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There'll be screenings online and at Zidell Yards; among local films is 'A Kaddish for Bernie Madoff.'

COURTESY PHOTO - 'Minari,' showing at the Portland International Film Festival on opening March 5, tells of a Korean American family's move to Arkansas and challenges of living in the Ozarks.The movie industry considers "Minari" one of the best films of 2020, said Northwest Film Center's Amy Dotson, and it doesn't matter what category it's included in at the Golden Globes or Academy Awards.

Controversy erupted when "Minari" was put into the foreign language best picture category, rather than overall best picture, for the Golden Globes (and won); following criteria, more than 50 percent of its language is Korean and subtitled, despite the filmmaker being American Lee Isaac Chung.

And, you'll be able to see "Minari" as part of the Portland International Film Festival, which will be held at Zidell Yards at South Waterfont, and online March 5-14.

"It's one of my favorite films of the year," said Dotson, Northwest Film Center director and Portland Art Museum curator of film and new media. "It will be up for an Oscar in a lot of categories. It's just terrific."

The story: A Korean American family moves to Arkansas in search of its own American dream and faces challenges of living in the Ozarks with resilience. "By the end, it just blossoms, you're crying and rooting for them," Dotson said. "It speaks to hope and creativity and togetherness, which vibes on for this year's festival."

"Minari" will be part of PIFF 44 Opening Night and Cinema Bound Drive-In Friday, March 5, meaning it'll be shown at Zidell Yards. Opening night also includes online screenings of audio-visual special event "Spectral Transmissions: Ghosts of Futures Past" — a multimedia event in the style of a 1930s-40s radio show — and short films "The Shepherdness and the Seven Songs," "Enter Tu Y Milagros," "I Like Tomorrow" and "See Me."

Movies come from the Pacific Northwest, Canada, Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East; there'll be 93 features and short films from 34 countries. Dotson said the festival builds on the emphasis of its Cinema Unbound program, which celebrates artists and leaders trying new things and thinking bigger.

There'll be 10 nights of Cinema Unbound Drive-In movies at Zidell Yards, with the likes of "Dune," "Matrix," "Sorry to Bother You" and "Sticky Fingers of Time" — and "Minari," of course. About 120 cars are allowed at Zidell Yards.

Another highlight is the Future/future Competition that spotlights boundary-pushing new cinema from emerging filmmakers. The lineup includes "A Kaddish for Bernie Madoff," co-created by Portland's Alicia Jo Rabins (writer) and Alicia J. Rose (director) with Lara Cuddy as producer. The movie tells the story of Madoff and the financial system that allowed him to function, through the eyes of Rabins, who watches the financial crash from her ninth-floor studio in an abandoned office building on Wall Street. Real-life interviews transform into music videos and ancient spiritual texts become fevered fantasies of synchronized swimming.

"Where There's Smoke" is an immersive cinematic exploration of memory and loss from writer/director Lance Weiler. It's experimental storytelling in which Weiler unravels the mystery and secret of his father.

And there'll be a special Cinema/Care Program guest-programmed by Sundance Film Festival's Gina Duncan, which will examine how independent filmmaking and festivals help sustain a culture of care and community.

Dotson, Duncan and four other people served as curators of PIFF, given the unique circumstance of creating a festival online and at a drive-in theater. "We've built on and moved forward" from last year, when PIFF had to be cut short because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dotson said.

A day before the festival begins, there'll be the Cinema Unbound Awards, Thursday, March 4, presented to Steve McQueen (not the late American actor, but an Academy Awards-winning British filmmaker), Garrett Bradley, Gus Van Sant, Mollye Asher and Alex Bulkley. It's free to attend virtually at www.cinemaunbound.org/awards.

For tickets and more information, see www.cinemaunbound.org.


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