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Olywood 2018

A festival of discoveries in the dark

Kate Beckinsale and Chloë Sevigny from the poster for Whit Stillman’s The Last Days of Disco. Photo credit: OlyFilmFest.org

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This is the year Olympia Film Society's annual film festival hit the big time. It was named one of the coolest festivals in the world by MovieMaker magazine, which noted, "The audiences are real movie lovers." The festival runs Friday, Nov. 9, through Saturday, Nov. 17, at the Capitol Theater.

Adding to the coolness factor is the festival's 2018 theme, "Inclusion, Independence, Discovery." In OFS and festival programmer Rob Patrick's mind, that last term refers, not only to the developing filmmakers he's helped discover, but also to discoveries made by those movie-loving audience members. "When so much viewing is based on Netflix-created algorithms," he explains, "mining for new films and filmmakers is not only important but thrilling." For Patrick, the purpose of this festival is to allow cineastes to find innovative work in a venue that supports alternative points of view. "That is so important to art."

Kicking off the festival Friday is a screening of The Last Days of Disco, followed by a panel conversation with writer-director Whit Stillman and dance party at Octapas Café (414 Fourth Ave. E.) The festival will also screen Stillman films Damsels in Distress and Metropolitan, which was nominated for a screenwriting Oscar. "He uses language really well," Patrick says. "The satire and the way he pokes fun at elitism is pretty fun and funny ... He's kind of the perfect guest, and we're excited to present the films to an audience that maybe isn't familiar with his work."

Patrick estimates he's seen over 500 movies this year including "every single darn thing" submitted to this 35th-annual festival. MovieMaker's shout-out created a surge in filmmaker interest, "so it was really difficult to pare down the films and choose ones that would resonate with Olympia and have something to say." Given this year's theme, special consideration was given to work submitted by LGBTQ artists. "There are a lot of really incredible queer directors that are young and creating fantastic films, so we wanted to get them here."

Numerous local artists are also represented, as demonstrated by a panel of Pacific Northwesterners from Olympian Jonah Barrett to Emme Williamson, screening her short Queen of Swords. Barrett will premiere his feature-length effort Booger, which he describes as "a queer, supernatural, coming-of-age film," Wednesday at 9 p.m.

There's even programming for grade-school-aged movie fans, including the Korean anime Satellite Girl & Milk Cow (dubbed in English) and a best-of selection from the New York International Children's Film Festival. Virus Tropical, however, presented Wednesday at 6:30 p.m., is black-and-white, diaristic animation for grown-ups, adapted by Colombian-Ecuadorian cartoonist Power Paola from her graphic novel. Its opening scene, for example, presents the miracle of conception in all its messy, loudly vocalized glory.

Other festival highlights include an Octapas makeup workshop led by local "blood queen" Abby Hartung, a free "Discovery in Cinema" symposium, a Monday-night showcase of shorts including Sophy Romvari's Norman Norman, Thursday-night standup with such local comics as Sam Miller, a Friday night, Nov. 16 panel on LGBTQ representation in film, and a closing-night screening of the documentary Boom: A Film About the Sonics with director Jordan Albertsen. Albertsen interviewed members of Heart, Mudhoney, Pearl Jam and The Sex Pistols to explore how a '60s Tacoma band came to influence an entire movement of rock artists including Kurt Cobain, Bruce Springsteen and The White Stripes.

"We want to make sure we have lots of points of view," Patrick says of OFS' massive, largely volunteer-staffed week of entertainment. "I think it's basically about having conversations."

OLYMPIA FILM FESTIVAL, 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 9, to Saturday, Nov. 17, Capitol Theater, 416 Washington St. SE, Olympia, free-$150, 360.754.6670, olyfilmfest.org

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