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BendFilm Festival 2012 Is Here

BendFilm opens its ninth annual run in downtown Bend tonight. And I personally am halfway through my ninth year as a citizen of Bend.
Coincidence? Yeah, probably. But the international festival of independent film has enmeshed me in its web — first as a magazine editor that emblazoned its cover with the first festival, later as a volunteer member of the selections committee.
For the past four years, I have been a member, albeit a quiet one, of BendFilm’s board of directors.
Memories? I have many of them, starting with festival founder Katie Merritt. She built a successful event from scratch, showing amazing creativity, skill and pure moxie in shaping what has become an institution not only in Central Oregon but also among aspiring Hollywood filmmakers.
Perhaps my favorite movie ever screened here was “Born into Brothels,” which subsequently won the Academy Award as best documentary of 2004. But I recall many more, such as “9” (2005), a UCLA animated student short that Tim Burton turned into a full-length movie; “Outsourced” (2007), which later became a popular television series; and “Den Osynlige (The Invisible)” (2004), a supernatural Swedish thriller that was remade into an American feature, “The Invisible” (2007).

Personalities? I won’t forget actress Rosanna Arquette devoting much of her time in Bend developing a friendship with a young cerebral palsy victim. Actor C. Thomas Howell describing an intimate moment in his early film career to awards-banquet attendees who didn’t really want to hear it. Director John Waters enthralling Tower Theatre goers with ribald tales of “Polyester” and “Cecil B. Demented.”

This year, the roster of foreign-produced films extends well beyond neighboring Canada. Germany, Denmark, Ireland and Poland all have entries, along with Thailand, Brazil, Tunisia and South Korea. That’s five continents’ worth, in case you weren’t counting.

But the movies to which I’m really looking forward are two documentaries — “Ethel,” which opens the festival program with a 5 p.m. showing today at the Tower, and “The Revolutionary,” to be presented at 2 p.m. Friday at McMenamins and at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Oxford Hotel.

“Ethel” is a full-length documentary biopic of the life of Ethel Kennedy, the widow of Robert Kennedy, as directed by their daughter, filmmaker Rory Kennedy. “The Revolutionary” tells the story of Sidney Rittenberg, an American who invested 35 years of his life in Maoist China.

Here’s a trailer for “The Revolutionary”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vH9w34onSC8

I’m also looking forward to the West Coast premiere of “Deadfall,” with a stellar cast that includes Eric Bana, Olivia Wilde, Sissy Spacek and Kris Kristofferson. Set in Canada in wintertime, it is billed as an “icy thriller (with) a shocking climax.”

Go online to www.bendfilm.org for complete festival information, or drop by the festival office at downtown Bend’s Liberty Theatre, just north of the Tower Theatre on Wall Street.

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BendFilm Festival: Take Two

In its six previous years of existence, the BendFilm Festival has become well-known among the American film community for its commitment to presenting outstanding documentary movies.

Ever since introducing Born Into Brothels in 2005 — a movie that won the festival’s audience award over any feature, and went on to take the Oscar for best documentary — BendFilm has offered one great “doc” after another.

The 2010 festival, which opens next Thursday (Oct. 7) and runs through that Sunday (Oct. 10), is no different.

Consider these festival selections:

With narration by Ben Kingsley, Sally Field and Ed Asner, The Desert of Forbidden Art tells a remarkable story about the bid for creative freedom in the former Soviet Union.  A treasure trove of banned Soviet art, worth millions of dollars, was stashed in a remote Uzbekistani desert.  Backed by a group of visionary artists, one man risked his life to rescue their work.  Written, produced and directed by Amanda Pope and Tahavolar Georgiev.

Brutal Beauty: Tales of the Rose City Rollers documents a year and a half with the women of a Portland roller-derby league.  From games and practices to the private lives of individual players, the film offers an inside look at an often-misunderstood sport. Directed by Chip Mabry.

9000 Needles tells of the travails of American Devin Dearth, who at the young age of 40 is debilitated by a devastating stroke.  After exhausting his recovery options within the U.S. health-care system, he travels to China to undergo extensive acupuncture treatments.  The Philippine-American film is directed by Doug Dearth.

American Jihadist examines the thought process of an American citizen who joined the militant Islam movement.  Clevin Raphael Holt grew up in the ghettos of Washington, D.C., surrounded by physical and psychological violence from his early childhood, and with little hope for his future.  Writer Jody Jenkins and director Mark Claywell explore how these influences shaped Holt’s adult decisions.

Hempsters looks into the culture of hemp, regarded as one of the most sustainable of all agricultural products. Requiring no pesticides or herbicides to grow, and providing resources for thousands of products, it has nevertheless been banned by U.S. law since 1937.  According to producer Diana Oliver and director Michael Henning: “We will show you a conspiracy of silence, juxtaposed by a fight against ignorance and misinformation.”

Movies will be presented at five different venues in Bend and Sisters.  Individual movie tickets are $10; a full film pass is $95.  Order online: http://www.bendfilm.org

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