Thirty movies swept themselves into the Pacific Northwest and onto movie screens at the Sea View Theatre and Orcas Center for the 4th annual Orcas Island Film Festival in conjunction with Savor the San Juans.  My husband and I arrived by ferry on Sunday, the third day of the festival and residents of the relaxed island were abuzz with delight, with hundreds proudly displaying their festival passes around their neck (myself included!).

(Image Credit: Orcas Island Film Festival)

Festival-goers tot up their movie-going totals, many having seen ten or more during the four-day festival.  Binge-watching a season of your favorite show on Netflix is appealing on a rainy day, but just doesn’t quite have the same feeling as binge watching some of the best Oscar-contenders in a theater surrounded by your neighbors and friends.

My pass and my schedule! (Photo Credit: Lesley Haenny)

Sitting at the Lower Tavern in Eastsound while having some lunch and beers waiting to catch our first film, we could hear conversations around us of how great the movies were, how exciting this was for the island and how it was the best film festival yet. The entire island was in, and it was evident. The local sponsors, producers, film buffs and promoters alone showed how much the community was involved in bringing the festival to the people.

(Photo Credit: Lesley Haenny)

On Friday, things got underway with an opening night gala at the Orcas Center followed by the Short Films Award Party on Saturday. It Takes an Island won for best short film. The film was submitted by 15-year old Tashi Litch and Bob Friel. The film is narrated by Tashi’s little brother, Kaj, about life on Orcas Island and the music that flows not just through their household, but on the island itself as well.

(Photo Credit: Orcas Island Film Festival)

I started my film journey with Jeff Unay’s, The Cage Fighter, a gripping, observational intimate examination of the life of blue-collar Washington family man, Joe Carman, who set aside his passion for mixed martial arts for the sake of his family but returns to the ring for one last bout. This movie was Jeff’s directorial debut, having previously worked on the special effects side of Hollywood blockbusters such as King Kong and Avatar.  Jeff, Joe and Joe’s wife, Nori, were all in attendance and answered questions after the movie. What I didn’t realize while watching it was that there was no acting in the movie. Jeff, having met Joe during yoga class, followed the Carman family for three years as a fly on the wall and captured the real and raw emotions that come with what life throws at you.  The family struggles were real. The sadness, the anger, the pain, the joy – they were all real. Jeff told the audience during the question and answer period that life for him was rough behind the camera. He would be driving home from filming, trying to process everything he had witnessed that day.  The struggles the Carman family were going through reminded Jeff of his relationship with his own family. I don’t know how Jeff whittled 427 hours of footage into 88 minutes, but he did, and every one of the minutes is packed with life lessons.  Even if you aren’t into mixed martial arts, you can relate to the struggles the family goes through outside the cage.

OIFF Co-Director and Chief Curator, Carl Spence with Jeff Unay, Joe Carman and Nori Carman. (Photo Credit: Lesley Haenny)

Due to scheduling, I unfortunately only had time to see two movies during the festival!  I definitely would not have won in the most movies seen category. But hey, it was my first time to Orcas Island and I had much to explore (stay tuned for my two day guide to Orcas Island)!

In a complete change of emotional pace, the second movie I saw was Infinity Baby, directed by Bob Byington and starring Megan Mullally, Nick Offerman, and Kieran Culkin. The comedy is set in the not so distant future and tags itself as a movie about three month old babies that don’t age. The company, Infinity Baby, somehow mistakenly created these babies after all abortions became illegal in the United States, and are now farming them out to families.  While this is the foundation of the story, the film itself focuses on Kieran Culkin’s character, Ben, and his inability to maintain relationships after a few months. Megan Mullaly is a riot as she plays his “mom,” Hester, who he takes his girlfriends to after he no longer wants to date them, because if his “mom” doesn’t approve, then the relationship is over.  Noël Wells’ Theresa and Trieste Kelly Dunn’s Allison are delightful to watch on screen as his girlfriends, with Theresa’s impeccable French and Allison’s infectious laugh.  The movie also has a parallel story of a gay couple, Malcolm and Larry (played by the hilarious Martin Starr and Kevin Corrigan) who try to deliver one of the babies to a client who ends up not wanting her, and they decide to take the $20,000 the client would have received for the baby and “take care of her” themselves.  Alcoholism, blindness-caused-by-cleaning-spray and how not to take care of a child all play factors into their relationship and how the movie ends. I have to throw in, Offerman’s character, Neo, the head of Infinity Baby, asks a question to one of the interns (played by Jonathan Togo) during an interview and the response made the entire audience howl with laughter.  It’s so clever of a line, I may have to use it during my everyday vernacular from now on when asked a similar question! You must see the movie to know what I am referring to.

(Image Credit: Infinity Baby)

Alas, Tuesday morning arrived and I had to catch the 8:45 a.m. ferry back to the mainland and return to semi-reality. Thanks for the great time, Orcas Island Film Festival. This beautiful little island is one of my new favorite places to visit!



One Comment on “Orcas Island Film Festival 2017 Recap”

  1. Leslie, I didn’t get to the festival this year but am still thinking about the two movies I saw at the Orcas Island Film Festival last year. Both make a big impact. One was Franz and the other was the Salesman, which went on to win many awards. If it’s your first time on the island you are right you just can’t spend all your time indoors.

    Thanks for the reviews, I’ll add them to my list.

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