Beginning October 4, the Grand Cinema will present the annual Tacoma’s Film Festival, once again bringing the best local and international independent films to venues around the city. Now in its 7th year, TFF strives to enrich the community with the best films in the industry while also working hard to support their creators.
“You won’t find a festival like this anywhere around here. We have a very community-driven focus and we’re committed to giving the Tacoma area access to films they’d otherwise have to drive hours to see,” says Tacoma Film Festival Director Emily Alm.
While TFF is admittedly forced to compete with its big brother to the north – the Seattle International Film Festival, the largest on the west coast – Alm says its not really a competition. “We aren’t shooting to be Sundance. There’s a place for festivals like those, but there’s also a place for us.”
According to Alm, TFF’s grassroots approach stems from the Grand’s “down-to-earth” attitude toward the film industry which moviegoers have appreciated for years. And for local filmmakers, this intimate scale is an advantage.
The festival has always made a point to showcase local talent with their “Grit City Flicks” and “North Sound Shorts” segments, this year taking place on October 8 and 9.
“Tacoma has a vibrant artistic community and they deserve to let their talents be recognized,” says Alm. “We do what we can to honor and encourage the work that they do.”
TFF also sets itself apart by supporting and honoring filmmakers, who often travel from around the country to attend festival screenings and promote their work. Of the 118 films being shown this year, around 50 will have a filmmaker in attendance, a record high for the festival.
“One of the coolest parts about attending the festival is the chance to talk to the filmmakers, hear their stories, and learn about the process behind their work,” says Alm.
This year, the Tacoma Entrepreneur Network is sponsoring a panel discussion featuring seven of the festival’s filmmakers. The October 9 event will give college students and community members interested in filmmaking a chance to ask questions and contemplate their own entrepreneurial careers.
Event coordinators are also proud to welcome short film and entertainment guru Warren Etheredge to TFF’s Filmmaker Workshop hosted by the Grand on October 7. The public is invited to watch as Etheredge screens the opening minutes of various short films and offers expert advice at this free event.
TFF’s “Best of the Fest” awards offer another opportunity to recognize talent in various categories, including Best Short Narrative, Best Short Documentary, Best Animated Film, Best Regional Film, and the Audience Choice Award. Winners are determined by a panel of judges well-versed in Tacoma’s filmmaking scene, and will be announced following the Grand’s “Sunday Night Showcase” screening of Valley of Saints on Oct. 7.
Film highlights this year include the Opening Night Gala’s feature The Taiwan Oyster, a dramedy in which two ex-pat kindergarten teachers living in Taiwan set out on a quixotic journey to bury a fellow countryman (thetaiwanoyster.com).
Audiences are encouraged to come early and stay late on opening night to enjoy food from Maxwell’s Restaurant and Lounge and mingle with festival contributors, including the Oyster’s co-writer and producer Mark Jarrett. The event will take place at the Annie Wright School beginning at 6:30 pm in the Great Hall.
October 6’s Lemon is one of this year’s most highly anticipated documentaries, which follows Lemon Anderson, an ex-con turned poet/performer, on his fight to overcome poverty by telling his story on stage (lemonthemovie.com). Director Beth Levison will be in attendance.
Closing night promises lighthearted northwest comedy with The Do-Deca-Pentathalon, a story of two grown brothers who secretly compete in a homemade Olympics during a family reunion. Lead actor Mark Kelly will stick around for a post-screening Q&A at the Grand, with food provided by The Social Bar and Grill.
The festival offers a little something for everyone, and films are scheduled according to genre and intended audience. General admission tickets are on sale for $10 and can be purchased at the Grand or screening venues 30 minutes prior to show time. All-access and weekend-only passes are available for $150 and $75 respectively.
While attendance has always been high among Grand members, coordinators are hoping to increase student interest this year, offering tickets at an unprecedented student rate: $6 instead of the usual $10.
For event details and a complete list of show times and venues, check out www.tacomafilmfestival.com or pick up a festival guide magazine anywhere the Weekly Volcano is distributed.