Amy Dotson

Streaming: Fall film fests flourish from afar

Three Portland film festivals have figured out how to keep the images streaming, one way or another, during the pandemic

Around the globe, it’s fall film festival season, but of course it’s a season the likes of which has never been seen before (and with any luck intelligence, won’t be seen again). Industry pros, major critics, and the pass-buying public have been getting socially distanced sneak peeks at awards-caliber movies coming soon to a screen near you. Whether that’s a laptop screen or a theater screen, of course, remains to be determined. The Toronto, San Sebastian, and Venice Film Festivals have all limited public screenings, and the ability of festivalgoers to travel to them has been, of course, almost totally curtailed.

Closer to home, it’s fall film fest times, too. Perhaps the cruelest blow to Portland’s cultural corpus administered by the pandemic was the abrupt shutdown of the Portland International Film Festival in early March. The pain was especially acute since this was the first iteration of the city’s premiere filmgoing event to be conducted under the leadership of the Film Center’s new Director, Amy Dotson. Dotson brought a dramatic change in focus to the institution, intent on leaning forward into new technologies and new venues for both filmmakers and filmgoers.

The 42nd edition of PIFF, appropriately branded as Cinema Unbound, got off to an impressive start with a snazzy awards ceremony and a variety of nontraditional cinematic experiences on tap, along with a renewed focus on regional filmmakers. All that, of course, came to a screeching halt along with most other aspects of normal life, and with theaters still unable to host crowds for the foreseeable future, the Film Center has offered up PIFF 2.0, a weekend of screenings featuring works originally scheduled to show back in March.

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It’s so 2020: A virtual conversation about Virtual Reality

The Virtual Reality component of the Venice Film Festival comes to the Portland Art Museum for a limited engagement.

By MARC MOHAN and LAUREL REED PAVIC

The Portland Art Museum is the only venue in the United States for the Venice Film Festival’s Venice VR Expanded exhibition. The event began September 2nd and runs through September 12th. Credit for this exclusive honor goes entirely to the new director of the Northwest Film Center, Amy Dotson, who started in September of 2019 (Dotson is also the Museum’s Curator of Film & New Media). Dotson arrived in Portland with a close connection with Michael Reilhac, the Curator of Immersive Media Content and Experiences for the Venice Biennale VR Competition. The Northwest Film Center celebrated Reilhac in March as the 2020 Cinema Unbound honoree.

The virtual reality exhibition is also a piece of the overall vision that Dotson, who took over from longtime director Bill Foster last year, brought to the position. As she related in an interview with ArtsWatch, Dotson has a future-facing emphasis on expanding the definition of “cinematic experience.” That emphasis was evident in the programming for the 43rd Portland International Film Festival (rebranded Cinema Unbound), which viewers didn’t have a chance to fully explore since the festival was abruptly interrupted midstream by the coronavirus. 

VR sets at Venice VR Expanded at the Portland Art Museum. Image courtesy of the Portland Art Museum.

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Film fest preview: PIFF hits fast-forward at 43

New Northwest Film Center Director Amy Dotson brings a new emphasis and a new energy to Portland’s premiere cinematic event

“It’s not going to be robots and lasers!”

That’s Amy Dotson’s way of reassuring fans of film art—and of the Portland International Film Festival in particular—that the 43rd incarnation of the event is staying true to its mission. Since 1977, that mission has been to expose Portland audiences to a cornucopia of global cinema, allowing those with flexible schedules and insatiable appetites to gorge themselves on a diverse menu of movies. And so it remains.

Amy Dotson, the director of the Northwest Film Center

But while some things never change, others do. Dotson took over as the Director of the Northwest Film Center last year, following the 2018 retirement of Bill Foster after nearly four decades at the organization’s helm. Rising to the challenge of putting her own stamp on the Film Center and the Festival, while retaining the core appeal of each, Dotson’s approach can be encapsulated by PIFF’s 2020 motto (and new URL), “Cinema Unbound.” She spoke with ArtsWatch during the run up to PIFF, which kicks off Friday, March 6.

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