PORT ORCHARD — The countdown has begun for the start of the third annual Port Orchard Film Festival one week from now on the weekend of May 3-5 at Dragonfly Cinema on Bay Street.
The film festival has journeyed past its toddler years in fine shape, said Amy Camp, the festival’s director. She said a little more than 100 films were submitted to the festival this year for consideration. After the submittals were screened by the festival’s judging committee, Camp said 71 films were selected to be shown over the three-day exhibition period at the Dragonfly.
Even with a selection committee of film aficionados weighing in on their favorites, the festival director said coming to a final decision about the slate of film offerings was a challenging exercise.
“It’s really hard,” Camp confided. “I told my selection committee to write down their absolute favorite first so we could program them into the schedule. I hate to compare, but it was almost like [drafting] a fantasy baseball league.”
While the film festival last year had 83 film submittals making the cut, having 12 fewer on the schedule next weekend was necessitated because of the number of longer features that ultimately were selected.
“If I had more than two theaters here, I would have shown more films,” she said. “We have such a great selection of films this year.”
As with the last two festivals, Camp has filed many of the short films into genre blocks. Experimental films will be shown on Friday night and a block of fantasy films, music videos, comedy and sci-fi productions have been programmed for Saturday. Then on the final day — Sunday — short documentaries and “self-discovery” shorts will be shown in blocks.
“I always try to keep it as broad as possible,” Camp said of the festival’s film selections. “Everybody has different tastes. I want to bring to Port Orchard something that people wouldn’t normally see. Unless you come to our film festival, you won’t be able to see them.”
This year, documentary subjects are the standouts in the film festival lineup. Camp said the short documentaries are particularly strong this year, strengthened by their spread in genres.
One of her favorite documentaries is an hour and a half feature — “Who’s Romeo?” — which will be screened at 11 a.m. on Sunday, May 5. An Italian production, it’s a sensitive observation of students at a local high school in Italy who are studying the classic Shakespeare-penned drama “Romeo and Juliet,” long a staple of literature and drama classes.
The filmmakers follow the students as they not only grapple with the meaning of family conflict as demonstrated by the houses of the Montagues and the Capulets but they look on as the teachers ask the students to rewrite Shakespeare’s words from the viewpoint of teenagers — one Christian, the other Muslim.
“They asked the kids how they would feel dating someone of another religion, then had the parents come in,” Camp said. “They asked the parents how they would feel if their child was dating a Muslim.
“It’s a beautiful documentary and very well shot. How many times have kids read that book and it’s gone right over their heads? They really got the kids to put themselves in someone else’s shoes.”
There are other notable documentaries at the film festival this year, she said. One provocative film, “A Soldier’s Dream,” to be shown at 11 a.m. on Saturday, May 4, is a heartfelt look back by an elderly man of his time in World War II as a prisoner of war housed in the same POW camp as legendary author and satirist Kurt Vonnegut — who would later write the best-selling anti-war novel “Slaughterhouse-Five.”
Camp said the film alternates between the man’s life today and his eventful wartime years. “That [film] was heartbreaking and you wanted to give him a hug,” she said. “He was such a sweetheart.”
Also recommended in the documentary realm: “Witch Hunt,” which follows at 12:15 p.m. on May 4. This 47-minute short is a wistful, yet beautiful film documenting life in a New Guinea village where people still believe in the power of witchcraft and sorcery.
“When bad things happen to their village, they actually look for a witch and interrogate people to find one,” Camp said of the production by a filmmaker from The Netherlands.
The film “Wind and Water Balloons,” submitted by a filmmaker from Alabama, shares the story of a southern town that, until recently, joined forces each Halloween to put on the mother of all water balloon fights. It was an effort not to be missed, where town organizers enlisted help from the police and fire departments to put it on.
At 6 p.m. on Friday, May 3, local attendees will enjoy a short documentary about the recent Space Needle refurbishment as seen from the heights scaled by a drone. Then, as part of the short documentary block shown at 12:45 p.m. on Sunday, May 5, an 8-minute animated effort titled the “Infamous Kitsap Ferry Riot” by a Bremerton filmmaker, should grab some regional interest.
Three-day passes to the film festival are $50. A Saturday pass is $30; single-day passes for Sunday are $15. Saturday passes are $10. Tickets for individual film blocks and feature-length movies can be purchased for $8 each.
Tickets can be purchased at the Dragonfly Cinema or through the film festival’s website: www.portorchardfilmfest.com.