The Northwest Film Center kicks off its Film & Video Festival with a varied and somewhat disparate program. Which, really, isn't a bad thing. The selections highlight the increasing interest in documentary features, while continuing to present eclectic oddities featuring traditional narratives that might otherwise pass under the radar of the mainstream media. This year's judge, Steve Seid (curator of the UC-Berkeley film archive), has done an admirable job selecting the best that Northwest filmmakers have to offer.
Who Is Bozo Texino?
I've ridden the rails all over the country, so take it from me: Filmmaker Bill Daniel captures the true spirit and aesthetic of the freight-hopping experience with his well-crafted documentary. Daniel weaves a nonlinear narrative that covers the subculture of tramps, hobos and hobbyists from its inception to the present day by tracking down famous railroad graffiti artists (many of whom work or used to work for the railroad). While Daniel tries to solve the mystery of the real identity of one artist (known by the moniker "Bozo Texino"), reels of hypnotic 16 mm and Super 8 footage combine with spectacular sound editing to create an art film/documentary of the first order. Whitsell Auditorium, 8:45 pm Wednesday, Nov. 15.
Queens of Heart: Community Therapists in Drag
Portland State University Professor Jan Haaken (who makes a brief appearance in the short film Scaredycat by Andrew Blubaugh) wrangles a subtle exploration of gender studies and group psychology from a series of bachelorette parties filmed at a local drag venue. Including a wealth of behind-the-scenes interviews with the famed Darcelle XV (Walter Cole) and other performers, the film is surprisingly accessible and rich with astute observations on human nature. Framed by Haaken—a clinical and community psychologist—each segment illustrates a different example of applied diagnoses with great vividness and validity. The spectacle of Darcelle educating and entertaining her thoroughly middle-class patrons is amusing, affecting and enlightening. Whitsell Auditorium, 7 pm Friday, Nov. 17.
If you need a lesson in just how alternately terrible and wonderful some art films can be, the Shorts programs (showing in three installments throughout the week) are just what the doctor ordered. The good news is that they're, uh, short. With films as brief as one minute and no longer than 24, the rotten apples in the bunch don't spoil the barrel. Films to watch for in the Shorts I collection include Scaredycat, Andrew Blubaugh's gutsy examination of violence, healing, and neuroses; Regarding Sarah (Michelle Porter), a haunting look at the unlikely overlap of Alzheimer's and voyeurism in one woman's life; and Piledriver (Calvin Lee Reeder), a hilariously awful satire of traditional romantic comedy (Cinema 21, 7 pm Friday, Nov. 10. Whitsell, 7 pm Tuesday, Nov. 14.). From the Shorts II program, don't miss I Am (Not) Van Gogh (David Russo) for its sheer inventiveness (Whitsell, 6 pm Saturday, Nov. 11, and 8:45 pm Friday, Nov. 17).
Also worth seeing
Clearcut: The Story of Philomath, Oregon (Whitsell, 4 pm Saturday, Nov. 11), Iraq in Fragments (Whitsell, 4 pm Sunday, Nov. 12), Bombhunters (Whitsell, 6 pm Sunday, Nov. 12), Killingsworth (Whitsell, 8 pm Monday, Nov. 13), The Heart of the Game (Whitsell, 8:45 pm Tuesday, Nov. 14), Dark Water Rising (Whitsell, 3 pm Saturday, Nov. 18).
Opening-night screenings at Cinema 21, 616 NW 21st Ave., 223-4515. 7 pm Friday, Nov. 10 (after-party to follow at the Laura Russo Gallery, 805 NW 21st Ave.). Closing-night party and screenings at Clinton Street Theater, 2522 SE Clinton St., 238-8899. 8 pm Saturday, Nov. 18. All other screenings at Northwest Film Center's Whitsell Auditorium, 1219 SW Park Ave., 221-1156. $4-$9. For a complete schedule of festival events and screenings, visit nwfilm.org.