Contributed photo / Karen Kuehn Elouise Cobell was honored with warrior status after suing the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Department of the Interior.

Friday Harbor Film Festival returns for fifth year

With a new venue added, and three days worth of award-winning films scheduled, the Friday Harbor Film Festival will celebrate their fifth annual event.

“Filmmakers from across the globe will be attending,” said Lynn Danaher, director of the Friday Harbor Film Festival. Tickets are on sale at Punch cards for a single film are $12; for five films, $55; and 10 films, $100. An all-access wristband costs $150. The opening gala begins Nov. 3, from 7 – 10 p.m. at the San Juan Community Theatre. Tickets are $75, refreshments included.

At the gala, the Andrew V. McLaglen Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented, posthumously, to Elouise Cobell, Blackfeet tribal community leader, whose story is told in “100 Years: One Woman’s Fight for Justice.”

After a 15-year battle, Cobell successfully sued the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Department of Interior for mismanagement of funds in the 80s and 90s.

“Mary Johnson, a Navajo grandmother, can’t afford to replace the windows in her small home because she lacks the funds, yet five oil wells have been pumping for decades on her land,” Cobell tells the court in the film. The outcome of that case was the Indian Trust Settlement, with $3.4 billion given to Native Americans across the country, as well as the development of the Cobell scholarship.

Later, she founded Native American Bank, headquartered in Nevada, and President Barack Obama presented her with the Medal of Freedom in 2016. She passed away in 2011, from cancer, and her son Turk Cobell was presented with that award.

The Friday Harbor Film Festival staff explained their choice in the 2017 guide, stating they wanted to “shine a light on the stories and people who make a difference in our world. Because First Nations people in our country are still fighting for their land and rights, it seemed appropriate for us to honor a woman who bravely took on our federal government.”

Members of the Samish Nation will be presenting an invocation ceremony at the gala, and Cobell’s sister, Joy Ketah will accept the award on behalf of the Cobell family.

At 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 2, there will be a special screening of “Angst” at the San Juan Island Community Theatre. This documentary takes an in-depth look at anxiety, especially in teens. Experts and researchers discuss causes and sociological effects, as well as provide tools and resources for relief.

Matt Skerritt, co-director of the film, along with local experts, will be available for a question and answer session after the screening. No tickets are necessary for this event.

The Palace Theatre is a new venue for the event, which Karen Palmer, Friday Harbor Film Festival producer, says is going to be a great asset due to their digital screening abilities.

The 2017 festival includes:

• “Loving Vincent,” directed by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, is the first fully painted film. This documentary used a team of 100 artists, 65,000 frames, and 1,000 canvases to bring the story of the infamous artist, Vincent van Gogh, to life.

• “Crazywise,” directed by Phil Borges and Kevin Tomlinson, examines how indigenous cultures react to mental illness as opposed to western cultures. For an in-depth review read the Journal’s interview with filmmaker Phil Borges, at

• “The Eagle Huntress”, directed by Otto Bell, was the winner of the Cinema Eye Honors Awards 2017 Outstanding Achievement in Production Award. This film tells the story of a 13-year-old girl trained to become the first female eagle hunter in Mongolia.

• “Bluefin,” directed by John Hopkins was last year’s International Ocean Film Festivals Wildlife Award winner. It explores the mystery of Atlantic bluefin tuna that seem to be simultaneously on the brink of extinction and losing any fear of humans.

The Young Filmmakers Project is Sunday, Nov. 5, from 1-4 p.m. at the Friday Harbor House’s San Juan Room. Six young filmmakers submitted shorts this year, including “Pigeonhood” by 16-year-old Partho Gupte from India and “His First Time” by 16-year-old Angel Violet Hawes from Canada. Locals contributed too, including Luke Fincher with “Trash Talk,” Tashi L. Litch with “The Healing Arts” and Leo Miller with “Kui.”

The winner of the project will be awarded a $500 scholarship.

The 2017 Audience Choice Awards will wrap up the festival at the San Juan Community Theatre from 7 to 10 p.m. Dylan D’Haeze will be presented with the Local Hero Award. D’Haeze, a 13-year-old from Orcas Island, directed “Plastic is Forever,” which has already received multiple awards, and is part of a growing series, “How Kids Can Change the Planet.”

Each year the Friday Harbor Film Festival tries to entertain, inspire, enlighten and encourage through the documentaries they show. “Screenagers,” directed by Delaney Ruston, also shown last year, was so well received, according to Danaher, that parents continue to call about it.

“We’ve really tried to take it up a notch for our fifth year,” she said.

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