Love the film festival experience but looking for something stranger? Look no further than the North Bend Film Festival, the newly launched genre fest that took over the small town of North Bend, Washington at the end of August for a weekend of bold film programming, immersive VR, and a celebration the Lynchian bizarre in the very spot where the Twin Peaks exteriors were filmed.
That’s right! Outside of local Washington circles, North Bend’s claim to fame is the proud home of Twin Peaks locations, including the RR Diner — or Twede’s Cafe as it’s actually called — where you can drop in for some pie or damn fine coffee (not to mention proper greasy diner food). In fact, you’ll find pie references and Log Lady memorabilia all over North Bend, where the locals seem to embrace the Twin Peaks fame with a smile and an ever-brewing pot of coffee.
For the David Lynch diehards in the crowd, the Festival offered a Twin Peaks tour to festival goers and a round of experimental shorts inspired by the filmmaker called The Extra Ordinary, which were programmed with an attempt to capture the essence of the so-called “Lynchian” experience. But there’s a whole lot more to NBFF than the Twin Peaks ties, including some of the strongest programming you’ll find at a festival this year. I served on the festival jury this year, which means I got to watch a wide breadth of of the titles in competition and each one brought a bold, unique vision to the table without a single outright bomb in the bunch.
Organized by the same folks behind the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival but with a decidedly more avant-garde slant, NBFF opened with Profile, the latest thriller to embrace the so-called “Screenlife” storytelling format, which follows an entire film from the perspective of laptop and device screens. Directed by Timur Bekmambetov, Profile takes a cue from real-life terrors and follows a British journalist attempting to infiltrate the ranks of ISIS recruiters online. At the opposite end of the genre spectrum, NBFF closed with Anna and the Apocalypse, the festival hit horror musical that merges Christmas spirit, high school musicals, and the zombie apocalypse into a delightful, toe-tapping, and gruesome crowd-pleaser.
In between, the lineup represented a free and fearless exploration of genre and format. The Cinema Vista Best Film winner My Name Is Myeisha is a stunning and heartbreaking hip hop musical/spoken word film inspired by the real-life shooting of Tyisha Miller. A bold embrace of unconventional storytelling featuring a breakout performance from Rhaechyl Walker as Myeisha, the film stands out as one of the festival’s best and most unforgettable experiences. Other highlights include Nicolas Pesce’s stylish. sexy throwback thriller Piercing, Mitzi Peroine’s hypnotic and hallucinogenic mindfuck Braid. and the festival’s centerpiece film, Audience Award and Special Jury Prize winner Shirkers; Sandi Tan’s charming documentary about the film she made with her friends as a teenager in Singapore and the incredible story of its theft and recovery.
If you were looking for even more experimental forms of storytelling, NBFF also offered a VR station at the local train depot, where attendees could drop in for a seat around a cozy faux fire pit and checkout a lineup of innovative VR programming. There were some more traditional narrative-focused VR offerings like Dinner Party, an unnerving mini-tale of domestic disturbance that offers a first-person experience of not one, but two extraterrestrial encounters. There were also interactive experiences like the Best Out of Body Experience winner The Museum of Symmetry, an animated experience that integrated elements of gameplay in a rainbow-colored journey through time and space.
And if you were looking for interaction, you couldn’t get better than The Annabelle Experience a two-part immersive experience that began in the train station with a VR three-card tarot reading (Annabellee herself was on the line with you, doing a live-reading on the other end of the digital avatar). And for the lucky folks who were chosen, the journey to a remote cabin in the woods where she helped you concoct a potion and get in touch with your truth.
Whether you’re looking for a spiritual experience, a Twin Peaks moment, a hike through the gorgeous woods of Washington, or just some damn fine movies, the North Bend Film Festival had something on the agenda in its inaugural . year. It’s an intimate, experimental genre festival well worth making the trek for.
For more on the North Bend Film Festival, be sure to check out the official website and see the full lineup of festival award winners below.
North Bend Film Festival 2018 Awards:
Best Film – My Name Is Myeisha
Special Jury Award – Shirkers
Best Film – Time Share
Special Jury Award – Piercing
Cinema Vista – Bailaora
Something Strange – Circle
Special Jury Award – BFF Girls
Best Immersive Storytelling – Meeting A Monster
Best Out of Body Experience – Museum of Symmetry