Portland Center Stage at the Armory Quixote Nuevo Portland Oregon

Spotlight shines on movies made in Oregon

Lincoln City's Bijou Theatre hosts the six-day Oregon-Made Film Festival.

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Movie buffs learning that the Oregon-Made Film Festival is coming to Lincoln City’s historic Bijou Theatre will no doubt expect to see films such as The Goonies, Sometimes a Great Notion, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. And they will. What they might not expect is the handful of films they’ve probably never heard of and just as likely won’t soon forget.

The film festival will showcase about a dozen Oregon-made feature films, as well as shorts and documentaries, over six days beginning Oct. 25. I talked with Betsy Altomare, co-owner with husband, Keith, of the Bijou, about the festival. Her responses have been edited for length and clarity.

What inspired the Oregon-Made Film Festival?

Altomare: In about 2011, we did it during spring break because there were a lot of really cool movies made in this area, like Sometimes a Great Notion. (People want to see that all the time. Every month or so, someone says, “When are you going to play Sometimes a Great Notion?”) But we only did that in the mornings and just five movies. It was mostly popular with retired people who aren’t working during the week. For The Goonies and Free Willy, of course, we had families. But the films weren’t terribly well attended.

We hope doing a whole week with an Oregon-made film at every show time will change that. We’re going in different directions, too. We’re showing  short films, documentaries, and stories that deserve to be seen. The festival will also feature introductions from directors, as well as other movie experts.  
 

The cast of 1971’s “Sometimes a Great Notion,” based on Ken Kesey’s novel, included (from left) Paul Newman, Henry Fonda, Lee Remick and Richard Jaeckel as members of the Stampher family. It plays Oct. 25 during the Oregon-Made Film Festival.
The cast of 1971’s “Sometimes a Great Notion,” based on Ken Kesey’s novel, includes (from left) Paul Newman, Henry Fonda, Lee Remick, and Richard Jaeckel as members of the Stamper family. It plays Oct. 25 during the Oregon-Made Film Festival.

What were the criteria for choosing the movies?

Partially popularity and partially for information. We chose two documentaries by Salem’s Darrell Jabin. One is the History of Oregon Carousels and the other, the History of Oregon Movie Theatres. We have the silent film The General, made in 1926 in Cottage Grove with Buster Keaton. That’s always popular. Oregon film expert Dean Ingram will be on hand to introduce that. We’re also doing these shorts from the Wandering Reel Traveling Film Festival. Curator Michael Harrington does some really interesting shorts. He will be there to do the introduction.

Sponsor

Portland Area Theatre Alliance Fertile Ground Portland Oregon

What is the most overlooked movie made in Oregon?

In general, beyond the Pacific Northwest, Sometimes a Great Notion — but not around here. It really says a lot about logging when that was how people made their money around here. I don’t think I had ever heard of it until I moved up here from L.A., and I’d been a movie fan since I was a teenager. I was also a big fan of Paul Newman, even when I was much younger, and I had never heard of this movie.

But it’s the most popular here?

No, The Goonies will probably be the most well attended. The Goonies is playing twice.

“Phoenix, Oregon,” stars Jesse Borrego (left) and James LeGros as friends who quit their jobs to restore an old bowling alley and serve the “world’s greatest pizza.”  It plays Oct. 28.
“Phoenix, Oregon,” stars Jesse Borrego (left) and James LeGros as friends who quit their jobs to restore an old bowling alley and serve the “world’s greatest pizza.” It plays Oct. 28.

Is there any film on the list that people might overlook, but that might surprise them?

Phoenix, Oregon. It’s a cool little independent film by a company called Joma Films out of Ashland. The director, Gary Lundgren, and his wife, producer Anne Lundgren, are going to be here. Phoenix, Oregon is a fictional story Gary wrote and directed about a guy who is stuck in life and decides to reopen this old bowling alley. It was filmed in Klamath Falls, not in Phoenix, Oregon, because they needed a bowling alley.

Valsetz was a logging town in the Coast Range that was closed, then dismantled in 1984 by Boise Cacade.  A documentary, “Home: The Story of Valsetz,” plays Oct. 26, with former residents of the town invited to attend.
Valsetz was a logging town in the Coast Range that was closed, then dismantled in 1984, by Boise Cacade. A documentary, “Home: The Story of Valsetz,” plays Oct. 26, with former residents of the town invited to attend.

I can’t let you go without talking about Valsetz. It’s an old logging town in the Coast Range west of Salem that is no more. It was owned by a logging company and when they were done logging, all of the people and families were asked to leave and they just destroyed the town.

Sponsor

Portland Area Theatre Alliance Fertile Ground Portland Oregon

We’re doing the documentary Home: The Story of Valsetz on Saturday night. Some of the residents will be there. It talks about what life was like. They had their own post office, school.  It was destroyed in 1984. So these people don’t have a place to show their kids where they grew up. Every few years, they all get together and reminisce. They are coming to the theater to talk about old times and share their stories. It affected so many people’s lives. This is something that really happened to these people.

More information, including showtimes and ticket prices, is available on the festival website.

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This story is supported in part by a grant from the Oregon Cultural Trust, investing in Oregon’s arts, humanities and heritage, and the Lincoln County Cultural Coalition.

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Photo Joe Cantrell

Lori Tobias is a journalist of many years, and was a staff writer for The Oregonian for more than a decade, and a columnist and features writer for the Rocky Mountain News. Her memoir “Storm Beat – A Journalist Reports from the Oregon Coast” was published in 2020 by Oregon State University press. She is also the author of the novel Wander, winner of the 2017 Nancy Pearl Book Award for literary fiction and a finalist for the 2017 International Book Awards for new fiction. She lives on the Oregon Coast with her husband Chan and rescue pup Gus.

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