A few days ago I got an email from one of my esteemed colleagues at another publication asking me, "What should we expect this year at the Longbaugh Film Festival?" I responded with two words: "The unexpected."

I wasn't trying to sound dramatic or pretentious or hyperbolic. I simply was being honest. Even if you've attended the Longbaugh Film Festival the past two years, it hasn't prepared you for what we have in store.

The first thing to keep in mind is that this year the festival is simply bigger. We've got the same three-day showcase of films at the Hollywood, but there's much more to experience, too. The weekend starts a day early on Thursday, March 24, at Cinema 21, with a special screening of the critically acclaimed documentary Murderball, an inspiring and entertaining documentary about quadriplegic rugby. Think of a demolition derby, only with wheelchairs instead of cars, and you can begin to get a picture of the sport called murderball.

On Friday, March 25, things kick into high gear at the Hollywood with a diverse selection of films, including local director Jason Freeman's The Heater and SADO-MASO-SCHISM, a collection of shorts presented by Seattle film guru Warren Etheredge. Meanwhile, over at the Clinton Street, Longbaugh will be presenting a provocative triple feature that will include Asia Argento's The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, based on the stories by writer J.T. LeRoy. Also look for Toolbox: As It Was, a behind-the-scenes documentary about the making of director Tobe Hooper's modern horror classic, Toolbox Murders (which will screen afterwards).

For all you parents tired of watching Power Rangers over and over with your kids, we've got Li'l Longbaugh on Saturday, March 26, at the Kennedy School. The separate, age-specific programs of Li'l Longbaugh are composed of films from all over the world, with several locally made shorts as well, including DNA: Do Not Assume, produced by students at Jefferson High School.

And while I know I shouldn't be playing favorites, I can't help but be excited by one film in particular that will be showing Saturday, March 26, at the Hollywood. After seeing Abel Raises Cain at the Slamdance Film Festival-where it won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary-I just had to get it for Longbaugh. A witty, heartfelt documentary about Alan Abel, the notorious prankster and "media menace," this is the one film that will leave every person who sees it feeling better. Of course, the documentary Rocks with Wings, about a New Mexico girls' high-school basketball championship team, is also sure to push your emotional buttons.

On Sunday, March 27, at the Hollywood, local filmmakers will square off in the second Comcast Short Video Challenge. In the meantime, you can catch a glimpse at entries from last year's competition on Comcast Channel 14. Thirty-minute programs showcasing different entries are scheduled to air on Thursdays at 11 pm and Sundays at 10 pm through the end of the month.

March 24-27. Cinema 21, 616 NW 21st Ave.; Clinton Street Theater, 2522 SE Clinton St.; Hollywood Theatre, 4122 NE Sandy Blvd.; McMenamins Kennedy School, 5736 NE 33rd Ave. Festival pass $25, all-day passes $8.

For a full schedule and updates, see www.longbaugh.com.