WEEKEND — Port Townsend Film Festival's dazzling lineup

WEEKEND — Port Townsend Film Festival’s dazzling lineup

PORT TOWNSEND — The festival lineup is dazzling — and so are the prices of the passes.

But wait, says Janette Force, executive director of the 13th annual Port Townsend Film Festival, which opens today and runs through Sunday in venues uptown and downtown.

There are free movies aplenty, Force promises.

The “One Up” pass costs $35 for one screening, a “Four Up” pass is $85 for four films, the full-festival deal is $185 and it goes up from there.

But this “film lover’s block party,” as it is known, is not just for the well-heeled; Force is eager to reel off the many free screenings, indoors and out, that make this three-day festival accessible to all.

Singles, couples and families, first off, can enjoy classics under the night sky as “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Tootsie” light up the big screen tonight, Saturday and Sunday, respectively. All three are free and start at 7:30 p.m., downtown on Taylor Street.

Then there’s a whole house full of no-cost movies: the Peter Simpson Free Cinema inside the American Legion Hall at 209 Monroe St.

“This is a good way to get your feet wet,” said Force. “There’s festival content to suit everyone’s taste. And when you get the flavor of independent cinema, you’ll want more.”

A sampling: “The Girls in the Band,” a documentary about all-woman big bands, screens at the Peter Simpson at 3:30 p.m. Saturday; “Go Ganges!” about two adventurers from Alaska traveling down India’s big river, is on at 12:30 p.m. Sunday; “Otter 501,” about a kayaker who rescues a sea otter pup, screens at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, and “QWERTY,” a story of love and Scrabble, screens at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

As always, much of the pleasure of attending film festival screenings comes from the discussions afterward, Force added. Those happen with fellow moviegoers and with the actors, directors and cinematographers who do Q-and-A sessions.

“We have 47 filmmakers visiting us this year,” she said, adding that the festival’s movies come in nine languages and from 20 nations.

More than 50 documentaries, feature films and shorts will explore a panoply of topics. To name but a few more, there’s “Under African Skies,” a documentary on the making of Paul Simon’s “Graceland” album; “Foreign Letters,” the story of an Israeli girl befriending a Vietnamese classmate; and “Dreamworld,” about two sweethearts hoping to find work at California’s Pixar animation studio.

And there are common threads, Force said.

These movies are “about people facing adversity, and rising. We have so many films about taking risks,” she said.

There are also stories of “having whatever you have be enough, and sharing it.”

The Port Townsend Film Institute works with many local businesses and groups, Force said, to make the festival lavish, even amid the lingering recession.

“At a time when people are struggling, we understand they need not only entertainment but also inspiration,” she said.

“We have more business sponsors than ever before,” including Kitsap Bank, which sponsors the free outdoor movies.

There is also the Port Town­send Arts Commission, which funds the Peter Simpson Free Cinema, among many other community events through the year.

Force, for her part, saluted the 270 volunteers who help her and the festival staff, who number just three.

She also hails two departed film lovers: Peter Simpson, a co-founder of the Port Townsend Film Festival, and Sydney Pollack, director of “Tootsie.”

Pollack came to the festival five years ago, Force said, and “he was so generous and lovely.”

Sunday evening, around the 7:30 screening of “Tootsie,” everyone is invited to the “Dress for Success” ball on Taylor Street.

The ball “is about people thinking, ‘What would I do to get a job?’” and dressing accordingly, Force said.

“Tootsie,” of course, stars Dustin Hoffman as an out-of-work actor who disguises himself as a woman to get a role on a soap opera.

The ball is free for all, and so is another pre-movie event on Saturday.

Nanda, the traveling circus-comedy troupe with members from Port Townsend, will give a performance on Taylor Street at 7:15 p.m. Saturday, just before “The Empire Strikes Back.”

In addition to the outdoor screen and the Peter Simpson Free Cinema, the festival’s films will screen at three other theaters: the Rose at 235 Taylor St., the Uptown at 1120 Lawrence St. and the Northwest Maritime Center at 431 Water St.

And while pass holders enjoy first-come, first-served admission to screenings, any remaining seats will be sold at the door, usually for $10.

Complete guides to festival movies and related activities are all over Port Townsend and at www.PTFilmFest.com; the festival office is at 360-379-1333.

And for after the festival lights go down, there’s a thing called membership. Pass holders and others who become Port Townsend Film Festival members have access to its independent-cinema library as well as discounts on movie admission and popcorn at the Rose Theatre.

For details on membership levels ranging from $35 to $1,250, see www.PTFilmFest.com.

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