Lights. Camera. Festival. BendFilm brings actors to Madras.
Cannes. Sundance. Madras.
The Madras Performing Arts Center hosted eight feature-length films over the weekend as part of the 15th Annual BendFilm Festival. Most of the movies shown over the three days were Native American-based, made by and/or acted by Native Americans, and stories with Native themes.
Kicking off the Madras element of the festival was the 20th anniversary of groundbreaking film "Smoke Signals."
A special element to the festival: All the filmmakers and some of the actors were in attendance to take questions and visit with festival-goers following each feature.
A treat for local film-buffs, especially Warm Springs residents, Adam Beach, who starred in "Smoke Signals," was at the PAC. Their post-movie question-and-answer period lasted about an hour, and afterward, Beach visited and interacted with attendees in the PAC lobby.
Friday's showing of "Smoke Signals" was the attendance highlight for the event locally, drawing more than 300 people to the PAC. Along with Beach, the movie's director, Chris Eyre, was also on hand.
"It was such an honor to spend the weekend with Chris Eyre and Adam Beach," said Todd Looby, the director of the BendFilm Festival, who brought part of his festival to Madras. "Not only are they just fun and talented guys, but they have amazing hearts. Seeing the Warm Springs and Madras communities embrace them was something I won't forget soon. And the great thing is, neither will they."
"BendFilm will make every effort to have them back and I know they will help us bring more incredible Native filmmakers to Central Oregon," said Looby. "Hopefully, they have helped inspire a new generation of filmmakers in both Jefferson and Deschutes counties."
Among the new filmmakers involved in the festival was Warm Springs resident LaRonn Katchia. The short film he directed, "Blood Sky," was shown prior to "Smoke Signals."
Katchia said it was a great honor to have his movie shown with Beach and Eyre in the audience.
"These guys are like my idols, inspiration and heroes, and to screen one of my short films with them is a dream come true," said Katchia, who added that Beach and Eyre are pioneers in portraying Native Americans in a realistic way on film.
The festival also allowed Katchia to "meet other filmmakers from around the country and gain some new perspectives in film." He praised Looby and the festival for "allowing us this awesome opportunity to push Native films forward."
Among the movies shown were, "You Can't Choose Your Family," a somewhat dark drama featuring comedian Jim Gaffigan, and "The Last Hot Lick," a story of an aging musician, a feature filmed at various locations in Oregon.
"It's amazing to have the festival here," said PAC Director Shannan Ahern. "To have the director of every film here to answer questions and talk with the audience was such a cool opportunity for Madras and Warm Springs. They were all so gracious and professional. Hopefully, we'll get to grow the festival here."
This was the second time BendFilm has included the PAC. The first was in 2015, but that year, only one movie was shown. Looby indicated that he would very much like to keep the Madras venue as part of the festival moving forward.