arts and coronavirus

McMinnville Short Film Festival marches on — pandemic or no

Organizers are coming up with two scenarios for February's 10th annual event, and a virtual fundraiser this weekend will showcase greatest hits from the past

Having spent most of 2020 reporting on Yamhill County events large and small that have been canceled due to COVID-19, I find it a relief to reveal an ambitious cultural project that is marching onward.

The McMinnville Short Film Festival was one of a few major events this year that managed to slide under the wire in February before the pandemic shut everything down. The festival takes over the largest auditorium at McMinnville Cinema 10 for a busy weekend, showcasing excellent films from the Pacific Northwest and around the world. Audiences get to meet the filmmakers amid discussion, networking, and, of course, wine. February 2021 will mark the 10th year, and the festival will be held (Feb. 19-21), pledge founders and organizers Dan and Nancy Morrow, one way or another.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

This weekend is the festival’s mid-year fundraiser, which isn’t so much a sneak preview as a greatest hits party. And of course, it’s virtual. Starting at 3 p.m. Friday and running till 11 p.m. Sunday, a sliding-scale donation is all you need to treat yourself — at home, on your TV, tablet, phone, etc. —  to a nearly two-hour smorgasbord of award-winning short films in a variety of genres spanning the festival’s nine years. That’s the window during which you must start watching — and you can watch any number of them, in any order, at your convenience. Multiple viewings are allowed. Once you begin, you’ve got 24 hours during which the eight-film program will be available. The longest film is 20 minutes; most run 10 to 12 minutes. Most are introduced by the filmmakers. In lieu of the meet-and-greet, a 45-minute webinar featuring most of the filmmakers is also available.  

Elnaz Resaei plays Nahal, recipient of a surprise birthday party, in “We Were There,” a film by Saeed Vahidi and a 2020 award-winner at the McMinnville Short Film Festival. Photo courtesy: McMinnville Short Film Festival
Elnaz Resaei plays Nahal, recipient of a surprise birthday party, in “We Were There,” a film by Saeed Vahidi and a 2020 award-winner at the McMinnville Short Film Festival. Photo courtesy: McMinnville Short Film Festival


Love & loss in the time of coronavirus

With stages shut down, the work's stopped cold. Bobby Bermea asks his fellow performance artists: Can the fire be relighted post-pandemic?

It’s weird when you wake up one day and realize that everything is different. 

For me, just how different hasn’t fully hit me yet, not even more than a month later. I still feel insulated, like I’m in a bubble where time has become elastic, amorphous. It takes an enormous effort just to intentionally shape the course of a given day. How many times already have I eaten at 11 at night or woken up at 11 in the morning? As violinist Michelle Alany puts it, the struggle is “trying to find some kind of rhythm and structure so I don’t lose the art and creativity.” 

In thirty years as a professional theater artist, I had never rehearsed a show for four weeks only to have it cancelled right before we opened. PassinArt’s Seven Guitars, which was scheduled to open in March, was the first. By that time, I think we’d all seen the handwriting on the wall. I remember the morning the call came that it was over: It felt like I’d woken up in another dimension. It wasn’t the last time I was going to feel that way. 

Since that day I have heard innumerous people describe this moment in history as “crazy” or “surreal” or “like science fiction.” Except, it’s not like science fiction. Face masks. Rubber gloves. Zoom. Science fiction is now real life.


As I write this, about 37,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the United States, about 420 a day since the first confirmed U.S. case on Jan. 21 (the first known U.S. death came five weeks later, on Feb. 28). That might not seem like much, considering that about 8,000 people die every day in the U.S. But the numbers are rapidly escalating. On April 16 alone, nearly 4,600 people in the U.S. died from coronavirus. That feels different. 

I have one friend who came down with COVID-19. She’s 70 years old and was my first harmonica teacher when I was working on Seven Guitars. She spent two weeks in the hospital. She has nothing but great things to say about the medical professionals who took care of her. But the disease is no joke, and she felt like hell most of the time she was there. While she was in the hospital we stayed in contact via text (talking took too much out of her). One of the times I checked in to see how she was doing, she texted back, “Feeling shitty! Everything pisses me off!” I suspect that anger helped get her through it. She’s home now. A nurse visits her three times a week. Only today she was told that she can go outside if she wears a mask and practices social distancing. It’s an incredible victory. 

Author Bobby Bermea in CoHo Theatre/Beirut Wedding World Theatre Projects’ “Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train”: “If the actor cannot exist in the same physical space with the audience, then theater doesn’t exist.” Photo: Owen Carey/2019

When the proverbial feces came into contact with the rotating blades of the proverbial air circulation device, I called my parents and offered to come down to where they live in Southern California. I could do my job at Profile Theatre remotely, and I could help them by buying their groceries and taking care of whatever other needs they might have that took place outside of the house. My parents declined my offer, saying they were perfectly okay.