This weekend the Eastern Oregon Film Festival enters its eighth year of bringing quality indie films to audiences in La Grande.
While the festival plays on and around Adams Avenue, people come from all over eastern Oregon (and Idaho) to hang out and enjoy. Known in industry circles as one of the coolest festivals in the world, it's a mix of solid curation and great community. Ian Clark's programming and Christopher Jennings' steering hand have made it the kind of place audiences come back to again and again.
1 | The Films
This year’s documentary offerings include "The Force," a gripping take on the Oakland Police Department’s struggle to address civil rights issues as the #BlackLivesMatter movement unfolds in the streets. The New York Times called the film "blunt and sobering."
We’re also looking forward to a beautiful doc "The Pearl," featuring four trans women in rural Pacific Northwest towns coming to grips with midlife identity issues. Variety Magazine called it “an Annie Proulx story cycle come to life.”
Feature offerings include a gorgeous sci-fi film made on a shoestring, “Everything Beautiful is Far Away.” The story of a girl a guy, and a robot head adrift in the desert, it took the cinematography prize at the LA Film Festival.
And we’re looking forward to Portland-based Puppet Core’s horror flick, “Frank and Zed” The Muppets it’s not! But Puppet Core’s craft and ingenuity might win over even the squeamish.
2 | The Guests
Emmy-nominated writer Jon Raymond offers a workshop at this year's fest. He's created beautiful, measured scripts for four Kelly Reichardt films — including "Old Joy" and "Wendy and Lucy" — and collaborated with Todd Haynes for HBO's adaptation of "Mildred Pierce." In prose, he's published the novels "Freeboard," "Rain Dragon" and "The Half-Life," plus a stack of interesting essays and critical reviews for Tim House, Plazm and other publications. Raymond told OPB's "Think Out Loud" earlier this year there are elements of the writing process that appeal to his inner adolescent. But his scripts have a stylish precision and simplicity that's anything but juvenile.
3 | The Vibe
EOFF doesn't stop when the screens go dark. Each year programmers pack an evening schedule with several regional bands of interest, like Luz Elena Mendoza and James Dean Kindle and the Eastern Oregon Playboys. This year's lineup includes the fun-loving Seattle-based electro-pop duo Sisters (their latest record released on Portland's Tender Loving Empire Records) and a visit from Astoria's Holiday Friends (see their recent opbmusic session here).
Filmmakers also rave about the festival's hospitality. Organizers pull out the stops to make guests feel at home, with taco feasts, late-night after-parties and local lodgings with residents, when needed. (Of course, La Grande's newest boutique hotel, The Landing, is now open.) Add La Grande's eye-popping natural beauty, and it's an easy yes for the weekend.