Welcome to PIFF XL. As in, the 40th installment of the annual Portland International Film Festival—though, with nearly 100 feature films from across the globe, you’d be forgiven for thinking “XL” stood for “extra-large.”
The NW Film Center, which puts on the festival, has just rolled out the lineup. It’s a dizzying slate, but here’s what caught our eye:
The festival kicks off Thursday, February 9 with I Am Not Your Negro, Raoul Peck’s widely lauded, essay-style documentary about James Baldwin (which will also play the Portland Black Film Festival at the Hollywood Theatre). Tying together the civil rights movement with contemporary struggles for racial justice, it’s a major, timely score for opening night. Check out the trailer below.
To help guide festivalgoers, PIFF has this year divided the lineup into categories. One category is Masters—heavy-hitters of international and art-house cinema. Top of this list is Olivier Assayas’s Personal Shopper, a Paris-set ghost story starring Kristen Stewart that divided audiences at Cannes. Also notable: Graduation, from 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days director Cristian Mungiu.
Out of the New Directors section, the NW Film Center’s Nick Bruno calls out both Aloys, a Swiss psychological fable that nabbed the Critics Prize at the Berlin Film Festival, and The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki, a biopic about a famous Finnish boxer that triumphed in the Un Certain Regard category at Cannes.
In the documentaries division, we’ll be checking out Portlander Matt McCormick’s Buzz One Four, about a Cold War bomber that crashed in 1961 outside Washington, DC—with McCormick’s grandfather as pilot. Also on our radar: Peabody Award winner Vanessa Gould's Obit, a dive into the world of New York Times obituary writing.
As far as animated films, former Portlander Bill Plympton will hit town for a pre-release screening of Revengeance, a zany tale involving bounty hunters, bikers, corrupt politicians, and assorted other sleazy types in ‘70s Los Angeles. Bruno also calls out My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea, with voice work by (hold onto your pants) Jason Schwartzman, Lena Dunham, Maya Rudolph, Susan Sarandon, and Reggie Watts.
Otherwise, PIFF After Dark returns with late-night screenings of boundary-pushing films, this time at the Bagdad Theatre, and the fest unveils a new slate of experimental cinema—programmer Morgen Ruff recommends Kékszakállú and Eldorado XXI. There’s (obviously) a ton more, so head over to the festival website for the full lineup, and watch this space for more of our picks.