Never been to the Olympia Film Fest? You’re missing the 16th coolest fest of its kind

The curtain rises on the 35th Annual Olympia Film Festival

In a Nov. 7th interview Olympia Film Society’s Marketing Director Jonah Barrett previews the upcoming 35th Annual Olympia Film Festival.
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In a Nov. 7th interview Olympia Film Society’s Marketing Director Jonah Barrett previews the upcoming 35th Annual Olympia Film Festival.

The organizers of the Olympia Film Festival — ranked No. 16 on MovieMaker Magazine’s list of 25 coolest film festivals — are gung-ho about guests.

More than 40 can be found in the program for the 35th annual festival, which gets rolling at 8 p.m. Friday with “The Last Days of Disco,” Whit Stillman’s 1998 character-driven romance set against the backdrop of the 1980s club scene. The Academy Award nominee, the closest thing to a household name in this year’s festival, will answer questions after the screening.

The Olympia Film Festival will celebrate the 20th anniversary of “The Last Days of Disco” with an appearance by filmmaker Whit Stillman. Courtesy photo

“He’s a really talented and sometimes overlooked filmmaker,” Rob Patrick, Olympia Film Society program director, told The Olympian. “He’s known for his use of language, and his humor is very atypical.

“It’s the 20th anniversary of ‘The Last Days of Disco,’ and it’s a film that has been celebrated over the years for its use of language and its music and style,” he added. “We’re introducing a great film to lots of people and giving others a chance to revisit and re-explore the film.”

Festival-goers will have a chance to revisit more work by the Harvard-educated writer/director, who gets a retrospective and a grilling during the festival’s opening weekend. He’ll answer more questions after screenings of 1990’s “Metropolitan” (6:30 p.m. Nov. 10), his debut and a nominee for Best Original Screenplay, and 2011’s “Damsels in Distress” (7:30 p.m. Nov. 11), starring Greta Gerwig, much celebrated for her work in 2017’s “Ladybird.”

Other guests include not only filmmakers but also critics, academics and media types, many of them local.

Bringing more voices into the festival was a key goal, in keeping with this year’s slogan “Inclusion Independence Discovery.”

“The more conversation, the better,” Patrick said. “Listening is our greatest weapon against many things in our society.”

The MovieMaker list, compiled by a half-dozen industry panelists, highlighted festivals with social consciousness and a commitment to openness to different perspectives.

One thing that stood out in Olympia, according to the magazine: “The audiences are real movie lovers.”

The magazine also referenced the fact that last year, director Gillian Wallace Horvat presented her own short films along with a feature that inspired her.

This year, podcaster Avery Trufelman (of “99% Invisible”) and journalist/critic Violet Lucca got the same opportunities: Trufelman will introduce “Absolute Beginners” (1 p.m. Nov. 10), a 1986 musical starring the late David Bowie, and Lucca will introduce the 1983 documentary “The Black and the Green” (2:30 p.m. Nov. 11), about a meeting between African-American activists and their Irish Liberation counterparts.

As in years past, the festival throws in a wild-card live event that doesn’t have much to do with movies. This year, it’s a comedy benefit for SideWalk, a nonprofit working to end homelessness in Thurston County. Sam Miller headlines the show (8 p.m. Nov. 15).

Other highlights include:

“Virus Tropical” (6:30 p.m. Nov. 14), a much-acclaimed 2017 Colombian animated coming-of-age story based on a graphic novel.

“Matangi/Maya/M.I.A.” (9 p.m. Nov. 16), a 2018 documentary about the controversial pop star and activist who’s been outspoken about the genocide happening in her home country of Sri Lanka. The film received a special jury award at Sundance.

“Boom: A Film About The Sonics” (8:30 p.m. Nov. 17, followed by Q&A with director Jordan Albertsen), a 2018 documentary exploring how the Pacific Northwest band became a worldwide phenomenon.

Olympia Film Festival