The most important thing about Local Sightings, a film festival dedicated to regional independent film, is its wildness. Each film seems to be insulated, in its own world, a strange plant in a garden that's packed with other strange and unrelated plants. There is no zeitgeist in Northwest cinema, no trend, no Benjaminian correspondences. What Local Sightings shows is that anything can happen, anything can appear on the screen.
A taste of the wildness: Serge Gregory's Summer Elegy is set in some remote part of Ireland that's slowly dying. There are old tractors, lonely dogs, lonely cows, low clouds, homes made of stone, and wind-bent trees. An Irish poet with a hoarse voice says strange things about the land and the past, and reads Yeats's sorrowful poem "Into the Twilight" ("And God stands winding His lonely horn/And time and the world are ever in flight/And love is less kind than the gray twilight"). This is not the kind of film Gregory usually makes. His films are usually about Seattle and urbanism. Why Ireland, why this sadness, why the poetry, and the tin whistle? Another short film, Howard from Ohio, which is directed by SJ Chiro (she is, admittedly, my cousin), is about sex in the internet age. Starring Stacey Plum and John Paulson, and based on a short story by the local playwright Keri Healey, Howard is in its own cold universe of Ballardian, post-millennium human beings. The film is tight, simple, erotic, and a far cry from gloomy Ireland.
Then there's the surprisingly good documentary The Wanteds, which concerns a Portland bartender, Tommy Harrington, who's about to reach the dead middle of his 30s and is still dreaming of becoming a rock star. All he has is will, a lot of ex-girlfriends, a car, and a guitar. The world of this "rockumentary" (the festival also has a "bikeumentary," Pedal Driven) has nothing in common with the world in the feature film Light of Mine, which is also set in Portland and is about a photographer who loses his eyesight and, sadly, goes on a road trip. The best thing about Light happens near the end and involves Kate Bush. The Northwest is one crazy place. Local Sightings Film Festival, Sept 30–Oct 6, Northwest Film Forum.