Ernie Stevens of “Ernie & Joe,” winner of the Port Townsend Film Festival’s best documentary feature prize, ride into town with driver Wayne Kier during last September’s festival. (Deja Webster/Deja View Photography)

Ernie Stevens of “Ernie & Joe,” winner of the Port Townsend Film Festival’s best documentary feature prize, ride into town with driver Wayne Kier during last September’s festival. (Deja Webster/Deja View Photography)

‘Ernie & Joe,’ Women & Film free this week

Port Townsend Film Festival can be watched online

PORT TOWNSEND — Kendra has lost hope, and she’s about to leap to her death. But Ernie Stevens and Joe Smarro show up.

Reaching out to her, promising again and again that she can trust them, they eventually bring her down from the Jones Maltsberger bridge.

Through the acts of talking, listening and connecting her with others who care, Stevens and Smarro help Kendra restart her life.

In “Ernie & Joe: Crisis Cops” — winner of the 2019 Port Townsend Film Festival’s Best Documentary Feature prize — we ride along with the two Texas police officers as they strive to do a different kind of work.

Throughout this week, “Ernie & Joe” is streaming free via a link at PTFilmFest.com, offering a window into the San Antonio Police Department’s Mental Health Unit.

The groundbreaking program is all about empathy and follow-up.

Streaming through Sunday, the 97-minute picture will be offered during Mental Health Awareness Month.

Last fall at Port Townsend’s American Legion Hall, the festival hosted a panel discussion with Stevens, “Ernie & Joe” director Jenifer McShane, Port Townsend Police Department mental health counselor-navigator Judson Haynes and then-police chief Michael Evans.

It was a conversation between filmmakers and those with the proverbial boots on the ground — “this is why I love my job,” festival executive director Janette Force said at the time.

On the heels of “Ernie & Joe,” another slate of films, including nine documentaries, is about to become available for free.

Force and her festival crew have embarked on a new platform with the all-online Women & Film event also happening this week.

On PTFilmFest.com, there is a lineup of 10 movies — six full-length, four shorts — also available for streaming at no charge. All have women in the directors’ chairs.

People from all over the world can participate in the Port Townsend-born event. They can first watch the trailers and read the synopses, and then they can choose which films to watch and when during the Women & Film week.

It starts Thursday and continues through June 7.

The feature offerings, ranging in length from 55 to 97 minutes, are “Confluence,” about an indie folk band traveling through the red rock of the Colorado River Basin; “We Are Not Princesses,” about a performance of “Antigone” by Syrian refugee women; “Ay Mariposa,” a trip to the Rio Grande Valley’s National Butterfly Center; “Pipe Dreams,” a documentary about competitive organ playing; “Ginger,” a coming-of-age story, and “We Are Voyagers: Our Moana,” an adventure movie set in the Solomon Islands.

The short films run from five minutes long to 34 minutes. They are “Love Bugs,” about an international collection of 1 million insects; “Mochitsuki,” about celebrating Japanese new year; “Gold and Rust,” about two New York City artists, and “Forever Voters,” a look at American high-schoolers and the issues they care about.

Force’s short conversations with each film’s director are added, along with messages of thanks to the four sponsors who made Women & Film free this year.

KCTS Channel 9, Seattle’s public television station, is one backer, and is promoting the event across the Puget Sound — so that region’s film lovers can watch the films online instead of driving to Port Townsend as they may have done in previous years.

The other three longtime supporters are Kitsap Bank, local resident Caroline Littlefield, and Coldwell Banker Realtor Holley Carlson, Force said.

These are sponsors who have stuck by the Port Townsend Film Festival as it has evolved, she said, adding that the main fall festival, to mark its 21st year Sept. 24-27, will also be presented online.

This willingness to support the arts and roll with the changes “is the story of our community,” Force said.

________

Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.

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