Click here for a schedule of film showings: http://tinyurl.com/pdnptfilm
PORT TOWNSEND — Flip to the program centerfold and find the blue. That’s your ticket, Janette Force promises, for a mind-expanding trip.
Force is executive director, and an exuberant fan, of the Port Townsend Film Festival. During this 12th annual celebration, which takes over the town for the next three days, you have more than six dozen short and feature-length movies from which to choose. Via the big screen, you can travel to Africa’s Congo River, the Aleutian Islands, Brooklyn, N.Y., New Zealand, Cairo, Egypt, and even “Back to the Future.”
Getting to the movies, which are at six venues within a few blocks of one another, doesn’t depend on parking downtown. A free shuttle bus runs all day today through Sunday between the theaters and Haines Place park-and-ride lot off Sims Way.
But before you set out, Force advises, “watch for the blue stars.” She’s talking about the symbols sprinkled across the screening schedule in the festival program, which is available at numerous locations across Port Townsend. The blue stars denote the presence of a filmmaker at a screening, ready to answer questions from the audience.
“To me, that defines the film festival experience,” says Force.
A few filmmaker appearances were added after the program was printed: Marc Buriot is coming from Paris to talk with audiences after the screenings of “Inuk,” about Inuit children in Greenland, at noon today in the Pope Marine Park Theatre and at 12:30 p.m. Sunday at the Uptown Theatre.
Then there’s “Vamperifica,” a comedy about a college student who discovers he’s a 200-year-old vampire king named Raven. Director Bruce Ornstein will appear at the 10 p.m. Saturday screening at the Uptown Theatre and again at noon Sunday at the Pope Marine Park Theatre.
“I also challenge people: Look at the program and go see a film you would not ordinarily see,” adds Force. She’s a horror movie hater — “I don’t care for splatter” — but to her surprise, she found “Vamperifica” to be terrific.
Force then leapfrogged her way across the festival grid, listing a few more favorites:
■ “Koran by Heart,” about Muslim children and teenagers who compete at a Koran-recitation contest in Cairo;
■ Skateistan,” a short film about the skateboarding boys and girls of Kabul, Afghanistan;
■ “Boy,” a story told by a Maori youngster in Waihau Bay, New Zealand;
■ “National Velvet,” the 1944 classic starring a 12-year-old Elizabeth Taylor who does all her own stunts.
“Velvet,” to screen tonight, is one of three free movies to be shown outdoors on the 200 block of Taylor Street. Saturday’s free outdoor film is “Back to the Future” from 1985, and the finale Sunday is “Moonstruck” from 1987. Show time is 7:30 p.m. for each.
More free movies will light the screen at the Peter Simpson Free Cinema inside the American Legion Hall at Monroe and Water streets.
These include the Reviewer’s Choice shorts program, the feature “Electric Man” about comic-book store owners named Wolf and Jazz, and “Dog in the Manger” about 15 volunteers working with indigenous youths in the Amazon.
Jane Julian, programmer of the Port Townsend Film Festival, is marveling at something that happened without her trying to make it so. This year’s lineup of movies, she says, is more international than those of past years.
“We counted more than 18 different countries represented,” she said. Like Force, Julian listed what she considers must-see movies:
■ “How to Die in Oregon,” about the death-with-dignity issue in Oregon and Washington state;
■ “Journey on the Wild Coast,” about a couple’s trek from Seattle up to the Aleutian Islands;
■ “Troubadours,” about West Hollywood’s Troubadour club, where James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt and Joni Mitchell sang;
■ “A Perfect Soldier,” about a man who, after being forced to fight for the Khmer Rouge, single-handedly removed some 50,000 land mines from the Cambodian countryside;
■ “Kadoma,” about Hendri Coetzee, a South African guide, who kayaks with two Americans down the perilous Lukuga River in Congo;
■ “Rideshare,” a film shot entirely on iPhones.
“It’s remarkable how well it looks . . . it follows a fun story line,” Julian said of “Rideshare.”
Besides all the movies, the weekend offers lunchtime panel discussions with filmmakers at The Upstage bistro and interviews with cast and crew members outdoors on Taylor Street. And at the top of the heap of interactive events are two with actor-comic-screenwriter Buck Henry:
■ “A Very Special Evening” featuring Henry and “Taking Off,” his film released in Europe but not in the United States, at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Uptown Theatre;
■ “An Afternoon with a Scribe,” a screenwriting discussion at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Rose Theatre.
Times and places for all screenings and other events are listed in the festival’s program and daily update. Those are available at the Cotton Building hospitality center at 607 Water St., at the Rose Theatre at 235 Taylor St. and the Uptown Theatre at 1120 Lawrence St., as well as from other merchants around town.
There are two main ways to go when planning to partake in the festival. You can purchase a pass that includes membership in the Port Townsend Film Institute, year-round access to its film library and discounts on movies at the Rose, or you can line up for rush tickets before particular screenings.
Rush tickets are $10 each and sold on a first-come, first-served basis at each venue. Passes range from $35 for the one-up, which covers admission to any one screening plus film institute benefits, to $85 for the four-up, which covers four screenings plus benefits.
For comprehensive information about all things film festival, phone the institute office at 360-379-1333 or consult www.PTFilmFest.com.