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Anderson Island Film Festival

Five enlightening films brighten the island’s first film festival

The Eagle Huntress is one of five films the Anderson Island Film Festival is showing to keep you inspired. Photo credit: Sony Pictures Classic

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In an age where streaming services have done their part in solving the problem of everyone having access to an abundance of films, another problem has presented itself: there's an overabundance of selection and a lack of concern about the level of quality of these films. Imagine the time you used to spend wandering the aisles of a video store, fighting with your friends, and reluctantly settling on a compromise movie. Multiply that by a thousand, throw in the likelihood that you won't settle on something to watch before it's time to go to bed, and you have the experience of stumbling through Netflix.

Beginning with an opening night gala Friday, Sept. 14, Anderson Island is getting its own film festival, which has been blessedly curated down to a total of five films, all of which are informative, inspiring, and bracingly humanist. The inaugural Anderson Island Film Festival selection consists of four documentaries and one experimental biopic, all of which will be screened Saturday, Sept. 15. For a community like Anderson Island, which holds about a thousand full-time residents, there's a risk of becoming insulated from the greater culture, even as Anderson Island works to establish itself as more artistically vibrant.

Festival chairman John Ullis was inspired to start the Anderson Island Film Festival after volunteering for the Friday Harbor Film Festival last year.

"It was a great experience for me to see these films at the very first film festival I'd been to," said Ullis. "They altered my views of the world, a little bit, and I thought it would be great to bring these films here. You know, a lot of people have trouble getting off the island, so I thought it would be interesting for people to learn and get inspired."

With the aid of the Friday Harbor Film Festival, Ullis cherry-picked five of the around 40 films that the festival screened, and is presenting them to a new audience. First up, we have The Eagle Huntress, a critically lauded documentary about the first girl to ever compete as an eagle hunter in a Mongolian eagle festival. Next is the only narrative work of the festival, the groundbreaking Loving Vincent, which rotoscopes oil paintings over a story of the aftermath of Vincent Van Gogh's death. Three more documentaries follow, with Plastic is Forever directed by a 13-year-old Orcas Island boy, examining mankind's impact on the earth, and charting a way to fix it; River Blue is another doc exploring environmental harm, this time through the lens of the fashion industry; and the day closes out with Score: A Film Music Documentary, which dissects the importance and history of music in movies.

"Yesterday, we had Art in the Park, with a bunch of artists with their work, whether it's pottery or photography or paintings, and there was a poetry slam," said Ullis. What we want to do, in the coming years, is promote filmmaking. We want to involve younger people, at whatever age, in making films."

The gala preceding the official start of the festival will feature a fantastic amount of wine, great food, and live jazz. During the gala, trailers for the selected films will be shown, along with a short film by the event's emcee, Sean Griffin. As the festival grows over the next year, Ullis says, they're looking to welcome filmmakers to submit their own works. Tickets are running out for this year's opening night gala, but the attendance for the actual films is still unknown. If you want to support the Anderson Island Film Festival in its first year, and assure more to come, show up in force for some enlightening movies.

ANDERSON ISLAND FILM FESTIVAL, Friday, Sept. 14-Saturday, Sept. 15; Gala, 5:30 p.m., Sept. 14, $50; films beginning 10 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 15, $7, free admission for Plastic is Forever; Archival Building, 9306 Otso Point Rd., Anderson Island,

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