20th Annual Festival Unspools In Person October 12-15
L to R: Stills from Patrol, King Coal, Kite Zo A, Exodus, official selections at this year’s Bend Film Festival
BEND, OR — AUGUST 24, 2023 — BendFilm today announced the 22 feature films across four competition categories which will screen at the 20th Annual Bend Film Festival, presented in person October 12-15 and virtually October 16-22, 2023. This year’s competition features were selected from a record-high 2830 submissions, originating from over 50 countries.
“This year’s competition slate reflects the state of modern independent film,” said Selin Sevinç, BendFilm’s Program Director. “These films are provocative, thoughtful and, ultimately, optimistic — and invite audiences to consider the power and potential of self-determination. As a filmmaker-first organization, our competition films are the innovative and visionary core of our Festival as well as our year-round work.”
The Festival’s four main Competition sections (Narrative Features, Documentary Features, Indigenous Features and Environmental/Outdoor Features) showcase the breadth of the Festival’s slate, while underlining specific cultural and environmental priorities as a Festival taking place in scenic Bend, the ancestral home of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs and the seasonal home of the Wana Łama (Warm Springs), Wasq’ú (Wasco) and Northern Paiute people. Many of the films will be making their West Coast, Northwest, or Oregon premieres at the Festival, and many directors, producers and other industry executives are expected to attend, even amid ongoing labor negotiations.
“It’s a crucial moment, after several challenging years, for filmmaking, festivals and theatrical exhibition,” said Sevinç, “Coming together to celebrate the work, and talk about how we can collectively and sustainably advance our industry and art form, is key.”
Alongside the Competition features, the Festival will also showcase a full roster of short film programs, offscreen panels and events, awards and honorees including the 2023 Indie Filmmaker of the Year, to be announced alongside the Spotlight feature films in coming weeks. BendFilm Festival is recognized by The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences® as Oscar® qualifying for narrative, animated and indigenous short films.
BendFilm will continue its filmmaker-focused efforts to award over $13,000 in prizes directly to independent filmmakers in these competition categories including $2,500 for Best Narrative Feature and $2,500 for Best Documentary Feature. Passes, which offer various levels of advance and exclusive access and benefits, are on sale now. Individual film tickets go on sale to the public on September 22.
Narrative Features Competition
The Narrative Features Competition section comprises seven outstanding fiction films, which present deeply personal stories with unique directorial vision.
Dir. Ofir Raul Graizer
Israel, Germany, Czech Republic
An Israeli man returns to Israel after 10 years in America. An encounter with a childhood friend and his future wife will change everyone’s lives. Writer/director Ofir Raul Graizer (The Cakemaker) returns with an affectionate tribute to 60s and 70s cinema in a film full of emotion, color, and fragrance that pays homage to values such as friendship, love, and moral responsibility.
Dir. Abbe Hassan
Two worlds collide when Sam, 40, a professional people smuggler, reluctantly saves Amal, a 12-year-old girl whose whole family has gone missing in the Syrian war. Amal believes that they are on their way to Sweden so she sets out on a journey to find them. Sam hesitates but is troubled by the thought of leaving the girl alone in a no man’s land and gets dragged in. This will be the beginning of an unexpected, powerful, warm and crazy friendship on a journey that will change their lives forever.
Dir. Benjamin Howard
Disciplined high school athlete Dakota Riley lives his life within carefully-designed boundaries, a calculated blueprint upon which he’s formed the basis of his identity. But when the reality of his identity is thrown into disarray, Dakota is forced to confront the consequences of denying himself, or come to terms with who he really is.
Sometimes I Think About Dying
Dir. Rachel Lambert
Lost on the dreary Oregon coast, Fran finds solace in her cubicle, listening to the constant hum of officemates and occasionally daydreaming to pass the time. She is ghosting through life, unable to pop her bubble of isolation, when a friendly new coworker, Robert, persistently tries to connect with her.
Dir. Noah Schamus
Leo, a trans man, and his cisgender and straight friend, Eleanor, go on a weekend trip, during which they uncover some old secrets, new challenges, and find the answer to the age-old question: can good friends and bad sex mix?
West Coast premiere
Dir. Christophe Rolin
Talia is a 19-year-old Belgian girl, with Senegalese roots, visiting her country of origin for the first time. She starts off in Dakar in the luxurious villa of her cousin’s family, hoping to meet her grandmother. But her grandmother is nowhere to be found and the villa quickly becomes a gilded cage. Until she meets Malika, a mysterious street vendor who sells birds.
When It Melts
Dir. Veerle Baetens
Belgium, The Netherlands
Many years after a sweltering summer that spun out of control, Eva returns to the village she grew up in with an ice block in the back of her car. In the dead of winter, she confronts her past and faces up to her tormentors. Adapted from the novel Het Smelt by Lize Spit.
Documentary Feature Competition
The 2023 Documentary Feature Competition section comprises eight bold nonfiction films which present their subjects in unflinching detail and formal innovation.
Anima: My Father’s Dresses
Dir. Uli Decker
Shortly before his sudden death, Uli learns that she and her father Helmut were driven by the same questions and apparently missed each other tragically throughout their lives. With her autobiographical film, the director traces the family secret, opens old diaries and herself for the first completely honest conversation. A touching and reconciling post-mortem encounter between father and daughter.
Dir. Sophie Compton, Reuben Hamlyn
Another Body follows a college student’s search for answers and justice after she discovers deepfake pornography of herself circulating online. Through candid video diaries, synthetic media, and 2D and 3D animation, the film takes you into Taylor’s online and offline worlds, humanizing a vast social issue in a compelling personal story.
Dusty & Stones
Dir. Jesse Rudoy
USA, Eswatini (formerly known as Swaziland)
Dusty and Stones struggle to sustain a country music career in their tiny African kingdom of Swaziland and yearn for greater recognition. When they are unexpectedly nominated to compete in a Texas battle of the bands, the two cousins journey to the heart of American country music, determined to win big and turn their careers around.
Finding the Money
Dir. Maren Poitras
An underdog group of economists is on a mission to instigate a paradigm shift by flipping our understanding of the national debt—and the nature of money—upside down. We follow Stephanie Kelton on a journey through the controversial Modern Monetary Theory, or “MMT”, to unveil a deeper story about money, injecting new hope and empowering democracies around the world to tackle the biggest challenges of the 21st century, from climate change to inequality.
Kite Zo A
Dir. Kaveh Nabatian
In 1791 Haiti, Dutty Boukman presided over a Vodou ritual in Bois-Caïman that led to the creation of the first Black republic. Since then, rituals of transformation and artistic expression have been at the core of a thriving culture as the country faces oppression, poverty, and natural disasters. Kite Zo A (Leave the Bones) is a sensorial film about rituals in Haiti, from ancient to modern, made in collaboration with poets, dancers, musicians, fishermen, daredevil rollerbladers, and Vodou priests, set to poetry by Haitian author Wood-Jerry Gabriel.
Patria y Vida: The Power of Music
Dir. Beatriz Luengo
The powerful story of six Afro-descendant rappers who have rewritten Cuban history and sparked a lyrical battle for human rights through a song called “Patria y Vida”. The song has become a revolution in the streets of Cuba, and it has been banned by the government, which imprisons people for the simple act of listening to it. The protest anthem has won “Song of the Year” and “Best Urban Song” at the Latin Grammy Awards. The lyrics have been immortalized in the Congressional Records of the United States to ensure that future generations will always remember that it was an anthem for freedom.
Dir. Jude Chehab
An intimate portrayal of a quest for love and acceptance at any cost, Q depicts the influence of a secretive matriarchal religious order on filmmaker Jude Chehab’s family and the unspoken ties and consequences of loyalty that have bonded her mother, grandmother, and herself to the mysterious organization. A love story of a different kind, Q is a multigenerational tale of the eternal search for meaning.
West Coast premiere
Story & Pictures By
Dir. Joanna Rudnick
Let us tell you a story about the boundary pushers who shape souls and give children strange dreams. The stars of Story & Pictures By are changing the narrative for the next generation – creating magic from the realities of society and personal experience, even when their own lives are not fairytales.
West Coast premiere
Indigenous Features Competition
The 2023 Indigenous Features Competition comprises three features centered on Indigenous and Native perspectives and stories from around the world.
Dir. Rebecca Landsberry-Baker (Muscogee Creek), Joe Peeler
When the Muscogee Nation suddenly begins censoring their free press, a rogue reporter fights to expose her government’s corruption in a historic battle that will have ramifications for all of Indian Country.
Four Souls of Coyote
Dir. Áron Gauder
Set in the present day, Native American teenagers confront the crew of an oil pipeline project, just down the hill from the land of their ancestors. The grandfather evokes the ancient tale of their Creation myth, reminding all of us that the challenges facing humanity are universal, and that we need to find our place in the great circle of creatures.
Dir. Camilo de Castro and Brad Allgood
An emerging crisis in one of the last remaining rainforests in Central America ignites a heroic mission in Patrol. When illegal cattle ranchers decimate large swaths of rainforest, indigenous rangers join forces with an American conservationist and undercover journalists to expose the dark world of conflict beef.
The 2023 Environmental/Outdoor Features Competition comprises four films centered on the relationships between humans and nature — by turns adversarial, exploitative, mutually beneficial and endlessly evolving.
Dir. Holly Morris
USA, Iceland, Oman, Saudi Arabia
Against all odds and polar advice, a Muslim chaplain, a French biologist, a Qatari princess, and eight other women from the Arab World and the West attempt to ski across the melting Arctic sea ice to climate change ground zero – the North Pole. Director Holly Morris and her crew capture this story as the team navigates everything from frostbite and a polar bear threat, to sexism and self-doubt in an intimate story of resilience, survival, and global citizenry. The 2018 expedition featured in the film remains the last one to reach the North Pole.
Central Oregon premiere
Dir. Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Quietly and seemingly out of sight, governments, private investors, and mercenaries are working to seize food and water resources at the expense of entire populations. These groups are establishing themselves as the new OPEC, where the future world powers will be those who control not oil, but food. The Grab is a global thriller combining hard-hitting journalism from The Center for Investigative Reporting with the compelling, character-driven storytelling of director Gabriela Cowperthwaite, taking you around the globe from Arizona to Zambia to reveal one of the world’s biggest and least known threats.
Dir. Elaine McMillion Sheldon
A lyrical tapestry of a place and people, King Coal meditates on the complex history and future of the coal industry, the communities it has shaped, the myths it has created. While deeply situated in Central Appalachia, the film transcends time and place, emphasizing the ways in which all are connected through an immersive mosaic of belonging, ritual, and imagination. Emerging from the long shadows of the coal mines, King Coal untangles the pain from the beauty, and illuminates the innately human capacity for change.
No Legs. All Heart.
Dir. Pablo Durana
After years of addiction, struggle, and coming to terms with his life changing accident, André Kajlich aims to be the first double amputee to complete the Race Across America, a bone-crushing, sleep deprived, 12 day, 3,082 mile bike race that spits out 50% of able bodied racers. Directed by first-time Latin American director and Emmy® Award–winning cinematographer Pablo Durana and produced by Oscar®, Emmy®, and Peabody® Award-winning filmmakers Andrea Nix Fine and Sean Fine, No Legs. All Heart. is a story about the true test of the human spirit, overcoming addiction, and the pain we endure to carve our own path in life.
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