My, my - these film festivals sure grow up quickly, don't they?
In the South Sound festival family I see Tacoma and Gig Harbor's film festivals as the precocious youngsters, full of energy while finding their unique niche in a big world. They have some fun years ahead before reaching the Olympia Film Festival's current age. Turning 28 this Friday Nov. 11, OFF stands as the wise adult who's seen its fair share, yet still glows brightly with the vigor of youth.
There's no doubt this year's Olympia Film Festival will manage to attract a few more to its already substantial band of supporters. With an ambitious 10-day lineup spanning the ages of cinema, there literally is something for everyone - of any age.
The OFF looked deep into the past when building the 2011 festival, even inviting back a contributor to its own history. J.R. Baker finds himself in a sequel of sorts, back in the saddle again as OFF director after a 19-year absence. Baker compares his return to that other age-old travel metaphor: "It's like riding a bike. Once you get on ... after not riding it for awhile, you're good to go."
By now OFF's wheels turn so smoothly that Baker slipped into his former job without getting stuck in the gears.
Like Baker, other festival favorites have reappeared this year. Not only can visitors now cast their vote for the Audience Award, they also receive an extra day of movies. Usually the party ends on a good fright - that much-loved horror show All Freakin' Night - but this year the show goes on into Sunday, Nov. 20, with a Closing Night celebration.
"There are just so many wonderful films out there," says Baker, "that it's hard to pack them into nine days."
Baker conceived this year's festival theme - "Treasures Abound" - and along with programmer Joel Minkin unearthed just as many widely-seen classics as new works from independent artists. Looking over the online program (olympiafilmfestival.org), it strikes me how often OFF tips its top hat to older films, while other fests mostly focus on moviemaking of the moment. But many venues don't pack technology like the Capitol Theater, which can project various formats, including one seen less and less in our digital era: 35mm.
So OFF will roll out reels by the likes of Godard and Kurosawa. Hollywood's golden age gets its salute with Gold Diggers of 1933 on Opening Night. You'll find out Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (Doc Brown, of course!) and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? And old-school filmmaking meets 21st-century technology perfectly with a 3-D presentation of Hitchcock's Dial M for Murder. (Baker says the theater had to order special lenses from outside the U.S. "to show (the film) the way Hitchcock created it.")
Standing shoulder to shoulder with these titans of cinema are their successors, artists with the potential to someday redefine the form for future generations. Both The Color Wheel and Northwest-born Marc Jackson's Without have already turned heads, making Filmmaker magazine's 25 New Faces of Independent Film in 2011.
By celebrating present innovations while making the past fresh and accessible to viewers, the Olympia Film Festival strikes gold with a tradition that works.
Olympia Film Festival
Nov. 11-20, screenings at the Capitol Theater, 206 E. Fifth Ave., Olympia
Find movietimes and ticket prices at www.olympia filmfestival.org
OFF office: 360.754.6670 ext. 16