Three days. Four venues. Twenty-five films.
And that’s just for starters.
Add into the mix an interactive question and answer forum with presenting filmmakers, a cinematic program designed especially for kids, an opening reception with a piano performance by acclaimed composer Morten Lauridsen, himself a documentary subject and a onetime Waldronite, and a closing night celebration where the most popular film of the bunch will receive the event’s coveted “Audience Choice” award, with the winning documentary re-aired, and where longtime killer whale researcher and advocate, San Juan Island’s own Ken Balcomb, director of the Center for Whale Research, will also be honored as the event’s “Local Hero”.
Did we mention that three of the documentaries are all about orca whales, including “Keiko—The Untold Story of the Star of Free Willy.”
So, what is this event? It’s none other than the Friday Harbor Film Festival, and it’s the first of its kind hosted by San Juan Island. Sort of like Sundance or Telluride, but with this one happening in the heart of the Salish Sea.
If you haven’t heard about it, or know much about the details, you’re probably not alone. In fact, according to Lynn Danaher of Pacific Islands Research Institute, the festival’s chief sponsor, the most difficult part of getting a first-time event off the ground, even a film festival, is raising awareness about it. Starting from scratch can be that way.
“The biggest hurdle?” she asks. “In a word, publicity. The biggest obstacle is getting the word out and getting people to know what a big deal this is. Getting the films is the easy part. Documentary makers don’t get the notoriety the Hollywood types do so they’re excited to be able to show their films.”
By design, the festival’s 25 films each tell a story in its own way about life in the Pacific Rim, of tales close to the heart, of explorers and adventurers, and of current events and issues that could have a pivotal effect on the future and the lives around the Pacific Ocean.
And several hit close to home. Like “Honor & Sacrifice”, a winner at this year’s Port Townsend Film Festival, which traces the story of San Juan Island’s Roy Matsumoto, who spent the start of WWII in a Japanese-American internment camp only to become one of the military’s most highly decorated soldiers because of his heroic exploits in the Pacific Theater. The running time of the bio-documentary of Matsumoto, who this year celebrated his 100th birthday, is only 28 minutes.
There’s also “The Whale,” which tells the familiar and sad story of Luna, the wayward Southern resident killer whale that became separated from its family, turned up in Nootka Sound, and became a poster child for the tug-of-war between federal and First Nations governments before meeting a tragic end.
Find a complete list of films, summaries, show times and ticket prices online at Friday Harbor Film Festival: www.fhff.org/
The three-day festival Oct. 11-13, kicks off with an opening reception for producers, directors, sponsors and “Captain” ticket holders, and culminates Sunday with a “wrap-up party” Films will be shown at San Juan Community Theatre’s Whittier and Gubelman theaters, Friday Harbor House and the Grange.
Festival-goers can select from four separate ticket levels: Crew Pass - single show, Deckhand – day pass; Fisherman – entrance to all films and Sunday wrap-up party; Captain – sponsorship level includes entrance to all films, opening festivities and wrap-up party.