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Colombian filmmaker finds magic realism on Capitol Hill



Capitol Hill will have a starring role in at least one of the films featured in this year’s Seattle Shorts Film Festival this weekend at the SIFF Film Center near the Seattle Center.

Filmmaker Julio Ramirez’s new short Signs Everywhere, will come to the fifth annual festival, premiering Saturday, November 14. He shot a great deal of the 11-minute movie on the streets of Capitol Hill.

The short, starring Tony Doupe and Cynthia Geary is a magical realism tale of perception. According to the festival’s website, it follows a “man’s attempt to disconnect from reality, [which] results in an unusual visualization of signs from people’s struggles.”

After his first feature, 2013’s Nothing Against Life, Ramirez said he was diagnosed with cancer. It took him a while to return to health and his filmmaking career, but local help brought him back behind the camera.

Andrew Kwatinetz, a colleague from the The Film School, presented Ramirez with a screenplay for Signs Everywhere. The filmmaker responded to the story’s content and wanted to tell the story.

“He approached me and said, ‘I love your feature film and would you be willing to direct this if you like it?’” Ramirez said about Kwatinetz. “It came out of nowhere for me.”

SE-still5-600x314Ramirez said he loved thinking about how we perceive life through fantastical elements. He has observed the fantastic throughout his life.

“Growing up in Colombia, magic realism was something we grew up with everyday,” he said. “Even though it’s way more colorful and loud there, it is still linking reality with the image that we have in our head.”

Additionally, these themes within Signs Everywhere come close to those he expressed in Nothing Against Life. Ramirez agreed that the two films overlapped.

“The connection with the two films is that we don’t see things the way they are, but the way we are,” Ramirez said. “They both had poetics aspects and rhythm. I love playing with rhythm.”

The Colombian filmmaker has established a long-standing relationship with the Emerald City. He moved here to study film and screenwriting after making friends with a Seattle-native in his home country. Although he thought about traveling to many other cities to continue his education, he decided on the Pacific Northwest.

“Seattle kept calling,” he said.

Ramirez chose to film some of his follow up in Seattle’s oldest neighborhood, Capitol Hill. Though he only had two and a half days of filming, he felt it was a challenge to move from a feature film to a short.

“It was a challenge because of the time and lack of budget,” he said. “It felt like a big, big project.”

Signs Everywhere was made possible from local funding as well, according to Ramirez. The Film School provided about 30% of the funding, Katinetz gave another 30% and Ramirez found the rest from other sources.

Seattle Shorts Film Festival comes back in an expanded format for its fifth year. Since beginning in 2011, it has grown every year, joining the swelling number of local film festivals. You can view the full 2015 schedule here.

The festival will take place in the SIFF Film Center. Ramirez and the two film’s lead actors will be in attendance for a Q&A session after the screening.

It’s a home-grown festival, that aims to highlight local talent and the sturdy Seattle film scene. Ramirez echoed that desire in his approach to Signs Everywhere.

“The beauty of the project is that it was shot in collaboration with a lot of local artists,” he said.

He said he was glad to join those artists, coming back from his cancer scare to make films again. “I’m a storyteller and it is exhilarating.”

If you can’t make it to the screening, you can also sign up for IndieFlix and watch here.

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