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Tacoma Film Festival: Local eyes

Tacoma receives a makeover in next month's film festival

Scene from "Mr. Radio."

The New American Family

One of cinema's main attractions involves its promise to carry us off and into worlds beyond our everyday living and imagining. Much of the eclectic lineup scheduled for this year's Tacoma Film Festival (Oct. 7-14) takes place in different states, on different continents, and a few emerge purely from their creators' minds as animated fantasy.

Yet amid these varied visions of faraway locales, watch out for cameos from Tacoma itself. The Grand Cinema has sprinkled throughout its eight-day event works shot in and around the city. Film may acquaint us with the unfamiliar, but by seeing our community remade through the eyes of local artists, it also reintroduces us to the familiar.

For its denizens Tacoma puts on many faces, but its multiple expressions of antique architecture appealed to filmmaker David Derickson. His silent short Mr. Radio recreates an era as seen through the ears of Archie Bieglow, one of the medium's first fans.

"We shot scenes all over Tacoma because there are many locations ideal for the 1920s period of the film," Derickson says. Wright Park, Northwest Costume Shop, and other areas provided him the proper early century backdrop.

The past's spectre appears in forms beyond the mise en scene; Derickson achieved greater visual authenticity by filming with an old-time, hand-cranked 35mm camera. And there seems something poetic about casting as his lead News Tribune editor Craig Sailor, member of another medium watching its own glory days approach twilight.

Radio marks its creator's first work to screen at TFF, but he arrives with years of experience in the biz. His impressive resume includes making shorts for Saturday Night Live and music videos featuring superstars like Aretha Franklin and Yes. See his comedy Oct. 10 at the Washington State History Museum, as part of Go Local's "Grit City Flicks."

One cannot predict how Tacoma's style will rub off on people - Derickson saw Americana in its parks and forgotten rooms, while video freelancer Jana Bolotin uncovered a more contemporary milieu for her Alo 86th! Street.

"I shot quite a bit of my film in Tacoma because I was looking for landscapes and neighborhoods that resembled Brooklyn," she says, locating the right tones and textures in "the brownstones and red brick apartments near Wright Park and Stadium High School." She draws on avant-garde and documentary techniques in a narrative dealing partly with Americanization's effects on immigrants. Like Derickson, festival first-timer Bolotin will also screen 86th! Oct. 10, but down the street at SOTA.

These two filmmakers molded a city into shapes that fit their fictions; KBTC intern Andriana Fletcher, on the other hand, found her story in real events shaping a city. The New American Family: Defining Commitment in a Changing Society came about largely through recent state law enlarging its scope of domestic partnership to include same sex couples. Last November, Fletcher's camera captured the public outcry over Referendum-71 on Tacoma's streets.

As she recalls that day of filming, "It was a different experience that involved times of tension and times of excitement as sign wavers tried to get in their last few moments (of protest) before the polls closed."

Produced through Pacific Lutheran University, Family weaves together a tapestry of voices from citizens affected by this policy change. Landmarks like the Chihuly Glass Bridge serve as natural settings for the candid interviews. Fletcher will debut her documentary Oct. 10 at The Grand Cinema.

Though I can't make all these screenings, at least I know that Tacoma, usually taken for granted, still inspires many of its artists. Their efforts at the Tacoma Film Festival will hopefully call on each of us to examine this town in a new light.

Tacoma Film Festival

Thursday, Oct. 7-Thursday, Oct. 14  
Schedule and venue information here

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