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Celebrating Film Globally: Wandering Reel Festival Returns to Barnstormers Theatre

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Artalde. Courtesy of Wandering Reel Film Festival

Back in its third year at Barnstormers Theatre in Grants Pass, the Wandering Reel Festival brings fresh and exciting new films from across the world.

Not only has creator and director of the festival dubbed it a “great year” with exceptional turnouts, Michael Harrington also says, “the reception has been incredible.” Each year’s festival is broken up by multiple different programs of which only a couple are usually shown at each event. For Grants Pass, programs A (You. Me. We.) and B (In Between Us) will be shown Saturday, November 18 and the following Sunday.

“We let the films decide what the themes are each year,” explains Harrington. “We looked at about 150 films this year and picked 22 of our favorite…and then started to sort of––kind of like a puzzle––put them together. Every year there’s a program about different sorts of people coming together in unexpected ways. This year we have two of those, one more so than the other. We had all these great short films about people and the connections between them and sort of the missed connections between them…They’re meant to be seen by the same audience.”

The short film Artalde in Program A is directed by Asier Altuna in Basque, Spain. A confused man with an umbrella hanging by the collar on the back of his shirt wanders on busy streets. As soon as he begins making barking noises, he attracts a faithful audience that follows him through the city. The film is shot primarily in black and white, until the group spots a green grouping of trees. The vibrancy of the film is almost realized until the group runs into an opposing one making different guttural noises. Suddenly they’re barking at each other in their own tones and the groups scatter back and forth, breaking the unity and creating chaos, until finally the man with the umbrella finds himself alone again.

Most of the films are foreign, and the others are found from across the U.S. “Some [filmmakers] find us,” Harrington explains. “We get hundreds of submissions online, and then we also will look at other festivals and what they’ve shown throughout the year and invite those filmmakers to submit directly to us. Then we’ll also reach out to film distributors in other countries.”

Harrington’s emphasis on showing films from other countries is to reveal issues affecting other cultures and how they’re coping with it. “One of the themes…some of our audience members have picked up on this year is humanity. They have a humanity to them that main stream movies haven’t picked up on. I think the reason for that is short filmmakers aren’t beholden to a studio or a financier, then they can really make a movie about the story. What our films touch on are mainstream issues.”

Bende Sira/It’s My Turn, directed by Ismet Ergün from Turkey shows another side of the festival that truly celebrates film. A group of boys congregate together every day to see who gets to go to the movies that day. With a limited amount of money, it can only be one, and it’s up to him to come back and relay the film to the others. The children’s reactions in the theater are genuine––from scared to uncomfortable to laughing hysterically.

“That theme of humanity comes up again because the filmmaker has lived close to whatever they’re exploring,” Harrington says. So far he believes audiences have been getting a “little bit of this idea of just seeing something that’s refreshing” out of the festival, and he hopes the same for Grants Pass.

Check out the full film lineup at wanderingreel.org. Michael Harrington will host a Q&A after both evenings, a part of the festival he says has been one of the best parts of the festival.


Wandering Reel Film Festival

7:30 pm, Saturday, Nov 18 and Sunday, Nov 19

Barnstormers Theatre, 112 NE Evelyn Ave, Grants Pass



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