By Paul R. Sell
For the spokesperson’s review
After taking a hiatus in 2021, the Spokane International Film Festival returns this weekend and promises to showcase a local and international palate of cinema that can’t be seen anywhere else.
“We felt it was important for the community to have the opportunity to experience art collectively,” says Pete Porter, SpIFF Director and EWU Film Professor. “We also wanted to provide a forum for filmmakers to screen their work, and we were surprised by the high number of open submissions.”
SpIFF will try something different this year by hosting a hybrid festival largely due to the risk of omicron, but also to give everyone the opportunity to view films and shorts at their own pace.
For the first time in SpIFF history, every film in the festival will be available virtually. That’s 16 feature films and over 70 short films from over 20 countries, plus 20 films from the Pacific Northwest or with a PNW connection.
Each SpIFF entry will be available virtually on Eventive, a platform that can be watched from a computer but also supports devices such as AppleTV and Roku. Purchasing a SpIFF Virtual Ticket will grant access to the entire library of entries ranging from animations and shorts to documentaries and feature films.
Virtual tickets can be purchased at watch.eventive.org/spiff and cost $15. All features and shorts will be available on Eventive from Friday to February 16.
“I like the idea that someone can buy a virtual pass and watch all the SpIFF movies and probably see something they’ve never seen before,” Porter says. “It is important for SpIFF to be able to study the universe of cinema that exists.”
One of the entries that stands out is a local documentary called “In the Garden of Forking Paths”. The film was shot almost entirely by children in sovereign Indigenous territories on Canada’s west coast.
Children’s filmmakers take viewers on a breathtaking journey through the mind and imagination of what it’s like to be a kid again while showing audiences the limitless potential of what a movie can do.
In terms of international features, another standout is “RK/RKAY”. It is a Hindu film that pays homage to the cinema of the 1960s. The main character is RK (Rajat Kapoor, who also wrote and directed the film), a filmmaker trying to make a new film where he also plays the main role and deals with all the drama that comes with the territory serving as a movie-within-a-movie.
SpIFF will still host a number of in-person events over the course of two days. Events begin Friday at the Bing Crosby Theater at 7 p.m. with “Best of the Northwest.” This includes a collection of nine short films made by local filmmakers ranging from comedy and drama to documentary.
These shorts will be followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers, followed by a screening of the feature-length documentary “Reclaim Idaho,” which details a family’s journey in a broken down RV to campaign for expanding Medicaid to help more than 62,000 uninsured Idahoans. Doors to this event open at 6 p.m. and all COVID-19 protocols will be in effect. Tickets are $13.
On Saturday, in-person events will continue at the Bing Crosby Theater for most of the day and evening. Events begin at 11 a.m. with the Animation Showcase, a collection of 10 animated shorts from around the world covering a variety of subjects and artistic styles.
At 1 p.m. will be the world premiere of “Re-Opening,” a documentary that details the ups and downs of the All Voice Is theater company and crew as they attempt to reopen their theater amidst… a global pandemic. Filmmakers are expected.
At 3:30 p.m., a showcase of short films from around the world, including eight short films from countries such as France, Mexico, Norway, United Kingdom, Spain and the Netherlands.
At 5:45 p.m., one of the first films of the festival, with Morocco’s submission for the best foreign language at the 2022 Oscars, “Casablanca Beats”. Inspired by the director’s own experiences, the film explores a former rapper teaching hip hop in an underprivileged neighborhood despite numerous political and religious differences.
The evening ends with the screening of “Vinyl Nation” at 8 p.m. This documentary chronicles the renaissance of the vinyl record that has occurred over the past decade.
Whether you attend the events in person or watch everything virtually, SpIFF aims to deliver a wider range of films than ever before, with a focus on local filmmakers, the LGBTQ+ community and an international flavor, as well as to foster an atmosphere that celebrates these filmmakers and our shared love of cinema.