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Spokane film festival expands horizons

In its 11th year, SpIFF boasts 22 feature films representing 18 countries

Pete Porter is high on this year’s version of the Spokane International Film Festival, which kicked off Thursday night at AMC’s River Park Square Theatres.

“I think this lineup is, from top to bottom, the probably the strongest that I’ve been associated with,” he says. “I think it’s just incredible.”

Considering that Porter – who, along with Irv Broughton and Vaughn Overlie, booked the films for SpIFF 2009 – has been working with the festival for just four years, his pronouncement might not sound like much.

But considering just how far the event has come in its 11-year existence, Porter could be right.

In those years, the festival – sponsored then as now by the Contemporary Arts Alliance of Spokane – has evolved from a smallish compilation of mostly regional (read Canadian) film into a 10-day-long showing of award-winning international fare.

This year’s lineup even includes one Oscar-nominated feature: the Austrian movie “Revanche,” which is up for Best Foreign Language Film.

But mention of any single film can’t capture the entire significance of SpIFF 2009, which as the festival begins its second decade offers a lineup as good as any similar gathering of arthouse movies. Maybe even better.

The 22 feature films that will run nightly through Feb. 15, either at River Park Square or the Magic Lantern, represent 18 countries (with six U.S. entries leading the way).

The 32 shorts may have an overwhelmingly U.S. look, with 20 having some stateside connection, but they add three more countries to the overall list.

Consider tonight’s lineup. “Tulpan,” which plays at River Park Square at 6 p.m., was Kazakhstan’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Oscar. A serio-comic look at life on the Asian steppes, it will be preceded by the two locally produced winners of First Night Spokane’s 48 Hour Film Festival.

Following at 9 is the Swedish pre-teen vampire film “Låt den rätte komma in” (“Let the Right One In”), which showed up on some critics’ 2008 top 10 lists. Showing just before it will be Spokane filmmaker Danielle Barbieri’s short film “Ouroboros.” (Barbieri will attend the screening.)

Porter, who teaches film history and theory/criticism at Eastern Washington University, says he has different priorities for choosing films.

“There’s the obvious answer, which that I look for good films,” he says. But, he adds, “I try to get film from as many different places as I can so that we can appeal to different segments of the community.”

Broughton, a longtime English teacher at Spokane Falls Community College and a filmmaker in his own right, stresses documentaries (of which there are five in this year’s lineup). Overlie, a retired history teacher/librarian, is, Porter says, “more eclectic.”

“I think Vaughn and I both emphasize international fictional features,” he says.

All three stress regionality.

“We have quite a few shorts from the Northwest,” Porter says, because “we want the Northwest to be represented but also because those filmmakers can come and demonstrate to people that films can be made here.”

Several of the shorts have Spokane connections. In addition to tonight’s 48 Hour Film Festival winners and Barbieri’s “Ouroboros,” they include Trevor St. John’s “The Art of Getting Over It” (7 p.m. Monday, AMC).

When it comes to must-sees, Porter has his own recommendations:

“Revanche” (9 p.m. Saturday, AMC): Variety says the film succeeds in “elegantly spinning primal elements of guilt, revenge, faith and redemption …”

“I think that has to be at the top of the list,” Porter says. “That film is just incredible.”

“Il Divo” (6 p.m. Saturday, AMC): A powerful, stylish look at the career of Italian politician Giulio Andreotti that Canada’s Globe and Mail calls “pure, exuberant razzle-dazzle, including ironic voice-over, playful graphics and a blackly humorous montage of the ‘natural’ deaths that came to Andreotti’s rivals.”

“Al Koloub Al Mountariqua (Burned Hearts),” (3 p.m. Saturday, AMC): A Moroccan man returns to his small-city home to confront his painful past.

“It’s an interesting way to tell a story,” Porter says. “I’d recommend it for sure.”

“Restul e tacere (The Rest Is Silence),” (6 p.m. Thursday, AMC): A fictional look at the making of Romania’s first feature-length film, the 1912 “The Independence of Romania.”

“Vaughn saw that film, and he can’t stop raving about it,” Porter says.

Porter stresses that it’s important to purchase tickets early. Even though AMC has moved the festival to a slightly larger house (165 seats), sellouts could occur, as they did last year.

“People were kind of upset that we sold out, so didn’t want to have to go through that again,” he says. “But then again, we probably will sell out lots of stuff. I’m hoping, anyway.”


Here’s the remaining schedule for this year’s Spokane International Film Festival:


6 p.m. – “Tulpan,” Kazakhstan, 2008 (1:40), in Kazakh with English subtitles. Preceded by winners of “48 Hour Film Festival.” AMC

9 p.m. – “Låt den rätte komma in” (“Let the Right One In”), Sweden, 2008 (1:54), in Swedish with English subtitles. Preceded by “Ouroboros,” U.S., 2007 (:11). AMC


Noon – “One Water,” U.S., 2008 (1:08). Preceded by “Out in the Cold,” Canada, 2008 (:30). AMC

3 p.m. – “Al Koloub Al Mountariqua” (“Burned Hearts”), Morocco, 2007 (1:24), in Arabic with English subtitles. Preceded by “The Painting,” Iran, 2007 (:21). AMC

6 p.m. – “Il Divo” (“The Star”), Italy, 2008 (1:50), in Italian with English subtitles. Preceded by “Power Lunch,” U.S., 2008 (:09). AMC

9 p.m. – “Revanche” (“Revenge”), Austria, 2008 (2:01), in German and Ukranian with English subtitles. Preceded by “Space,” U.S., 2008 (:12). AMC


Noon – “Chris & Don: A Love Story,” U.S., 2008 (1:30). Preceded by “Awkward,” Canada, 2008 (:07). AMC

3 p.m. – “The English Surgeon,” U.K., 2007 (1:34). Preceded by “Open Your Eyes,” U.S., 2008 (:13). AMC

6 p.m. – “Un Secret”, France, 2007 (1:45), in French with English subtitles. Preceded by “The Inquisitive Snail,” Canada, 2008 (:01) and “Comfort Woman,” U.S., 2008 (:11). AMC


7 p.m. – “Fix,” U.S., 2008 (1:30). Preceded by “The Art of Getting Over It,” U.S., 2008 (:24) and “Knock Knock Who’s There?” U.S., 2008 (:09). Magic Lantern, 25 W. Main St.


7 p.m. – “Fighting Politics,” U.S., 2009 (1:33). Preceded by “Interpretation,” U.S. (:09). Magic Lantern


7 p.m. – “Collector,” U.S., 2008 (:14); “Narenjak,” Australia (:08); “Only Love,” U.S. (:15); “Cigarettes and Fresh Air,” U.S. (:24); “Gaining Ground,” Germany (:21); “Broken Rainbow,” U.S. (:09); “2095,” U.S. (:20). AMC


6 p.m. – “Restul e tacere” (“The Rest Is Silence”), Romania, 2007 (2:25), in Romanian, French and German with English subtitles. Preceded by “Forever,” U.S., 2008 (:04). AMC

Feb. 13

6 p.m. – “Keurosing” (“Crossing”), South Korea, 2008 (1:47), in Korean with English subtitles. Preceded by “Dry Rain,” U.S., 2008 (:23). AMC

9 p.m. – “Auf der anderen seite” (“The Edge of Heaven”), Germany/Turkey/Italy, 2007 (2:02), in German, Turkish and English with English subtitles. Preceded by “Perfect Match,” U.S. (:05). AMC

Feb. 14

Noon – “Faubourg Tremé: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans,” U.S., 2008 (1:08). Preceded by “Downstream,” U.S./Canada, 2008 (:35). AMC

3 p.m. – “Pachamama,” Bolivia/Japan/U.S., 2008 (1:44), in Quechua with English subtitles. Preceded by “Baiana,” Canada, 2008 (:06). AMC

6 p.m. – “Hanami” (“Cherry Blossoms”), Germany/France, 2008 (2:07), in German, Japanese and English with English subtitles. Preceded by “Yellow Sticky Notes,” Canada, 2008 (:06). AMC

9 p.m. – “Ting che,” Taiwan, 2008 (1:52), in Taiwanese, Mandarin and Cantonese with English subtitles. Preceded by “C Block,” Canada, 2008 (:04). AMC

Feb. 15

Noon – “Yar” (“The Hollow”), Russia, 2008 (1:43), in Russian with English subtitles. Preceded by “My Inventions,” Canada, 2008 (:15). AMC

3 p.m. – “Sztuczki” (“Tricks”), Poland, 2007 (1:35), in Polish with English subtitles. Preceded by “For a Few Marbles More,” Netherlands, 2008 (:11). AMC

6 p.m. – “The Wrecking Crew,” U.S., 2008 (1:38). Preceded by “Ctrl Z,” U.S., 2008 (:06). AMC

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