Celluloid celebration

// 2011 Tacoma Film Festival showcases independent films

With more than 100 independent films to see from around the world, opportunities to hear from visiting filmmakers, directors and actors, parties to attend and even free films being screened at three locations, the seventh annual Tacoma Film Festival looks to be perhaps the best one yet. Tickets are on sale now, including for the opening night kick-off party Oct. 6.

Presented by The Grand Cinema, the festival runs through Oct. 13. There is a film to suit practically any taste in this year’s fest – from family flicks to documentaries, foreign films to animation, and a two-day mini-fest dedicated to films made in the Pacific Northwest. Official programs listing everything on tap for the festival are available for free at The Grand (606 S. Fawcett Ave.) and at the Tacoma Weekly office (4412 6th Ave.).

Emily Alm is festival director. A dedicated volunteer at The Grand and a longtime fan of cinematic arts, she is particularly excited about this year’s opening night film “Natural Selection,” which will be shown at the opening night gala Oct. 6 at Annie Wright Kemper Theater (827 N. Tacoma Ave.)

Alm said the film, winner of seven awards at the 2011 SXSW Film Festival, is one of her favorites. “It’s funny, quirky, has some dramatic moments – it’s just a unique film.” Lead actor Matt O’Leary will be in attendance for the screening.

The synopsis: “When a dutiful, albeit barren, Christian housewife discovers that her devout husband has suffered a stroke at a sperm bank where he’s been secretly donating his seed for the past 25 years, she leaves her sheltered world and starts off on a journey to find his eldest biological son.”

Alm said that “Natural Selection” is a rather bold film to begin the festival, and she did this intentionally. “It’s a little edgier. I wanted to try that out to show the audience that we’re going to take risks and show movies that might challenge you.”

Tickets for the opening night gala are $15 for members of The Grand and $20 for non-members. Jonz Catering will serve hearty appetizers. Tickets are $11 for movie only.

The following seven days of the festival have something going on every afternoon and evening and keeps going after hours at the designated fest hangouts Doyle’s Public House and Farrelli’s Pizza. There will be two morning screenings of documentaries during the fest at 10:30 a.m. – “Breaking Through the Clouds: The First Women’s National Air Derby” at Tacoma Art Museum and “Give Up Tomorrow” at The Grand (Official Selection: Tribeca and Audience Choice Winner, among its other awards).

About 30 films will have a director, filmmaker or actor present at screenings. On Oct. 8, noted cultural conversationalist, interviewer, film analyst, writer and mentor to screenwriters Warren Etheredge will give a free workshop at 10 a.m. in The Grand Cinema lobby. In 90 minutes, he will explain and explore the craft of drafting a compelling film scene, from how to start to making sure conflict escalates as the plot evolves.

A special Friday night film presentation of “Young Goethe in Love” will play at the Blue Mouse Theater, Oct. 7 at 7 p.m. And on Oct. 9, the Sunday night festival highlight presentation of the hilarious comedy “Losing Control” will feature a special guest, director Valerie Weiss.

Two free films will be shown at Theatre on The Square as part of Broadway Center’s new weekend event called Fall Free For All, which offers 19 hours of shows, exhibits and activities at no charge – the documentary “How To Die In Oregon” at 2 p.m. Oct. 8 and “These Amazing Shadows” at 4 p.m. Oct. 9.

“These are two of the best films we have this year,” Alm remarked.

The festival includes many short films from around the world – animated, comedy, drama, family, late night and documentary. On Oct. 8 at Tacoma Art Museum the short documentary film “Kevin” by Seattle director Jay Duplass will show at 2:30 p.m. An Official Selection of the 2011 SXSW Festival, the film’s namesake, Austin singer/songwriter Kevin Gant, will perform his original acoustic songs live.

Film shown Oct. 10 and 11 are primarily Tacoma and Seattle made films. Audiences will be asked to choose their favorite and the winner will be announced at the closing night gala Oct. 13. An awards celebration event Oct. 9 will reveal the overall winners in six categories. Hosted by Warren Etheredge, the awards event will be held at the Pacific Grill Events Center (1530 Pacific Ave.), 3 p.m. Tickets are $8 for members of The Grand and $10 for non-members.

The festival closes Oct. 13 with a screening of “The Off Hours,” the Official Selection of the 2011 Sundance and Seattle International Film Festivals. Filmmaker/director Megan Griffiths will be in attendance to host a post-film discussion. The short film “Something Special” by Puyallup filmmaker Kristi Simpkins will also be shown.

Get full details on everything to do with the fest, synopses of all the films showing, along with dates, locations and times, at www.tacomafilmfestival.com. For help with ordering tickets or to get more information, call (253) 572-6062.

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