by Chas Bowie

NW Film & Video Fest

Opens Fri Nov 7

Guild Theater

Despondent women, pratfalls, concentration camps, giant rodents, and boys flushing themselves down toilets: yep, it's time again for the Northwest Film and Video Fest. This is the 30th year in a row the NW Fest brings together short films and video from the region, and peppers it with seminars, workshops, and other conference-y activities. Thursday night there's a kickass opening party at Holocene emceed by local legend-in-the-making Bradlee Simmons, who will screen his new film about the prejudice he encountered upon moving to Oregon after the dot com bust.

For the cash- and attention-deficit, however, the film shorts are always the festival highlight. If you hate the one you're watching, another one is quick to follow. The juror for this year's festival is the amazing experimental filmmaker James Benning (and father of ex-Le Tigre rocker/filmmaker Sadie Benning). Here are some standout shorts from this year's festival:

Why the Anderson Children Didn't Come to Dinner (Jamie Travis)--It's like The Royal Tenenbaums meets The Addams Family, and it's one of the best short films I've ever seen. A set of triplets, a food-obsessive mother hooked to an IV, and a suite of cats move surreally and beautifully through this entrancing film. The art direction had me squealing with glee. Aside from just being an insanely good film, the director is only 23 years old. I'm still in awe.

American Nutria (Matt McCormick)--It's hard to tell whether McCormick's new documentary about this orange-toothed, oversize rodent is deceptively straightforward or just charmingly straightforward. For being about giant rats, it's incredibly pleasant, aided by the bouncy soundtrack courtesy of The Postal Service.

Entry (Dayna Hanson, Gaelen Hanson)--A wonderfully direct and unsentimental autumn dance piece from Seattle's 33 Fainting Spells.

Britton, South Dakota (Vanessa Renwick)--Renwick's cyan-stained found footage of tough-looking Midwest children from the 1940s has all the presence of an August Sander photograph. The ominous organ music fills the SD sidewalks with dread and poignancy.

The Fest lasts all week. For complete listings, see Film Times pg 41.