The Forest Film Festival
dirs. Various
Thurs May 19- Sun May 22
Clinton St. Theater

With hefty press packets and an impressive website (hit for the full schedule), the Forest Film Festival has some pretty glossy packaging… and yet it's based out of Beaverton, accepts only film and video shorts, and is running at the lovably gritty Clinton Street Theater. Likewise, its 2005 film lineup exudes a hopeful professional sheen, but is still a step down from the big boys.

Many of the Forest's films start with a great idea, and then proceed to a) not develop it fully enough, or b) develop it entirely too much. In the "Local Fiction" category, Thom Harp's 8 Minutes to Love starts out as a hilarious satire of the world of eight-minute speed dating, but quickly devolves into a trite relationship drama, squandering the talents of its surprising lead, Sandra Oh. In the same category, FOOD has less star power, but an equally hilarious idea: A woman picks up bums on the side of the road and runs them through a series of rigorous boxing and sprinting ordeals, then lets them go. Sadly, filmmaker Thaddeus Konar ruins the mood with an ill-advised, too cute, extended meta-commentary of what just transpired.

The "Documentary" category includes Run to Jay's, a Florida State student's endearing chronicle of his friends' race to the convenience store during commercial breaks that, at 17 minutes, wears itself out. Meanwhile, the gorgeously filmed Beauty Project, about a photographer who shoots "normal" women in the nude at night to raise their self-esteem, is much too short at seven minutes. The promising sounding "Animation" category is merely mediocre, with Andy Murdock's ongoing CGI robot epic LOR providing the most notable effort, and the national "Fiction" category is played by Shinning Hour, a lame music video set to a terrible hiphop track.

Surprisingly, the fest's most solid category is "Student Fiction," with Erik Hecht's Grim Reeper comedy The Death of Theodore Graham stealing the show. Such efforts show that the organizers of the fest have a solid vision, and it's probably worth supporting this year, if only to help keep it going. With intentions so good, the Forest Film Fest will undoubtedly get better.