Thursday, October 12, 2023

Orcas Island Film Festival: Oct 11 - 15

North of Seattle, one of the region's most compelling cinephile events returns to the pastoral setting of the San Juan Islands. As an example of festival programming featuring diverse and qualitative content, the current body of the Seattle International Film Festival could take a page or two from the Orcas Island Film Festival. While running only five days, and featuring less than one tenth of the films on offer during the three weeks of SIFF, the regional micro-festival is an exemplar representation of contemporary programming. In the unlikely setting of the rural beauty of the San Juan islands, chief programmer Carl Spence, has produced a small 35 film program to rival that of its Seattle goliath. One might marvel "How this Remote Spot in Puget Sound Attracts Such High-caliber Fare", yet it is all the work of co-founders,Jared Lovejoy and Donna Laslo, producer Marc Turtletaub, and of course the curatorial work of Spence. This year, the lineup has garnered the attention of the mainstream media and rated one of the 10 Best Film Festivals in the US, and local press have dubbed it as, "Orcas Island Film Festival is Our Cannes". As the Seattle Times states, this "Orcas Island Film Festival: Small Fest, Big Movies" draws largely from this year's Cannes Film Festival, alongside a number of the notable films from this year's Venice, Sundance, and Toronto festivals, and re-presents them in a smaller, more intimate setting. In another standout installment with a remarkable lineup, this year three of the major films from Japan appear in the festival, which include the endearing and soulful goodbye from veteran animation director and head of Studio Ghibli, Hayao Miyazaki. As reported in The Guardian, "Miyazaki’s Last Movie is a Fitting Swan Song", and thanks to Carl Spence, "How Do You Live?", receives a very early west coast screening within the festival.

After the brilliant set of films from Ryûsuke Hamaguchi in 2021, he returns this year with a "Enigmatic Eco-Parable that Eschews Easy Explanation", in "Evil Does Not Exist", and Japan's master of the quiet melodrama switches up tone and genre once again, Hirokazu Kore-eda's "Monster", is a "Hydra of Modern Morals and Manners". As the director of "Tokyo Ga", few western directors are more qualified or capable to present a tale of the daily pleasures and travails of Japanese life than Wim Wenders. Wenders here teams with the incomparable talent of Koji Yakusho, this year's winner of Best Actor at Cannes, to "Explore a Quiet Life in Tokyo" through the ambient urban charm of "Perfect Days". After a string of masterful, philosophical films, including a Palme d'Or winner, Nuri Bilge Ceylan's newest "About Dry Grasses", is "An Absorbing Drama of a Teacher-Pupil Crisis". On the subject of Cannes most notable award, this year's winner "Anatomy of a Fall", from Justine Triet, "Compels as an Author Accused of Her husband’s Murder". Pivoting away from his depiction of the life of Rainer Werner Fassbinder, François Ozon has apparently delivered one of the great comedies of the year with, "The Crime is Mine", and a different register can be found in "Fallen Leaves", and the gentle tide of Aki Kaurismäki's "Deadpan Comedy with Springtime in its Heart". In an unexpected turn of genre and setting, after his Haruki Murakami adaptation, Vietnamese-born French director Tran Anh Hung serves "The Taste of Things", in "A Belle Époque Tale of Meaningful Meals". One of the most anticipated films from Cannes, Alice Rohrwacher's "La Chimera", follows an Englishman's plundering of Italy’s historical artefacts alongside a bizarre gang of followers in an, "Uproarious Period Adventure that Teems with Life".