Thin Skin, directed by The Stranger's own Charles Mudede, will open the festival highlighting local filmmakers.
Thin Skin, directed by The Stranger's own Charles Mudede, will open the festival highlighting local filmmakers. Thin Skin/Sean Kirby
Call me depraved, but bubbling in the background of my soul is an intense fucking longing for a Pacific Northwestern autumn.

Considering the smokin' hot climate we live in, who knows if PNW fall will kick off after Labor Day as common wisdom holds. But I, a sicko, hope mid-to-late September will bring that certain kind of squish in the grass that calls out to the Patagonia-clad masses.

Also hopefully heralding the start of autumn in Seattle is Northwest Film Forum's 24th Annual Local Sightings Film Festival, which runs from September 16-26. After going totally virtual last year, the annual fest highlighting local PNW filmmakers will go the hybrid route this year, blending virtual and in-person experiences for its 10-day long event. Viewers will have 11 feature films, 15 short film blocks, and several special events and workshops to watch.

Opening Local Sightings is Thin Skin, a film directed by Stranger philosopher-in-residence Charles Mudede and co-written by musician and comic Ahamefule Oluo and Stranger alum Lindy West. Based on Oluo's off-Broadway hit Now I'm Fine and a This American Life episode about his real life, Oluo stars as Aham, a down-and-out trumpet player in Seattle who receives a letter from his Nigerian father after decades of silence, upending his existence.

Rounding out the cast is Oluo's IRL sister, writer Ijeoma Oluo, who plays Aham's sister in the film, similarly dealing with the stress of hearing from their estranged father. Local scene-stealing actress Annette Toutonghi plays Aham's white mother, Susan, who constantly fusses over her adult children and in one scene hilariously appears in traditional Nigerian clothing. Paired with long shots of our city, Thin Skin is a very Seattle affair.

"A key feature of my film Thin Skin is that no attempt was made to make it familiar to a person who has not spent some time in, first, Seattle, and, second, the Pacific Northwest. This is the lonely region of America I really love," wrote Mudede in a statement to me yesterday afternoon. "This is why it makes a world of sense for Thin Skin to open Local Sightings. Its story about Ahamefule Oluo and the ghost of his Nigerian father is also, visually, a story about experiencing this part of the world, which used to not have so many hot days."

Closing out the fest is Manifest Destiny Jesus, a documentary set in the Seattle area. Directed by Josh Aaseng, Daemond Arrindell, and T. Geronimo Johnson, the doc is dedicated to the "future memory of white supremacy." It weaves interviews from religious, political, and cultural figures around the city to dissect topics and themes such as Jesus's supposed whiteness, gentrification, lynching, and police brutality. Heavy stuff, but viewers will be treated to a pre-show happy hour, a musical performance by multi-instrumentalist Benjamin Hunter, as well as a live Q&A with Aaseng, Arrindell, and Johnson.

Also of note is Gilda Sheppard's Since I Been Down, a documentary following Tacoma-born Kimonti Carter, who was sentenced to life without parole as a teenager under Washington's harsh three-strikes law passed back in 1993. Illuminating the dehumanization, especially of Black people in America's criminal "justice" system, Sheppard follows Carter and his fellow prisoners as they commit to transformational change and create community around education, personal growth, and justice.

Early bird passes to Local Sightings 2021 are on sale over on NWFF's website right now. You can choose between an in-person, virtual, or hybrid pass at discounted rates (offered only through August 16), with more information about programming released mid-month.