PORT TOWNSEND — Women & Film, the Port Townsend Film Festival’s spring event, is different this year not only because it’s moving entirely online.
The 10 films also are free to viewers anywhere with a good internet connection.
Available for streaming at PTfilmfest.com May 28 through June 7, the lineup ranges from “We the Voyagers: Our Moana,” from the Solomon Islands, to “Forever Voters,” filmed in American high school classrooms, to “Confluence,” a music documentary shot in the Colorado River Basin.
In previous years, executive director Janette Force and her team shoehorned Women & Film into three days in local theaters, charging $100 for a full-festival pass or $15 to $20 per single ticket.
The 2020 event, set for April 24-26, was canceled in March just ahead of Gov. Jay Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order.
At first the four sponsors — Kitsap Bank, Caroline Littlefield, Holley Carlson Real Estate and KCTS Channel 9 — said “keep the money,” Force said.
Then she and KC Upshaw, the Port Townsend Film Festival’s new development coordinator, began investigating an online festival — not only for Women & Film, but also for the larger festival in September.
The move to an all-streamed event “was pretty swift,” Upshaw said.
As they work with Eventive Virtual Festival, the Port Townsend crew will lay out the full plate of online cinema: six full-length features and four shorts, all by female filmmakers. The sponsors are funding it, Upshaw said, so “they’re all open for the entire time of the festival. You can pick and choose whatever time, day and order you want.”
Force has recorded three- to five-minute interviews with the movies’ directors to serve as introductions for each film. They have her feeling altogether inspired.
Force found “We Are Not Princesses,” about a group of Syrian refugee women who stage Sophocles’ “Antigone,” especially strong.
“I learned so much in this brief, five-minute interview,” she said.
“You see these absolutely resilient women, exhilarated by the opportunity to step outside their life.”
In a theater workshop, the refugees read the 2,600-year-old play and said: This is our story right now.
“There are elements of hope in every single film,” Force added.
“Confluence” follows a folk band, the Infamous Flapjack Affair, traveling along the Colorado River, playing gigs and hearing local people’s stories.
“Ay Mariposa” goes down to Texas’ Lower Rio Grande Valley and the National Butterfly Center, where life is upended by plans to build a border wall.
“Ginger” is a coming-of-age story about a recent college graduate — and party animal — who receives news that requires her to grow up quickly.
Sponsor KCTS, the Puget Sound region’s public television station, will promote Women & Film to its viewers “so we can connect with people in Seattle — without them coming here,” Force said.
As for the 21st annual Port Townsend Film Festival, traditionally set for the third week of September, “it’s going to be online in a similar format, with a lot more films,” plus panel discussions, she said.
Voting for the audience choice award will be tricky, as will the post-screening question-and-answer sessions with filmmakers.
“I don’t want to make any promises I can’t keep,” Force said, but “we’re going to do some experiments over the summer.”
Diane Urbani de la Paz, a former features editor for the Peninsula Daily News, is a freelance writer living in Port Townsend.