The 2020 Port Townsend Film Festival may have moved online, but it has lost nothing in the transition. A truly diverse array of offerings — feature films and docs, shorts and specials — …
The 2020 Port Townsend Film Festival may have moved online, but it has lost nothing in the transition. A truly diverse array of offerings — feature films and docs, shorts and specials — was revealed when event officials debuted the full program, which truly ambitious audiences might actually get through entirely this time as nearly all the content will be accessible 24/7 throughout the event’s entire 10-day run.
Passes — $120 for complete access, $60 for a six-pack plan — are on sale now. Single tickets will also be available. Each pass/ticket is unique to a specific email address, though festival offerings can be screened via a television, computer, tablet or phone.
The festival runs from Thursday, Sept. 24 to Sunday, Oct. 4.
Visit www.ptfilmfest.com to learn more and purchase your passes.
Highlights of this year’s offerings include “A Most Beautiful Thing,” which tells the story of the first African American high school rowing team and their 20th anniversary reunion, and “Her Effortless Brilliance: A Celebration of Lynn Shelton Through Film and Music,” a feature documentary about the life and career of the renowned Seattle filmmaker, who died in May at the age of 54.
The resulting grief felt by her fans, collaborators, and loved ones comes through in this documentary by Shelton’s longtime friend Megan Griffiths, said event officials, which features a star-studded lineup of appearances, including Emily Blunt, Kaitlyn Dever, Rosemarie DeWitt, Mark and Jay Duplass, Jeff Garlin, Joshua Leonard, Sean Nelson, Michaela Watkins, and Reese Witherspoon — as well as music from her partner Marc Maron, Andrew Bird, Ben Gibbard, Laura Veirs, and Tomo Nakayama.
“Coming to filmmaking in her mid 30s, Lynn Shelton was truly a force in American independent cinema and was a pillar of the arts community in her hometown of Seattle,” officials said. “Her work drew acclaim for its compassion, humor, unique voice and wonderful performances. She is gone too soon and will be deeply missed. Come meet the magic behind the magic.”
A sampling of other notable titles from this year’s program include:
“Beyond the Bolex” (feature doc)
In the 1920s, immigrant inventor Jacques Bolsey aimed to disrupt the early film industry with a motion picture camera for the masses: the iconic Bolex.
More than 90 years later, his granddaughter Alyssa Bolsey pieces together the fragments from a family archive to reveal the story. Interviewing family members and renowned filmmakers, Alyssa travels to Switzerland, and delves into Jacques’ diary, archival film reels and collected images in order to understand the man and his impact on generations of filmmakers. This is a very personal film, and a true immigrant’s story. Many filmmakers still swear by Bolsey’s invention, and “Beyond the Bolex” is an ode to the man and his camera.
“Born Into the Gig” (feature doc)
If Bob Marley was your grandpa, could you ever get out of his shadow? This music-driven documentary follows five singer-songwriters hoping to carve out their own musical identity in the shadow of family greatness. Follow Chris Stills (son of Stephen Stills and French star, Veronique Sanson), Skip Marley (grandson of Bob Marley), Kori Whithers (daughter of the hit-maker Bill Withers), Ben and Sally Taylor (children of James Taylor and Carly Simon) as they make their moves in the music industry. For these “children of,” a career in music may seem fairly obvious. But the reality of making it on your own merits in the family business takes each character on an emotional journey with unexpected twists, highs and lows.
“A Home Called Nebraska” (feature doc)
Nebraska — you’d think this a most unlikely place for new immigrants to be welcomed, being a conservative, largely rural state. But through the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program, Nebraska has long been the first new home for the victims of terrorism, civil war, rape, attempted murder and persecution. “A Home Called Nebraska” is the surprising, emotional story of a mid-western welcome, of unlikely friendships and a revitalized American Dream deep in the conservative U.S. heartland. Think you know Nebraska? Think again.
“Pictures of His Life” (feature doc)
The underwater photographer Amos Nachoum’s white whale is not a whale at all, but is, instead, a polar bear.
Nachoum has swum with crocodiles and killer whales, with anacondas and with great white sharks. But one major predator has always eluded him. The legendary photographer has always dreamed of swimming underwater with a polar bear and capturing it face-to-face on film. He tried before and barely escaped with his life, but now, at 65, he is determined to give it one last try. No one has ever shot polar bears the way Nachoum wants to — while swimming with them — and for good reason: Polar bears consider humans part of their diet. Determined to get the shot this time, the photographer embarks on a five-day Canadian Arctic expedition with a small crew. It’s “The Old Man and the Sea,” Hollywood-style.
“The Race to Alaska” (feature doc)
We’re all living through strange times now; social distancing, staying safe. Well, get ready to leave your safe place behind!
Five years in the making, “The Race to Alaska” chronicles an annual adrenaline-fueled, 750-mile boat race from Port Townsend through the dangerous and spectacular wilderness of the Inside Passage, all the way to Ketchikan, Alaska. Described as “the Iditarod, on a boat, with a chance of drowning or being eaten by a grizzly bear,” this race attracts the intrepid and the unhinged. Meet the dauntless men and women competing for the $10,000 first prize — with no support teams, no rest stops, and practically no rules, except, of course, for that small detail about no motors allowed.
Riptides, dolphins, storms, rain, snow, hunger, cold, exhaustion, bears; those are the things you can expect. And then, the race happens: No motors and no support, and nobody finishes without a story.
“Standing Up, Falling Down” (feature film)
Billy Crystal gives one of the best dramatic performances of his career in “Standing Up, Falling Down.” If you have ever watched a stand-up comedian and thought “I could do that,” this is the perfect reality check for you. Scott, in his 30s, returns to his parents’ home on Long Island after four years trying and failing to succeed in comedy clubs in Los Angeles. But a sudden encounter might be the prescription for this damaged soul. This lighthearted film makes a good case for both falling down and standing up.
“The Perfect Candidate” (feature film)
Maryam is a doctor in Saudi Arabia with two problems: one is the dirt road leading to her clinic that becomes impassable when flooded, and the other is the refusal of men to be treated, or even touched by, a female doctor. While her father, a respected musician, is away on a tour, Maryam sets out on a trip to Riyadh, is in need of a chaperone, and before she knows it, she is running for office. This accidental heroine takes on the cynics (Arabic with English subtitles).
“Citizen Penn” (feature doc)
How often have you seen something horrible happening in another part of the world? How often have you thought “Somebody should do something!” “Citizen Penn” is the story of one man (Sean Penn) who started an avalanche of aid in 2010, after a 7.0 earthquake devastated Haiti. It’s not just anyone who can walk into a disaster and find the first block that has to be moved — downed power lines, dead bodies everywhere, rubble piles as tall as two-story buildings — where do you start? This film offers an intimate look at the challenges faced when one man decides to do something in the face of adversity. When the world falls on your head one day, you’ll want this guy to come for you.
“Baato” (feature doc)
One road — a world of change. Every winter Mikma’s family travels by foot from their village deep in the Himalayas of Nepal to sell medicinal plants in the city markets — an annual migration of almost 200 miles. The family’s journey along the precipitous trails this year is intersected by a construction gang building a modern new highway to China. This is the evocative tale of that journey, full of strong women and beautiful, rugged country. The camera work is unobtrusive, giving one the feeling of being along on the journey. And the soundtrack interweaves beautifully with the natural sounds in the environment. Travelers, photographers and philosophers will all love this film.
“And Then We Danced” (feature film)
Is it the breathtaking rigor of the dance, the unique cultural setting, or the expressive features of its young lead that make this film so memorable? Merab, a lithe young dancer training to fill a coveted opening in the Georgian Ballet, is at first threatened by, and then attracted to, a dancer newly arrived from another town. Controversial because of broken Georgian Ballet taboos, this film embodies the oppression in that Orthodox Christian Country, treating the audience to a rare look at the rich dance heritage of this region of the former Soviet Union (Georgian with English subtitles).
“The Delegation” (feature film)
In 1990, a European delegation arrives in Tirana, Albania, to monitor the progress of human rights in that communist country. Far from the capitol, political dissidents are held in a dark and crowded prison, watching news of the delegation on a sputtering television. In this nuanced portrait of political intrigue, the lives of key characters are revealed during a stalled and fateful road trip (Albanian and French with English subtitles).
“In Safe Hands” (feature film)
Heroes abound in this French portrait of foster care and the social safety net. It is unusual at best to see a movie in which the leading man is a newborn infant. Baby Theo is offered to the world in a French maternity ward by an emotionally distant young woman who arrives on a scooter and leaves without having touched or spoken to her baby. As a contentious family panel sorts through a list of hopeful adoptive parents, we are engaged in the placement process, wondering where, or even if, our little hero will find a permanent home (French with English subtitles).
“Love Type D” (feature film)
What if there were a gene that predisposed a person to be unlucky in love? Frankie, having been dumped 11 times, learns that she has the gene that makes her more likely to be the dumpee in a romantic relationship than the dumper. With the help of 11-year-old citizen scientist Wilbur, Frankie explores the possibilities of a cure for this unfortunate genetic condition. For fans of silly science, or of the British sense of humor, “Love Type D” is a charming spoof on the predictable romantic comedy.
For a complete list of this year’s festival offerings, including short documentaries and narrative films, visit www.ptff2020.eventive.org.