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Oregon Goes To Sundance 2011

December 2nd, 2010 by Anne Richardson · No Comments · News

Mayor Sam Adams sees potential for economic growth in Portland in four areas: software, sportswear, clean tech and advanced manufacturing.  He doesn’t include filmmaking, perhaps because this industry seems to be growing by leaps and bounds without his help.

Shawn Levy reports a preponderance of Oregon films at Sundance this year. He found three Oregon docs in competition, and admits there very well may be more. Over here at Oregon Movies, A to Z, we were happy to help out by taking a closer look. We found a fourth documentary film which qualifies under our expanded definition: although the filmmakers are not Oregonians, they took as their subject Oregon events. A fifth film was just added today, when Shawn Levy identified the film which was Karen Schmeer’s last project – by the ever elastic rules of Oregon Movies, A to Z, it qualifies as an Oregon film, because a) Karen was a Oregonian and b) documentary editors play a very key creative role.

The descriptions of the films below come from Sundance.

Shawn’s List:

Hot Coffee Directed by Susan Saladoff (Ashland) – Following subjects whose lives have been devastated by an inability to access the courts, this film shows that many long-held beliefs about our civil justice system have been paid for by corporate America.

How To Die In Oregon Directed by Peter D. Richardson (Portland)– In 1994 Oregon became the first state to legalize physician-assisted suicide. How to Die in Oregon gently enters the lives of terminally ill Oregonians to illuminate the power of death with dignity.

We Were Here Directed by: David Weissman (Portland)– A deep and reflective look at the arrival and impact of AIDS in San Francisco and how individuals rose to the occasion during the first years of this unimaginable crisis.

Bobby Fischer Against the World / U.S.A. (Director: Liz Garbus) – The drama of late chess-master Bobby Fischer’s career was undeniable,as he careened from troubled childhood, to World Champion and Cold War icon, to a fugitive on the run. Edited by the late Karen Schmeer (Portland).

Anne’s addition to Shawn’s List:

If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front Directed by Marshall Curry (Brooklyn) – The Earth Liberation Front is a radical environmental group that the FBI calls America’s ‘number one domestic terrorist threat.’ Daniel McGowan, an ELF member, faces life in prison for two multi-million dollar arsons against Oregon timber companies. But who is really to blame?

Moving to non documentaries. Four Oregon feature films at Sundance, all in sidebars. Again, one is an Oregon film only by the most elastic use of the definition.

Letters From the Big Man / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Christopher Munch) – An artist and government hydrologist surveying a remote part of southwestern Oregon befriends a sasquatch man and must take bold steps to protect his privacy, as well as her own. Cast: Lily Rabe, Jason Butler Harner, Isaac C. Singleton Jr., Jim Cody Williams, Fiona Dourif. World Premiere

Meek’s Cutoff / U.S.A. (Director: Kelly Reichardt; Screenwriter: Jon Raymond (Portland)) – In 1845, three families who have hired mountaineer Stephen Meek to guide their wagons over the Cascade Mountains get lost and face hunger, thirst and a lack of faith in their instincts for survival. Cast: Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Bruce Greenwood, Shirley Henderson.

The Woods / U.S.A. (Director and Screenwriter: Matthew Lessner (Roseburg)) – A satirical nod to ethnographic film fashions a critique on media technology dependence, when eight young Americans move deep into to the woods to start their own utopia. Cast: Justin Phillips, Toby David, Adam Mortemore, Nicola Persky, Chris Edley. World Premiere.

And bringing up the rear:

The Oregonian / U.S.A. (Director and screenwriter: Calvin Lee Reeder (Seattle)) – After surviving a brutal car accident, a simple farm woman limps down the road into the nightmarish unknown. Cast: Lindsay Pulsipher, Robert Longstreet, Matt Olsen, Lynne Compton, Barlow Jacobs, Chadwick Brown, Jed Maheu, Roger M. Mayer. World Premiere. Shot in California and Washington.

Number of documentaries by Oregon filmmakers at Sundance: 3

Number of documentaries edited by an Oregonian: 1

Number of documentaries about Oregon events at Sundance: 2

Number of feature films shot in Oregon: 3

Number of feature films written by an Oregonian: 1

Number of feature films with no Oregon connection whatsoever except the use of the word “Oregonian” in the title: 1

Second generation Hollywood  in the above Oregon films: 2.  Elia Kazan’s grandaughter, Zoe Kazan, in Meek’s Cutoff, and Brad  Dourif’s daughter Fiona Dourif in Letters From The Big Man

Good luck, everybody!

THIS JUST IN!!!!! Dec. 8, 2010: Shawn Levy’s follow up story.

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