With the SIFF parade making landfall just a few blocks away at the beautiful Egyptian, I want to make doubly sure that this worthy showcase of regional filmmaking isn't lost behind a drift of teal confetti. If you're interested in keeping up with the world of art-house film, Northwest Film Forum needs to be on your beat, and if you haven't been in a while, then perfect, because you still have time to clear your schedule and be at Local Sightings.
Let's talk about the movies. There are 14 features in total. The closing night film, In Country, is excellent. Filmmakers Mike Attie and Meghan O'Hara had the good fortune to encounter a perfect subject—a Vietnam War reenactment society in rural Oregon—and the good sense to not botch the documentary that was waiting to be made about it. It's a film that adds to our growing picture of the seemingly irreversible psychological effects of military combat. Most participants are members of the military or veterans, for whom the scenes of war have become ingrained over the span of several tours of duty. When on leave, they choose to spend their time replaying these scenes, and the question becomes: Is this an obsession or an exorcism? Take this scene: A veteran of the South Vietnamese Army, while in the reenactment, manages to capture two members of the Vietcong. As he leads them back to his encampment, he yells at them in Vietnamese "Walk faster!" and "Hands up!" We viewers have the benefit of subtitles, but in all likelihood, those two men portraying the captives—white actors in full costume—had no idea what he was saying as they were marched back. And here we are, in Oregon. Try to wrap your mind around all those layers.
The opening night film, Bella Vista, a landscape-heavy drama that was "shot in only 12 days and directed, written, edited, produced, and DP'd by women," is also promising. And of course, as you'd expect in a festival of homegrown films, there are some uneven patches. The horror film The Device, for instance, which involves a pair of sisters harboring a terrible, supernatural secret, is not good, but still worth watching if you like Syfy Channel original movie-ish movies. Then there's Bubble Bubble Meows and the Meteor Stomachache, a feature-length film that looks like it was designed entirely in Microsoft Paint. To this one, bring patience and know that as you are watching it, you are having, if nothing else, a unique experience.
Local Sightings runs September 25 through October 4 at Northwest Film Forum, find the full schedule at nwfilmforum.org.