Write Around Portland (WRAP), the nonprofit that offers creative writing courses to poor and ill individuals, and Sue Arbuthnot and Richard Wilhem's Imagining Home, which chronicles the redevelopment of the Columbia Villa public housing project and is angled but captivating.