Seattle doesn’t often loom large in the national cinematic consciousness: Nowadays, even on the Hollywood screen, it’s usually mimicked by Vancouver. Which makes it extra gratifying that, for Local Sightings Film Festival, the city becomes a hub for indie filmmakers who eschew New York or LA for the earnest and eccentric Northwest. Boasting 89 films from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, British Columbia, the Yukon, and Alaska (of which 20 are world premieres and 14 are features), Local Sightings acts as a showcase and watering hole for regional filmmakers and media artists, who range from emotional storytellers to nature documentarists to political essayists. More than 40 of them will attend, which makes for an opportunity for local professional and aspiring moviemakers to meet at the screenings, workshops, and parties.
Gender equity is, as always, at the forefront, says festival director Sophie Donlon. More than half of the feature films were directed by women. One that focuses on personal narrative is Chronic Means Forever (Sept 29) by first-time director Kadazia Allen-Perry from Spanaway, who uses first-person shots and narration to help us feel what it’s like to suffer from cystic fibrosis. Joanna Priestley’s North of Blue (Sept 23), at the other end of the storytelling spectrum, is an ever-morphing abstract animated paean to the Canadian Yukon in gorgeous colors and exuberant pattern.
As in previous years, Local Sightings boosts indigenous talent, this time with the feature Mele Murals by Tadashi Nakamura (Sept 23). This documentary follows Estria Miyashiro and John Hine, two Native Hawaiian street artists, and the young creative community around them. Nakamura investigates how contemporary graffiti adapts traditional culture for the modern town of Waimea, even as the artists take radically different life journeys.
You can meet many of these filmmakers at their screenings, but there are other social affairs and special events where you can hobnob, carouse, and learn. The opening party on September 21 will be a vivacious celebration of DIY creativity in Seattle, with music videos, a performance by the rapper Fantasy A, installation art by Spacefiller, a dance party with Reverend Dollars of Darqness, and on-site moviemaking. The following day, Kelton Sears will reveal the hidden storytelling potential of gifs in Trash Mountain: A GIFgantic Storytelling Event. Plus, there’s an extra-special screening on September 25 of the 1963 classic It Happened at the World’s Fair, in which Elvis Presley jaunts through the World’s Fair in sunny Seattle. It’ll feature live commentary from Stranger film editor and resident philosopher Charles Mudede, musician/writer Ahamefule J. Oluo, and bestselling author/Stranger alum Lindy West.
If you’re beginning your film career here, there’s no better way to spend the next nine days than to attend Local Sightings as much as you can. But everyone calling themselves a Seattleite—or a Northwesterner, for that matter—ought to check out the festival. There isn’t anything quite like it around.