Regional filmmakers will again flock to Capitol Hill as the Northwest Film Forum opens the Local Sightings Film Festival Thursday night.
“It’s definitely one of the tentpoles of the year,” program manager Courtney Sheehan said. “I’m super excited. I’m really excited about the many different things we will have.”
The event features a host of local screenings, expansive classes and an extended Seattle Film Summit, which aims to bring together filmmakers in the Seattle industry into a forum of open discussion about the state of making movies in the Pacific Northwest.
Though the event enters its 17th year, it will be the first one under Sheehan’s direction.
Fro programming to awards for the best films in the festival, Sheehan said Local Sighting is also about promoting and maintaining the center’s ‘sensibility’ that makes it a staple of Seattle and Capitol Hill.
“In terms of talking about Northwest Film Forum’s sensibility — one word to sum up up that is ‘independent,” Sheehan said. “Our program year round is always pretty fiercely independent and I think that’s a lot of what Local Sightings is about as well.”
Located on 12th Ave between Pine and Pike, Northwest Film forum faces a new future in film on Capitol Hill with the SIFF-powered revival and reopening of the Egyptian Theatre on E Pine next Friday, October 3rd. Sheehan said she approached reviewing submissions and the hunt for films with an appreciation for the Northwest Film Forum’s history.
“It’s just really important to maintain that identity,” Sheehan said. “I really like working in the Northwest Film Forum because I really like the nature of it.”
From the opening feature about outsider ESL teachers in Missoula, Mont., called Bella Vista, to the closing feature’s story about Vietnam War reenacters in Oregon, In Country, Local Sightings returns to its roots of finding and sharing unique voices in the Pacific Northwest.
This year’s festival will showcase 14 films and five shorts programs, and a host of parties and other events that will make up the celebration of local cinema.
Sheehan said she strove to provide the audience with a great deal of variety and ensure they kept track of local talent.
“For full lengths, we want to always have a good mix of features and documentaries,” Sheehan said. “And throughout the year, we track films and we know local filmmakers that we follow.”
While organizers seek out specific features and shorts they want to share with fans of fine Northwest cinema, Local Sightings also welcomes submissions.
It is a juried affair, where three high profile local-philes will lend their welcome judgment on the entered films in a variety of categories.
This year, Women Make Movies Exhibition director Kristen Fitzpatrick, Central District professional skateboarder-turned filmmaker Maximón Monihan and University of Oregon Cinema Pacific director Richard Herskowitz round out the Local Sightings jury panel. They will give awards for best feature and best short on the festival’s closing night.
Naked City Brewery will also sponsor its fourth Audience Award and the Seattle Composers Alliance will mark the same milestone with its annual Best Original Score Award.
Though she said she is proud of all the programming in this year’s festival, Sheehan did let a few of her personal highlights slip. Particularly an animated feature that she admitted “may not be for everyone,” called Bubble Bubble Meows and the Meteor Stomachache.
“It’s about a cat and his search for a cure to a stomachache caused by meteor consumption,” she said with a smile.
While not inappropriate for children, she said some may not understand its sense of humor.
This year’s Local Sightings will break some new ground in terms of its sans-feature opening night and the expansion of the Seattle Film Summit. Sheehan explained that she wanted the opening night to focus more on letting the audience get to know the creative talent they would see over the ensuing week. Under-construction 12th Ave “micro” craft brewery Outer Planet is sponsoring the opening night party.
She said the summit would end with a local industry-wide evaluation of itself in a town hall discussion October 2nd.
“I hope it will be a culminating discussion to grapple with the reality of who we are and what we do,” Sheehan said.
You can purchase tickets and learn more at localsightings.nwfilmforum.org.