Abuzz about the Orcas Island Film Festival | Editorial

The Orcas Island Film Festival is becoming a pretty big deal.

In just four years, it’s evolved into a bona fide first-rate festival that is a destination for filmmakers and viewers. Washington State Ferries added extra sailings from Anacortes to Orcas in anticipation of the added traffic this year, and many showings were sold out.

As in previous years, the 2017 festival presented 30 films that offered a little bit of everything, from the arty to the gritty – some of which haven’t been released in the U.S. yet.

A total of 25 films shown here were later nominated for an Oscar, and six have won. Directors like Jean-Marc Vallée (“Big Little Lies,” “Dallas Buyers Club”) come to Orcas to participate in the festival. This year, Vallée even dj’ed at the late-night short film awards dance party at Random Howse. To read an interview with him, go here.

The festival has several magical forces behind it: directors Jared Lovejoy and Donna Laslo; film curator Carl Spence, whose time as the Seattle International Film Festival director allows incredible films to be shown here; a legion of hard-working volunteers; a long list of sponsors (both local and off-island, like Amazon Studios) and an enthusiastic, appreciative community that already has artists in the film industry living here.

Involving directors, producers and actors is a trademark of the Orcas Island Film Festival. In addition to Vallee, four other filmmakers spoke about their work this year at the festival: Stacey Piculell, S.J. Chiro, Megan Brotherton and Jeff Unay.

New for 2017, Rock Island Internet Cafe provided a virtual reality/VR, augmented reality/AR and 360° immersion film experience curated by Wondertek.

And the festival doesn’t limit itself to just four days in October. This summer, it offered movies on the Village Green.

Every spring it awards $5,000 to three filmmakers to explore the San Juan Archipelago and use it as a canvas to create short films. This year the grant winners are: “It Takes An Island” by Tashi Litch and Bob Friel; “Falling Into Place” by Einar Johnson; and “RIGGED! A Tail of Corruption” by Heidi Cuda.

Voting is done online and the winners, which were Litch and Friel, will present their film at SIFF.

I always feel like I’m part of something significant when I attend the film festival, yet it also feels like home. As Vallée, said “There is no Hollywood on Orcas.”

I am so proud to be part of a community that has created an event like this, and I cannot wait to see its future evolutions.