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Originally published October 1, 2009 at 12:04 AM | Page modified October 1, 2009 at 5:04 PM

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Local Sightings Film Festival kicks off Friday

The Local Sightings Film Festival at the Northwest Film Forum in Seattle highlights the work of regional filmmakers.

Special to The Seattle Times

Coming up

Local Sightings Film Festival

Friday-Wednesday, Northwest Film Forum, 1515 12th Ave., Seattle; $6-$9, half-price on Monday, at box office or in advance at Brown Paper Tickets (800-838-3006 or www.brownpapertickets.com; information 206-829-7863 or www.nwfilmforum.org).

Film Festival highlights

Friday

'The Mountain, the River and the Road,' playing with Timothy Orme's short 'Blanco,' about a young girl forced to take care of her dying mother. 7 p.m., followed by an opening-night party.

Saturday

'Shorts: Imagine That,' short-film package. 3 and 9 p.m.

'Clay Animation Network,' consists of Claymation works by students of animator Lukas Allenbaugh. 5 p.m., free.

'When Life Was Good,' by Vancouver filmmaker Terry Miles. The story of relationships between 30-something urban bohemians, the feature is particularly noteworthy for visual and aural textures drawn from seemingly insignificant details. 7 p.m.

'Work In Progress: Wheedles Grove.' Jennifer Maas will screen her not-quite-finished but exciting history of soul music in Seattle. Plays with 'Botswana, USA,' an eight-minute short about feuds at an American resort in Africa. 7 p.m.

'Punch,' playing with 'Under Pressure,' about a young man who shrinks himself. 11 p.m.

Sunday

'Seattle 69: A Conversation with Seattle Historian Paul Dorpat,' is a live exploration of Seattle in the late 1960s. 5 p.m., free.

'Bury Me In Redwood Country,' by Benjamin Greene and Benjamin Cameron, is a moving documentary about myriad relationships and associations between ancient, but still living, Redwood trees and a variety of people. 7 p.m.

'Obstacles to Overcome,' a gathering of thematically resonant shorts films. 9 p.m.

Monday

'American Collectors,' by Bob Ridgley and Terri Krantz, is a colorful and highly entertaining documentary about obsessive collectors and their often weird troves. Plays with 'It's In the P-I,' Bradley Hutchinson's short about the end of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's paper edition. 7 p.m.

'Film Originals, The Work of George and Helen Smith' is a look back at the Smiths' 30 years of documenting aspects of life in the Northwest. Film archivist Hannah Palin will add comments. 7 p.m.

'People and Places,' shorts. 9 p.m.

Tuesday

'River Ways,' a documentary by Portland-based Colin Stryker about dams on the Snake River in Eastern Washington. 7 p.m.

'Dear Lemon Lima' by Suzi Yoonessi. The producer of 'Me and You and Everyone We Know' turns director in this feature about a Fairbanks, Alaska, introspective teen who tries to reinvent herself from social misfit to sporting champion. 7 p.m.

'Abstractions,' shorts. 9 p.m.

Wednesday

'Where You From' by Montana-based director Sabrina Lee follows the real-life journeys of several young men who try to transcend their struggles with family, addiction and legal problems through hip-hop music. 7 p.m.

'A Natural Selection — Films From Portland,' is a collection of shorts from Portland filmmakers. 7 p.m.

'Experiments In Storytelling,' shorts. 9 p.m.

Fortune smiled in recent months on a pair of Seattle filmmakers. Writer-director Lynn Shelton's independent comedy "Humpday" opened in theaters and was well-received by critics. James Longley, who made the extraordinary, Oscar-nominated documentary "Iraq In Fragments," was awarded a $500,000 MacArthur Foundation "genius grant" last week.

Shelton and Longley are the tip of the iceberg, however, where filmmaking talent in this region is concerned. Now in its 12th year, Northwest Film Forum's Local Sightings Film Festival boasts a number of movies showing off some of the best cinema skills in our corner of the U.S.

The six-day event begins Friday with a low-key but impressive relationship story called "The Mountain, the River and the Road," followed in subsequent days by more narrative features, documentaries and short works of all kinds.

The debut feature of Seattle writer-director Michael Harring, "The Mountain, the River and the Road" concerns a young, would-be writer (Justin Rice) whose lighthearted friendship with a woman (Tipper Newton) slowly turns to romance over several memorable days.

Harring's combination of unhurried storytelling and delightful ideas for scenes (one sequence is shot deep inside an abandoned gold mine) adds up to a love story that almost seems to be flowering in real time.

Also in the series is the audacious "Punch," a gory, comic-book movie by Jay Cynik about a fateful night of sex and death between characters on either side of a clash between a biker gang and car thugs. The film's over-the-top violence makes one laugh as well as cringe, the dialogue crackles and occasionally turns lyrical, and the cast of relative unknowns carries the story's feverish lunacy with zest and raw talent.

Among the series' notable nonfiction entries is "River Ways" by Portland-based Colin Stryker. Several years in the making, "River Ways" is a remarkably evenhanded (though not naive) and compelling investigation into both sides of a debate over whether to remove four dams on the Snake River in Eastern Washington. If the subject sounds familiar, it's because those dams are cited by environmental groups as a major factor in the decline of salmon runs.

"River Ways" reminds us that hot-button issues indeed polarize people, but each side has a legitimate perspective and much to lose. Stryker transcends dry policy discussions and underscores how personal this fight is for Native Americans, independent fishermen, wheat farmers and many other players in a tense drama.

This year's Local Sightings includes a running installation beginning Saturday: Tania Kupczak's "Recent Video Works About Weather" is a look at the link between human emotions and precipitation.

There are several free programs this year, plus groupings of various shorts and a tribute to longtime filmmakers George and Helen Smith.

Tom Keogh: tomwkeogh@yahoo.com.

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