Film festival celebrates cinematic legends

— Created May 19, 2021 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed

 It’s not too late to see some film legends – the focus of this year’s Whidbey Island Film Festival, now underway at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts in Langley.

The four-day festival aims to celebrate Hollywood icons in the roles which defined their careers, say organizers. The celebration this includes film screenings, lectures, guest speakers and special events, which get underway tonight (Thursday). The Red Carpet Experience opening gala begins at 6 p.m. and will feature a specially named cocktail, The Bumpy Night, which precedes the screening of “All About Eve,” starring Bette Davis and Anne Baxter.

Other films in the lineup include “Casablanca” on Friday, a Saturday matinee screening of “A Quiet Man,” “Citizen Kane” Saturday evening and “The Philadelphia Story” winds up this year’s film festival Sunday afternoon. (Find the entire schedule online at

“I chose some of the most iconic stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood and then chose their career-defining roles,” said WICA Executive Director Verna Everitt, who is the film festival’s co-producer. “As it happens to turn out, their films are some of the most famous movies Hollywood has produced. Citizen Kane, for instance, finds itself time and time again in the number one spot on many critics’ best films lists. When we find ourselves still quoting lines from Casablanca, which was made nearly 80 years ago, we are safe to assume it’s a classic.”

These legendary films are classics because of their stars, yes, but many of those who worked behind the scenes are also responsible for their enduring success, said Everitt.

“In addition to featuring legendary actors, these films were also directed by the top studio talent of their day,” she said. “John Ford, for example, directed The Quiet Man. All together he made 12 films with John Wayne. Joseph Mankiewicz (All About Eve); George Cukor was hand-picked by Katherine Hepburn for The Philadelphia Story; Michael Curtiz’s 100-plus film career included Casablanca; and Orson Welles all deserve to be called legends just as the stars they directed (even when they directed themselves as Welles did in Citizen Kane). Great actors, visionary directors, and unforgettable stories are the ingredients for Legends.”

According to film fest organizers, planning for this year’s festival has meant anticipating where the state and county would be at in terms of the COVID pandemic.

“Our last festival (The Master of Suspense, Jan. 2020) was more compact,” explained Jason Dittmer, associate producer of WIFF. “We screened ShortsFest films and seven features, had two Film Talks, and hosted parties and Brown Bag Lunches over the course of three days. This year, we anticipated that filmgoers were going to want more time to re-connect and socialize with friends. So, we added a day and expanded the time between each screening in order for guests to have more leisurely meals and gatherings before or after films.”

Guests are encouraged to arrive early and enjoy a gourmet popcorn bar, stock up on movie treats and taste cocktails inspired by these legends. For example, those interested can try a Gin Joint cocktail during the pre-screening party at Rick’s Café Friday before “Casablanca,” or taste The Socialite cocktail at the closing reception following “The Philadelphia Story” Sunday.

Those interested in attending WIFF should act quickly to purchase tickets. Organizers say due to limited capacity, and physical distancing protocols, filmgoers will be assigned seats according to their pass or ticket status and the size of their party. Festival organizers strongly urge patrons purchase passes and tickets online, or over the phone, rather than at the door.

Premium passes are sold out and a limited number of full series passes remain. Pass holders get reserved full series row seating; priority seating ahead of individual ticket holders; and admission to all five screenings and Film Talks. The Full Series Pass is $135. Individual film tickets are $20 and Film Talks tickets are $15.

Film Talks this year include “Reframing the Classics,” presented by Todd Rendleman, director of film studies at Seattle Pacific University. This talk will be held Saturday at 1 p.m.

“We have just added a second Film Talks with guest panelists Amy Lillard, Washington Filmworks; Beth Barrett and Dan Doody, Seattle International Film Festival; and two filmmakers currently shooting a feature on Whidbey Island,” Dittmer said. “They will be discussing how world events shaped storytelling during the Golden Age of Hollywood, and how the current pandemic is changing how and who is making films today.”

While the past year (and then some) has been a difficult one, WIFF organizers say it feels good to begin to see some normalcy emerging at last.

“We were able to offer programming in spite of pandemic-related restrictions three different times over the course of the past year,” said Deana Duncan, WICA’s artistic director and WIFF co-producer. “When we closed our doors in March 2020,  we created 98260, a digital series designed to entertain, inform, and stay connected with our audiences. Then, for the first time in our history, we presented the outdoor Summer Nights Series for three glorious weeks under our new tent. When audiences were permitted to return to movie theatres, we launched WICA Goes to the Movie and introduced our newest collaborations with National Theatre Live (UK) and Broadway HD (USA).

“But nothing compares to this feeling of finally resuming Whidbey Island Film Festival, live theatre and concerts, and in-person lectures,” Duncan continued. “The response has been heartwarming. Our audiences, volunteers, and artists are excited and thankful to have a safe space to gather together again. We are looking forward to welcoming even more people back to the center in the very near future.”

To purchase tickets, view the film schedule and find out about all the festival events, visit