Klamath Independent Film Festival: Movies Migrating to the Basin
It’s not too late to say you remember KIFF back in the early years, before it got all Sundance-y. Klamath Film Makers Group and Festival Coordinator Jesse Widener sets the scene:
RVM: KIFF’s 5th anniversary. Did the Klamath Film Makers Group believe that the festival would reach this milestone?
Jesse Widener: I’m not sure what we believed. We sort of started out on a lark, in a “can-we-do-this?” sort of way. Five years of an independent film festival in Klamath Falls exceeds most people expectations though.
RVM: How has the festival changed?
JW: We have evolved from a single, 1+ hour program of about a dozen short films from Klamath filmmakers, to our current 2 1/2 day program of almost 50 total shorts and features, half from Southern Oregon filmmakers and locations, the other half being statewide, in two theaters, with an opening night dinner/gala, filmmaker panels, and the Oregon (maybe West Coast) premiere of a film produced by Oscar-nominated Morgan Spurlock. The expansion to include Oregon statewide films/filmmakers is our most significant change.
RVM: Will the broader field for entries compromise KIFF’s ability to highlight Southern Oregon and Klamath Falls filmmakers?
JW: We don’t think so. The programming has separate categories for local/regional shorts and features, versus statewide shorts and features, which keeps one from overwhelming the other. We feel KIFF offers statewide filmmakers an opportunity to show films which don’t fit other festivals and in turn helps local/regional filmmakers make connections outside our region and reach a wider audience.
RVM: The festival’s tag line is: “SHORTS AND FEATURES selected by REAL PEOPLE for REAL AUDIENCES to enjoy.” Why?
JW: Our films are selected by a multi-person jury which includes filmmakers, but it also includes people who have no filmmaking experience. The program they select together is better attuned to a more varied audience, and gives filmmakers an opportunity to show films they put their love into and which don’t necessarily fit the theme/purpose/aesthetic of other festivals.
RVM: Some weighty subjects on the schedule: No Man’s Land especially, but also Refuge, Pilgrim’s Progress, Concrete Canvas.
JW: I think this is our best program yet: an example of a truly rounded and inclusive program. No Man’s Land (is) an especially passionate topic from many sides… but we also have films which skew more toward pure entertainment, laughs, etc…
I am really curious to see the turnout and response No Man’s Land. The circumstances of that situation were such a mess from many sides, and it isn’t necessarily a two-sided issue, or a clear cut outcome. Given the wide socio-political spectrum here in Southern Oregon, not just on the left and right, but the “State of Jefferson” independence, it could be a really hot button film.
RVM: Any debuts or films which show particular promise from a new or young filmmaker?
JW: I think No Man’s Land may actually be David Byars’ directorial debut, and Shut Up Anthony, a smart, indy comedy from Portland, is Kyle Eaton’s feature film debut. While David West has been making short films for a long time, The Pilgrim’s Progress is his feature debut as well.
RVM: Where do you see the festival in 2022?
JW: While we could always change our mind in five years, I think we feel this format of local/regional/state is where we want to be. To my understanding, we receive more Southern Oregon local/regional submissions than any other festival, and I don’t think we’ve hit the saturation point on that yet. We look forward to drawing out more filmmakers, and encouraging more filmmaking, which will ultimately result in a greater breadth and quality of films for us to show. We really want to represent the region and the state well and be known as the festival to really sample that flavor.
Klamath Independent Film Festival
September 15 – 17
See full schedule at details at klamathfilm.org