31st Portland International Film Festival

31piffposter.jpgThis puppy kicks off tonight, with an Israeli film The Band’s Visit, at the Newmark Theater at 7:30 p.m. and then there’s gonna be a party afterwards.

What amazes me most about the Portland International Film Festival is the sheer diversity of films being shown. You’ve got everything from light entertainments like the Colin Ferrell hitman movie In Bruges, excellent documentaries like Chicago 10 , to David Gordon Green’s latest mumblecore extravaganza, Snow Angels (starring Sam Rockwell and Kate Beckinsale).

But unlike a lot of film festivals, this one seems to showcase as many foreign films as they do films from the US. While some people might not jive to that, I sort of like that because they are probably fine films, amazing films, you won’t see in theaters anytime soon.

Every year you may get one or two foreign films released in theaters if you’re lucky, but in this film festival there are at least 50 or so movies from countries like Russia, Belgium, France, Lebanon, Israel, Iceland, Britain, China, Mexico, and many more that all sound worth checking out. That’s actually a lowball estimate.

“After producing the Festival for three decades, I find that at first, the challenge always seems to be how to make the Festival fresh once again. Happily, it turns out that there are many forces that come together to insure that renewed enthusiasm and new treasures are in abundant supply,” says festival director Bill Foster. “First of all, filmmakers continue to make great films, and the opportunity to find an appreciative audience for them energizes the great cadre of Film Center staff and volunteers. The thanks we owe for the dazzling feats that make the Festival possible are limitless.

More information can be found about each movie, broken down by their country of origin, here. Twenty-two of these films were submitted for “Best Foreign Language Picture” to the Academy Awards.

Ah, but that’s not all. If you act now you won’t just get foreign films submitted for the Oscars, you’ll also get several shorts and animated movies as well.

The best part of any film festival is just throwing yourself into it and getting sick off of movies and exhaustion. If you aren’t digging on a movie, then cut out and catch on with something different. Remember, though, a little planning goes a long way.

The festival runs from today (Feb. 7) until Feb. 23, with most movies beginning at 6 p.m. and the last movie at 9 p.m. or so. Screening will be held at Whitsell Auditorium in the Portland Art Museum, Regal Broadway and Newmark Theater. If you are a visual person, then they even offer up a snazzy calendar so you can see which movies are playing on which day in which particular theater.

Ticket information can be found here, but it’s pretty much guaranteed that if you want to see one movie you can, or if you want to see a bunch of movies scattered throughout the week you can do that as well.

Take the jump for a roundup up of Oscar-nominated films screening at this year’s PIFF.

Best Documentary Feature
In December of 2002 a Kabul taxi driver named Dilawar took three passengers for a ride, and never returned home. Four days later, he arrived at a U.S. military detention center. Five days later he was dead. This riveting murder mystery explores how and why this Afghan civilian died while in American custody. The details emerge through diverse documentation and exhaustive interviews with family and friends, current and former military personnel, a former Guantanamo detainee, lawyers for both detainees and the U.S. military, and a slew of journalists and experts. This unflinching and eye-opening look at the torture business not only provides a detailed report of what actually happens to a detainee, but also includes interviews from the personnel who interrogated Dilawar and inflicted the injuries that ultimately caused his death. (106 mins.)
Showtimes: 2/9, 5pm B3 and 2/10, 3pm B3.

Best Foreign Language Film of the Year
Joseph Cedar

Winner of the Best Director Prize at the Berlin Film Festival, Beaufort derives its name from the Israeli military base in southern Lebanon occupied from the war in 1982 until 2000. The film tells the story of the troops’ last weeks of occupation, focusing on Liraz Liberti, the 22-year-old commander who is responsible for the dangerous withdrawal from the base, which is still under fire. Stripped back and minimal in its approach, the taut drama mines the tension between the soldiers as they respond to their imminent evacuation and loss of purpose, and reveals Liberti’s emotional strain as he prepares to destroy the site they have been defending for so long, and which has claimed so many lives. (125 mins.)

Showtimes: 2/16, 8:45pm WH and 2/18, 1:30pm B1.

Writer/director Ruzowitsky tells a little-known, true-life World War II story. Solomon Sorowitsch, a Russian Jew and uncrowned king of counterfeiting in the swinging Berlin of the 1930s, is plucked from almost certain death in a Nazi concentration camp and put in charge of a massive effort to flood England and America with counterfeit currency. Sorowitsch plays a tense cat-and-mouse game with the clever and amoral SS officer, struggling to keep himself and his disparate crew alive in a world of terrifyingly arbitrary violence and death. The Counterfeiters employs the suspenseful rhythms of gangster films in revisiting a tale of Nazi-era crimes, human resource-fulness and resilience, and tough moral questions under the most extreme pressures. (99 mins.) Stefan Ruzowitzky in attendance 2/13.
Showtimes: 2/9, 5:45pm WH and 2/13, 6:30pm WH.

MONGOL Sergei Bodrov
Russian director Sergi Bodrov’s film is a spectacular historical epic set against the backdrop of the harshly beautiful Mongolian steppes. Mongol tells of the formative years and the rise to power of the legendary Genghis Khan, taking us back to his childhood, the killing of his father and his flight into the wilderness to escape the murderous rivals for his crown. The story gives a central place to the courageous wife he willfully chose as a child. The adult Genghis gathers his clans and allies about him and, in a series of twists and turns and spectac-ular battles, takes complete power. In Mongolian, Kazakh, Tartar and Chinese with English subtitles. (120 mins.)

Showtimes: 2/10, 7:15pm WH and 2/11, 7:15pm B3.

Best Animated Short Film of the Year
Josh Raskin
“Think peace and you’ll get it. It’s up to the people. If we really wanna change it, we can change it.” (5 min) Showtime: 2/17, 12pm WH

MADAME TUTLI-PUTLI Chris Lavis, Maciek Szczerbowski
When Madam Tutli-Putli boards the night train, she finds herself drawn into a desperate metaphysical adventure. (18 min) Showtime: 2/9, 12pm WH

Best Live Action Short Film
Guido Thys
Andr? convinces a reluctant co-worker to teach him the tango in order to win the heart of a woman he’s met online. (14 min) Showtime: 2/17, 12pm WH

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