Feast your eyes

Dim the lights, grab the popcorn, and prepare to be entertained, inspired and enlightened because the Friday Harbor Film Festival is gearing up for their fourth annual event.

“What’s new this year? All new films,” laughed Karen Palmer, Film Festival producer.

The film-filled weekend begins Friday, Nov. 4, and runs through Sunday, Nov. 6.. For a detailed schedule, visit fhff.org, or visit their office at 10 First Street. Tickets are on sale now, either through the San Juan Community Theatre box office or at the Film Festival office. An all-access wristband, which includes the opening gala, is $135. Tickets for a single film are $12. Five films are $50, or $10 per movie, and 15 films are $120, or $8 per movie. The gala is $45, and includes food and drinks.

“This year we combined the Andrew V. McLaglen Lifetime Achievement Award (going to Richard Chew) presentation with the Gala,” said Lynn Danaher, Film Festival director, “and we are turning Saturday evening into a party, including music from the local band the J-Bots.”

Films with a purpose:

Danaher and Palmer have worked for the past four years to bring quality films to Friday Harbor. In the festival’s office, Danaher points to a portrait of Mahatma Gandhi, and his infamous quote, “Be the change you want to see.”

“That really is our mission. We want to affect the world in some positive way,” Danaher said.

And she believes they have been successful. Due to documentaries shown at the festival, according to Danaher, islanders have gone out and made changes in their lives. For example, she said, there are more beekeepers in the county now because of a film on bees shown at the festival years ago.

“This isn’t just a film festival it is a film festival with a purpose, with clear intentions,” Danaher said.

The film festival’s movie criteria begins with the genre. It must be a documentary or doc-drama. Next they look for compelling stories with a message of hope that contain a call to action.

“There needs to be a message of hope,” Danaher said. One year they made a mistake and showed a movie that was very well done, but did not have a message of hope. When Danaher looked at the audience as they left the venue, they appeared depressed and dejected.

Local Hero Bruce Barr:

Honoring those who inspire, the festival annually presents a Local Hero award to a current or former resident who has made outstanding contributions to islanders’ quality of life, impacting people, animals, arts, health or the environment.

This years’ Hero Award goes to Bruce Barr, co-founder of KAVU (Klear Above, Visibility Unlimited); a world renowned outdoor clothing company. Barr’s son Barry, who graduated from Friday Harbor High School in the late 80s, is the other co-founder.

Barry Barr remembers his father waking him up early in the morning saying “It’s a KAVU day, we have to get outside and make the most of it.”

Barr’s “make the most of every moment” philosophy is reflected in how his company is run.

The award will be presented to Barr on Nov. 5, 7 p.m. at the San Juan Community Theatre.

The filmmakers:

Keep an eye out for other local presence at the festival as well. Fiona Small, a recent Spring Street International School graduate, is one such local filmmakers. Small’s film, “It was like the Wind was Thrown’ Stars at Us” based on her experiences with the San Juan Community Theatre. It is one of the first movies shown on Nov. 4. “Taming Wild,” directed by local horse woman Elsa Sinclair, and “Lime Kiln Point State Park and the Killer Whales,” directed by islander Tom Hoyt, are a couple of other films by residents.

Danaher and Palmer have also worked hard to bring more filmmaker participation, whether they be local or not.

“What I realized last year was that we had all these complex films, and no experts to answer any questions,” Danaher said. This year she is excited to bring actor, producer, author, astronaut, and rocket scientist Pete Freeland to the showings of “Last Man on the Moon”.

Freeland will be taking questions from the audience after the film. “He’s really a renaissance man” Palmer said, adding that his knowledge and experience will be very enlightening for film -goers.

Many other experts and filmmakers will be attending, and available for questions. Look for the Q&A after the name of the film in the festival schedule for more details.

For the youth:

Nov. 5 and Nov. 6 the “Young Filmmakers Project” will be featured. Four films created by local students will be aired, along with “Screenagers,” a documentary about how social media is affecting teens.

Last spring, the festival worked with both the Spring Street International School and Friday Harbor High School on a project for students to direct their own films. Four of those films were entered in the festival. These short films will be shown during the “Young Filmmakers Project,” and of those, one will receive a $500 scholarship.

“A few years ago, one student submitted a film he directed for his college essay,” Danaher said, stressing the importance of engaging students “He received a full ride scholarship to college.”

In the interest of encouraging youth participation, retired school counselor Suzy Wakefield has been providing free wristbands to San Juan County students so they may attend the entire festival.

“Last year there were only about 100 students,”Danaher said, “this year we hope to get 500.”

Looking forward, the festivals lodging-tax funds may be expiring next year. If that money is not available, Danaher and Palmer said, it will impact their budget. Should that happen, they will try many other avenues before raising ticket prices.

“We want everyone to be able to go,” Danaher said, “we don’t want to turn anyone away because of money.”

Visit fhff.org or visit the Friday Harbor Film Festival’s office for info.