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photo by Grace Rivera

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A Guide to Portland’s POC Film Festivals

Cinephiles of color, rejoice!

Portland is home to a growing and thriving film community. With affordable, independent venues such as historic Laurelhurst Theater and homey Academy Theater to the scores of classes for budding filmmakers, we’ve been doing the limelight thing for far longer than Portlandia has been around. I started regularly watching art house films at Portland State University’s student-run 5th Avenue Cinema as a wee undergrad, expanding on what I learned in my Black Film Studies elective course. One of my favorite self-care rituals is catching movies in the dead of winter and cozying up to my bag of popcorn and tall can of Rainier (yep, plenty of our smaller theaters serve beer).

Luckily, cinephiles of color like myself can rejoice in silver-screen representation several times a year at any of Portland’s POC-centered film festivals. Some community heavyweights like the Portland International Film Festival have been screening films for nearly half a century, and the presence of festivals by and for folks of color is definitely on an upward trend. Here are my favorite film festivals in Portland:

Portland Latin American Film Festival
Hollywood Theatre, 4122 NE Sandy Blvd, Portland, OR 97212
September 29, 2016 – January 19, 2017

Unlike most festivals, the Portland Latin American Film Festival opts to steadily ration out cinematic treats to audiences over the course of a few months. This year, the festival began with a sweet film directed by Diego Luna called Mr. Pig that gives us a glimpse of a father-and-daughter road trip to Mexico. The selected films are well worth the wait and come from all over Latin America, with regular representation from Mexican and Argentine filmmakers. Although the directorial lineups have largely been all-male, strong female film leads abound. After you’re done watching your new favorite movie, you can join the festival-hosted after-parties at The Magnolia, a nearby beer and wine bar.

Cascade Festival of African Films
Portland Community College, Cascade Campus, 705 N Killingsworth St, Moriarty Arts Humanities Building, Room 104, Portland, OR 97217
February 3 – March 4, 2017

What began as a two-day showcase of African films that four Portland Community College faculty members hosted in 1991 has expanded into a hearty cinematic exhibit that spans five weekends beginning in February. Coinciding with Black History Month, the festival is entirely volunteer-run and free to the public. I suggest arriving early to ensure you snag a seat. If you aren’t able to make it, you can actually rent the films from the PCC Library even if you’re not a student.

Portland International Film Festival
Various venues
February 9 – 25, 2017

The reigning queen of Portland’s film festivals, PIFF has been held annually by the Northwest Film Center since 1977. The festival showcases many of the year’s best international films over the course of nearly three weeks and is dedicated to celebrating cinematic diversity and talent. Last year alone the festival exhibited 200 short- and feature-length films from three dozen countries. A personal favorite in 2015 was getting the chance to watch The Tribe, a Ukrainian film that is entirely in sign language. Screenings are at various venues around the city, including Whitsell Auditorium, Regal Fox Tower, and art house theater Cinema 21.

photo by Grace Rivera

Portland Oregon Women’s Film Festival
Hollywood Theatre, 4122 NE Sandy Blvd, Portland, OR 97212
March 2 – 5, 2017

Established in 2007, POWFest has provided a platform for woman-identified and gender-fluid filmmakers in Oregon at its jam-packed annual showcases. In addition to a lengthy list of screenings, the festival hosts Q & A sessions and directorial panels that provide audiences with better engagement and understanding of the content. The festival elevates films by both veteran and emerging voices in the community and seeks to increase visibility of women filmmakers. One of my favorite films from last year was local Latinx director Dawn Jones Redstone’s Sista in the Brotherhood, which examines the role of a woman of color in the male-dominated field of skilled trade.

One Flaming Arrow
Address varies
Summer 2017

The newcomer of the bunch, One Flaming Arrow is a four-day celebration of intertribal expression and art. As it enters its third year, the festival fills the crucial need for indigenous arts exposure in the Pacific Northwest. The inaugural 2015 showcase featured visual artworks and musical performances, but the collective chose to exclusively focus its attention on films in its second year. Hosted by Clinton Street Theater, Rainmaker Artist Residency, and Hollywood Theatre, the 2016 showcase included works ranging from experimental shorts to features like the youth feature film Indian Givers. We can’t wait to see what else is in store for the years to come!

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