TFF Sniff 2010: Popes, Robots and All That Jazz

By Christopher Wood on October 8, 2010


OK, so maybe the Tacoma Film Festival got off to a chilly start with its Opening Night selection (read my review here), but this little snag won't deter us. We shake it off and soldier on. Like the Rooster himself, our town has true grit. This weekend alone, The Grand has in store a few dozen entertaining features, shorts and events you can't miss. I'll give you my day-by-day play-by-play of the highlights.

Friday, Oct 8

DIY filmmaker Linas Phillips has made a splash at SIFF in recent years for down-to-earth docs like Great Speeches from a Dying World. His rambling road trip narrative Bass Ackwards (6:30 p.m., Grand Cinema) starts off with its hero (played by Phillips) as a lonely wedding videographer, a subject to which many independent artists can surely relate. The writer-director flies in from New York to talk about a film TFF Program Director Emily Alm calls a "Pacific Northwest gem."

I love to see talented folks returning to TFF each season with new work. Patrick Neary tackled claymation in 2009's Otis v. Monster and triumphed with a Best Regional Film award. This time we get two vastly different works that showcase his range as a cinematographer - the black-and-white Mr. Radio and a colorful baseball comedy called Calvin Marshall (7 and 9 p.m., Blue Mouse Theatre).

Since many festival entries arrive into town with no star power, I look to a film's story first to interest me. Coffka (8:45 p.m., SOTA) scores with its sheer originality - a man has three days to find true love, or suffer swift death. Meanwhile, writer-director Glenn Allyn has discovered his own passion for our humble city.

"I moved here from Chicago seven years ago. I think T-Town has more in common with Chi' (must be all the Catholics) than does Seattle, which I appreciate," Allyn says.

Saturday, Oct. 9

You can sleep in Sunday; Saturday, make it to The Grand by 10 a.m. for a free workshop delivered by "short film guru" Warren Etheredge. Even if you don't make movies, the spectacle of a professional critic publicly tearing into an artist's work makes for classic entertainment.

Family Shorts commence at noon at the theater, with a lineup including Sparks in the Night, the truly fantastic winner of last year's Seattle Times Three-Minute Masterpiece Contest. Ben Kadie was only 13 (13!) when he crafted the intricate effects for this comedic caper.

Months ago I briefly interned on director Heather Ayres' Betty, and it makes the list of Late Night Shorts (10:15 p.m., Grand), along with Shallow Copy. Will the latter deliver on its intriguing sci-fi premise with only a $1,000 budget? Jesse Watson, who helmed the project, called his three-day shoot "one of the most amazing experiences of my life."

Sunday, Oct. 10

Start your morning with a 10 a.m. brunch at the Tacoma Art Museum, where Etheredge will hand out awards to festival standouts. Then how about taking in a doc on little-known Catholic figure Pope Joan (2 p.m., Grand)? The script based itself on a novel by Donna Woolfolk Cross, who will answer viewers' questions.

You might have trouble deciding which local fave to end your night on: Tacoma wunderkind Isaac Olsen's epic noir Quiet Shoes (6:30 p.m., WSHM), or a loud romp and stomp through Seattle's '60s soul scene in Wheedle's Groove by Jennifer Mass (7 p.m., Grand)?

The creative potential pouring out of screens this weekend has me jazzed. And don't worry - I'll cover Sunday's Grit City Flicks in a separate article tomorrow.   

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