Film festival celebrates the revolutionary ’60s

— Created January 12, 2022 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed

The fourth annual Whidbey Island Film Festival (WIFF) is truly something revolutionary – well, at least its selection of featured films were revolutionary in one way or another.

The festival – titled “You Say You Want a Revolution” – gets underway tonight at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts in Langley, and over the course of the next two weeks will feature nine of the most iconic movies of the 1960s, lectures by film experts and a ShortsFest featuring the work of local students before closing Sunday, Jan. 23. Festival passes are available and tickets may be purchased for films individually as well. Check for a complete schedule and to buy tickets to any of the featured events.

“Each of the films featured in this year’s festival was revolutionary for the time in its own way – from the films themselves to the stories of how they came to be made,” explained Deana Duncan, acting executive director of WICA and WIFF producer. “Through them, we gain insight into the shifting cultural tide of that time.”

First on the schedule is the opening party at 6 p.m. tonight, at which filmgoers can pay tribute to Sidney Poitier, who died last week. His film, “To Sir, With Love” is the first movie of the festival, starting at 7 p.m.

“I think it’s extraordinary when life and art collide,” said Duncan. “While deeply saddened for the loss of legendary actor Sidney Poitier, we are honored to kick off the festival with an opening night party dedicated to him. We will be raising a champagne toast in his honor and are thrilled to screen ‘To Sir, With Love,’ a classic film about overcoming racism, prejudice, and learning important life lessons. Sidney’s character stays above the ‘fray’ and leads by example. That type of inspiration is why Sidney is such an important actor to learn from.”

The films selected this year run the gamut in terms of genre. From the steamy love affair in “The Graduate,” the racy theme of “Lolita,” the crazy race to stop the end of the world in “Dr. Strangelove,” to the odd future laid out in “Fahrenheit 451,” the slate of films to be presented is packed with star power and strong themes organizers feel sure will please audiences.

“There is something really special about coming together during this time,” said Duncan. “The festival is running two weeks this year and will feel celebratory.  WICA will welcome you with the red carpet, step and repeat wall for photos, our very popular popcorn bar and Zech Hall will be open one hour before every screening for your drinking pleasure! It’s rare to see these classic films on the big screen in full sound. The film talks are strong, the local student films are worth supporting and how exciting for Whidbey Island to have its own film festival!”

There are two guest film talks scheduled, the first on Saturday at 12:30 p.m., featuring Beth Barrett, Artistic Director of Seattle International Film Festival and Amy Lillard, Executive Director of Washington State Filmworks.

“Beth and Amy will be discussing film festivals overall and their importance to Washington State, especially in smaller, rural communities,” Duncan described. “They’ll be speaking to the artistic and economic boom the industry creates and taking questions from our audience.”

Portland author and film critic, Shawn Levy, will be the featured speaker at a virtual film talk Saturday, Jan. 22 at 6 p.m. He will discuss his book “Newman: A Paul Life,” and the making of Newman’s film, “HUD,” which will be screened at 7 p.m.

The annual ShortsFest has moved in a new direction this year as well, according to Duncan.

“We are super excited to be working with South Whidbey School District film instructor Justin Silva, who reached out to us regarding some strong local student documentaries,” she explained. “We sent our ShortsFest curator, Seattle independent filmmaker Zachary Schneider, into the local school district to work with the youth and curate this year’s ShortsFest. This is our first time featuring an entire student-driven event and we’re excited to promote local student films and give them some exposure!”

Awards will be given for best documentary, best director and best cinematography. Winners will have an opportunity for a one-on-one film class on their work.

Another new aspect to WIFF this year is an effort to collaborate with other businesses on Whidbey Island.

“This year WIFF is in collaboration with Whidbey SeaTac Shuttle,” said Duncan. “They took the WIFF poster design and literally wrapped the back of one of their buses. They are also working with the festival to bring people down from the north end of the island for movies. This kind of cross-business partnership helps bring the island together around a piece of programming geared to help bring tourists to the island and offer something fun for our locals.”

“The current wrap promoting the film festival is bold, and a different format than we normally use,” said D’Arcy Morgan, owner of Whidbey SeaTac Shuttle and Charter. “The wrap definitely reminds everyone of movies of the past that we all love. Over the holidays, the wraps caught our customers’ eyes, and people are excited about the upcoming festival.”

Morgan said the shuttle and charter service is no stranger to supporting local festivals and events.

“What excites us is to move people to events such as the film festival, that would not normally be able to attend,” he said. “Or if they wished to attend and enjoy a social beverage without the worry of driving.”

All COVID-19 safety protocols will be followed, said Duncan, which includes masking, proof of vaccination and the theater is operating at half capacity to provide distancing. The theater also boasts a state-of-the-art HVAC system to help provide clean air inside the facility. All these measures are aimed at making audiences feel comfortable and encouraging people to come out and enjoy the festival.

“WIFF is relatively new programming in a community looking at ways to partner and grow relationships between patrons, artists, and businesses,” Duncan said. “Attending WIFF helps fuel local economic and artistic growth. Please consider coming to even just one film to show your support for a Whidbey Island Film Festival.”