Nestled in the fog-shrouded mountains 30 miles east of Seattle, North Bend has something a-brewing. No, it’s not a bizarre David Lynch-style murder mystery. It’s something a bit more optimistic—a film festival. Now in its fifth year, the North Bend Film Festival (NBFF) will resume the full spectrum of their film festin’ activities at the glamorous Art Deco North Bend Theatre after going hybrid last year.
“We’re starting to feel like ourselves again,” NBFF senior programmer Joseph Hernandez told me over the phone in a recent interview.
Drawing on North Bend’s role as Twin Peaks in the iconic eponymous TV series, NBFF curates features, shorts, and storytelling lineups with a Lynchian sensibility. “We look for a lot of surreal, strange, weird cinema,” said Hernandez. “We wanna see films that are trying new things, that are playing with form and structure and soundscapes.” That being said, there’s no particular overarching theme at this year’s festival—just quality features and shorts that subvert expectation and convention.
The lineup features some regional and national premieres as well as one or two familiar faces. Anyone who attended SIFF in May will recognize I Love My Dad, James Morosini’s weird but cute film about a father who catfishes his depressed son a bit too well (incredibly, it’s based on a true story), and Sirens, a compelling documentary about Lebanon’s only all-female metal band. NBFF programmers are also riding the Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis wave with their 20th-anniversary retrospective screening of Bubba Ho-tep, a cult horror-comedy film featuring alternate-timeline versions of the King and JFK.
Bringing Big Film Festival Energy to the party is Quentin Dupieux, the French director who once made a film about a deerskin coat that transformed its wearer into a murderer, a truly incredible 77 minutes. Dupieux’s Incredible but True, which follows a couple who discover a secret magical portal in their new home, will have its American premiere at the festival.
But the pièce de résistance of NBFF is the Dulac Vanguard Filmmaker Award, named for surrealist French director Germaine Dulac. The award honors “an extraordinary achievement in filmmaking from a director as seen in their first or second feature.” This year, that distinction goes to Mali Elfman, whose first feature, Next Exit, exists in a world where a scientist discovers definitive proof of the afterlife and two misfits embark on a roadtrip to participate in a case study—by voluntarily choosing to die.
"[Mali’s] amassed an impressive resume in the genre space. She’s done lots of producing, distributing and even creating immersive experiences that are really tied into North Bend Film Festival’s DNA,” said Hernandez of the fest’s decision to give Elfman the award. “She was really, truly a perfect fit.”
I’m most looking forward to Amanda Kramer’s Please, Baby, Please, which is having its Pacific Northwest premiere at the festival. The musical, starring Andrea Riseborough, centers on a couple from the 1950s who witness a gruesome murder and subsequently become the obsessive focus of a greaser gang. Variety described the film as “an archly stylized West Side Story by way of Kenneth Anger” with its neon glow and queer sensibility. Sign me up!
The film festival will also feature eclectic events in addition to the new film screenings, including a live screenplay reading of Jenah Silver’s The Olympians, a campfire chat with Dulac Vanguard Filmmaker Award winner Mali Elfman, and... Ghost Hunting 101, presented by Hidden Northwest Tours, for the paranormally inclined. NBFF has a little something for everyone.
North Bend Film Festival is going down from August 4-7 in North Bend. Get the full list of events as well as tickets here.