43rd Northwest Filmmakers’ Festival showcases regional talent

The NW Film Center will commence its 43rd Northwest Filmmakers’ Festival on Nov. 10, featuring 17 films from talented independent filmmakers across Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Alaska, and British Columbia.

“I am excited about a lot of things,” said Ben Popp, the festival manager.

This year they are kicking off the festival with a Filmmakers’ Summit at the Portland Art Museum, featuring a day of panels and guest speakers discussing the latest technologies and trends in filmmaking.

“I am excited for the festival to begin in this manner as this festival, being a regional one, is about a dialog in general of filmmaking, festivals and what it means to be a filmmaker,” Popp said. “Does one have to live in New York or Los Angeles? Or can they be in Portland or Seattle or Bozeman and still make quality film and get support?”

In addition to a full program of films, there will be a NW Episodic Showcase on Sunday, Nov. 13. The event is designed for emerging and growing community filmmakers who are considering streaming platforms for their work. Discussions will also revolve around how to tell a story through smaller episodes instead of one two-hour time block.

“This is our mission, to support these filmmakers and showcase what work is coming from the region,” Popp said. “So I think having this event be our kick off is a pretty great example of community dialogue.”

But while the NW Film Center seeks to nurture local talent, acceptance into the film festival is competitive. Of the 370 films submitted for consideration, only 17 were selected.

“It is always just a big challenge going through so many films and having to tell wonderful filmmakers that we cannot take their film this year, that is always the hardest challenge,” Popp said. “We would love to see filmmakers and the community continue to grow and create exciting new work.”

One film that is receiving significant attention is the documentary Beware the Slenderman, which explores the 2014 incident of two 12-year-old girls in Wisconsin who attempted to murder their friend by stabbing her to death at the behest of the mysterious internet presence, Slenderman.

Slenderman is likened to a modern day bogeyman. He takes the form of a hazy, faceless male figure dressed in a black suit. He especially appeals to young people who feel ostracized or marginalized. By believing in him, they often find acceptance and belonging in a larger, web-based community.

What was fascinating to Irene Taylor Brodsky, the film’s director, was how the case was simultaneously very clear, but also lacked a smoking gun. The facts of what happened aren’t disputed. The crime was linear, and the girls were arrested immediately; what is perplexing is how Slenderman carried so much influence that he was capable of driving these girls to violence.

Telling this story was a responsibility that Brodsky took seriously. “As a storyteller, we really wanted to be thoughtful; we really wanted to pose questions,” Brodsky said. And the film does exactly that.

Brodsky was eager to take on a project that examined children’s brains and the internet without the customary finger-wagging that the subject often provokes. This story was the perfect vehicle.

“I certainly think the film Beware the Slenderman, playing on Monday, Nov. 14 is really an interesting film and looks at how the internet has changed the landscape of scary stories and imaginations in the minds of younger folks,” Popp said. “It is really quite an interesting and sad film.”

The 43rd Northwest Filmmakers’ Festival is free for all Portland State University students. If you don’t catch Beware the Slenderman at the festival, it debuts on HBO in January 2017.