Friday marks the start of Eastern Washington's biggest little cinema celebration - the Spokane International Film Festival (Jan 27 - Feb 5). "It's SPIFFY!"
Eastern Washington is sparse. Spokane stands alone as the only large(ish) city in the region; an island in a ocean of scrubby desert, pine hills, and rolling wheat. I live yonder, in the wheat sea, on a cinematic atol with one small theater that doesnt do indie. Something is indeed better than nothing, but a bona fide film festival less than two hours from home is definitely an annual highlight.
SpIFF is a modest endeavor compared with the gargantuan festivals that now pepper the claendar, but at last year's festival I discovered two of my top five films for the year: Embrace Of The Serpent (mezmerizing) and Aferim! (mezmerizing and traumatizing). At a time of the year when Sundance and awards ceremonies are all the news, I thought something from the other end of the spectrum might be interesting to readers.
As usual, SpIFF will take place mostly in the two tiny theaters that comprise The Magic Lantern, Spokane's only artsy indie theater, which all but died last year from brokeness (again), and yet somehow came back from the dead (again). Thank fuck. And thank the vocal local film community!
Also as usual, opening night is a celebration of local film at the historic - and gorgeous - Bing Crosby Theater, and closing night ten days hence is a celebration of classic film at the equaly historic - and gorgeous - Fox Theater. Opening night at the Bing will feature The Basket, which in 1999 was the first major film production in the area, and put Spokane on the map as a film-making location. Closing night at the Fox, home to the Spokane Symphony Orhcestra, will feature The Phantom Of The Opera (1925), accompanied by a live performance of the score. Last year the symphony performed to Chaplin's City Lights, an experience I won't soon forget.
Herewith then are the titles I'm most intrigued by! I'm unfamiliar with all of these films so descriptions are courtesy of the SpIFF website, where scheduling and tickets are of course available if you live in this neck of the woods.
Death By A Thousand Cuts
USA / 2016 / 73 mins. / Documentary In Spanish and Creole with English subtitles
Directed by Jake Kheel, Juan Mejia Botero
In Death by a Thousand Cuts, Eligio Eloy Vargas, alias Melaneo, a Dominican Park Ranger in the Sierra de Bahoruco National Park was found brutally murdered by machete. At the time, he was believed to have been on patrol investigating an illegal charcoal production site often run by Haitians coming across the border into protected Dominican forests. This murder becomes the metaphor for the larger story of increasing tension between Haiti and the Dominican Republic over illicit charcoal exploitation and mass deforestation.
Won the Grand Jury Prize Documentary Section at the Seattle International Film Festival