AS MUCH AS it's a refuge for oft-lauded music and culinary pioneers, the Pacific Northwest is home to a bustling film community, and this is their week. The Northwest Film & Video Festival, now in its venerable 37th year, is a convention of workshops, conversations, and screenings, presided over by this year's judge, screenwriter Gill Dennis (Return to Oz, Home Fires, Walk the Line). For the audience member, it's a one-stop opportunity to tap into the region's diverse up and comers, and, ideally, develop the kind of relationship to filmmakers' work that is only possible through having witnessed their beginnings.
Spanning British Columbia, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, and Washington, the diversity of this year's offerings is best witnessed in the many short films that screen over the course of three installments; from experimental to documentary to atmospheric, it's all there. Several of the more high-profile feature length films are local: Nick Peterson and Mary Defreese's Field Guide to November Days is all bicycles and emotions, a made-by-bike endeavor exploring romantic relationships among characters entrenched in angsty, extended adolescence. The Adults in the Room also tackles sex and relationships, from the combined angles of filmmaker Andy Blubaugh's personal experience as a minor in a homosexual relationship with an adult man and the breaking of the Sam Adams/Beau Breedlove media fire.
Nonetheless, some of the strongest submissions are documentary. Vernon Lott of Idaho's Bad Writing is a hilarious and edifying look at what constitutes bad writing (not to be missed for anyone who writes creatively); likewise, Into Darkness, from Portland's John Waller, is an absorbing short doc on the harrowing, claustrophobic pastime of caving.
The festival also boasts a number of workshops and panels, many of them free, geared toward aspiring filmmakers, plus opening and closing night parties. In other words: Plenty of points of entry to anyone checking the pulse of Northwest film.