The 39th Portland International Film Festival: OPEN YOUR EYES with 50 FEET FROM SYRIA with directors in attendance


Irene Taylor Brodsky | Portland
Living under the Himalayan sun, their eyes have slowly gone milky white. Manisara and Durga have cataracts, and their mountain home in Nepal has become a warren of darkness. Shot over three days, Open Your Eyes follows their extraordinary journey down the mountain for a chance to see again. (34 mins.)



Skye Fitzgerald | Portland
For Dr. Hisham Bismar, a successful hand surgeon in the United States, images of wounded Syrian refugees flowing across international borders compels action. Hisham’s journey serves as a portal into a tragic conflict and remarkable people working to save lives at great personal risk. (39 min.)



Directors Irene Taylor Brodsky and Skye Fitzgerald in attendance.


The 39th Portland International Film Festival is sponsored by the James F. & Marion L. Miller Foundation, Delta Airlines, LAIKA, Willamette Week, Regal Entertainment Group, Travel Portland, Umpqua Bank, The Autzen Foundation, Amtrak Cascades, The Lamb-Baldwin Foundation, Hotel deLuxe, Hotel Eastund, Voodoo Doughnut, TV5Monde, and many others.

OPEN YOUR EYES and 50 FEET FROM SYRIA screen Sunday, February 21 at 3:30pm in our Whitsell Auditorium. The films are being presented as part of our 39th Portland International Film Festival.

Tickets available online and at the door.

39th Northwest Filmmakers’ Festival PROGRAM

With only a few days left until the Opening Night of the 39th Northwest Filmmakers’ Festival, we bet you’re eager to start meeting filmmakers and to take in some of the best works our beautiful region has to offer. The full schedule is online and schedules have hit the streets but we know you like to look at the program the old fashioned way too! So here is the NW Fest 39 program in a PDF format right here! See you on Opening Night!

Click HERE: 39th Northwest Filmmakers’ Festival program

Not Yet Begun to Fight

June 21 Thurs 7pm – Visiting Artist

Marine Corporal Erik Goodge

A clique of war vets weight train in a rehabilitation center with hushed bravery at the Balboa Naval Medical Hospital in San Diego, CA.  The camera sweeps across the room to capture these men as they have yet to fully identify with themselves: incomplete. Still, they push metal-to-metal to rebuild the parts of their body they recognize and rebound with the parts they do not. These are our soldiers, and some will soon exchange their barbells for rods and reels. [Read more…]

40th Anniversary Gala Preview: 1940s Fashion Overview Part One

Women at the Alfred Eisenstaedt Stork Club powder room (1944)

Fashion in the 1940s was most influenced by World War II, since the subsequent world economy necessitated changes in clothing styles and fashion design. Fashion for women was specifically determined by the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, because determining aspects of style like fabric and leisure time became immediately less abundant. Germany had already invaded Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, France, Yugoslavia, and Greece by the time Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941, so haute couture had been in the back seat for several years. Women had voluntarily begun to join the workforce in droves to offset the loss of male labor due to military enlistment, which necessitated changes to hair, makeup, shoe, and clothing styles.

40th Anniversary Gala Preview: 1940s Slang

In anticipation of the 1940s Classic Hollywood themed Gala, which will take place on Saturday May 12th, the NW Film Center thought you might like a little exposure to the relevant slang and phrases of the time. So here they are, in no particular order:

  • Take a powder – to leave
  • Eager beaver – enthusiastic helper
  • In cahoots with – conspiring with
  • Doll dizzy – girl crazy
  • Ducky shincracker – a good dancer
  • Above my pay grade – don’t ask me
  • Cook with gas – to do something right
  • Killer-diller – good stuff
  • Stompers – shoes
  • Flip your wig – to lose control of yourself
  • Pennies from heaven – easy money
  • Gas – either a good time or something that was really funny
  • Grandstand – to show off
  • What’s buzzin’, cousin? – how’s it going?
  • Hi-de-ho – hello
  • Applesauce – an expletive; same as horsefeathers, As in “Ah applesauce!
  • Broad- a woman
  • Carry a Torch – to have a crush on someone
  • Cat’s Meow – something splendid or stylish; The best or greatest, wonderful
  • Dame- a woman
  • Gams – a woman’s legs
  • Hard Boiled – a tough, strong guy
  • Hooch – bootleg liquor
  • Hoofer – dancer
  • Horsefeathers – an expletive; same usage as applesauce
  • Hotsy-Totsy – pleasing
  • Jalopy – old car
  • Joint – a club, usually selling alcohol

  • Keen – attractive or appealing
  • Kisser – mouth
  • Line – insincere flattery
  • Moll – a gangster’s girl
  • Pushover – a person easily convinced or seduced
  • Ritzy – elegant (reference to the Ritz hotel)
  • Scram – ask someone to leave immediately
  • Soitently- sure!
  • Speakeasy – an illicit bar selling bootleg liquor
  • Spiffy – an elegant appearance
  • Spread Out!- Get out of the way! Give me some room! Stop crowding me!
  • Stuck On – having a crush on
  • Swanky – ritzy
  • Swell- wonderful
  • Wise guy- a smart ass
  • Whoopee – to have a good time

Taking place on Saturday May 12th, the 1940s Classic Hollywood themed Gala will be an evening of film-related auction items, delicious food and drink, phenomenal music, and A-list company. For more information and tickets to the event, please visit the NW FIlm Center’s website. For further discussion of 1940s slang, check out the online essay From Hep Cats to Full Birds: Slang of the 1940s by Michelle Carr, courtesy of the North Carolina Museum of History.

That Blade Just Don’t Stop

The process that delivers the furniture into our homes is often as grim as the process that delivers the food onto our plates. Aerial vistas of butchered landscapes look like ecological crime scenes, the brown swathes of mowed hillsides replacing the chalk outlines. The murder weapons drip with water instead of blood, freshly bathed for the next sanctioned slaughter. The morbid din of strained cedars slit at their mammoth bases, tipping over, their broad tops exploding on impact could just as easily have been confused with an animal’s death throes.

The kinetic bowels of the Pacific Northwest cedar mills cloister a volatile and highly competitive bureaucracy of shingle weavers, sawyers, packers, pilers, and movers with hands that evolve to house one-track minds of their own. It’s hard to find a hand that is whole; the hands are slowly shorn in time to resemble those of baby dolls. But apparently it doesn’t take many fingers to play a game of poker, or to drink a jug of whisky, or to pick another fight. The manner in which hand to saw dance can often resemble the game of splaying one’s fingers across a wooden surface and seeing how fast a blade can strike the spaces in between without cutting the flesh.

The relationship between loggers and the woods is both captivating and horrifying, documented in both eloquence and brutality in Charles Gustafson’s Cuts and Ron Finne’s Natural Timber Country. In Cuts, Mr. Gustafason let’s the resident workers define their hardened livelihoods in their own words and mutilated limbs, bringing the viewer so close to the industrial blade, hands will surely find a place to cower. In Mr. Finne’s Natural Timber Country, the changing culture of logging is gracefully detailed through a richly presented history of logging from the second half of the 19th century and coupled with interviews, recordings, tales, and songs from the people for whom served as the lifeblood of the industry.

These two films screen together in one 88-minute program as part of the Film Center’s Essential Northwest series—a pay-what-you-will-night that encourages the Portland community to see films plucked from the NW filmmaking vault. Professor Stephen Beckman of Lewis and Clark College and Director Ron Finne will discuss Natural Timber Country and talk about life in the early logging camps.

ADMISSION: PAY WHAT YOU WILL (tickets available at the door)

Location: The NW Film Center’ Whitsell Auditorium in the Portland Art Museum

More at:

40th Anniversary Gala Preview: Gus Van Sant

The NW Film Center is proud to announce that Gus Van Sant will be the honorary chair for this year’s Gala, which will take place on Saturday May 12th. For those of you who don’t know as much as you should about Van Sant, here’s a quick briefing:

He began studying painting at the Rhode Island School of Design in 1970, but changed his major to cinema when he became aware of avant-garde directors like Stan Brakhage, Jonas Mekas, and Andy Warhol. He went to Los Angeles in 1976, and was a production assistant to writer/director Ken Shapiro. It was in L.A. that he took an interest in Hollywood Boulevard’s marginalized population, which has since become one of his cinematic themes. His first feature, Mala Noche (1985), dealt with existence on society’s fringe.

[Read more…]

Today at PIFF35

As we head into the final weekend of the 35th annual Portland International Film Festival there is still plenty to see. Today alone you can catch ten film screenings. Well, eleven if you count the nineteen minute French short I Could Be Your Grandmother  that screens before Lebanese documentary Grandma, A Thousand Times, both playing at the World Trade Center Theater tonight at 8:45.

Director Mahmoud Kaabour has made an incredibly sweet documentary about his 85 year-old grandmother who is nearing the end of her richly lived life. Having raised a large family, Teta Fatima Kaabour now lives alone in a small and immaculately clean apartment in Beirut. Yet she is still a hookah smoking matriarch, still a sprightly woman who haggles with street vendors and the butcher, commanding respect within her section of old Beirut. Her husband, once a successful violinist but now long deceased, is the indirect source for much of this film, since director Mahmoud Kaabour not only shares his grandfather’s name but also his looks. Exploiting this resemblance throughout, Mr. Kaabour takes on the role of both grandson and grandfather as he gets ready for his wedding day while coming to terms with the reality of his grandmother’s mortality. In Arabic, with English subtitles.

Showing earlier in the day at PIFF35 is The Island President, a film about the (until very recently) President of the Maldives, Mohamed Nasheed (Nasheed was very recently overthrown by those with political ties to the old, tyrannical regime). Having been tortured, imprisoned, and exiled, Nasheed seems unable to stop his international fight against global warming, which threatens the very existence of the 200 islands that make up the Maldives. Watch the trailer below, and then go see the film tonight at 6:15 at the World Trade Center Theater.

Today at PIFF35

There’s still time to buy your tickets to see some of the most amazing films screening today throughout Portland as part of the NW Film Center’s 35th annual Portland Int’l Film Festival.

There’s the family friendly Tales of the Night, playing at 1pm at the World Trade Center Theater. French animation master Michael Ocelot returns to the same format as his 2000 film Princes And Princesses (Princes Et Princesses), which consisted in a compilation of short fairy tales in silhouette from his short-lived 1989 TV series Cine Si. The six new short stories in Tales of the Night are each gorgeously rendered, told through the use of those lovely, Ocelot trademark silhouettes.

Showing at Cinema 21 at 3pm is Mr. Tree, director Han Jie’s documentary-like film, which is set in the small mining town of Jilin (a northwestern Chinese province bordering North Korea). Lead character Shu (Wang Baoqiang) is a lazy drunk and a danger to himself and others. When he temporarily blinds himself while welding in a garage, his unresolved despair over the brutal death of his older brother begins to surface. Once his sight is restored, Shu takes a joyride with friends to the nearby town of Jitai, where he meets attractive, mute massage-parlor girl Xiaomei (Tan Zhuo). An awkward courtship ensues, and Shu’s attempts to transform himself into marriage material only sow the seeds for greater disaster.

(Mr. Tree review taken in part from Variety).

Jean Gentile

A lyrically rendered portrayal of one man’s lonely search for place,  Jean Gentile embraces the slow descent into hopelessness that greets a Haitian immigrant when he travels to neighboring Dominican Republic in search of something better. Combining the shaky handheld feel of real life with the pristine clarity of film, Laura Amelia Guzman (Cochochi) evokes the somber realism that an educated, multilingual accountant from Haiti must endure when he is reduced to a penniless and shadowy existence in a world that thinks it does not need him.


Jean Gentile won the jury award at Thessaloniki, and received a special mention at Horizons (or Orizzonti, the culturally exploratory program at the Venice Film Festival). See it at this year’s PIFF 35 on Sunday February 19 at 5 PM (Cinemagic) and Wednesday February 22 at 6:15 PM (Cinemagic).