And the winners are…(drum roll)…The winners of each category in the Tacoma Film Festival were announced to an almost-full house at the Grand Cinema last night by filmmaker Warren Etheredge. Six of the seven winners will be screened again on Wednesday at the Grand, with a screening of the seventh later today.
Best Feature Documentary was “Lemon,” a powerful, tightly-edited telling of how three-time felon Lemon Anderson clawed his way back out of the ‘hood via spoken word poetry. “Lemon” will screen at 8:15 p.m. Wednesday Oct. 10.
Best Regional Film was “Brightwood,” a 19-minute coming-of-age story beautifully shot on the San Juan islands. It will screen at 6:15 p.m. today at the Grand.
Best Narrative Feature was “Dead Man’s Burden,” a post-Civil War drama about rough justice with gorgeous wide-landscape cinematography. It screens at 6:15 p.m. Wednesday.
Best Narrative Short was the black-humor-filled “Curfew”; while Best Documentary Short was “Odysseus’ Gambit” about a Cambodian American park chess player and Best Animated Film was the short “Thumb Snatchers from the Moon Cocoon,” a mock-horror flick on a Texas cow ranch. All the winning shorts will screen 4:15 p.m. Wednesday.
The Audience Choice, voted on by audiences from Thursday through Sunday, was “The Magic Life,” following three magicians trying to succeed in an unusual career, which will screen 8:30 p.m. Wednesday.
After the awards were presented, and around half of the audience had left, the festival continued with the visual poetry of “Valley of Saints.” Directed by U.S.-based Musa Syeed, with the composer in attendance, the subtitled drama was exactly the kind of film that lifts any festival to another level. Set in Kashmir, it followed two parallel stories: the slowly budding romance between naïve boatman Gulzar and the prickly Indian-American girl he finds studying on a houseboat, and the heartbreaking story of the lake itself, surrounded as it is by environmental and political tangles. Playing themselves, Gulzar Bhat and his funny-with-a-dark-side childhood friend Afzad Sofi do a remarkable job with a less-than-wonderful script, playing out in tightly-shot scenes exactly how it is to grow up in this land of physical paradise and social trouble. But with the romance stuttering and any other plot non-existent, “Valley of Saints” is really a cinematic, poetic homage to Dal Lake itself, and the lives of those who inhabit it: slow, misty water scenes, lamplit mountains, elaborately-carved salmon-pink houseboats, plump fish – and their counterparts of raw sewage, floating trash, makeshift homes built with smuggled cement on illegal islands and the political violence that rips the community apart. Running through both threads is the so-Indian attitude expressed by Gulzar: “Everything has to die.” Even friends, even romance, even the lake itself…unless something changes.
The Tacoma Film Festival runs through Thursday at The Grand Cinema, 606 S. Fawcett Ave., Tacoma. 253-593-4474, tacomafilmfestival.com