From Sept. 18 to Sept. 25, Portland hosted part of the Oregon Independent Film Festival at The Clinton Street Theater, where I attended screenings on Sept. 23. As I approached the Clinton Street Theater, the intimacy of the event struck me. While I waited for the film to start, groups of actors, directors and enthusiastic attendees entered the theater. Having the opportunity to interact with the people who were responsible for creating the films themselves is something unique to smaller events like these, which enhances your relationship with the film shown. The night started with an hour of documentary short films. Shortly after, they played science fiction short films and finished by screening a few full movies of differing genres, most within 30 minutes and an hour.
There were some films in particular that are worth highlighting. My favorite documentary short film was “Escape from Eagle Creek,” produced by University of Oregon media graduate students, such as Danny Peterson. It opened with three survivors describing how they decided in the spur-of-the-moment with very little supplies to hike Eagle Creek in the Columbia River Gorge. This was an effective opening that acquainted the audience with the hikers who provide an incredibly visceral look into what happened at the fire-ravaged Eagle Creek. A fire occurred with approximately 150 people on the trail. Attempting to hike to safe ground, they found themselves stuck between two raging fires. The sense of tension and danger was palpable as the narrators described their experiences. “Escape from Eagle Creek” is an incredibly exhilarating and thought-provoking documentary that takes the audience on an emotional, relatable journey with the survivors. The film won the Best Environmental Documentary award.
The science fiction short films also provided enchanting entertainment. One of the films that stood out from the rest was “Children of the Soil,” directed by Ranadeep Bhattacharyya and Judhajit Bagchi. The film focused on clay sculptures of people performing mundane actions against a smoky gray background. While none of the sculptures themselves were moving, the slow panning of the camera gave the impression that the soldiers were moving. The music sounded almost hymn-like as it perfectly accompanied the film to instill an immense sense of dread. “Children of the Soil” effectively used visuals and sound to create a surreal viewing experience.
In contrast, “The Bullet of Time” directed by Ray Nomoto Robison, was engrossing because of its dialogue and use of humor. The plot involved a man who shoots his ex-girlfriend in a coffee shop. However, a professor with the ability to freeze time is also there, and he uses his power to talk with the would-be murderer for a while. Every action and line of dialogue was exaggerated to great comedic effect, and, overall, it provided an experience of nonstop fun for the viewer.
All in all, the festival was a captivating experience that offered a wide array of films of various genres. This festival is a testament to the talent and diversity of Oregon filmmakers.