Film Reviews

Here You Go: 6 Movies from Local Sightings Film Festival, Reviewed

Five documentaries—and one long-lost local classic—are coming to Northwest Film Forum.

By Stefan Milne September 19, 2019

Patrinelle Wright in Patrinell: The Total Experience

Image: Courtesy NWFF

Northwest Film Forum's Local Sightings Film Festival runs from Friday, September 20 to Sunday, September 29 and, as usual, brings a slew of Pacific Northwest films to town. To help guide you through the lineup, here are reviews of six, Seattle-centric features running over the next week. (All showings are at Northwest Film Forum, and general admission is $13 per person or $150 for a festival pass.)

Where the House Was
After twenty years in its titular home, Capitol Hill writing center Hugo House got razed in 2016. (It’s since been folded into some condos in the same spot.) This documentary, written and narrated by Hugo House’s founding director Frances McCue, serves as both an ode to that ruinous old Victorian building and to the culture it fomented. Instead of structuring the movie as a typical narrative, or even a sort of explication, McCue (a poet herself) and director Ryan K. Adams take the lyrical route. If you’re down with some drifting—a long digression about poet Richard Hugo himself, a look at gentrification, interviews with those held in the house’s orbit—you’ll find a warm little doc of multifaceted meaning. It’s probably worth a watch purely for a scene at the old house’s last reading: Some pipes start leaking, a light fixture falls from the ceiling, and fiction writer Rebecca Brown—her reading interrupted—launches into wry running commentary. Sept 21, 7:30pm; Sept 23, 8:30pm

My Mother Was Here
If Where the House Was investigates a real estate erasure, My Mother Was Here, another local documentary, explores a personal one. The film's success or failure with individual viewers rests firmly on how willing they are to engage its premise. Director Rustin Thompson goes to his pack rat mother’s home in Puyallup, interviews her about her simple life (a school bus driver), cleans the house out (over three huge dumpsters of trash), and moves her into assisted living. It’s both a clear, poignant character study, and it feels very much like an hour and fifteen minutes with an ailing grandparent. Sept 21, 3pm

Patrinell: The Total Experience
Set to a soul-stirring soundtrack, accompanied by personal photos and vintage home videos, this documentary tells the story of Seattle’s First Lady of Gospel, Patrinell Wright. She turned her Total Experience Gospel Choir into a city institution with both an iron fist and amazing grace. But under the surface lies a somber tale: Gentrification has decimated the black population in the Central District to well under 20 percent. That neighborhood was once Seattle’s epicenter of black arts and culture, and the choir flourished and crumbled with it; after 45 years, Total Experience has disbanded. Directors Andrew Elizaga and Tia Young have created an aching memorial for those who remember the old Central District and, for everyone else, a time capsule worth opening. Sept 24, 7:30pm  —Gennette Cordova 

In Her Hands: Key Changes in Jazz
Driving this documentary is a question: Why are there so few women in jazz? The answers likely won’t surprise—boys’ club environments, lack of role models for girls—but the problem’s pervasiveness may. Though centered on The Whole World in Her Hands tour, a traveling all-female jazz band, the film explores various industry inequities. Why, for instance, wouldn’t Jazz at Lincoln Center hold blind auditions for its band? The film’s main drawback is that in showing the problem’s scope, and the various people fighting for a solution, it misses a single story’s depth. Sept 25, 8:30pm

The Long Haul: The Story of the Buckaroos
Started in 2014 at Pike Place Market’s Can Can Culinary Cabaret, the Buckaroos were an all-male burlesque revue who toyed with most of male stripping’s tropes. They had an ironic Western theme, created an onstage slip 'n slide, wore rubber duckies as underwear, and—instead of just muscle-bound bros—welcomed all body types. This slight, endearing documentary from local director Amy J. Enser goes behind the scenes, looking at what brought the dancers to the troupe and what it meant to them (a form of community, a form of therapy). It’s light on drama—and insights arrive small and workaday—but if a behind-the-scenes look at inclusive burlesque interests you, The Long Haul delivers the goods and (yes, okay) the packages. Sept 27, 9:45pm

As the Earth Turns
In 1938, a 20-year-old Seattleite named Richard Lyford made an oddball sci-fi film called As the Earth Turns, in which a young reporter who wants a meaty story ends up finding one in the form of an anti-war activist named PAX. The movie has been unavailable since it was made, but now Northwest Film Forum is showing a newly restored print. If you’re a local film geek or historian, As the Earth Turns is essential viewing. In a city whose film identity is largely wrapped up in small DIY passion projects, the movie is an early little indie—black and white, silent, with goofy little models standing in for trains and planes—made only the year before big budget technicolor blowouts like Gone with the Wind and The Wizard of Oz. Sept 29, 2pm

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