As much as we love acting locally, we depend on the Portland International Film Festival (along with other fests like this month’s PDX Jazz Festival) to keep us thinking globally. With some 135 films from more than three-dozen countries, it offers two-plus weeks of stories about the world outside our verdant valley. We can't possibly cover all the films here, but we wanted to offer suggestions on some of the bigger award winners and buzz makers, then open it up for you to explore the world of film that the NW Film Center has painstakingly brought to our small shores.
Blancanieves + The Opening Night Party
Feb 7 at 7:30pm, Newmark Theatre
Blancanieves, the festival's opening-night film, is a Spanish-inflected, The Artist–reminiscent silent treatment of the Snow White fairy tale. It is Spain's submission for the Best Foreign Film Oscar, and it will kick off the opening party.
Feb 8 at 6pm, Whitsell Auditorium
Feb 10 at 5pm, Cinemagic
A true-life Australian movie about a country-western group made up of four young Aborigines women who struggle in a remote Outback town in 1968, facing racism and musical obscurity, before getting their break in the form of talent scout, played by Chris O'Dowd (Kristin Wiig’s charming cop suitor in Bridesmaids). He changes their musical track from country to Motown, dubs them the Sapphires, and sends the four women to Vietnam to sing for American troops, a trip that marks the beginning of these young women's journey to adventure and success. Based on screenwriter Tony Briggs' own family history, the film interlaces humor and tension with great Motown tunes. Read a review in the Telegraph that calls the film “a cute comic drama that grapples with some hard truths.”
Caesar Must Die
Feb 8 at 9pm, at CineMagic
Feb 11 at 6pm, at CineMagic
Selected as Italy’s submission to the Oscars, this film by Italian co-directors and brothers Paolo Taviani and Vittorio Taviani's takes place in a Roman prison, where the inmates rehearse and perform Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. Melding documentary and narrative (along with the Shakespearean drama-within-a-drama), the movie explores the many themes that parallel the lives of the prisoners with their characters in Shakespeare's famous play of power, fraternity, and betrayal. Paolo Taviani said upon his acceptance of the Golden Bear Award, the Berlin Film Festival’s highest prize, that he hoped moviegoers would "say to themselves or even those around them... that even a prisoner with a dreadful sentence, even a life sentence, is and remains a human being."
Feb 9 at 2pm, Regal Lloyd Center
Feb 10 at 6:45, Regal Lloyd Center
Feb 12 at 7pm, Regal Fox Tower
Originally submitted as India’s entry for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, Barfi!, which is dedicated to Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, ceased to be a contender when it was criticized for copying scenes from several American films. Despite this (or perhaps because of it), Barfi! was a huge success upon its release in India in 2012, becoming one of the highest earning Bollywood films of all time. Part enchanting fable, part slapslick comedy, it follows a deaf-mute (Bollywood star Ranbir Kapoor) in Darjeeling as he pursues first one failed love and then a second (who is autistic) in an adventure involving a bank robbery, kidnappings, and not end to slapstick. While the three’s paths are initially intertwined in the pursuit of love and success, eventually their lives end up permanently connected to one another's.
Feb 9 at 6pm, CineMagic
Feb 11 at 6:30pm, Regal Lloyd Center 4
The South Korean movie Pieta, by festival favorite Kim Ki-duk, won top prize, the Golden Lion, at the Venice International Film Festival, as well as a myriad awards at other film festivals, including several for its leading actress, Jo Min-su. Filled with extreme and often sickening violence, Pieta tells the story of Kang-do (Lee Jung-jin), a loan shark seemingly gripped by pure evil whose strategy is to take disability policies out on his clients and then disable them if they can’t pay him off, who undergoes something of a transformation when a woman (Min-su), claiming to be the mother who abandoned him long ago, reappears in his life with some secrets of her own. Read the Hollywood Reporter's review.
Feb 10 at 7:30pm, Regal Fox Tower
Feb 14 at 5:45pm, Regal Lloyd Center
Italian director Matteo Garrone intended to make Reality a comedy, but as the filming went on, the story took on darker dramatic tones. Following one man's obsessive quest to gain a spot on an Italian reality TV show, Garrone examines and exposes the uglier side of celebrity culture and the pursuit of fame. This satirical, ironic, but ultimately sentimental and thoughtful film, equal parts Fellini and Neapolitan realism, won the Grand Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.
Feb 10 at 7:30pm, Whitsell Auditorium
Feb 11 at 5:45pm, Regal Lloyd Center
Set in Germany at the end of World War II, the movie tells the story of five German siblings whose parents were Nazi SS members during the war and who were arrested by the Allies when the war ended. The siblings become orphans who must find their way hundreds of miles across Germany to live with their grandmother, a journey both aided and challenged by the help of a Jewish soldier who poses as their older brother. A story about guilt and forgiveness directed and co-written by Cate Shortland (whose 2004 Somersault swept awards and widely introduced Abbie Cornish), Lore aims to show a human side of the aftermath of WWII that hasn’t often been portrayed on the screen. Winner of the Piazza Grande audience award at the Festival del film Locarno in Switzerland, Best Film at the Stockholm International Film Festival, and this year’s Australian submission for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.