Reconnecting with humanity, a power outage, irrational filmmakers, projection problems and a narrowly averted brawl: The 2007 Longbaugh Film Festival came and went this past weekend with a bittersweet mix of highs and lows.
For five years Longbaugh has worked to provide a showcase of high-quality independent film and a nurturing environment for local filmmakers. The high points of this year's festival can be measured by the success of several films, especially Darius Goes West (see Scoop, page 26) and Brian Lindstrom's Finding Normal, the winners of the Best Documentary and Best Local Production prizes, respectively. Finding Normal, a documentary about the Mentor Recovery program, stands out as one of the finest films to come out of Portland in years, presenting an emotionally complex portrait of the people who populate this city. Meanwhile, SoCal filmmaker Mickey Blaine and his wife Nicole took home Best Feature for Commit, an ambitious, dialogue-driven tale of ill-fated lovers, told in three continuous takes.
The forces that worked to ruin Longbaugh included a power outage on Friday that shut down the Laurelhurst, sending disappointed audiences home early. But the damage wrought by downed transformers didn't compare to the ruckus caused by local actor Ryan Deal and his posse of friends, all seemingly intoxicated at 2 in the afternoon. In Longbaugh's five-year history there has never been an incident as negative as the confrontation Deal and his foul-mouthed entourage of self-absorbed, self-important hooligans started when they were barred from a sold-out screening.
Despite problems and setbacks, the 2007 Longbaugh Film Festival proved once again that there are amazing films lingering in the shadows, just waiting to be discovered. As is the case with most of films screened this year—including Darius Goes West, Commit and Finding Normal—most don't have distribution deals, making it hard for people to see these incredible works outside of the festival circuit. Some of the films may show up in theaters or on DVD, but in order for independent cinema to have a fighting chance, people must be active participants and seek out the films that exist on the fringes. Go to festivals. Buy DVDs from filmmakers who distribute their films themselves. And don't get drunk and try to jump festival directors.