Local, national and international filmmakers converge at the 20th annual Spokane International Film Festival (SpIFF), running Feb. 2 to 9 at Spokane’s Bing Crosby and Magic Lantern theaters.
Opening night at the Bing begins with the 2018 Best of the Northwest shorts block, featuring unique and award-winning films from around the Northwest, followed by a special screening of the Spokane-filmed 1993 feature, “Benny & Joon” starring Johnny Depp and Mary Stuart Masterson. Best of the Northwest begins at 5:30 p.m., and “Benny & Joon” screens at 8 p.m. with separate admission and entrance fee for non-festival passholders.
Kendra Ann Sherrill, assistant director for SpIFF, said a major goal of the festival is to celebrate filmmakers with diverse voices and to expose local audiences to films that haven’t received wide distribution.
“Being a festival gives us a unique advantage to be able to bring films to Spokane that normally couldn’t find a home here,” Sherrill said.
The closing night film is “Dirtbag: The Legend of Fred Beckey,” a documentary about the world-renowned mountain climber and author. The influential adventurer was known for recording hundreds of first ascents on mountains across North America and pioneering trails and direct routes previously thought impossible. The film screens at 7:30 p.m. at the Bing, with director David O’Leske expected to be in attendance.
Sherrill said the presence of filmmakers and performers is always a major attraction for the festival.
“They meet the audiences, share their own stories and anecdotes about the making of their films, and answer questions from the audience,” Sherrill said. “The discussions are lively and educational and a favorite part of the festival for both the filmmakers and audiences.”
Other films in the lineup with filmmakers expected to attend are the documentaries, “Expedition Alaska” and “All Our Father’s Relations,” as well as the locally-produced feature, “The Garageland Chronicles,” an anthology exploring the relationships of workers and customers at a small-town record store. Filmmakers from the comedy, “The Feels,” which won an Outstanding Actress in a Feature Film at L.A. Outfest, are also scheduled to attend the festival.
International feature film highlights include the animated feature, “Window Horses: The Poetic Persian Epiphany of Rosie Ming,” about a poet who travels to Iran to perform poetry and learns about her lineage. The film won Best Animated Feature Film at the Asia Pacific Screen Awards and Best Canadian Feature at the Vancouver International Film Festival. It screens at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 3 at the Magic Lantern Theater.
The Spanish film “Summer 1993,” about a 6-year-old orphan sent to live with her uncle’s family, won the Best First Feature award at the Berlin International Film Festival. It screens at 12 p.m. Feb. 3 at the Magic Lantern.
The Estonian drama, “The Fencer,” about a fencer who returns home after fleeing the Russian secret police, received a 2016 Golden Globe nomination for Best Foreign Film. It screens at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 6 at the Magic Lantern.
Short film blocks are also popular screenings at SpIFF. In addition to the Best of the Northwest screening on opening night, the festival will also include blocks of U.S. and Canada shorts, world shorts and an animation showcase.
Films are selected by a team of programmers who seek out films creating buzz on festival circuits. Sherrill said selections for the short film blocks are made from submissions through the FilmFreeway website. The festival is overseen by the Contemporary Arts Alliance of Spokane and receives financial support from a variety of local and regional underwriters.
“The mission of the SpIFF is to enrich the lives of those in the Inland Northwest through exposure to the extraordinary world of film,” Sherrill said.
As of this writing, full-festival passes are sold out. Tickets for individual screenings range between $10-13, and are now available at the SpIFF website. Buy tickets and view the full schedule of films with more information on each at www.SpokaneFilmFestival.org
If advance tickets sell out online, a limited number of same-day tickets may be available at the venue box office. Call (509) 720-7743 to find out
The Bing Crosby Theater is located at 901 W. Sprague Ave. in Spokane. The Magic Lantern Theater is located at 25 W. Main Ave. in Spokane.