NORTH BEND FILM FEST: Black Dragon (2018)

Starring Matthew Del Negro (Scandal, The Sopranos) and with make-up/VFX from the teams behind Pirates of the Caribbean, Tron Legacy and Super 8, Black Dragon looks and feels way stronger than you’d expect from a festival short.

Colonel Palmer (Del Negro) is simultaneously suffering from the fact that his platoon has just wiped out a village of probably innocent people, as well as the loss of his son. When a girl named Chau (Celia Au) is brought before him, he soon learns that she can do more than raise the dead. She can conjure visions and show him the angel that has been watching over him, even if it’s the last thing that he wants to see.

I really wish this was a full-length film because there are so many ideas within the short time that director and co-writer (with Nathaniel Hendricks) Alex Thompson can get into the movie. The scene of the dead man rising off the operating table is harrowing and has more composition and built-up terror than so many movies I’ve seen lately. Well done.

I watched this at the North Bend Film Festival, which you can learn more about on their official site.

NORTH BEND FILM FEST: Kafkas (2021)

Fran (Patsy Ferran, a force of nature in this) has the idea that if she looks through the phone book and cold calls men all across the country with the last name Kafka that she can find her soul mate. She has no job, a Ph.D. and a $700 phone bill from all those calls in the middle of the night.

Director Robin Blake (who also wrote the script with Nick Blake and Marianne Wiggins) somehow take the idea of one woman on the phone with a thick Boston accent trying to find the Kafka man who will take her all away from this doesn’t seem like it would be the movie that would get in my head and stay there, but here we are. This is so darn well made and mesmerizing and man, Patsy Ferran is absolutely incredible at this dialogue that sounds like she really said it and no one wrote it and that is the best dialogue of all.

I watched this at the North Bend Film Festival, which you can learn more about on their official site.

NORTH BEND FILM FEST: Break Any Spell (2021)

Break Any Spell impacted me more than nearly any other short that I’ve seen in some time, as it made me think about the deteriorating mental condition of my father and how lost we become thanks to dementia and Alzheimer’s and just plain age.

Directed by Anton Jøsef, who co-wrote the film with Lisi Purr, some will watch this and laugh at the Live Action Role Playing (LARP) that the heroine falls in love with, but it seems like that’s her tether to keep her going in the world, as her mother begins to disappear and become someone else due to early stage Alzheimer’s.

The moment when the magic spell she’s been saving and all the work of her team means nothing in the face of a big man from out of nowhere with a sword? That’s life. That’s exactly how this life feels.

This movie feels like it needs more, that it could be part of a longer tale, but for what it is now, it is supremely powerful.

I watched this at the North Bend Film Festival, which you can learn more about on their official site.

NORTH BEND FILM FEST: Wild Card (2022)

Daniel (Billy Flynn) and Toni (Tipper Newton, who directed and wrote this short) have been matched by a video dating service that feels inspired by the Found Footage Festival Videomate videos. The date is awkward, as every time Daniel seems to impress Toni or gain ground, she tears him down, builds him up and then cuts him down all again, sometimes in the same moment.

So how does he make it back to her place? And if he’s the first date from the service she’s been on, why are there so many videotapes everywhere? And who is that threatening her on the answering machine?

Wild Card gets exciting right when it ends, right at the moment that it has been teasing and it demands that you watch more. I loved it and it got me — so please, give us that second date.

Seeing this again after watching it at the Chattanooga Film Festival, I was struck by just how much it gets right from the neo-giallo erotic thriller look of the 90s and how much I want even more of this.

I watched this at the North Bend Film Festival, which you can learn more about on their official site.

NORTH BEND FILM FEST: Rachels Don’t Run (2021)

While monitoring late-night calls at an AI companionship service, a lonely customer support agent named Leah (Sera Barbieri, Potato Dreams of America) acts as one of the artificial dream girls — Rachel — to chat with Isaac (Anthony Shipway), a customer that she’s in love with.

As we grow more disconnected and alone in our private bubbles, the idea of callable companionship and GFE (Girl Friend Experience) doesn’t seem so alien any longer. It’s to the credit of the direction by Joanny Causse (who co-wrote the script with Steph Kwiatkowski) that this seems so daring and original, as well as the great acting by Barbieri.

This movie totally deserves the awards that it’s been earning, such as the Grand Jury Award for Best Short Film at the  Seattle International Film Festival 2022 and the Jury Award for Best Screenplay at Fantasia International Film Festival 2021.

I watched this at the North Bend Film Festival, which you can learn more about on their official site. You can also read more about Rachels Don’t Run at its official site.

NORTH BEND FILM FEST: While Mortals Sleep (2022)

Susan’s (Carie Kawa) has had her career as a cold case writer fall apart, so she’s hiding out at a friend’s remote vacation house. When she gets there, she meets Eddy (Will Brill) and Abby (Grace Morrison). He’s digging sludge out of the backyard; she makes a spot of tea a strange and not altogether pleasant affair. They’re the caretakers of the home, or so they say, but then Susan hears a baby cry a room away.

Trust me, that’s no normal baby.

Director and writer Alex Fofonoff may only have two other sorts on his resume, but this tense and well-acted piece points to him as a person of interest. If this was longer — it totally could be — it would be a movie plenty of people were talking about.

I watched this at the North Bend Film Festival, which you can learn more about on their official site. You can also read more about While Mortals Sleep at its official site.

NORTH BEND FILM FEST: Sirens (2022)

Shery Bechara and Lilas Mayassi are the lead guitarists and co-founders of the Middle East’s first all-female thrash metal band, Slave to Sirens. The Lebanese society they were born into is perhaps not the most open-minded one, especially for women who want to play as hard as the guys. And Lebanon may not have much of a metal scene, but certainly no other female-led bands.

Director, writer and cinematographer Rita Baghdadi has created a documentary that takes you into their lives, a place where they’re still learning and exploring their lives, all while making what they do seem as vital and needed as if you were playing alongside them.

According to Revolver, “In the 1990s, Christian religious institutions turned against metal culture, linking it to the suicide of a teenage boy and calling for a ban on all metal music.” The Christian and Muslim communities that live side by side can easily damn metal musicians and fans as outright Satanists — no different than American, but perhaps more dangerous, despite Lebanon being more culturally inclusive than other countries surrounding it.

Bechara and Mayassi met at an anti-government protest in 2015, so they certainly don’t shy about confronting the world around them in their music. Along with drummer Tatyana Boughab, bassist Alma Doumani and singer Maya Khairallah, Sirens follows the band as they struggle to exist and create art.

Behind all of this, Bechara and Mayassi once shared a secret romance before Mayassi met a Syrian woman and broke off the relationship. In the tradition of bands keeping going in the face of heartbreak and unresolved relationships, they remain friends and bandmates, even if things aren’t the same. Over the three years the movie covers, we see everything from them playing a sparsely attended Glastonbury gig to recording a new album, working their day jobs and even the Port of Beirut explosion, which leads to Mayassi pondering afterward, “Home doesn’t feel safe. Friendship doesn’t feel safe. Love doesn’t feel safe.”

As the band blasts riffs into the night, defying rolling blackouts and suburban bombs, perhaps the strife between the women who formed the band can be forgotten. If you’ve been in a band, you’ll recognize the times when the bad times are all worth it, the quick seconds that occur when a harmony is perfect, when a riff is discovered or the crowd — no matter how small — is with you ever beat, every word.

Sirens is playing North Bend Film Fest right now. You can learn more about the movie on the festival homepage or on the movie’s official Facebook page.

North Bend Film Festival kicks off

Best known as the original shooting location for cult-hit and recently re-birthed Twin Peaks, North Bend Film Fest engages local and national audiences to enrich, promote and support the creation in independent genre film. Using the town’s fantastical and mysterious energy that once inspired David Lynch, the festival sets out to fill the void of programming for the progressive audiences in the Pacific Northwest, and to provide a platform for emerging filmmakers. Working directly with the town of North Bend, NBFF is an event for the local community, Northwest creatives, and national genre film industry to enjoy together.

To see what’s playing and buy tickets, click here.

Friday has SirensSwallowed and Incredible But True.

Saturday features Raquel 1:1, a 20th anniversary screening of Bubba Ho-TepCenterpiece, a live screenplay reading of The Olympians, shorts and more.

Sunday will feature The Civil DeadPlease Baby Please and local and national shorts.

Look for reviews all weekend!

To learn more, vist the NBFF social media channels:

facebook.com/northbendfest

instagram.com/northbendfest

twitter.com/northbendfest