Portland’s Experimental Film Festival is back for its third year. This year, viewers will have the chance to witness films made with magnets, filmmaker throwdowns and a NSFW sideshow.
The Experimental Film Fest Portland runs this weekend, from May 28 to June 1. The film festival will feature a variety of screenings, showcased at the Clinton Street Theatre, the Hollywood Theatre and Disjecta art gallery. Screenings include a Friday night local showcase, a Saturday afternoon family-friendly screening and a Sunday curation of films made through natural processes. Additionally, a collection of local filmmakers will battle it out over the weekend in a bracket-style showcase to be judged by visiting artists.
“We’ve kind of fallen into this curatorial pattern: Our first night tends to be work that is accessible, dynamic,” said Hannah Piper Burns, festival co-director. Burns plans each year’s screenings and activities, along with co-director Ben Popp. “It’s our amped screening. It’s the work that gets people juiced. Friday, we have our local screening and our late-night screening. This year, Friday is sort of our tilt-a-whirl.”
In some ways, the festival itself is every bit as experimental as the films it screens. Burns said that she and Popp adopt a “throw everything against the wall” approach for programming ideas.
“We both consider the first five years of this thing the lab,” Burns said. “Some things are going to be more successful than others. It’s a big negotiation because we have our ideals, and we have what we can work with. One thing that’s evolved for us is that we’re working with established venues in a more significant way than before.”
Burns pointed to a longstanding relationship with the Southeast-based Clinton Street Theatre, where most of the programming will screen.
“They are amazing,” she said. “We love them and we’re always hoping to give back to them. We do a monthly event that’s an open event called Stew. There aren’t really any other open experimental screenings for free. They really provide a service to the community, and they’re a community treasure as far as I’m concerned.”
In addition to an opening night at the Hollywood Theatre, the festival will also host several events at Disjecta gallery on North Interstate Avenue. Thursday will include a night of performances at the gallery, as well as a round of the festival’s ongoing EFFPortland Throwdown.
“It’s a huge place for us,” she said. “We’ve worked at galleryHOMELAND and Place, but this is great for us. It’s such a large space, and so adaptable for us. It also allows us to have our performances in that space. It’s all Thursday, and it’s going to be total chaos.”
The EFFPortland Throwdown, which runs Thursday through Saturday, will feature an invited group of local filmmakers who are putting works together for a bracket competition. Burns explained that the Throwdown is a nod to the festival’s progenitor film festival, PDXFest. For PDXFest, the organizers invited out-of-town artists to participate in a similar competition.
“There was a lot of smack talking,” Burns said. “There were some suggestions we should try to bring that back in some form. There are some ways we’re trying to engage the local community and bring them in in different ways. We picked eight artists in town, which are the coaches, and they picked artists, which are their represented artists. They’ve been talking smack on Facebook for months.”
Several from the Portland State community will be involved in the Throwdown. On the coaches’ side, PSU masters of fine arts candidates Pam Minty and Chris Freeman have selected representative artists. On the artists’ side, time-based media professor Julie Perini and art student Riley King will be putting films into the mix.
“We’ve got a strong mix of seasoned locals and then we’ve got some of the kids,” Burns said. “We don’t really know what it’s going to look like. It could be super chaotic. But it will be really fun. We take the media and the quality of the films very seriously, but we don’t take ourselves seriously. We try to have fun. It’s nice to have no control over things in a way.”
Perini, who has been involved in the film festival in various capacities over the past two years, spoke about her role in the competition, along with coach Jodi Darby.
“It’s new this year, they’re trying it out,” Perini said. “They all picked an artist in town to be their little fighter. [Darby] picked me, which I was pretty excited about. She’s gonna throw me in the ring, that’s how that worked out.”
In addition to the Throwdown, Perini will also host a Thursday program on cameraless filmmaking, and a curated collection of films made with natural processes, along with filmmaker Caryn Cline.
“They’re all films made with natural processes,” Perini said. “One involves 16 millimeter films that have somehow been manipulated with water. We’ve shown that program all over the Southwest. She’s curated these groups of films with me, and she’s also going to help do
Perini noted that the film festival attracts all sorts of people, with a particular draw to those from various artistic backgrounds. She also pointed out that it’s not just Portland in attendance.
“People come from all over the country,” she said. “In terms of the audience, you get a lot of people who are into film, and people who are into all kinds of visual art.”
Burns explained that she and Popp take particular effort to reach beyond the city. In addition to inviting artists from across the country, the directors also attempt to arrange programming to help out-of-towners gain viewership. They also try to get visiting artists acquainted with Portland’s flavor.
“We try to balance things by giving a lot to the locals, and also giving the out-of-towners a taste of Portland,” she said. “We try to get weird, and give them a good time. That kind of enhances what we call our summer-camp vibe. It’s so important to get people in, so we have a chance to talk to each other. It’s not just all about Portland. There’s a whole big world out there, and we’re trying to bring it here.”