“Soy Cubana,” one of the documentaries screening during the Port Townsend Film Festival, stars, from left, mezzo-soprano Koset Muñoa Columbié, soprano Ana Josefina Hernández Rosillo, contralto bass Maryoris Mena Faez and contralto Annia Del Toro Leyva. (Photo by Ivaylo Getov)

“Soy Cubana,” one of the documentaries screening during the Port Townsend Film Festival, stars, from left, mezzo-soprano Koset Muñoa Columbié, soprano Ana Josefina Hernández Rosillo, contralto bass Maryoris Mena Faez and contralto Annia Del Toro Leyva. (Photo by Ivaylo Getov)

Port Townsend Film Fest offers more than 80 movies

Virtual screenings available with passes

PORT TOWNSEND — For the next week and a half, the stories will tumble out.

They’re true or wildly imagined, from five minutes short to two hours long. Some are studded with movie stars; others spotlight the unsung.

The 22nd annual Port Townsend Film Festival opens today and continues through Oct. 3, showing more than 80 movies about joy, struggle, music and domino-toppling. Access is virtual with passes except for outdoor community screenings.

One of the 22 documentaries in the festival is “Soy Cubana,” the true tale of the Vocal Vidas, a quartet of professional singers from Santiago de Cuba. They bring their music to Los Angeles in 2017 — just as tourism is about to shut down between Cuba and the United States.

The Vidas’ story is about challenge and connection, said Robin Ungar, the producer of “Soy Cubana.” So it fits well into this nonprofit festival, which has contended with a series of obstacles.

Executive Director Janette Force and her crew planned several indoor screenings for this fall, but they had to cancel them after COVID-19 cases began to surge. They also planned three free outdoor movie screenings — and those will still happen on a giant screen erected on Taylor Street.

Movie trailers, synopses and details about passes await at PTfilmfest.com.

A full-festival pass costs $120 while single tickets are $15 per film, and more information is available by phoning 360-379-1333 or emailing [email protected]

In “Soy Cubana,” music — a cappella singing — allows people to connect on a deep level, Ungar said.

The story is about four women she heard singing in a chapel in Santiago, four “incredible female forces,” she said in an interview earlier this week.

The film follows the Vocal Vidas as they chart rough waters to the United States during the early months of the Trump administration.

But it’s not about politics, Ungar said. It’s about the fulfillment the women feel in song.

Despite the differences in language and background, music knits the singers to their audiences — Ungar watched it happen in Cuba and in California.

“We’re all human beings. We have this connection,” she said.

Ungar wishes festivals such as Port Townsend’s could hold the in-person events of years past. Meeting other filmmakers, talking with moviegoers: These make going to a festival a rich, serendipitous trip.

This year, Ungar has to accept the one exchange she did get to have: the filmmaker interview packaged with “Soy Cubana,” in which she and its directors, Ivaylo Getov and Jeremy Ungar — who happens to be her son — have a discussion about the movie and its characters.

Each of the narrative features and documentaries in the festival comes with a filmmaker interview, which ticket holders can watch before or after the movie itself. Viewers can also vote for their favorite films throughout the festival.

Other highlights of the next 11 days include:

• A special presentation of “East of the Mountains,” a drama starring Tom Skerritt and based on David Guterson’s novel, with an interview and lifetime achievement award presented to Skerritt.

• Comedies such as “Small Town Wisconsin” and foreign films including “My Wonderful Wanda” from Germany and “Luzzu” from Malta.

• Documentaries from “Fanny: The Right to Rock,” and “Peace by Chocolate” to “Medicine Man: The Stan Brock Story” and “Mission Joy: Finding Happiness in Troubled Times.”

• Short films programs with themes such as “Be Inspired,” “Love Lost and Found” and “Go Gurrls!”

• Jury awards to be presented, complete with surprise phone calls to recipients, online at 5 p.m. Sunday: for best feature-length narrative and documentary; best short narrative and documentary; Spirit of the Port Townsend Film Festival and the Jim Ewing Award for young directors.

• Three 7:30 p.m. community screenings outdoors on Taylor Street downtown include the documentary “Lily Topples the World” on Friday with guest Lily Hevesh, the 22-year-old star of her own true story of building and toppling massive works of domino art.

• A mystery movie night, free to the public Saturday on the outdoor screen on Taylor Street, features Kirsten “Kiwi” Smith, the movie’s screenwriter and a Chimacum High School alumna. See PTfilmfest.com for details.

• The outdoor-cinema finale Sunday brings “A League of Their Own,” the 1992 classic with Madonna and Tom Hanks.

• A closing-night event featuring “Los Hermanos/The Brothers,” a movie about Afro-Cuban pianist Aldo López-Gavilán and his violinist brother Ilmar, whose parallel lives play out in Havana and New York City.

A free, livestreamed performance by Ilmar and an audience discussion with film directors Ken Schneider and Marcia Jarmel are set for 6 p.m. Oct. 3.

________

Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or [email protected]

Lily Hevesh stars in “Lily Topples the World,” her own true story of building and toppling domino art. The documentary will be shown outdoors on Port Townsend’s Taylor Street on Friday. (Photo courtesy of Port Townsend Film Festival)

Lily Hevesh stars in “Lily Topples the World,” her own true story of building and toppling domino art. The documentary will be shown outdoors on Port Townsend’s Taylor Street on Friday. (Photo courtesy of Port Townsend Film Festival)

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