The 44th annual Portland International Film Festival (PIFF), starting this Friday, March 5, is going to work differently than any PIFF that came before it. Most film selections are going to be available to stream anytime between Friday and March 14. The few movies that won’t be available to stream will be accessible through drive-in screenings.

Though hardly surprising a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, that news might be a bummer for those who love the experience of watching a movie in a theater. There will, film gods willing, be plenty of opportunity for that once we’re all vaccinated later this year.

But for now, why not view the pandemic-forced constraints as an opportunity? PIFF’s lineup is full of films that might otherwise be hard to find, or at least a bit off the beaten path. For two weeks, you get to have them perfectly curated and served up to you, Netflix-style. And if you’re itching to get out of your house and watch a hotly anticipated selection (Minari, anyone?), you can take part in the revival of drive-ins, one of the unexpected joys of socially distanced living.

This year’s lineup for PIFF, presented by the Northwest Film Center, boasts 93 feature-length and short films. The Mercury’s team of reviewers—that’s yours truly, Wm. Steven Humphrey, and Janey Wong—didn’t have time to preview them all, but we did get to watch and review 12 of the ones we’re most excited about.

Use this guide as an entry point into worlds near and far—including the Philippines, Iceland, Brazil, and our very own Portland.


Check out all the Mercury’s PIFF Reviews:

A Machine to Live In is a Trippy Architecture Documentary Dream

Art as a Race Against Time in Holy Frit!

Saying "Yes, And..." to For Madmen Only

Hilarious, Madcap Nostalgia in Rehab Cabin

Children Bear the Brunt of Yemen’s Ongoing War in Hunger Ward

Nostalgia, Puberty, and Earthquakes in Death of Nintendo

Everything in the End Is an Introspective End-Times Flick

Minari Shows Beautifully Quiet Facets of the Asian Immigrant Experience

Climb Mt. Hood From the Comfort of Your Home with LGBTQ+ Documentary Who’s On Top

Film Shorts Explore Different Facets of Human Connection