Portland International Festival 2013: Festival Preview & Picks

The 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 summarize the most interesting, socially-conscious, and boundary-pushing of the bunch.

This year’s festival runs from February 7th through the 23rd, beginning with an Opening Night celebration featuring Blancanieves, a silent Spanish reworking of Snow White. Purchase tickets and find out more.

Our festival preview begins below with this year’s top five picks, followed by the rest in alphabetical order.

Beyond The Hills
Directed by Cristian Mungiu (Romania)
Based on the novels of Tatiana Niculescu Bran, which are real-life documents of demonic possession, Beyond The Hills is a bleak and stark religious drama set an Orthodox monastery in Moldovia. Though Alina (Cirstina Flutur) heads to the monastery to convince her friend Voichita (Cosmina Stratan) to leave and return to Germany, Alina finds herself sucked more and more into the environment and its callings. Flutur and Stratan both shared the Best Actress Prize at Cannes Film Festival for these performances.
         Sat, Feb 9, 2013 at 8:30 PM (Whitsell Auditorium)
         Wed, Feb 13, 2013 at 7:30 PM (Regal Lloyd Center 4)

Hannah Arendt
Directed by Margarethe von Trotta (Germany)
Based on the life of German philosopher and writer Hannah Arendt, Hannah Arendt chronicles her writings for The New Yorker on the 1961 war crimes trial of Adolf Eichmann. Eichmann covered a scenario that was not black and white but veiled in greys, causing great conflict and protest amongst an American public and the publication’s editing staff. Hannah Arendt is a drama about journalism, and the social duty of reporting as one sees as truthful, rather than as it is idealized or pressured to be.
         Sat, Feb 16, 2013 at 8:45 PM (Whitsell Auditorium)
         Mon, Feb 18, 2013 at 5:15 PM (Regal Lloyd Center 4)

Laurence Anyways
Directed by Xavier Dolan (Canada)
Despite being happy and in love, high school teacher Laurence finally reveals to his girlfriend Fred his long-standing desire to become a woman. Fred agrees to support him on his quest, though once the transformations begin, social complications begin to pressure, ostracize, and place fear into the hearts of the couple. Through it all, Laurence Anyways is a tale of love and the ability to weather storms for it.
         Sat, Feb 16, 2013 at 8 PM (Cinema 21)
         Wed, Feb 20, 2013 at 7 PM (Regal Lloyd Center 10)

Directed by Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Véréna Paravel (United States)
Leviathan presents experimental filmmaking at its finest or its worst, depending on your opinion of macro-view, immersive documentary art. The New York Film Festival describes Leviathan as “a hallucinatory sensory experience quite unlike any other”, and the trailer is seems to assert this with views of commercial fishing, as presented with only abstract sounds and imagery.
         Sat, Feb 9, 2013 at 3:15 PM (Whitsell Auditorium)
         Wed, Feb 13, 2013 at 6 PM (Cinemagic)

Directed by Cate Shortland (Australia)
After World War II and the death of Adolf Hitler, five young children are left to fend for themselves when their Nazi SS parents are captured. In an attempt to reach their grandparents in Hamburg, they traverse 500 miles of changing landscapes, meeting unfortunate families along the way and finding a savior in a young Jewish man whose kindness goes against all of their programmed teachings.
         Sun, Feb 10, 2013 at 7:30 PM (Whitsell Auditorium)
         Mon, Feb 11, 2013 at 5:45 PM (Regal Lloyd Center 10)


After Lucia
Directed by Michel Franco (Mexico)
In this jarring Mexican drama about teenage cruelty, unfortunate circumstances become exponentially worse after bullying enters the equation. Alejandra is a young teen still dealing with the death of her mother, when she finds herself in a new town. One drunken mistake soon spins into a web of social abuse and bends stunted familial communication further beyond repair. After Lucia won the main prize in the Un Certain Regard section of Cannes Film Festival and is this year’s Mexican submission for Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.
         Sun, Feb 17, 2013 at 2:15 PM (Regal Fox Tower 6)
         Thu, Feb 21, 2013 at 8:45 PM (Whitsell Auditorium)

Alien Boy: The Death and Life of James Chasse
Directed by Brian Lindstrom (United States)
The ever-complex circumstances surrounding the United States’ mental health resources are examined in Alien Boy: The Death and Life of James Chasse, a documentary about a schizophrenic young man who was beaten to death by police officers in Portland, Oregon in 1996.
         Fri, Feb 15, 2013 at 7 PM (Cinema 21)

American Winter
Directed by Joe Gantz, Harry Gantz (United States)
Shot over the winter months of 2011 to 2012, American Winter is an intimate portrait that follows the lives of eight Portland households that find themselves falling into poverty for the first time. A reflection on the current economic crisis, these families are just a small cross-section of the larger trend, as American Winter navigates how families deal with new financial difficulties and the use of social services.
         Sun, Feb 17, 2013 at 3 PM (Whitsell Auditorium)
         Mon, Feb 18, 2013 at 7:30 PM (Cinemagic)

Chinese Take-Out (Un Cuento Chino)
Directed by Sebastián Borensztein (Argentina)
South America is surprisingly prevalent with Chinese immigrants, and this multicultural comedy takes a close look at the life of Roberto, a routine-oriented owner of a hardware store in Buenos Aires, after a Chinese immigrant named Jun begins living in his home. Listed as Chinese Take-Out at PIFF, this film is more often listed as Chinese Take-Away.
         Sun, Feb 10, 2013 at 2:30 PM (World Trade Center Theater)
         Sat, Feb 16, 2013 at 3 PM (World Trade Center Theater)

Coming of Age (Anfang 80)
Directed by Sabine Hiebler, Gerhard Ertl (Austria)
Almost everyone fears to grow old and to die alone, or to never truly fall in love. Bruno and Rosa meet when Rosa only has six months left to live – but despite internal and external opposition, the two seniors decide to choose a life of mortality and happiness rather than its dreary opposite. The description “cute old people” seems to sum up Coming of Age fairly accurately.
         Sat, Feb 9, 2013 at 3:30 PM (Regal Lloyd Center 10)
         Wed, Feb 13, 2013 at 6:30 PM (Regal Lloyd Center 10)

Comrade Kim Goes Flying
Directed by Anja Daelemans, Nicholas Bonner, Kim Gwang Hun (North Korea)
There’ve been times when I have mentioned Korea’s music or art scene and been met with the question, “North or South?” To these people, I’ve often scoffed, relaying that nothing comes out of North Korea, for its dictatorship is in full reign and its free speech mostly suppressed. Yet now, with Comrade Kim Goes Flying, my less politically-savvy friends can finally rest assured that their inquiries are in part valid, for North Korea is now sending films to the global marketplace. The calisthenics-participating ways of gymnast and coal miner Kim Yong-mi may lead one to believe romance is alive and well in North Korea, in a film that is visually and musically reminiscent of grainy old-school films from mainland China. The trailer may not reveal much – and seems not to give one any sense of the “comedy” that is supposedly inherent in this “romantic comedy” — but on the basis of seeing a different side of North Korea that is not Vice Magazine’s expository fright-fest, one might take interest in Comrade Kim Goes Flying.
         Sun, Feb 10, 2013 at 5:15 PM (Regal Fox Tower 6)
         Fri, Feb 15, 2013 at 6:30 PM (Regal Lloyd Center 4)

The End of Time
Directed by Peter Mettler (Canada)
How, oh how, do we as mere humans, with our three-dimensional knowledge of the world, learn to wrap our heads around Father Time? Swiss-Canadian filmmaker Peter Mettler apparently wondered the same when he set out around the globe to explore the past and the present, with modern and primitive cultures, to document and research how they relate to and philosophize about time. The film seems to bring up a series of rhetorical questions set against pleasant imagery — and it seems unclear whether the film actually brings one any closer to understanding the nature of time… but it seems that Mettler is at least trying.
         Sat, Feb 9, 2013 at 3:15 PM (World Trade Center Theater)
         Sat, Feb 16, 2013 at 6 PM (World Trade Center Theater)

The Gatekeepers
Directed by Dror Moreh (Israel)
A film with great explosive and divisive potential, The Gatekeepers gives an inside look at the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, as pieced together via interviews from intelligence officers and former directors of the Israeli security agency Shin Bet.
         Sun, Feb 17, 2013 at 5:15 PM (Cinema 21)
         Thu, Feb 21, 2013 at 6 PM (Cinemagic)

Happy People: A Year In Taiga
Directed by Dmitry Vasyukov, Werner Herzog (Germany)
Werner Herzog – in collaboration with director Dmitry Vasyukov – recalls the isolation of 2010’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams and the natural beauty surrounding 2005’s Grizzly Man as he dives into the heart of remote Siberia, where environments seem ever expansive. Happy People: A Year in the Taiga, captures on film the village of Bakhtia, where self-sufficient communities live off the land in environments more frigid than one can imagine, free of government, taxes, and rules.
         Sat, Feb 16, 2013 at 5:30 PM (Cinema 21)
         Tue, Feb 19, 2013 at 8:45 PM (Whitsell Auditorium)

Here and There (Aquí y Allá)
Directed by Antonio Méndez Esparza (Mexico)
The life of a migrant worker is documented in Here and There, a film about a Mexican laborer who returns to the mountain village of Guerrerro after years of working in the United States. It is a slow tale of one’s integration back into a world one once knew, and the possibilities which both open and close with the introduction of money and new experiences. Winner of the Grand Prize at the Critics’ Week of Cannes Film Festival and a New York Film Festival selection.
         Sat, Feb 16, 2013 at 3 PM (Cinemagic)
         Mon, Feb 18, 2013 at 5 PM (Cinemagic)
         Tue, Feb 19, 2013 at 6 PM (Cinemagic)

A Hijacking (Kapringen)
Directed by Tobias Lindholm (Denmark)
Possibilities are bound and sea-stranded in this tense drama about a cargo ship that is hijacked by Somali pirates, who take all of the crew members hostage. Ransom and negotiations are far from smooth as the company’s alpha male president decides to take matters into his own hands, at the risk of sacrificing the life of his workers.
         Wed, Feb 20, 2013 at 8:45 PM (Whitsell Auditorium)
         Thu, Feb 21, 2013 at 6 PM (Regal Fox Tower 6)

The Hunt (Jagten)
Directed by Thomas Vinterberg (Denmark)
A small community becomes a dangerous breeding ground of misunderstanding and suspicion as Lucas (Mads Mikkelsen) is charged with child molestation. Though the charge is overturned, the outcome remains unchanged in the eyes of the community, as Lucas feels first-hand the cruelty of former friends and neighbors who wish to exact vengeance.
         Mon, Feb 18, 2013 at 7:30 PM (Whitsell Auditorium)
         Thu, Feb 21, 2013 at 8:30 PM (Regal Lloyd Center 10

Just The Wind (Csak a Szél)
Directed by Benedek Fliegauf (Hungary)
Simply watching the trailer for Just The Wind will give one a sense of the film’s near-documentary style of capturing mundane oddities in backwoods Hungary. All things said, the destination seems almost as important as the filmmaking vehicle. This year’s Hungarian submission for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.
         Sat, Feb 16, 2013 at 6:15 PM (Regal Lloyd Center 4)
         Wed, Feb 20, 2013 at 6 PM (Regal Lloyd Center 4)

Keep Smiling (Gaigimet)
Directed by Rusudan Chkonia (Georgia)
A roving eye captures the drama between ten housewives shallowly hoping to win a beauty competition open only to mothers with three or more children. Soon it becomes apparent that the competition is all a fraud, and things begin to fall apart even further, unraveling in true tragicomic fashion.
         Mon, Feb 18, 2013 at 7:45 PM (Regal Lloyd Center 4)
         Tue, Feb 19, 2013 at 8:45 PM (Regal Lloyd Center 4)

La Camioneta: The Journey of One American School Bus
Directed by Mark Kendall (United States)
Decommissioned school busses leave the United States daily to become transformed into community vehicles for Guatemalans. La Camioneta: The Journey of the American School Bus, follows one repurposed vehicle on its pilgrimage towards a more useful and colorful life, wherein five Guatemalans impacted by the bus reveal their stories.
         Sat, Feb 9, 2013 at 6 PM (World Trade Center Theater)
         Sun, Feb 17, 2013 at 7:30 PM (World Trade Center Theater)

Directed by Matteo Garrone (Italy)
Reality is a color explosion that pokes fun at Italian high society and its population’s shallow desires for fame! Part fantastical and part realistic, this film light-heartedly portrays reality as it sometimes really exists – in ways stranger and more whimsical than fiction.
         Sun, Feb 10, 2013 at 7:30 PM (Regal Fox Tower 6)
         Thu, Feb 14, 2013 at 5:45 PM (Regal Lloyd Center 4)

Nairobi Half Life
Directed by David Tosh Gitonga (Kenya)
19-year-old Mwas leaves his village life to pursue his dreams in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi — but his starry-eyed view of the world is soon shattered. As he falls into a life of crime and violence, Mwas struggles with holding onto glimpses of his former dreams. This is Kenya’s second film ever to be nominated for Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.
         Mon, Feb 11, 2013 at 6 PM (Regal Fox Tower 6)
         Sun, Feb 17, 2013 at 7:30 PM (Regal Lloyd Center 10)

Our Children (À Perdre La Raison)
Directed by Joachim Lafosse (Belgium)
Based on the story of Genevieve Lhermitte, Our Children tells of Murielle (Émilie Dequenne), who can’t seem to escape a nightmarish marriage full of financial struggle and suffocating interpersonal relationships, as she is surrounded by a demanding husband and a domineering father-in-law.
         Fri, Feb 15, 2013 at 8:45 PM (Regal Lloyd Center 4)
         Sun, Feb 17, 2013 at 7:30 PM (Regal Fox Tower 6)

Paradise: Love (Paradies: Liebe)
Directed by Ulrich Seidl (Austria)
The first in director Ulrich Seidl’s Paradise trilogy, Paradise: Love is about the collision of Christian virtues with secular life. Middle-aged Teresa visits a sex tourism destination in Kenya, where what she wants and the rigid rules she believes in become ever more obscured and foreign.
         Fri, Feb 8, 2013 at 6 PM (Cinemagic)
         Fri, Feb 15, 2013 at 8:45 PM (Cinemagic)

The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology
Directed by Sophie Fiennes (Great Britain)
2006’s The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema (see our review HERE) gets a follow-up, as Slovenian philosopher and film theoretician Slavoj Žižek once again waxes poetic — this time, on how films are representations of collective fantasies. A hodge-podge of films are included in The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology, including Robert Wise’s The Sound of Music, John Carpenter’s They Live, Stanley Kubrick’s Full Metal Jacket, and Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver.
         Sun, Feb 17, 2013 at 12 PM (Cinema 21)
         Thu, Feb 21, 2013 at 8:30 PM (Cinema 21)

Polluting Paradise (Der Müll im Garten Eden)
Directed by Fatih Akin (Germany)
In the 2000s, the Turkish village of Çamburnu was accidentally turned into a garbage landfill when a nearby site began to pollute the village’s air and groundwater. From 2006 to 2011, director Fatih Akin returned to Turkey numerous times to chronicle the ever-growing problem and government neglect of Çamburnu’s environmental woes.
         Sun, Feb 17, 2013 at 3 PM (World Trade Center Theater)
         Sat, Feb 23, 2013 at 12:45 PM (World Trade Center Theater)

Post Tenebras Lux
Directed by Carlos Reygadas (Mexico)
Post Tenebras Lux is a film that could most certainly fall flat on its face or be a work of genius, but the words of the Stockholm Film Festival make it sound eerily enticing: “In this expressionistic Mexican film, magnificent dreamlike exteriors together with memories and dream sequences tell the story of one man’s ability to resist temptation and stop himself from sinning. The story is at times told from the perspective of Satan, showing us the world through the Devil’s ambivalent eyes. The use of a nonlinear storyline gives way for emotions, hopes, and dreams of a family looking for redemption and the meaning of life.”
         Wed, Feb 20, 2013 at 6 PM (Cinema 21)
         Fri, Feb 22, 2013 at 6 PM (Cinema 21)

Sleep Tight (Mientras Duermes)
Directed by Jaume Balagueró (Spain)
A film that grows ever more sinister as it develops, Sleep Tight follows César, the doorman of a Barcelona apartment building, and his ever-growing distaste for one of the building’s residents, Clara. In unpredictable fashion, César becomes increasingly obsessed with the woman – not as a person in love, but as one who aims to ruin her life as completely as possible.
         Fri, Feb 15, 2013 at 8:45 PM (World Trade Center Theater)
         Sun, Feb 17, 2013 at 7:30 PM (Cinema 21)
         Sat, Feb 23, 2013 at 6 PM (World Trade Center Theater)

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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