What is your film festival’s mission?
BendFilm celebrates the brave voice of independent cinema through films, lectures and education.
What role does your film festival play in supporting your film community?
Bend is located right in the center of Oregon. Our community is relatively isolated from larger municipalities where working artists live. By hosting filmmakers during the fest and throughout the year, we provide that rare opportunity to interact with and learn from these accomplished artists. In addition, Bend, being a relatively small town, has a multi-plex and a 1-screen arthouse. Our community has less access to the independent films we champion. These films represent the leading edge of the artform. In addition, independent films often cover topics Hollywood distributors won’t touch. This allows our community an opportunity to learn more about what’s going on in the outside world.
What is something people look forward to every year at your film festival?
Our community has wholeheartedly embraced our fest since our founding 12 years ago. Bend has been an outdoors destination for many years, but cultural organizations were relatively new to the area. We have many people coming from other larger cities who are accustomed to many cultural offerings. Though they moved to Bend for the more relaxed lifestyle, they missed being able to see whatever hard-to-find film they wanted. That’s what BendFilm provides. In addition, we make every effort to bring out filmmakers. Our audiences love having the rare opportunity to interact and learn from working artists. We have many tourists that come in for the fest. BendFilm is another great reason for people to visit Bend which also serves as a huge economic stimulus. The town now delivers the whole package to our community and visitors offering both great culture and outdoor recreation.
How long has your film festival been around?
October 6-9th, 2016 will be our 13th festival.
How did your film festival come into being?
Katie Merritt lived in Bend for several years before our founding in 2004. She and a small contingent of culture-loving residents noticed the huge opportunity of hosting a fest here. They enlisted community developer Brooks Resources and the City of Bend to invest in its founding. Both Brooks and the City also saw the potential for the film festival to boost the economy during the normally slow fall tourist season. They also saw the opportunity to increase the livability and attractiveness of Bend to outsiders who were looking to relocate as well as meet the local demand for more cultural activities. Katie, Brooks and community leaders have been proven right in all their assumptions. This town is definitely different than it was in 2004. Many people credit the pioneering cultural improvements like BendFilm and the Tower Theatre’s restoration as key reasons for Bend being such a great and unique place.
What do you want audiences to take away from your film festival?
We want our audiences to walk away enriched first by the intellectual and emotional impact of the films themselves. We want them to feel more connected to the world and each other. We want to start conversations between filmgoers and between them and our filmmakers. We also want them to have a great time that they won’t forget. We have great parties, panels and networking events. In short, we take the “celebration” in our mission very seriously.
Anything else you’d like to tell the audience about your festival?
I’ve spoken above about the festival and our films themselves. I think you could do the same thing in any town without having the full experience BendFilm provides. There’s something about Bend that is special. Most people who visit here – and there are quite a few who come for the fest and for outdoor recreation – always come back and look forward to doing so. It’s the whole experience that I think sets our festival apart from other well-programmed fests.
Check out http://www.bendfilm.org
Cover image credit Bend film Tower Theatre Karen Cammack photographer
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