Travel the globe through the many lenses of International filmmakers at Portland’s 39th International Film Festival

Oregon’s biggest film festival is about to happen in hipster paradise.

I headed out on a typically rainy Oregon afternoon to grab a latte with Nick Bruno, the Publicity and Promotions Manager of the Northwest Film Center, and get all the details. He congratulates me on my choice of café. “Their matcha latte is more addictive than The Great British Bake Off.” I laugh as I realize we’re already off to a great start: comparing coffee to international TV shows.

“It’s a chance to view the world without going to those places,” says Bruno of Portland’s 39th International Film Festival. “It’s a cultural experience, in that sense.”

The festival will kick off on February 11th with Klaus Härö’s Finnish thriller, The Fencer, showing at both the Whitsell Auditorium and the Regal Fox Tower on opening night.

After the feature, attendees will be ushered into the Portland Art Museum’s indoor sculpture court for the Opening Night Party, with local eats and tasty treats from Voodoo Doughnuts, Sierra Nevada Brewing, Elk Cove Vineyards, and gourmet deli fare from Elephants Delicatessen, just to name a few.

After the opening night celebration, you’re free to travel the world without a passport. Films from Japan, Singapore, Mexico, France, Switzerland and more will be available for you to see from February 11th through the 29th.

In terms of taste, there seems to be a bit of everything at this immense festival, whether you’re prone to carnage or cartoons. The program neatly labels features into categories that make it easier to select your worldly journey. Noted “for the cinematically adventurous,” PIFF After Dark seems perfect for date night or those who want a thrill. There are Animated Worlds, Oscar Submissions, Documentary Views and even Films for Families, so no one has to be left behind. You can dive toward New Directors or take some Short Cuts if you’d rather keep it snappy with selected film shorts. As you continue your tour, feel free to vote for your favorite features. The ballots will be counted and winners will be commemorated during the first week of March.

There are a few films that have caught my eye so far. Tobias Lindholm’s A War is one of many films examining the war in Afghanistan, but he’s from Denmark, not the U.S. Many more than just American lives have been lost in this war, and it will be interesting to see the Middle Eastern conflict from a Danish perspective. It’s one of two nominated features for 2016 Foreign Language Film Academy Award – the other is Ciro Guerra’s Embrace of the Serpent.

Keeping with the subject of conflict, Rams from writer-director Grímur Hákonarson is one feature I’ve been lucky enough to screen already. Two estranged brothers are neighbors in an Icelandic valley where they’ve spent their lives tending to their prized stock of sheep. When a livestock disease threatens their livelihoods, the results are distressing, but comical moments such as a ram getting scrubbed in a tub make for fun farm fodder. Fewer words spoken means less work for a foreign audience, and the entrancing landscape of Iceland is breathtaking, almost otherworldly.

Photo Credit - Robert Laygo

Photo Credit – Robert Laygo

My final must-see is Open Your Eyes, is a U.S. documentary from director and Portland resident Irene Taylor Brodsky. Shot by Brodsky over just three days, this film follows blind Himalayan residents of Nepal on their journey from their mountain home to undergo cataract surgery for a chance to regain their sight.

Hosted by the Northwest Film Center, the local non-profit does more than yearly festivals for film. The center offers classes to the community, attempting to foster a love of film within and beyond the Portland city limits.  “We bring so many things to town that would otherwise never have a screening” says Bruno, adding that the evidence for local success in in the numbers: 45,000 people attended last year, and the Northwest Film Center has hopes that this year will be the biggest yet.

Get your tickets now, and stay tuned for exclusive coverage from Film Autonomy.