Bernie Madoff

Streamers: PIFF continued, plus new discoveries on disc

'Bernie Madoff' and more fresh picks from the virtual Portland International Film Fest; classic rediscoveries worth seeking out

The first ever mostly-virtual Portland International Film Festival continues through March 14, and hopefully it’s the last virtual version ever.

That’s not a dig at the functionality of the online interface the Northwest Film Center has employed, nor is it a criticism of the quality of cinema offered up. I’ve not noticed any of the features become unavailable due to its maximum viewings allotment being reached, although I haven’t done an exhaustive search. The online portal is generally self-explanatory, and it even remembers where you are in a film if you have to pause and switch between devices, à la Netflix or Hulu, as long as you’re logged into your festival account on both of them.

There is, of course, as when viewing any streaming-on-demand content, the ever-present temptation to pause in order to answer the phone or the doorbell, or to finish the film the next day. I’ve always maintained that, along with the communal experience and the size of the projected image, the enforced maintenance of focus is one of the biggest losses when cinema is experienced at home and on demand. (Which is not to say that it can’t also be convenient at times to pause and resume later…) This enforced focus is especially valuable when the film in question isn’t the sort of typical Hollywood narrative that leads its audience by the nose, or the kind of Netflix programming that people admit to watching while folding laundry, but a cohesive audio-visual experience that can only be appreciated in its entirety.

That said, here are some PIFF titles worth investigating during its last weekend:

A scene from “A Kaddish for Bernie Madoff”

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Strike up the virtual festival band

ArtsWatch Weekly: Online Fertile Ground fest marches on, film fest updates, Hal Holbrook on jackasses & politics, monthly guides

BELLS ARE NOT RINGING AND NO MARCHING BANDS OR HIGH-STEPPING HORSES are sashaying through the center of town, but it’s festival time in Portland. We’re talking, of course, about Fertile Ground, the city’s annual festival of new performance works, which in an ordinary year would see revelers scurrying high, low, and in between across the metropolitan area, into basement and attic spaces and grand theater halls, to be among the first people on the planet to see the beginnings of upwards of a hundred new creative works, in all stages of development, from first readings to workshops to full-blown world premieres. Over its dozen years Fertile Ground has become something like a localized Edinburgh Fringe Festival, with the restriction that shows aren’t imported – they have to be made here, by people who can plausibly claim to live here.
 

A whirlwind of dance, circus, and aerial action awaits in Petra Delarocha’s “Prismagic Radio Hour,” premiering at 9 p.m. Friday in Fertile Ground.

This year everything’s changed: What had been known and celebrated for its in-the-moment acts of performance has transformed because of Covid restrictions into a virtual festival. As the 2021 festival moves into its final days – it began on Jan. 28 and closes on Saturday, Feb. 7, although projects can be viewed online through Feb. 15 – ArtsWatch’s writers have racked up a lot of screen time. We haven’t seen everything, but we’ve spent hours watching, and we’ll be watching more. One thing that’s stood out has been the ability of some projects to think like hybrids, making the most under the circumstances of the possibilities of both film and live performance. 

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