Inside the Fence

A regional festival sticks within its boundaries.

You wish sometimes that cities could swap film festivals every few years. It'd be a cultural exchange—SIFF for Sundance, Telluride for South by Southwest, Toronto for New York. The change in movies would do us good. We can't all afford to travel. (Also, few newspapers have the budget anymore to fly critics out of town.) What would we trade for the 11th Local Sightings Film Festival? I'd love to see something here from a far different region, like Austin's cult-oriented Fantastic Fest (overseen by Ain'tItCool.com blogger Harry Knowles), or with a completely different emphasis, like the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, North Carolina.Instead we've got the same Northwest regional focus, with some of the pickings familiar from SIFF and Bumbershoot/One Reel. The multistate (and province) Northwest platter offers a half-dozen features and five programs of shorts. The former are fairly conventional, with no standout titles. The latter provide what excitement Local Sightings has to offer—aside from the parties, of course.I've been complaining for years that local directors should abandon dull indie navel-gazing and try a few genre movies. That's exactly what Eric Colley and Hallie Shepherd have done with GPS (7 p.m. Sat.), in which treasure hunters take to the woods with handheld global positioning devices. What starts as a weekend game for yuppies, with $2 million at stake, ends up in betrayal and bloodshed—though not enough of the latter. Seven enter the forest, and three exit alive. It's a slasher-movie setup, only the bras never come off and the killings are mostly off-camera. Yet the movie is fairly well-polished and structured for a low-budget indie, and no one lapses into Tarantino meta-soliloquies or winks at the lens. And if aspiring Seattle filmmakers who watch it should think, "I can't stage a chase scene on ATVs in the forest," they can always use mopeds in the back alleys of Ballard.After An Inconvenient Truth, everyone's cranking out enviro-docs. About Good Food (7 p.m. Sat.), our Jonathan Kauffman wrote at SIFF-time, the filmmakers "simply run down the list of received ideas regarding shopping locally and sustainably. Their film's best suited for high-school health classes." Then there's Arid Lands (7 p.m. Mon.), about the Columbia River basin, where Native American inhabitants were displaced by federal irrigation projects. Then the white pioneer farms got the Hanford nuclear waste site as a neighbor. (The federal cleanup has given Benton County the third highest per-capita income in the state.) Meanwhile, dams have virtually eradicated the greatest salmon run on the planet. The documentary earnestly, fairly relates a lot of history without making it terribly vivid. Again, schoolkids may be the best audience.And the documentary On a Wing and a Prayer (7 p.m. Tues.), about a friendly, nice Muslim-American family up in Bellingham, will shock you if you're shocked by the notion that friendly, nice Muslim-Americans live up in Bellingham.The two best shorts from a batch I previewed—which leaves dozens more to guess about—are both animated, and screen in the same group (9 p.m. Mon.). Based in Vancouver, B.C., Norwegian animator Line Severinsen's Wanted recasts a traditional Viking raid for wives/captives as a blasé dating expedition by two sulky-horny hipster girls. They dream about tattooed, skinny club dudes, battle a sea serpent, and meet some rock stars on their journey. Bubblegum and cigarette smoke are among their boy-getting tools, plus no small amount of Norse gumption. Severinsen gives her emo duo a spindly hand-drawn strength with an animation style that's emphatically flat, discursive, and whimsical.Seattle's Webster Crowell combines live-action and animation in Parasol, an eight-minute romantic fantasia using a bicycle and umbrella as props. The spinning spokes and twirling parasol tines revolve like the tango-scored tale, which circles back and forth in time. A couple meets (in stop-motion photography), and their mini-courtship is drawn on the parasol fabric panels. Crowell's soft-edged animation suggests crayon and charcoal applied to cloth. And, like Severinsen, he needs no dialogue to advance his charming story.I also liked the protean bestiary of Stefan Gruber's Petting Zoo (also in the same Monday package); the local animator creates a beguiling dreamscape of morphing critters and zoo visitors. Cages and confinement are notions easily erased, like pencil lines.As for the rest of the fest, some details are pending, so see the Web site. Of note on Tuesday, at 9 p.m., will be seven new local shorts based on the seven deadly sins. Almost Live's veteran comic John Keister was assigned anger, and we'll see what the younger kids make of their vices.In truth, as a programming device, that might not be a bad notion for next year's festival: One sin per feature (or doc), each screened one night of the week. Either that or NWFF could ask to host the Adult Video Network Awards next year. That might fill some seats.bmiller@seattleweekly.com

 
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