Portland International Film Festival 2012: Documentary Film Preview Guide

Portland International Film Festival (PIFF) is upon us again, and we have whittled down their list of 100+ international shorts and full-length films to pick what we have determined to be the best and most interesting of the bunch.

Portland International Film Festival 2012 runs from February 9th through the 25th, with more than one screening for most movies (exceptions generally being shorts and midnight film series).

This particular list below focuses on the best documentaries of the bunch, ordered alphabetically.

See here for all PIFF coverage.

United States

Directed by Gianfranco Rosi and Charles Bowden
At this crucial point during Mexico’s drug wars, El Sicario: Room 164 reveals details about a hitman who worked for 20 years for drug cartels in Cuidad Juarez, Mexico.
02/20 – 12:45pm – Cinema 21

United States

Directed by Linda Goldstein Knowlton
A multicultural and multi-lingual film that compares and contrasts the lives of four teenage girls, all adopted from China, all living different lives in the United States.
02/19 – 12:00pm – World Trade Center Theater
02/22 – 6:15pm – Cinema 21


Directed by Jafar Panahi
A film shot secretively with an iPhone and digital camera, to humbly tell the story of documentarian Jafar Panahi, who has been banned from filmmaking due to his work and is currently appealing a prison sentence.
02/18 – 6:00pm – Whitsell Auditorium
02/19 – 8:45pm – World Trade Center Theater

United States

Directed by Benjamin Murray and Alysa Nahimas
Three architects began construction on a series of Cuban National Arts Schools during the first days of Fidel Castro’s rule. But after the Cuban Revolution took a Soviet turn, the project was abandoned. Now, after the death of Castro, the project’s original architects are finding a way to continue their original challenge.
02/21 – 3:30pm – Whitsell Auditorium


Directed by Kimi Takesue
This revelatory documentary gives others a view into everyday Ugandan life, by focusing on numerous community-oriented events and spaces — such as a high-society wedding, a boxing club, a beauty salon, and a school for survivors of the civil war.
02/13 – 8:45pm – Whitsell Auditorium
02/19 – 5:00pm – World Trade Center Theater


Directed by Michael Glawogger
In this bold documentary, prostitutes from developing countries like Thailand, Bangladesh, and Mexico are humanized, as they candidly discuss the issues they face through a variety of colorful tales.
02/23 – 8:15pm – Cinema 21

Film times and schedules are subject to change.
Please consult the PIFF website for up-to-date details.

Written by
Vee Hua 華婷婷

Vee Hua 華婷婷 (they/them) is a writer, filmmaker, and organizer with semi-nomadic tendencies. Much of their work unifies their metaphysical interests with their belief that art can positively transform the self and society. They are the Editor-in-Chief of REDEFINE, Interim Managing Editor of South Seattle Emerald, and Co-Chair of the Seattle Arts Commission. They also previously served as the Executive Director of the interdisciplinary community hub, Northwest Film Forum, where they played a key role in making the space more welcoming and accessible for diverse audiences.

Vee has two narrative short films. Searching Skies (2017) touches on Syrian refugee resettlement in the United States; with it, they helped co-organize The Seventh Art Stand, a national film and civil rights discussion series against Islamophobia. Reckless Spirits (2022) is a metaphysical, multi-lingual POC buddy comedy for a bleak new era, in anticipation of a feature-length project.

Vee is passionate about cultural space, the environment, and finding ways to covertly and overtly disrupt oppressive structures. They also regularly share observational human stories through their storytelling newsletter, RAMBLIN’ WITH VEE!, and are pursuing a Master’s in Tribal Resource and Environmental Stewardship under the Native American Studies Department at the University of Minnesota.

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Written by Vee Hua 華婷婷
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