In a return to normalcy, a small crowd gathered at the North Bend Theatre to watch “Swan Song,” the opening night film of this year’s North Bend Film Festival.
“We’re together, in-person, watching a movie,” senior film programmer Joseph Hernandez said prior to the screening. “My heart is full.”
The North Bend Film Festival returned, mostly in-person, for its fourth year this past weekend, after going completely virtual in 2020. The four-day festival showcased 16 featured films, from eight different countries, in addition to eight short films and several immersive events.
All films were presented in a hybrid format, with viewing available both in-person and online throughout the festival’s four-day run.
“What we felt like was lost most last year was the physical connection to North Bend,” said Jess Byers, one of the founders of the festival. “This year we tried to focus on the idea that this festival is meant to bring films to town.”
The festival celebrates vanguard film making, a style that promotes experimentation or boundary pushing ideas in either style or subject.
“We’re bringing films that premiered at Sundance or the Portland Film Fest to North Bend that focused on pushing the boundaries of cinema,” Byers said. “We had an idea that we would love to do a film festival that tries to promote different ideas or artists, whether they’re BIPOC or queer or whatnot, and try to bring them to a community that might not have access to that.”
Byers said early on in the development process for this year’s festival, the group focused on developing a program that could be available online and in-person, depending on what happened with the pandemic.
“When we were developing, we had no idea we would be in-person,” he said.
In January, the festival was scheduled to be just five films, as the festival was expecting to navigate logistical hurdles, including the possibility of multiple hours of turnaround for cleaning between film screenings.
By May, the team began expanding the festival, doubling the amount of films playing and moving some of the interactive elements, including a storytelling hour, to in-person events.
“I would say this is a transition year for us. The entire arts community has been harmed by COVID, so it feels really good to be back in the theater and to have a full slate of films and filmmakers,” Byers said. “Although it’s maybe not as large as it was a few years ago, we’re really excited to be back.”