Arts & Entertainment

Tacoma Film Festival: Small ideas make a big splash in the city of destiny

It’s a fact — the United States makes itself home to hundreds of film festivals, showing thousands of films every year. Most major cities in the country have their own variant of the film festival formula, with some regions — like Seattle and Tacoma — being host to several of their own. Are these festivals mirror images of each other, sharing similar films under different festival names? Or is there something giving each of them a distinct flavor? Luckily, the Tacoma Film Festival claims to reside in the latter camp, bringing a unique formula to the table: a focus on bringing filmmakers closer to other filmmakers and audiences.

The Tacoma Film Festival brings the best of independent films together for the 11th year in a row. A “special emphasis” on locally produced content provides the event with a distinctly Pacific Northwest flavor. The local feature film selections — As You Are, Dreamland and Slackjaw — provide a comprehensive trifecta of feelings and reactions. Better yet, the people responsible for these films will be in attendance, affording the Tacoma audience an opportunity to support the Tacoma Film Festival’s mission statement: connecting, viewing, celebrating and growing.

The film As You Are, directed by 23-year-old Miles Joris-Peyrafitte, will ring in the festivities on opening night. Set in the early 1990s, The Tacoma Film Festival’s website describes the film as a “telling and retelling of a relationship between three teenagers as it traces the course of their friendship through a construction of disparate memories prompted by a police investigation.” The film stars celebrated Stranger Things alumni Owen Campbell, Charlie Heaton of Boardwalk Empire, and Hunger Games’ Amandla Stenberg. The film made a pointed impact at the 2016 Sundance Festival, winning the special jury prize, as well as being nominated for the grand jury prize. The local flavor: Tacoma native Sean Patrick-Burke served as the film’s producer.

As You Are may be set in the grunge-era, but modern-day issues radiate from underneath the films many layers. According to Joris-Peyrafitte himself, the film dips into many genres — yet it manages to defy them all. This genre fluidity allowed him and his production team to work with enough freedom to make the film’s characters real and believable. Each character experiences a kaleidoscope of feelings that Joris-Peyrafitte believes any teenager may feel. In his own words, “I wanted to make a movie about teenagers that didn’t talk down or belittle, something that dealt with the severity of their issues the way a film about adults would … it’s a movie about kids going through a lot of things that belong to a lot of different genres.”

Miles Joris-Peyrafitte will be in attendance for the As You Are premiere at The Grand Cinema on Oct 6. Being his directorial debut, the experience of seeing how an audience reacts to his work thrills him greatly. Tacoma’s film going audience will now have a chance to share their own unique reactions.

The transcendent Dreamland will show on Tuesday, Oct. 11. Directed by Robert Schwartzmann, brother of actor Jason Schwartzmann, who stars in the film. Described by the Tribeca Film Festival as a spiritual “update” of 1966’s The Graduate, Dreamland tells the story of a “young, unaccomplished pianist on the verge of a life transformation, who falls for a rich, married woman who opens his mind to new experiences.”

While the film is Robert Schwartzmann’s directorial debut, he made his first forays into film over a decade ago with appearances in The Princess Diaries and The Virgin Suicides. As well as being the brother of Jason Schwartzmann, they are both nephews of the legendary Francis Ford Coppola and cousins of actor Sofia Coppola. Robert Schwartzmann also made a name for himself as a musician in his band ROONEY, a member of Interscope Geffen Records since 2002.

The Tacoma Film Festival will sprinkle an absurdist flavor into the mix with Slackjaw. Directed by Olympia native Zach Weintraub, the Tacoma Film Festival website describes the film as “a bromantic dramedy about the path to personal responsibility amidst the divisive fog of a politicized landscape.” Filmmaker Magazine selected the film as one of their “25 New Faces” of independent film for 2016. The film premieres on Wednesday, Oct. 12, alongside the dark comedy short, Situational, directed by Scott Simonsen.

In addition to full-length features, The Grand Cinema will feature a variety of short-films in a collection called Adventure is Out There — many produced locally. This package will be shown on Oct. 7 at 2 p.m. and on Oct. 12 at 4:30 p.m., giving adventure-hungry audiences two chances to see it.

The local selections aren’t just a reflection of Pacific Northwest or Tacoma pride — each and every one leaves a strong impression with other film festivals and audiences all over the country — and beyond. Get ready, Tacoma — now’s your chance to be a part of the splash.