DIANE URBANI DE LA PAZ: To open the mind, close the eyes … and point

JANE JULIAN THOUGHT maybe she should apologize. Many of her choices for the Port Townsend Film Festival are downright uplifting. Aren’t film festivals supposed to be heavy, intellectual affairs?

No, a lot of the documentaries and features in the Sept. 15-17 fest are feel-good creations — and “maybe we need uplifting this year,” said Julian, who’s been selecting Port Townsend’s flicks for nine years now.

“I’m standing by that,” she added. And co-founder Linda Yakush of Pane d’Amore stands with her.

“Do we ever” need the lighthearted fare, said Yakush.

Both women are ready to revel in this block party. Both women have advice: Open up the schedule — at PTFilmFest.com — and close your eyes, said Julian. Point. Open your eyes and go see the movie your finger landed on, even if it’s not your kind of thing.

If you don’t get in, see what else is coming up at the other seven venues, or “go sit on Taylor Street and people-watch,” she said.

“Just about everywhere you look, there’s something interesting,” Julian promised. The fest is your chance to travel far and wide, what with the documentaries, the short films and especially the free films, 12 of which are screening in the Peter Simpson Free Cinema, aka the Key City Playhouse at 419 Washington St.

Three more free showings take place on the outdoor screen on Taylor Street: “The Chicken Run” at 7:30 Friday night, “Twenty Feet from Stardom” on Saturday night and “The Princess Bride” on Sunday evening.

“You can’t miss by having an open mind,” added Yakush, noting, too, that while standing in line, you can converse with these crazy-passionate types called documentary filmmakers. Yakush, a devoted baker, said she can maintain a sourdough starter for a week but cannot imagine giving years of her life to a film the way these directors do.

Over the three days, the festival infuses the town with some 96 cinema professionals, including documentary director Morgan Neville — winner of an Oscar for his “Twenty Feet from Stardom” — and actor Karen Allen, a former festival guest who came back to volunteer this year. She’ll co-host the filmmaker awards at 6 p.m. Sunday at the Rose Theatre.

Yakush will play a key role through the weekend. At the Festival Bar next to Water Street’s brick plaza, she’ll feed the famished grilled cheese sandwiches made with the multitude of Pane d’Amore bread, which she donates.

I couldn’t resist asking which films Julian expects to be the most talked-about and which the most beloved. In the first category: “No Man’s Land,” a documentary about the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge standoff and “Angry Inuk,” about Inuit culture.

In category two: “Adult Life Skills,” a 2016 feature starring Jodie Whittaker, who has since been discovered and cast as the first female Dr. Who, and “Brave New Jersey,” about a tiny town’s reaction to the news that aliens are invading the world.

Oh, and “Seat 25,” the story of a woman who enters a radio station contest in hopes of boarding a spacecraft to Mars.

And yet. Don’t be too attached to a particular film. Be ready to jump to a different line. The venues are within walking distance of one another, and from 9 a.m. Friday, Sept. 15, till 9 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 17, the screenings are staggered. If you don’t get in to the one that starts on the hour, you can still slide in to the one starting at 15 minutes after the hour or half past the hour.

To cap our conversation, Julian uttered a few more words of encouragement — about the festival and about life.

“Take one chance,” she said, “every day.”

_________

Diane Urbani de la Paz, a freelance journalist and former PDN features editor, lives in Port Angeles.

Her column appears in the PDN the first and third Wednesday every month. Her next column will be Sept. 20.

Reach her at [email protected].

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